When he discovered Martinique in 1493, Christopher Columbus, said it was 'the most beautiful country in the world', naming it in honour of St Martin. Before then, the area was inhabited by Arawak and Carib Indians and was called Madinina ('island of flowers') by the native population.
Though the British made brief attempts to occupy the island during the 18th and 19th centuries, it has remained under French control since 1635 (along with Guadeloupe).Tourism represents a major part of the economy.
Each year, hundreds of thousands of visitors are drawn to Martinique's picturesque volcanic landscape, its fine black, white or peppered sand beaches surrounded by sugar, palm, banana and pineapple plantations. The island's location also makes it a stopping-off point for cruise ships.
Visitors will appreciate Martinique's French and Creole heritage, which is mirrored in its customs, food and languages. Most Martiniquais are of mixed ancestry, being the descendants of 17th century French settlers and slaves brought from Africa to work on the island's plantations. In addition, visitors won't escape zouk, the lively, two-beat local music similar to merengue but unique to the French West Indies. Martinicans are very proud of it and it can be heard everywhere.
Finally, one should not leave the island without tasting its rum, considered among the best in the world. It was awarded the prestigious French label 'appellation d'origine contrôlée' previously only reserved for French cheeses and wines.