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 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!
REASONS TO VISIT THE POMPEII IN THE TROPICS
1. 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 and buried the capital of Plymouth and a significant portion of the southern part of the island in volcanic ash. The one-vibrant town become the Caribbean`s own version of a modern day Pompeii.
SAFETY IN MONTSERRAT
Although the level of volcanic activity is very low at the present, the volcano is still active and continually monitored for signs of increasing activity. The access to the restricted zone is strictly controlled and tours are only available via approved guides. The access to the volcano itself is strictly forbidden.
2. VISIT THE MONTSERRAT VOLCANO OBSERVATORY
Head to the Montserrat Volcano Observatory to get amazing views of the volcano, Belham Valley and Plymouth from the Observatory’s viewing deck. For those interested in learning more about volcano and its impact on the island, the observatory also offers lots of information about the volcano and an educational tour detailing the history and impact of the eruptions.
TIP: Helicopter tours of the Soufrière Hills Volcano can also be arranged from Antigua
3. RICHMOND HILL, MONTSERRAT SPRINGS RESORT HOTEL, PLYMOUTH
Drive to Richmond Hill, once an upper middle class neighbourhood, and stop at the abandoned Montserrat Springs hotel, once the jewel of the island. Wander through the hotel and get some stunning views of Plymouth, knowns as modern day Pompeii.
4. THE BURIED CITY OF PLYMOUTH
A series of cataclysmic eruptions in 1990s had an enormous impact on the island, leaving two-thirds of the island uninhabitable, including the south-coast capital of Plymouth. Nowadays, the capital of Montserrat is completely destroyed and buried under metres of volcanic rocks, pyroclastic flow and mud.
TIP: 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 and does let people know the level of risk in various areas and the amount of access allowed.
A modern Pompeii of the Caribbean can be visited only with police permission and accompanied by certified guide.
5. IT`S MYSTIQUE NATURE, HIKING AND BIRDWATCHING
While southern part of Montserrat is largely 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, renowned for its biological diversity, is 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. IT`S 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. 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.
TIP: None of the beaches get crowded, there are minimal facilities at the 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 sport equipment.
7. DIVING AND SNORKELLING
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 wonderful experiences for any explorer to see swarms of colourful tropical fish and other exotic undersea life. The water has comfortable temperatures all year around and lucky ones can even spot large 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.
TIP: The water in Montserrat is extremely safe to drink. The Runaway ghaut, one of the island`s most famous ghauts, located on the side of the road north of Salem is not clearly marked. Make sure to tell a guide to include it in his tour.
With 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.
TIP: 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 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 a mango juice, the best we have ever had!
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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