The Carribean is known for its white beaches, sultry summer weather, crystal clear blue waters and light ocean breeze. This environment makes for a perfect beach vacation, and that’s how I imagined the Carribean will be until I landed at St Lucia.
That’s where my impression took a 360-degree turn! The tiny airport that seemed little over 500 square feet, with just one luggage belt and three officers at the immigration counter felt like one of India’s much smaller airports.
As you step outside the airport and drive into the city, you could see only a few vehicles, some chickens moving around, and a line of banana trees. It felt like one of those rustic and untouched towns, somewhere in the middle of nowhere.
Symbolic to the island are the Pitons, the two volcanic mountains beside each other, which spiral up from the sea. In fact, Pitons has become so synonymous with St Lucia, that their main beer is known as Piton. Soufriere is a small town on the West Coast of St Lucia and I would call it the heart of the island. The views from here are splendid and breathtaking.
The blue ocean, lush greenery, mountain road, and the Gros Piton and Petit Piton are seen from quite a few places. Ask any local and they will guide you. The best way to see them is to take a boat ride in the ocean. These rocks coming out of the water are definitely Instagram-worthy shots and a sight one can only see in St Lucia.
Sugar Beach in the town of Soufriere is one of the most picturesque beaches I’ve ever visited. It’s situated right in between the Pitons, and gets marvellous views of them, both from sand and water. Because of the volcanic ash around, the beach sand like the rest of St Lucia was grey. However, due to the importance of the place, white sand did get imported.
Another must-visit is Sulphur Springs, the world‘s only drive-in volcano. A visit to Soufriere Volcano or Sulphur Springs must be on every traveller’s bucket list. This volcano is in a dormant state and last erupted about 200 years ago.
One of the most popular activities to do in this volcano is to have a mud bath in the black pools that were formed with water from the rain and geothermal activity of the volcano. The temperature ranges from 95-99 degrees Fahrenheit. These pools have attracted tourists from all over the world because of the healing properties for arthritis, sunburns, eczema, joint pain and more.
People across the world spend a huge amount on such treatment in fancy spas. I met a lot of locals from the region who visits the place regularly — they believe that their skin would look refreshed if they take a dip at the pool.
The procedure begins by soaking oneself in the water for at least 10 minutes so the skin pores open up. Then volunteers take the black pack and apply it evenly on the skin. Once the mud is dry, one can jump back into the pool and enjoy the beauty around.
After spending a good amount of time, people go to the rainforest to wash off under the waterfalls. This place has been visited by celebrities like Richard Branson and Oprah Winfrey. I always love to visit and experience these celebrity-endorsed activities.
For a chocolate addict like me, St Lucia is a paradise. Cocoa is part of the St Lucia’s legacy. The volcanic soil makes it possible to have cocoa plantations in abundance. Most of the resorts here have plantations attached to them.
I visited the Fond Doux plantation and made my own chocolate. Besides chocolate, I tasted two interesting edibles, the cacao fruit, which is similar to mangosteen and cacao tea. Now, that’s an unusual one — it’s cocoa, water, nutmeg and vanilla. The chocolate tea is very unique to this region. A great souvenir to bring back is a rod of cocoa chocolate, wrapped in a little recipe book.
Speaking about souvenirs and presents, a place not to miss on the island is the Castries market. This huge space in the capital has over 300 vendors selling regular giveaways like magnets, hats, shot glasses, baskets, ashtrays and sauces among many other colourful gifts.
The local artists make quirky things. I got myself a showpiece of a cowboy and a horse that is made of wire. It is something I treasure and every time I look at the showpiece it brings back lovely memories of the colourful and vibrant market.
St Lucia has its quiet charm and unlike other Carribean countries, the place has a mixed bag of English, French, Africans and a little bit of Bahamas.
— The author loves to travel and explore new places, food and cultures