I stayed up all night to see where the sun went…. and then it dawned on me.Anon.
Whether you arrive in Dominica by sea or by air, your likely first impression will be one of awe at the sheer dramatic majesty of the place, one with which few islands in the Caribbean can compete. Nicknamed ‘the nature island,’ Dominica (locals stress the third syllable) lures independent travellers and eco-adventurers with its boiling lake, rainforest-shrouded volcanoes, sulfurous hot springs, superb diving and the Caribbean’s first long-distance hiking trail.Lonely Planet
An English-speaking island wedged between francophone Guadeloupe and Martinique, Dominica (not to be confused with the Dominican Republic) is on a different path to its neighbors in development terms, with no big cruise terminal nor an airport that can take even medium-haul flights. This means the island’s traditional character has been far better preserved than elsewhere in the Lesser Antilles. Hurricane Maria wreaked absolute havoc on Dominica in 2017, from which the island is still painfully – but determinedly – recovering.
I stayed on the edge of Roseau (the capital) in a fantastic establishment called St James Guesthouse. It proved to be a great spot to meet fellow travellers over a beer. It also had a great restaurant serving excellent evening meals.
History: Dominica was the last of the Caribbean islands to be colonised by Europeans due chiefly to the fierce resistance of its indigenous people. France laid claim to the island in 1635 and wrestled with the British over it throughout the 18th Century. In 1805 the French burned much of Roseau to the ground and from then on the island remained firmly in the possession of the British. In 1967 Dominica gained autonomy in international affairs as a West Indies Associated State and became an independent republic within the Commonwealth on November 3, 1978 (the 45th anniversary of Columbus’ sighting of the island.
Places of interest – in and around Roseau:
The old market hall: This cobblestone plaza has been the center of action in Roseau for more than 300 years. It’s been the site of political meetings, farmers markets and, more ominously, public executions and a slave market. Nowadays it’s got craft and souvenir stalls that get plenty of attention from cruise-ship passengers when the big ships are in port.
Trafalgar Falls: On the edge of the small village of Trafalgar, just beyond the visitor centre, you’ll find a viewing platform with full-on views of the two side-by-side falls: the 125ft ‘Father’ fall and 75ft ‘Mother’ fall. Try to avoid arriving there at the same time as one of the cruise tours!
On Dominica’s southernmost tip, the fishing village of Scotts Head has a gem of a setting along the gently curving shoreline of Soufriere Bay. While it got very badly damaged by Hurricane Maria, colourful characters still hang out on the porches of pastel-painted houses, and locals seem surprised to see outsiders visiting this remote corner of the island. It was here that I started section one of the Island’s famous hiking trail.
The Waitukubuli National Trail (WNT): Climbing up the side of a dormant volcano for stunning views. Traipsing through an aptly named ‘Valley of Desolation’ filled with bubbling mud, hot springs, and sulfur. Visiting the spectacular Boiling Lake and exploring the Morne Trois Pitons National Park which became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997. These are just some of the things hikers can expect when they venture onto the WNT
The trail was constructed between 2007 and 2012 by the Government of Dominica, in partnership with the Regional Council of Martinique and funded by the European Union. Officially opened on May 10th, 2013, the trail was given the original Kalinago indigenous name of the island, Waitukubuli, meaning “tall is her body.”
Spanning the full length of Dominica, the whole trail is 115 miles long and is made up of fourteen hiking sections. It is the longest hiking trail in the Caribbean.
Awarded best in travel 2023 by Lonely Planet, Dominica proved to be one of my favourite countries on this trip. It has everything to offer an inquisitive and adventurous backpacker.
Dive Dominica are an excellent company to help you explore the undersea world of Dominica. I dived six times with them and enjoyed every single dive.
Dominica backpacking possibility rating: very possible. Finding cheap accommodation is relatively easy – with prior preparation. Eating out is inexpensive Beer cheap, wine expensive. Supermarket food on par with UK prices. Self catering facilities help keep the costs down. Local transportation and museums are very cheap. Country score: 8 out of 10. Less touristy than Barbados and a great country to visit. Hassle factor, very low – most people are very friendly.
Next stage: Guadeloupe.