"Montserrat - The Emerald Island" Top 5 Page for this destination Montserrat by MikeAtSea
Montserrat Travel Guide: 41 reviews and 150 photos
You might have assumed Montserrat is known as “Emerald Isle of the Caribbean” because of its lush landscape. If you do, you are partially correct. The fertile volcanic soil spawn severy shade of green (and every other vibrant color in the spectrum) you can imagine. The approach is truly breathtaking – don’t miss it. The nickname also recalls the island’s Irish heritage, however.
It did not begin as an Irish land. Columbus sighted the island (but did not land) in 1493 during his second voyage to the Americas. He named it after the famous Spanish monastery. Sarawak and Carib people were living (mostly) in harmony when European settlers arrived in 1632. The unwilling colonists were “sent” to the island when Englishman Thomas Warner, Governor of Protestant St. Kitts, decided the unwelcome “heathens” might feel more comfort-able on their own. Montserrat became known for its tolerance of Catholics, and soon, it became a refuge for persecuted Irish Catholics. While it is difficult for a 21st-century observer to grasp, the struggle and misunderstanding between Catholic and Protestant had close parallels to the contemporary struggle between fundamentalist zealots and their less literal counterparts. Oliver Cromwell also dispatched some Irish political prisoners to Montserrat following his victory at Droghedain 1649. By 1678, more than half the islanders were of Irish descent. The national flag bears the Union Jack, but also the Irish figure of Erin and her harp. International visitors get a shamrock stamped in their passports and St. Patrick’s Day is a national holiday
The island has none of the frenzy found on its larger neighbors. Montserrat prides itself as a relaxed place where visitors can appreciate nature. There are some pleasant beaches, but they are covered with black(volcanic) sand, so beach shoes can come in handy if the sand heats up. Popular Rendezvous Beach is the single white sand exception. Visitors often enjoy hiking along the island’s many trails.
Even though the last major eruption came in 1997, islanders have not forgotten the impressive power Mother Nature can unleash. Fortunately, cataclysmic volcanic events, such as the one that closed the southern half of the island, typically give plenty of advance warning. Even so, the explosion was not merciful. Villages were swallowed in lava flow, and the former capital (Plymouth) was abandoned (along with the southern part of the island). The Exclusion Zone is still off-limits. There are viewing sites, however, where you can get observe volcanic power from a safe distance. Many modern observers have likened Plymouth to a modern-day Pompeii. Buried in ash, the former business and commercial center now looks more like the moon than the bustling tropical capital it once was. The destructive lava path that flowed down to the capital from the looming Soufrière Hills Volcano is easier to view from the perspective of the sea.
Abandoned in 1997 Montserrat's capital Plymouth has been compared to a modern-day Pompeii. Buried deep in ash and... more travel advice
For those with a keen interest in the volcanic activity, tours skirt the southern exclusion zone, following the rather... more travel advice
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