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Introducing Martinique

Martinique is for (beach) lovers. And foodies. And divers. And hikers. And, especially, Franco­philes. A marriage of Gallic culture and Caribbean customs, this overseas department of France is a sunnier, slightly less crowded version of the motherland. People looking for the more sophisticated pleasures, whether they be the kind you put on your plate or the kind you put on a credit card, will be happy to know that good food and the latest fashions aren’t optional here, but a mandatory fixture wherever visitors congregate - especially in its harbourside capital, Fort-de-France.

Volcanic in origin, the island is crowned by the still-smoldering Mont Pelée, which wiped out Martinique’s former capital of St-Pierre in 1902. There’s plenty of hiking and nature-watching on the slopes of the volcano. And since this is often called the ‘Isle of Flowers’ there are botanical gardens tucked into the rugged landscape.

Long luscious beaches and loads of diving are the main attractions in the south. Fishing villages dot the coasts; most of them have managed to hang on their seafaring soul while offering plenty for visitors to see and do.

There’s a lot going on here, but it all happens on Caribbean time. Except for the mountainous north, it’s an exceptionally easy island to drive around. One can surf at Presqu’île de Caravelle in the morning and make it back to Fort-de-France in time (avoiding rush hour) to sample the city’s budding nightlife.