The first European to set foot on the coast of present-day Martinique was Christopher Columbus in 1502. The island remained a Spanish possession for 133 years but in 1635 passed into the hands of France. Gradually the relationship between Martinique and France became very strong. Today “the island of flowers” as they used to call Martinique, is overseas department of France.
Geographical location and size. The island of Martinique is one of the Lesser Antilles. It occupies an area of 1128 square kilometers. The island is situated in the Eastern Caribbean and borders the Atlantic Ocean to the east.
Geographically, Martinique belongs to North America (to be precise in Central America). Its closest neighbors are the island of Dominica, located 41 km to the north and the island of Saint Lucia, which is located 32 kilometers south.
The capital of Martinique is located at 14°36′ north latitude and 61°04′ west longitude. The longest distance of the island in a northwest – southeast direction is about 63 km. At its widest it barely reaches 31 km.
Climate. Martinique has year round warm and humid tropical climate. The temperatures over the island range from 28°C in January to around 31°C in September.
The nights are consistently between 20 and 23°C. There are two distinct seasons – dry and rain. The dry season lasts approximately from December to May. March is the month with the minimum rainfall (about 60 mm).
The rainy season lasts from June to November. September is the month with maximum rainfall (about 200-250 mm). The combination of high temperatures and abundant sunshine throughout the year strongly favor the development of tourism.
Nature. Martinique is of volcanic origin. Most of the island is occupied by not very high mountains. The highest point is Mount Pelee Volcano, which rises to 1397 m above sea level in northern Martinique.
Mount Pelee erupted in 1902 and destroyed the town of Saint Pierre, killing about 30,000 people! The soil of Martinique, because of the volcanic origin of the island, is strong and fertile.
In combination with the warm weather and heavy rainfall, this is a solid foundation for the development of dense rainforests, home to hundreds of species of plants and animals.
According to the FAO, approximately 46.2 % of the island is cover by forests. The fauna of Martinique is strongly affected by human’s activity throughout the ages, but there can still be seen some magnificent creatures.
Martinique is home to hummingbirds – small, colorful birds that fly like butterflies from flower to flower in search of nectar. Although these small birds love all the flowers, they exhibit a preference for hibiscuses.
On the island of Martinique live many other no less strange and beautiful animals. Antillean Euphonia is a kind of colorful tropical bird with a stunning plumage. In some remote areas of the island are found some really valuable to science species of animals.
One of them is the spiders Antilles Pinktoe Tarantula. It is known for its black and pink color on the back. This small creature inhabits the rainforest of the island and is usually very shy of human presence.
The warm and sunny shallows of Martinique are home to a wide variety of species. The coral reefs that surround the island are an amazing ecosystem that is home to a great number of colorful and bizarre sea creatures.
Coast. Martinique is a real Caribbean paradise with breathtaking beaches. The coastline is highly indented with hundreds of peninsulas and small sheltered coves.
Here you will find some of the most beautiful beaches in the Caribbean. Adjacent to the coast there are beautiful coral reefs, which prevent the ocean waves from reaching the island.
Therefore, the shallow coastal waters that surround Martinique are almost always clear and calm, offering incredible underwater visibility. The white and fine sand along the coast will not disappoint even the most demanding tourists.
The coconut palm trees that stretch along the beaches of Martinique create a unique sense of exoticism. Most of these paradisical beaches are located along the eastern and southern coast of the island, although the western and northern coasts also offer some wonderful places for recreation.
Economics. Although located in Central America, Martinique is part of France and is a member of the European Union and the Euro zone.
The official currency of the island is the Euro. Main sources of income for local residents are processing of imported crude oil and tourism industry, which is highly developed. Martinique has always been a renowned tourist destination.
Each year over half a million tourists take a holiday in Martinique. Traditionally, the majority of tourists choose to spend their vacation here in the summer months because winter is considered to be the active tourist season and therefore the prices are much higher.
The island has very well developed food industry and is best known for the manufacturing and export of high quality rum and fish products.
Although it is well developed, agriculture occupies a smaller share of the economy of Martinique and carries about one tenth of the revenues of the island.
Here are grown mangoes, papayas, bananas, coconuts, citruses, sugar cane, coffee, cocoa, vanilla and vegetables. The most popular farm animals are birds, pigs, sheep and cattle.
Population. The population of Martinique is more than 400 000 people. They are quite diverse in terms of their ethnic origin. The main part of the population consists of dark skinned, mulatto and mestizo.
Approximately 10% of all the residents are Europeans (mostly French descendants) or Asians. The official language is French, but most locals use Creole in their everyday life. Official religion of Martinique is Christianity (Catholicism).
The largest city on the island is the capital Fort-de-France. It has a population of over 130,000 inhabitants, ie about one third of all the inhabitants of Martinique.
The local cuisine. The cuisine of Martinique combines mostly French and African traditions with mild Asian spice and is often described as the finest in the Caribbean region.
While in Martinique, it is recommended to enjoy the vast culinary wealth of the island tasting local seafood and fresh tropical fruits. Fish, crabs, shrimp and mussels are base of the local culinary traditions.
Seafood can be cooked in different ways – grilled, steamed, boiled or smoked. Here is the right place to mention that one of the most popular dishes of the island is stuffed crabs. Definitely the meat products are inferior to seafood according their popularity here.
The second most-consumed is chicken, followed by pork, beef and sheep. Typically, Martinique’s meals are served with large and beautifully shaped garnish of various kinds of local fruits and vegetables.
Quite popular in Martinique is the consumption of avocados, yams, sweet potatoes, eggplants, peppers, chili-peppers, onions, garlic and many others. Sometimes tropical fruits as papaya, bananas and mangoes are served as a side dish to fish or meat.
Dinner is often the most important meal of the day, when many people prefer to eat out in one of the hundreds of magnificent restaurants on the island.
When to visit Martinique? It is advisable to visit the island during the dry season from December to May. In addition to the sunny and dry weather, choosing this part of the year you will avoid the hurricane season.
The disadvantage is the higher prices during the winter months, but on the other side the island is more relaxed and offers a lot of empty beaches.
Perhaps the most attractive period to visit Martinique is during the months of December and January, especially the Christmas and New Year holidays.
While most of the northern hemisphere is in the grip of winter, the tropical beaches and warm sea of Martinique offer excellent conditions for unforgettable summer vacation in the midst of winter.
What should I wear while in Martinique? A trip to Martinique requires wearing all the beach accessories that are available in your home- swimsuit, flippers, snorkel, swimming glasses, camera for underwater photography, sunscreen and sunglasses.
The weather in Martinique is suitable for light summer clothing and open shoes or slippers all year round.
How to get there? As Martinique is an island, the most important role is played by the air transport. The international airport of Fort-de-France services dozens of international destinations.
Another very attractive alternative is to get to Martinique with a cruise ship. Martinique maintains regular, quick and inexpensive ferryboat links to the islands of Guadalupe, St. Lucia and Dominica.
Risks: One of the biggest dangers while in Martinique is a kind of poisonous tree, called manchineel. Its fruit resemble in shape an apple. The tree is extremely poisonous and it would be best to stay away from it.
It is good to know also that among the jungles of the island could be found some types of poisonous animals such as the snake bothrops lanceolatus, which you should avoid.