A guide to discovering the French Antilles

The French Antilles in the Caribbean is one of the most adventurous and exotic destinations you can visit in the region. What’s more, its Caribbean flavour has been seamlessly blended with a generous helping of French culture, making this group of islands a truly unique place.

What are the French Antilles?

As we’ve already mentioned, the French Antilles are located in the Caribbean and this term refers to the islands under French sovereignty in the Antilles archipelago. The largest islands here are Guadeloupe and Martinique, while the luxurious St Barths is another of the popular destinations in the French Antilles.

They are also within easy reach of some of the Caribbean’s other top holiday spots, such as St Lucia and Dominica – this used to be a French territory as well, so there is still a continental feeling here.

Exploring Martinique

If you’re after an active holiday in the Caribbean, you have to visit Martinique. The slopes of its still-active volcano Mount Pelee are perfect for hiking and are home to all manner of amazing wildlife. The climb to the crater rim of the volcano is incredible and well worth doing if you’ve got the energy. It’s around two hours to reach the summit and you’ll need a guide, but the trail meanders through dense jungle that makes the walk feel like a real adventure.

Another trek worth tackling here is the route that runs through Gorges de la Falaise. This isn’t a particularly long hike but it’s spectacular. The canyon is on private land, so you do need to pay an entry fee to get in. It’s also worth pointing out that there are parts of this walk where you’ll need to swim in the river, so make sure you’re wearing appropriate clothing!

As well as discovering its natural beauty, you need to spend some time in Martinque’s picturesque cities. Fort-de-France is the capital and you can clearly see the French influence in its architecture. Make sure you visit the Cathedrale St Louis and the historic fort that guards its harbour.

Saint Anne is another of Martinique’s stunning towns and it also offers access to a charming seaside walk. Leaving from the town, you’ll wander along the white sands, through lush woodland and on to the breathtaking Les Salines Beach.

Discovering Dominica

Dominica is another of the Antilles Islands and, although it’s no longer a French territory, it was once home to a small French colony. This led to the development of the Antillean Creole language, which is based on French.

Active travellers will love Dominica, which is also known as the Nature Isle, as it boasts some spectacular natural landscapes. Some of the best are found in the Morne Trois Pitons National Park, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Within its boundaries is the volcano that gives the reserve its name, while its other notable landmarks include fumaroles, freshwater lakes, hot springs and deep valleys.

There are some outstanding hikes within the national park that will introduce you to a few of its incredible sights. One of the toughest – but also most worthwhile – is the eight hour trek to the Boiling Lake – an amazing sight where steam perpetually rises up from the water and the sheer cliffs that surround it add to the dramatic scene.

If you’re keen to explore the beauty of the French Antilles, take a look at the tours offered by Explore Worldwide.

A guide to discovering the French Antilles
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