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Discover Montserrat Island: more than just volcanoes

by Elena Escudero | July 7, 2020
panoramic view of the island of Montserrat

Would you like to discover Montserrat? Standing in the warm Caribbean waters Montserrat rises as a unique volcanic island. Despite having a tragic past, it has been able to thrive again.

The island became a very popular holiday destination in the 80s. Many celebrities and music stars would find their way to Montserrat to enjoy its lush vegetation and jaw-dropping volcanic geography. Montserrat’s golden age was harshly hit by Hurricane Hugo at the end of the decade, forcing locals to rebuild almost the whole island from scratch.

A few years later, when the island was coming back to its former glory, the volcano in the southern part of the island started erupting and during two years it covered with lava, mud and ashes most of the southern tip of the island, including the island’s capital city, Plymouth. 

The island population was reduced from 12,000 to 2000, with most people being forced to migrate to other islands. Twenty years later, Montserrat island is back on its feet and, although the volcano-affected area is now an exclusion zone, the rest of the island is thriving with culture and life.

To visit Montserrat, you need to apply for a Montserrat eVisa. It is a common practice as the governments need to know who is entering the country to ensure its security.

Fortunately, Montserrat offers the option of applying online for a  visa that allows you to stay for 1 year and enter the country multiple times during its validity so you don't have to apply every time you plan to fly in.

Montserrat Island flag

What is Montserrat famous for?

Montserrat island’s past is not the only thing that is dramatic, the island’s geography offers one of the most mountainous landscapes in the Caribbean, with high peaks, lush jungles, and rainforests. Here are some of the main natural and cultural attractions the island has to offer for tourists and travellers

Volcanic History

For those interested in the island’s volcanic history, there is plenty to do. You may want to start with a quick hike up to Jack Boy Hill viewpoint. Jack Boy Hill is one of the best spots to see the result of the volcano eruptions of the last century and appreciate how the island’s shape changed because of them. It’s located on the east side of Montserrat island, it’s very easy to reach by car and it’s very well maintained. 

The Montserrat Volcano Observatory is a must for anyone visiting Montserrat island. The observatory offers the chance to understand the fascinating history of Montserrat island from expert hands. Apart from a perfect dose of history, you’ll also get the best views of the stunning volcano from the observatory. 

Beach lover

If you’re a beach lover, you will enjoy Montserrat’s north side. Hidden behind lush vegetation, Rendezvous Bay is one of the island’s favourite spots for white-sand beach fans. Hiking to the beach is recommended since you will have to find your way through exuberant jungle stretches that will make you feel like you’re on a Pirates of the Caribbean movie! 

If you love swimming and would rather be on a busier beach with some food and drink options, Isles bay on the west side of the island is the right choice for you. 

Snorkelling and scuba diving are two of the most popular water activities on the island. The quiet atmosphere of the island and its calm essence are the perfect environments for those looking to get away from big crowds of tourists. 

The pristine and low waters around Montserrat island are perfect for snorkelling lovers and the reefs surrounding the island offer the ideal setting for scuba diving as well. Expect to see colourful coral, sponges, and even big sea turtles! 

For those looking for a balanced experience, the National Museum of Montserrat provides the perfect dose of culture and history. This small but interesting museum allows visitors to get a deeper understanding of the Montserrat island’s past, from the Amerindian times to the volcano eruptions from the 90s decade. 

Is Montserrat's volcano still active?

Thanks to its volcanic nature, Montserrat is one of the Caribbean islands with the best hiking trails and views. Covered in lush vegetation, jungle, and forests, the island is a true paradise for nature and hiking lovers. Its low population density is also another plus for those looking to get away from crowds and to feel like they have the island all to themselves. 

The highest volcano on the island is the Soufrière Hills, located on the southern part of the island, which is perhaps the most known volcano not only on the island but also in the region. The volcano last erupted in 2012 and is currently still active. 

Since the areas surrounding the volcano and the whole southern part of the island are considered dangerous due to volcanic explosions and lava, the island established the Soufriere Hills Volcano Exclusion Zone. This area occupies two-thirds of the island’s extension and tourists are asked and strongly advised to keep away from the area. 

There are Exclusion Zone tours that take tourists to see some of the most impressive spots that were devastated by the volcano eruptions of 1995 and onwards. The ruins on Plymouth, the former capital of the island that was swept off the map, are the most visited ruins on the island. 

Montserrat Island Volcano from the air

How do you get to Montserrat island?

Montserrat island is not one of the main tourist destinations in the Caribbean. While that makes it a great destination for those looking for peace and quiet, it can be harder to get to than other major islands. 

The only way to fly into Montserrat Island is to fly from the neighbouring island of Antigua. There are daily flights and although it takes about 20 minutes, it’s considered an international flight. 

If you would rather take a boat to Montserrat island, you can do so from Antigua as well. There is a ferry that operates five days a week and takes about one hour and a half to get to the island. This might be a more comfortable option since it saves time in airports. 

Is Montserrat safe for tourists?

Locals in Montserrat Island are as friendly as you can imagine. The Caribbean area is famous for its welcoming people and safety is usually not a concern in most touristy Caribbean islands. 

There is, however, risk of volcanic activity and hurricanes. The Montserrat Volcano Observatory updates their reports daily on safety and volcano activity. Travelling to Montserrat is generally safe if safety reports are followed daily and hurricane season, from June to November, is avoided.

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