Ask anyone who visited Montserrat Island, and they will tell you it’s the experience of a lifetime. A tiny Caribbean island with an Irish heritage is home to pristine volcanic black sandy beaches, lush rainforests and unspoiled dramatic landscape. The Emerald Isle of the Caribbean with chill-out vibes is a lower-key than its cruise-ship neighbour Antigua. However, there is more to the island than that. One of the most dramatic Caribbean islands also offers more than just sipping cocktails in all-inclusive bars by the water. It has something you won’t find anywhere else, though.
Montserrat is home to the Soufriere Hills Volcano.
If you thought Montserrat was, volcanically speaking, you got that right. A gorgeous island which is home to many rare animals and plants is, however, the half fertile and half unhabitable.
LIFE IN MONTSERRAT
Life on this idyllic island changed forever when the Soufriere Hills Volcano erupted. Two-thirds of Montserrat island (including the former capital Plymouth) became devastated by the volcano’s eruptions. As a result, the vast majority of the 12,000 population relocated. Either to the undeveloped north, or overseas to the United Kingdom. The economy, tourism and people’s daily lives were affected by the loss of the vital port in Plymouth and Bramble airport.
More than two decades later, Montserrat island is slowly recovering. The island is leveraging an abundance of naturally occurring geothermal resources and volcanic sand mining. Apart from that, volcano tourism could also be the key to the island’s future. What’s more, the Soufriere Hills Volcano has become Montserrat’s iconic landmark. Montserrat Island is attracting travellers who want to see two-thirds of the island covered by ashes. Also, the visitors can fly over an active volcano in a helicopter.
WHY VISIT MONTSERRAT ISLAND
Montserrat Island is an ideal getaway for Eco trekkers, nature lovers, or anyone, who want to see how the island has transformed after a major volcanic eruption.
With a vast network of hiking trails, Montserrat island’s diverse landscape is perfect for experienced hikers and beginners alike. This Ecotourist haven offers unique adventure holidays in the Caribbean, more than just sun, sand and beaches. It’s a destination for travellers who want to immerse and connect, whether with nature or with each other. Also, this little-visited Caribbean island is the prime destination for dark tourism.
GOOD TO KNOW:
Access to the restricted zone on the island is, however, strictly controlled. Therefore, the best way to discover the Montserrat Island is on a guided tour. Not only a tour guide is allowed to access the “exclusion zone V”, but it also provides insightful information. The “exclusion zone” located in the south end of the island includes the buried city of Plymouth, St George’s Hill and also the Soufriere Hills in Montserrat island.
A visit to the exclusion zone is undoubtedly an unmissable experience on Montserrat island. It allows the visitors to get a closer look at the active volcano and Montserrat’s lost capital city.
As a result, the island gets very busy for St. Patrick’s Day in March.
WHERE IS MONTSERRAT ISLAND?
The pear-shaped island, located in the Caribbean Sea, is a part of the Leeward Islands. Its nearest neighbours are Antigua (55km), Guadaloupe (86km) and Nevis (62 km).
GETTING TO MONTSERRAT
If you plan a trip to Montserrat island ahead, your arrival will be smooth and easy. Here is some information to help you with planning.
1. FLYING TO MONTSERRAT ISLAND
With a new airport, Montserrat island is more accessible than ever. Unfortunately, due to the island’s small size, major transportation is done from Antigua. There are no direct international services, though. However, a 20-minute connecting flight via the island’s closest neighbour, Antigua can bring you to here.
- Helicopter tours of the Soufrière Hills Volcano can also be arranged from Antigua.
- Don’t forget to take your passport with you as a short flight is considered international.
2. ARRIVE BY SEA
Besides, you can cross to Montserrat island by ferry. It runs from the island of Antigua (Bryson’s Pier at Heritage Quay in St. John’s) to Little bay in Montserrat and back. A 90-minute ride operates five days a week. Bear in mind that, there might be the schedule changes depending on weather and sea conditions. The fares for the ferry are EC$300 return (EC$150 one way) for adults. Additionally, those travelling by a private vessel may dock their boat at the Port of Little Bay.
Leaving Antigua by ferry can be a little bit of a hassle, though. Make sure you arrive early at the port of your departure to allow enough time. To get through immigration, customs and security requirements, come at least one hour in advance of your scheduled departure time. Moreover, don’t forget to bring your passport!
GOOD TO KNOW:
When you depart to Montserrat Island from Antigua, you will be required to pay the Antigua departure tax at the time of check-in. Similarly, when leaving Montserrat, you will be required to pay the Montserrat departure tax (EC$45 per person) and the Antigua arrival tax.
SAFETY IN MONTSERRAT ISLAND
Although the level of volcanic activity is very low at present, the Soufriere Hills Volcano is still active. Therefore, it’s continually monitored for signs of increasing activity. As a result, access to the restricted zone is strictly controlled. Tours are only available via approved guides. The access to the volcano itself is strictly forbidden.
Nowadays, it is allowed to view the volcano from a safe distance of a few miles. The Hazard Level System in Montserrat island controls the volcano’s activity. The system does let people know the level of risk in various areas and the amount of access allowed. However, a modern “Pompeii of the Caribbean” can be visited only with police permission and accompanied by a certified guide.
East Caribbean Dollar is pegged to the US dollar at the US $1 =EC$2.7.
Besides Montserrat, the EC$ is also the currency of:
- Antigua & Barbuda
- St. Kitts & Nevis
- St. Lucia
- St. Vincent and the Grenadines
In Montserrat, you must drive on the left side of the road.
Thanks to the black sand beaches and mountain views, The Emerald Isle of the Caribbean has never been an ideal Caribbean getaway. However, Montserrat island, one of the best-kept secrets, has so much to offer.
With the volcano, no longer a symbol of fear, it is, without doubt, an ideal destination for everyone who wants to experience the Caribbean the way it used to be unspoiled by mass tourism. Jaw-dropping landscape and unpolluted night skies make Montserrat island an unforgettable holiday destination. No matter where your travels take you, you will be sure to go home with more experiences than souvenirs.
Have you ever been to Montserrat island? Or ever considered a visit? Hope we have inspired you to visit The Emerald Isle of the Caribbean. Please leave us a comment below!
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