St. Lucia: Simply Beautiful
Tucked away in the Windward Islands of the Lesser Antilles, St. Lucia’s intoxicating natural beauty is nearly unmatched in the Caribbean.
With a secluded feel and breathtaking beauty, St. Lucia is a utopia for ecotourists. Twin green-mantled peaks known as the Pitons tower over a verdant, rolling landscape. They rise out of the azure sea and dominate the skyline, as if standing guard over the island’s natural splendors. A luxurious rainforest blankets much of St. Lucia; other attractions include a drive-through volcano, bubbling sulfur springs, plunging waterfalls, banana plantations, quaint villages, and palm-fringed black- and white-sand beaches. Find solace in the enchanted island’s unspoiled bounty.
The French took control of St. Lucia in 1635, kicking off a 200-year-long political struggle with the British, each vying to control the island’s vast resources. In 1814, the Treaty of Paris settled things in the Brits’ favor, but the French left an indelible mark. Today, English is St. Lucia’s official language.
Castries is St. Lucia’s capital and commercial center as well as the island’s shopping hub. Chic boutiques and local businesses intermingle with quaint homes and government offices—all set against a captivating backdrop of striking beauty.
Get a taste of island flavor at the buzzing Castries Public Market, where over 300 vendors sell everything from local spices to rum to artisanal crafts. Just two blocks south of the market, a giant 400-year-old samaan tree stands watch over Derek Walcott Square.
The square is nestled between Castries Central Library and the Minor Basilica of the Immaculate Conception, more often called The Cathedral. Construction took the better part of a century to complete because of the intricate, ornate depictions on the walls.
Just south of Castries, Morne Fortune overlooks the city of Castries and the coastline. The name may translate to “Hill of Good Luck,” but history has proved this site is anything but lucky. The Morne, as it’s known to locals, was the site of many battles between the French and the British. These days, visitors can tour the former battleground, which hosts a military cemetery; the Inniskilling Monument, an homage to a 1796 battle; and the remains of Fort Charlotte, now the Sir Arthur Lewis Community College. The impressive Victorian-style building, Government House, serves as the official residence of St. Lucia’s governor-general. The panoramic views are stellar from the Morne, so bring a camera.
Within the Piton World Heritage Site, the 113-acre Sulphur Springs Park is a geological playground and home to what’s billed as the world’s only drive-in volcano. The road leads into the seven-acre remnant of a volcanic crater that last erupted in 1766, which is where a walking tour through bubbling springs begins. The waters flowing throughout the park are touted for reducing stress and alleviating certain skin ailments.
The Diamond Falls Botanical Gardens and Mineral Baths, part of the 2,000-acre Soufrière Estate, sits in a natural gorge in the middle of the rainforest. The botanical garden is on the site of the spring baths built in 1784 at the request of King Louis XVI of France, who wanted his troops to benefit from the water’s curative effects. Water bubbles to the surface and streams downhill to form Diamond Falls, arguably the most colorful waterfall in the Caribbean region. The mineral-rich water shimmers in a kaleidoscope of oranges, blues, and purples as it flows downstream.
For those who prefer to sit back and relax while taking in the island’s splendors, the Rainforest Aerial Tram is calling. In the heights of St. Lucia’s forest reserve, 16 open-air gondolas glide through the jungle. A nature interpreter points out giant ferns and showy heliconia and identifies the varied birdlife.
North of Castries, Pigeon Island National Landmark is a living museum. The 44-acre island is home to historical attractions such as the ruins of military buildings as well as two beautiful beaches, two restaurants, and a pub serving local delicacies. A lookout points sits atop Fort Rodney, providing breathtaking views of St. Lucia’s northwestern coastline.
Board a private boat to Jade Mountain, one of Travel + Leisure’s World’s Best honorees. A private beach cabana is your five-star sanctuary for the day. See the Pitons, kayak, snorkel, sail, and go for a beachside treatment at Kai en Ciel Spa. Afterward, a short drive takes you up Jade Mountain for an al fresco lunch at the resort.
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