Out of over 7000 Caribbean islands, there is only one known as the Pompeii in the Caribbean. Montserrat, a Caribbean island that hasn`t been touched by mass tourism, offers so much more than just sun, sea and sand. A tiny tropical island with volcanic black sandy beaches, active volcano and the emerald hills is a destination for adventurous travellers who love getting off-the-beaten-path.
We were very excited to travel to Montserrat Island, and we ended up loving this eco-lovers paradise. Visiting Montserrat, the half lush and half volcanic island, was one of the most unforgettable experiences in our lives, and we definitely will be going back. Here are the reasons why one of the least visited Caribbean islands should be on your radar!
TOP THINGS TO DO IN MONTSERRAT ISLAND
Here is the list of the 10 best things to do in Montserrat in the Caribbean.
1. Visit the Montserrat Soufriere Hills Volcano
Montserrat is home to the Soufriere Hills Volcano, the only active stratovolcano in the Caribbean. After 350 years of lying dormant, the volcano reawakened to life with a major eruption in 1995. Besides, it buried the capital of Plymouth and a significant portion of the southern part of the island in volcanic ash. As a result, the once-vibrant town has become the Caribbean`s own version of a modern-day Pompeii.
SAFETY IN MONTSERRAT ISLAND
Although the level of volcanic activity is very low at present, the volcano is still active. For that reason, it is continually monitored for signs of increasing activity. The access to the restricted zone is strictly controlled, and tours are only available via approved guides. Moreover, access to the volcano itself is strictly forbidden.
2. Go to the Montserrat Volcano Observatory
Next, head to the Montserrat Volcano Observatory to get amazing views of the volcano, Belham Valley and Plymouth from the observatory’s viewing deck. Besides, the observatory offers information if you would like to learn more about the volcano`s impact on Montserrat island. An educational tour is detailing the history and an effect of the eruptions on the island.
Fly to Montserrat over the “exclusion zone” of the Soufriere Hills volcano with Helicopter tours from Antigua.
3. Pay a visit to Richmond hill and Montserrat Springs Resort Hotel, Plymouth
After a visit at the observatory, drive to Richmond Hill, which was once an upper-middle-class neighbourhood. Don`t forget to stop at the abandoned Montserrat Springs hotel. It was once the jewel of the island. Wander through the hotel and get some stunning views of trapped Plymouth in the exclusion zone. As a result, the former capital of Montserrat island is nowadays known as modern-day Pompeii. A visit to Montserrat Springs Resort Hotel is, without doubt, one of the best things to do in Montserrat.
4. Discover the buried city of Plymouth
A series of eruptions in the 1990s had an enormous impact on Montserrat island. Two-thirds of the island has become uninhabitable, including the south-coast capital of Plymouth. Nowadays, the capital of Montserrat is completely destroyed. It`s buried under metres of volcanic rocks, pyroclastic flow and mud.
Nowadays, it is allowed to view the volcano from a safe distance of a few miles. The Hazard Level System in Montserrat controls the volcano`s activity. Moreover, it does let people know the level of risk in various areas and the amount of access allowed.
It should be noted that modern Pompeii of the Caribbean can be visited only with police permission and accompanied by a certified guide.
5. Montserrat`s mystique nature, hiking and birdwatching
While the southern part of Montserrat is mostly inaccessible, the northern area is covered by lush greenery. Hiking is one of the best ways to explore this side of the island. The moist rainforest around the Centre Hills is renowned for its biological diversity. It`s home to many species of wildlife, including the island`s rarely spotted national bird, the Montserrat oriole. Other regional endemic species that may be found here are a mountain chicken (a large frog), a galliwasp (half-snake and half-lizard).
The best way to see abundant wildlife is with an experienced guide who will know where to spot birds and other creatures.
6. Montserrat beaches
As a result of the volcanic eruption, Montserrat is home to secluded volcanic black sand beaches. The only exception is Rendezvous Bay Beach, the island`s only white-brown sand beach tucked in a cove with forested cliff serving as the backdrop.
Little Bay Beach, located on the island`s west coast, is one of the most popular beaches on Montserrat island. Dotted with several bars and restaurants along the beach – it is a perfect place for sunbathing and then hanging out for lunch or drinks while enjoying the breath-taking scenery. The calm waters are great for swimming, or you can just relax by the sea.
None of the beaches gets crowded, there are minimal facilities at most of the beaches (none have beach chairs). The Little Bay is the most developed one. This is the place where you will find dive shops, or you can rent water sports equipment.
7. Enjoy diving and snorkelling in Montserrat Island
Those seeking their thrills underwater can take advantage of serene places which Montserrat can offer. Diving and snorkelling in the pristine waters of the Caribbean are beautiful experiences for any explorer to see swarms of colourful tropical fish and other exotic undersea life. The sea has comfortable temperatures all year round. In addition, lucky ones can even spot giant turtles.
8. Legend of the Runaway Ghaut
The deep ravines (or ghauts as Montserratians call them) carry rainwater to the sea from high in the mountains. The local legend goes that if you drink the spring water from this tap, you will be drawn back to Montserrat time and again.
The water in Montserrat is extremely safe to drink. The Runaway ghaut is one of the island`s most famous ghauts. You can find it on the side of the road north of Salem. It`s not clearly marked, though. Make sure to tell a guide to include it in his tour.
9. Food in Montserrat Island
With the Caribbean and British influence, Montserratian cuisine is extraordinary. Dishes can be simple as roasted or grilled chicken of fish. Then there is the Montserratian classic Goat water, the island`s national dish, usually available only on certain days of the week.
If you are looking for a relaxing lunch, try The Attic bar & restaurant, located in Olveston. The Attic is a classic Caribbean restaurant, a popular spot with both the locals and tourist alike. The menu features a mix of traditional Caribbean dishes and American dishes (chicken roti, goat water, chicken, the fish special or quesadillas). Try amazing home-made fruit beverages, from ginger beer to starfruit. Our favourite was mango juice, the best we have ever had!
10.Visit National Museum of Montserrat
If after lunch you want to see some exhibits, head back to Little Bay. Although relatively small, this museum is perfect for anyone who would like to learn more about the island`s background. The museum presents some pre-Columbian life artefacts, items from slavery days, sugar plantations, as well as photos of Plymouth before eruptions. Unfortunately, the displays are a little scattered. This is because many things from the island`s history were lost during the volcanic eruptions in the past. However, it gives you a taste of Montserrat`s history.
GOOD TO KNOW:
The National Museum is on the Main Road in Little Bay. It’s worth noting that the museum is not always open. Hence, you need to book your visit in advance.
Things to do in Montserrat in 1 day:
- The Montserrat Volcano Observatory
- Richmond hill and Montserrat Springs Resort Hotel
- the buried city of Plymouth
- the Runaway Ghaut
- visit National Museum of Montserrat
- try Montserratian cuisine in one of the local restaurants
- buy some souvenirs
- have a swim in the Little Bay beach
We hope the above reasons have inspired you to plan a trip to Montserrat. We highly recommend that you check out the Emerald Isle of the Caribbean, you will not regret it!
Have you ever been to Montserrat? Is it on your radar?
Please leave us a comment below!
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