1. Mamiku Gardens: Plush 12 acres of natural woodlands, the Historical Gardens of Madame de Micoud offer a series of different gardens for those who wish to revel in beauty and history at the same time. The name ‘Mamiku’ is an adaptation of “Madame de Micoud” the Baron’s wife. Mamiku Estate is a hardworking plantation producing bananas, tropical flowers and fruits, with the botanical gardens a recently-added enterprise. You can also read more about the gardens in our in-depth feature published in a previous issue of MACO Caribbean Living.
2. The Soufriere Volcano: Ah, yes: the big guy with attitude. The Soufriere Volcano is known around the world, but for locals it’s also known as the Saint Lucia sulphur springs. Feeling adventurous? Visitors are able to drive right into the volcano, the only known drive-in volcano in the world by the way! Needn’t worry about volcanic activity while you’re there as the last event, a steam-only eruption, happened many years ago. The curative powers of the Diamond Mineral Baths where a small waterfall and ambrosial botanical garden are also open to tour. Which leads us to our next pick.
3. Diamond Waterfall, Botanical Gardens & Mineral Baths in Soufriere: Relax and replenish some of that lost energy by trekking to the Sulphur Springs. In 1784, the Baron de Laborie, who was at the time Governor of St Lucia, sent samples of the water to Paris to be analysed by the “Medecine du Roi”. The waters were said to hold the same properties as the famous French spa at Aix-les bains and the equally famous Aix-la-Chapelle (or Aachen) in Germany. Bathing in the waters was highly recommended for people who suffered from chronic rheumatism, respiratory complaints or ulcers.
4. Castries Market: Named one of the top 10 markets in the world by National Geographic Magazine, Castries Market is the oldest market still in operation today. Located in the capital, it’s the largest meet-up of locals who gather to sell spices (star anise, mace, cinnamon); locally grown fruit and vegetables; condiments like hot-pepper sauce; locally made crafts like straw bags and wood carvings; or the fishermen’s catch.
5. The Basilica of the Immaculate Conception: While you’re visiting Castries Market, be sure to visit Derek Walcott Square, where the seat of the Archbishop of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Castries, Robert Rivas resides. The cathedral is named after Mary, mother of Jesus, under her title, Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception. The form “Cathedral”, as it is commonly known, is the largest church in the Caribbean, measuring 200ft long by 100ft wide and was elevated to the status of a Minor Basilica on 11th May 1999 as part of the centenary celebrations. Designed to inspire divine reflection, this holy place portrays lovely murals which were decorated by Saint Lucian artist and church muralist, Dunstan St. Omer. He refurbished the existing murals in the Minor Basilica and produced 14 stained-glass windows to replace the present plain-glass ones. The result is a warm space and no matter where you are in Saint Lucia, you are sure to find a religious group that would be happy to welcome you.
6. Vieux Fort: At the extreme tip of St. Lucia is Moule-A-Chique peninsula with lighthouse at its extremity. The cliffs are home to numerous sea birds and the heights offer views of the coasts of Saint Lucia, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Off the Atlantic shore of Vieux Fort is the Maria Islands Nature Reserve. The reserve is home to the indigenous Saint Lucia Racer (kouwès), a small, nocturnal snake, and a ground lizard, the St. Lucia Whiptail (zanndoli tè). Many birds nest here and the reserve is closed during the reproduction season.
7. Morne Fortune: High on the southern side of Castries, at the end of a road that snakes up the slopes of the mountain to offer spectacular views of Castries Harbour, Vigie and the north of the island, sits Morne Fortune. On the Morne is the historic century-old Government House, which is the official residence of the Governor General. The house is an outstanding example of Victorian architecture and Le Pavillon Royal is the museum on the Government House grounds.
8. Marigot Bay: This one’s a bit of a trip, well, road trip anyway! Heading south of the isle, down to the Cul de Sac Valley with its endless banana plantations, is Marigot Bay. Perhaps one of the most secure anchorages in the Caribbean, Marigot was the setting for the original Doctor Doolittle starring Rex Harrison. After Marigot Bay, the road runs through the Roseau banana fields, and climbs into lush hills. Inland is the small community of Millet, the location of the Circle River Trail, one of the Heritage Tourism Programme’s attractions. The highlight of this trail is the Venus River which winds through Millet, all the way down to the Roseau Valley. This is an easy trek and includes an exceptional, freshwater bathing area. Our favourite place to enjoy a respite happens to be the glorious Capella at Marigot Bay, which you can read more about here.
9. Pigeon Island National Park: On the north side of Castries you’ll find all 44 acres of the Pigeon Island National Park. Once accessible only by sea, the causeway that joins Pigeon Island to the mainland was built in the 1970s. Grasslands, dry tropical forest and beaches are the geological interests of the Park. There are forts placed on the two summits of the island. In 1550 it was the hideout of a notorious French privateer, Jambe de Bois. Today Pigeon Island is the centre stage venue for the annual Saint Lucia Jazz Festival.
10. The Pitons: Of course, we’ve saved the best for last! Oh, those Pitons, with their awe-inspiring peaks are outstanding examples of cultural and natural heritage. They also happened to fit the UNESCO World Heritage Committee criteria for a world heritage stamp of recognition. The best-known features are of course the Gros Piton, Petit Piton and the Sulphur Springs (long advertised as the world’s only drive-in volcano). However, the site contains many other unique aspects that the Heritage Committee deemed important to preserve. There are beautiful coral reefs, hawksbill turtles, pilot whales, 168 species of finfish, 148 species of plants (including eight rare trees) and 27 species of birds, five of which are found nowhere else in the world.
There you have it, our top 10 picks for places you simply must see in Saint Lucia. The island’s rich cultural and terrestrial history is saturated throughout, and you won’t regret trekking through the mud, sulphuric fumes and winding roads one bit!