When he discovered Martinique in 1493, Christopher Columbus gushed that it was “the most beautiful country in the world”. Since then this island has lost little of the magic that so captivated the great explorer: it remains one of the most beautiful destinations you are likely to visit.
Originally inhabited by Arawak and Carib Indians, who were swiftly eradicated by the French, the island has been hotly fought over. The British made numerous attempts to occupy Martinique during the 18th and 19th centuries, but it has remained defiantly French since 1635 (along with nearby Guadeloupe).
Tourism represents a major part of the local economy and each year hundreds of thousands of visitors come to enjoy Martinique's picturesque volcanic landscape, luscious rainforests and fine beaches, which are lined with sugar, palm, banana and pineapple plantations.
An accommodating people, most Martinicans are of mixed ancestry, being the descendants of 17th century French settlers and slaves brought from Africa to work on the island's plantations. This French and Creole heritage is infused in local customs, food and languages, which is a joy for travellers.
Do make sure you pack your dancing shoes. It’s impossible to escape zouk, the lively, two-beat local music that is similar to merengue in the Dominican Republic, but is unique to the French West Indies. Martinicans are very proud of their zouk, which will provide the soundtrack to your trip.
If you need a bit of Dutch courage to get on the dance floor, you’re in luck, because Martinique produces fine rum. So exceptional is the liquor, in fact, that it was awarded the prestigious French label appellation d'origine controlee, which was previously only reserved for mainland produce.