Backpacking in the Caribbean: St Lucia.

Unfortunately, my next flight (to St Lucia from St Vincent) involved a 4-hour layover in Barbados – making the total journey time nearly 8-hours. Then the flight from Barbados to St Lucia was delayed by an hour. Realising the impending lateness of my arrival in St Lucia, I decided to book an airport transfer. It was money well spent.

Harbour Vista Inn has amazing views across the harbour. It’s closeness to the harbour also makes it a great choice for an early morning ferry The worn out accommodation has very little else to offer.

The local (mini) bus took an hour to get to Soufriére, a small town on the south west coast of the Island. It was an fascinating journey with some amazing views along the way.

Frenz, was an excellent self catering apartment, just on the edge of town, conveniently close to a big supermarket. I was warmly welcomed by Glenda, who very kindly facilitated an early check in and told me all she could about what to do, and what to see, during my stay.

Soufrière’s attractions include a slew of colonial-era edifices scattered amid brightly painted wooden storefronts, and a bustling seafront. Sadly, there are no public beaches. The main beach was commandeered by one of the nearby resorts. You can gain access by paying 50 USD.

The only decent restaurants in Soufríere are closed in the evening. I made use of the self catering facilities in my apartment. I didn’t much fancy being in the town centre after dark. The only down side to this was the lack of social contact in an evening.

Soufríere, with the Pitons in the background.

The Diamond Botanical Gardens, Mineral Baths and Waterfall are located in a small portion of the 2,000 acres of land granted to three Devaux brothers by King Louis XIV of France 1713, in recognition of their services to “Crown & Country” It is claimed that as a child Empress Josephine wife of Naplolean Bonaparte bathed in the original baths while spending holidays at her fathers plantation in Soufriere called “Mal Maison”.

In 1928, Andre du Boulay, owner of Soufríere Estate and Diamond Baths, excavated the site and restored 2 baths out of the original 12, that had been destroyed by the “Brigands” during the French revolution. The baths are fed by the original spring water, similar to the waters of “Aix les Bains” in France. The original holding tank built in 1784 is still in use. In 1983 on the death of Mr Andre du Boulay, his daughter Joan Devaux took over the estate.

Diamond waterfall.

There are ample opportunities to explore the area around Soufríere on foot, including a hike up Gros Piton. They mostly require a guide with a hefty price tag. Even during the day, Soufrière is not a pleasant place to explore. It’s obviously struggling financially, and I found the constant harassment, mainly from people asking for money, quite intimidating.

The Pitons.

After 3-nights in Soufríere, I was ready to get back to Castries in readiness for the ferry to Martinique. I waited over 2-hours for a bus back to Castries. In the end I gave up and thumbed a lift. This proved to be a much more comfortable ride than the cramped bus.

Castries, the main city of St Lucia, is worth a quick visit. It’s best feature being the soaring Morne Fortune (853ft), which serves as Castries’ scenic backdrop. Most of the city’s historic buildings were destroyed by major fires between 1785 and 1948, but it still makes for an interesting afternoon stroll.

St Lucia is undoubtably a stunningly beautiful country. But for me it proved to be my least favourite Island to date. Had I chosen an all inclusive package holiday perhaps my opinion of the country would be somewhat different.

St Lucia backpacking possibility rating: quite possible. Finding cheap accommodation is relatively easy – with prior preparation. Beer cheap, wine expensive. Supermarket food on par with UK prices. Local transportation and museums are relatively cheap. Country score: 6 out of 10. Hassle factor, high – constant pressure from people asking for money.

St Lucia.

Next stage: Martinique.

About Richard Griffith

My first independent travel experience was a trip to Israel, in 1997, it was here that I caught the 'travel' bug! In 2001 I took an 8-month sabbatical and traveled around South East Asia. Since then I have managed to visit most of Eastern Europe along with India, Bangladesh, and a few other destinations in between. I love travel and I love meeting new people.
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