From the soaring pinnacles of the great Pitons, to the bubbling patchwork of volcanic tar pools and mountain mud baths, it’s easy to see that there’s much more to the small and sleepy island state of Saint Lucia than just fishing villages and laid-back beachfronts (though, of course, these do exist as well). In fact, this curious little island does well to set itself apart from the rest of the Caribbean, with an appearance that looks more like the dark and dramatic volcanic islands of Polynesia and an interesting mix of British-French culture evident all around.
Here are five of the top spots on Saint Lucia, where guests can spy out all the majestic natural wonders of the country, from the coral reefs to the volcanic inland, while learning about it’s long and varied past.
Casting their shadows over the small town of Soufriere, these two colossal volcanic peaks represent one of the most dramatic sights in all of Saint Lucia. They soar more than 700 metres in the air, twisting and bending in rocky crags and outcrops to form some seriously interesting monoliths to behold. Many visitors opt to take the arduous hike to the top of the larger Gros Piton, while others prefer to dive beneath the waters around the shore, where some of the most fascinating coral reefs and tropical fish can be spotted clinging to the rocks.
The onetime bastion of British naval power on Saint Lucia, Pigeon Island is now a national landmark that chronicles the militaristic past of Gros Islet in the north. Guests come to wonder at the ruined fortifications, from where the imperial cannons once pounded the French fleet, or discover the ancient history of this curious outcrop in the on-site interpretation centre. But it’s not all about the past, and local beachcombers and beer drinkers can usually be spotted dotting the various pubs, restaurants and sand stretches of the bay.
One of the undisputed kings of snorkelling and scuba diving in all of Saint Lucia, this dramatic beach near Soufriere is shrouded by the dominating peaks of the two great Pitons. These have helped create one of the most diverse shore side biospheres in the whole archipelago, now dedicated as a natural marine reserve. Anse Chastanet itself has also been hailed as one of the world’s most romantic spots, where lovers can wallow in the shade beneath the mountains, listening to the lap of the Caribbean Sea.
King Louis XVI was the first to recognize the healing and soothing properties of the sulphuric waters that issue forth from the springs near Soufriere, while today hundreds of visitors each year flock to these botanical gardens to feel their warmth. Don’t miss the eponymous Diamond Falls, where glistening volcanic minerals add a kaleidoscope of colors to the stream, while the award-winning nature trail presents one of the most encompassing arrays of tropical flowers in all of Saint Lucia.
Steam fumes and waters bubble at this 45-hectare park on the south-western side of the island. It’s home to the world’s only so-called "drive in volcano", which allows guests to park their cars just metres away from scorching pools of metamorphic mud and boiling pits of tar. After checking out the crater’s hottest spots, head downstream to where some cooler mud pits are suited for bathing; legend has it they can cure ailments, but they are also darn good fun!