Saint Lucia is a small mountainous island located in the east section of the Caribbean, and part of the Lesser Antilles. Independent since 1979, the country was initially colonized by France but the control over the island exchanged hands 14 times between France and England during 1663 and 1814, when the Brits took definitive control over island. Nowadays, its 174,000 inhabitants speak English as their official language, besides a creole version of French.
Castries, the island’s capital and largest city, hosts approximately one third the population. It is a relatively modern kind of place, with plenty of concrete and glass buildings built during the second half of the 20th century, without major attractions. Castries features the country’s main port, which attracts several large cruise ships between November and April, besides a small airport. Thanks to its strategic location in the island, most of the traffic flowing between the north and the south sections of the country end up passing through Castries.
Some 15km (9mi) north of the capital, Pigeon Island was the place chosen by the first French settlers to install a pirate base. Currently connected to the main island by a causeway, the place has been converted into a National Park featuring some ruins and fortifications that date back to the 18th century. It is also home to the place known as Signal Peak, which provides a nice panoramic view 100m (330ft) above the sea – when the sky is clear enough it is possible to see the French island of Martinique in the distance. Pigeon Island also offers a few other places of interest, like the trail to Fort Rodney, which provides an excellent view over Rodney Bay, with its hotels and small boats, and a small museum portraying the history of this country.
Moving now towards the south of the island, Morne Fortune stands right after crossing Castries again. This hill was the location for many of the decisive battles fought between France and England for the control over the Caribbean region during the 18th century. The Government House is one the few colonial Victorian structures to have survived to this day. Morne Fortune also features one of the best panoramic sights in the whole island, which includes all the harbour area of Castries to the north, followed by Pigeon Island and, on a lucky day, Martinique on the background. Facing southwards it is possible to observe the Pitons, two twin peaks that rise hundreds of meters above the southwestern coast of Saint Lucia.
The road from there to Soufrière, a city located next to the Pitons, allows us to see some the most popular spots in the island, like Marigot Bay, a bay surrounded by green hills that act as a natural protection for boats against hurricanes. Leaving Marigot Bay towards the south through the main banana plantations in the island, you will eventually reach the fishermen villages of Canaries and Anse La Raye, before hitting Soufrière.
Soufrière is Saint Lucia’s second largest city and, for many people, the main touristic destination in the island. The city has a few colonial buildings spread through the coast. The surroundings of this place, however, are what attract visitors the most. The icons of Saint Lucia, the Pitons, stand guard above Soufrière. Rising 738m (2,421ft) and 696m (2,283ft) above the sea, the mountains called respectively Gros Piton and Petit Piton are the product of the ancient volcanic activity of this area, even though they are currently covered by vegetation. While higher, Gros Piton is easier to climb and this can be done in about six hours accompanied by a guide. Some leisure options nearby include taking a mud bath in Sulfur Springs (considered to be the only drive-in volcano in the world), visit the Tet Paul nature reserve, where it is possible to take a hike in order to get acquainted to the local flora and get excellent sights to the Pitons, or also take a relaxing shower at the Toraille Waterfall.
Saint Lucia’s main airport is located in the extreme south of the island, 56km (35mi) away from Castries, in the city of Vieux Fort. This airport is connected to several other Caribbean islands, like Barbados and Antigua. Besides, the island is also served by scheduled ferry services that connect the country to neighboring Martinique, Dominica and Guadeloupe.