Everything You Need to Know About Visiting Montserrat
Montserrat, a volcanic island in the Caribbean, isn't the most popular destination to visit. And it certainly isn't part of any typical cruise package. This island doesn't have the beautiful beaches or any of the luxury resorts some of the other islands have. But, it's a unique place to visit for a different Caribbean experience. And it's so close to Antigua that you can still stay in one of the beachfront villas in the Caribbean and come and explore this island on a day trip.
Where is Montserrat?
Montserrat is part of the British West Indies in the Lesser Antilles. It's about 50 kilometres to the south-west of Antigua, which takes about 90 minutes to reach via ferry. St Kitts and Nevis are the north-west and Guadeloupe is to the south-east. Most of the island was devastated by a volcanic eruption in the 1990's that caused a large percentage of its already tiny population to leave to neighbouring islands or to the United Kingdom. In recent years, the island is starting to reopen to tourism. But, large parts of Montserrat have restricted access due to continued volcanic activity.
Why Should I Visit Montserrat?
Montserrat makes a fascinating destination for people looking for an adventure and for something very different from the traditional Caribbean. You can arrange a tour from nearby Antigua or take the ferry as an independent visitor. Though the second will need more planning and flexibility. It's also possible to take private helicopter tours to and from the island if you have a few thousand dollars to spare! The accessibility means that you can still have your beach holiday and enjoy the luxury and then head off to explore this unique place for a day.
The other reason to visit is to meet and speak to the jovial locals. Many left after the eruption, but a few stayed behind and more and more are slowly returning as the island becomes safer. When you meet and speak to them, you'll find that they have an infectious level of optimism about their future and have a different type of personality to the other parts of the Caribbean.
Despite the island losing a large proportion of its population, there are still a number of festivals and events throughout the year. Montserrat has its own Carnival and St Patricks Day celebration to commemorate the islands Irish heritage. You can also come and take part in the annual Montserrat fishing tournament in October. This attracts contestant from all over the world and is a favourite for many anglers.
When is the Best Time to Visit Monserrat?
The island experiences a tropical climate and a distinctive wet and dry season. The dry months are between February and May whereas the wettest time of the year is from July to November. If you visit during the wet months, transport may be disrupted because of the bad weather. And the risk of hurricanes are much higher. The best time to visit to reduce the chances of inconveniences and disruptions are in the drier months.
What are the Best Things to Do in Montserrat?
The volcanoes are still quite active and one of the major tourist attractions on this island is to witness the destructive power of an active volcano. It's not possible to go near it because of safety issues, but you can see it from a distance. There are a few hills that offer good views of this natural phenomenon. It's still not possible to visit the devastated capital, Plymouth, though you can see the aftermath of the destruction from a distance.
Diving and snorkelling around this island are some of the best in the entire Caribbean. The legacy of the eruption has allowed the coral reef to flourish without interference and damage from human activity. As a result, the marine life has thrived and when you combine this with the lack of tourism, it makes seeing it a very special experience.
You can also go hiking in some of the hills, which will give you good views of the island. And there are several trails in the jungle too. You can also go bird watching and experience nature that has been relatively untouched by humans over the last two decades. Cycling on some of the trails is also a popular activity in Montserrat. You can rent a bicycle and explore on your own or arrange a tour with a local.
Important Travel Tips:
Before you plan to visit make sure that you have up-to-date information about travel restrictions and where the exclusions zones are. You can't go to certain parts because of volcanic activity that makes it too dangerous. This can change at short notice and more restrictions may apply during heightened activity.
The next tip is to make sure that you're completely aware of how you're getting to and from Montserrat. This isn't so much of a problem if you're part of an organised tour but it is if you want to make the trip on your own. Check the ferry times and schedules to and from Antigua when you arrive. Don't rely on information that you read online as it may be outdated. You should also anticipate difficulties getting around the island when you arrive.
The Takeaway Message of Visiting Monserrat:
If you're looking for a unique and very different travel experience in the Caribbean, you'll love Montserrat. The lack of beaches, endless volcanic activity, and untouched diving sites makes this a very special destination. And you can visit without reducing the luxury of your vacation by taking a day trip from nearby Antigua.