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will have to do some legwork to discover the island Columbus once lauded as the "a?Ĥmost charming country there is in the world". Aggressive development has resulted in resort towns complete with artificial beaches and pastel-hued cement hotels more appropriate to a Florida landscape than the French West Indies. That said, Martinique's resort emphasis makes the island ideal for all-inclusive travel, and most resorts organize optional day trips to the spots that give an idea of what brought the developers here in the first place.
The second largest holding in the French West Indian empire, Martinique's 1100-square-kilometre terrain is topped by a series of mountain peaks. The most imposing, the dormant
volcano, wreaked devastation on
in 1902; traipsing about the fabled city's charred ruins nowadays is an eerie experience.
teeming with indigenous flora evoke Martinique's original designation as Madinina (island of flowers), while the stupendous
distillery hosts a fascinating anti-Columbus exhibit. In between these sights, villages like isolated
steadfastly retain the customs emblematic of traditional Caribbean fishing villages; the latter, on the
, is also the island's most laid-back destination, a wonderfully underdeveloped stretch that boasts some of Martinique's finest beaches.
head straight to Martinique's southern edges, where the island's spectacular
beach is located, along with a host of smaller white- sand stretches, and hamlets like
that have escaped the build-up elsewhere. The island's beaches get increasingly black as you head north, culminating in the breathtaking
at the island's furthest reaches -
place to go for total isolation.
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