Soufriere, St. Lucia
Value for Money:
Personality Types that Like it Best
Did You Know … ?
- Soufriere, founded in 1746, was St. Lucia’s first town.
- There are other Caribbean volcanoes called Soufriere — on Guadeloupe, Montserrat and St. Vincent.
- St. Lucia boasts Soufriere is the world’s only drive-through volcanic crater.
- A working guillotine was installed in the town square during the French Revolution.
- Gros Piton and Petit Piton date from a volcanic eruption of 30 million to 40 million years ago.
Looks good, smells bad
Soufriere, given its proximity to two dormant volcanoes (Gros Piton and Petit Piton), offers a feast for the eyes — but, given its proximity to an active one (La Soufriere), it offers something else for the nose.
St. Lucia is an island noted for its varied and mountainous terrain, and a lot of that variety is along the western shore, location of the town of Soufriere. The town itself — an old fishing village that looks a bit weathered — isn’t the attraction although, more than 250 years after its founding, it has its charms in houses with filigreed balconies and tin roofs, a market and the old town square with its church.
Soufriere’s visitors have great views of St. Lucia’s iconic Gros Piton and Petit Piton, twin volcanic peaks that rise from the sea. Tourists choose Soufriere for the ambience of this kind of beauty, which enhances the already considerable attraction of the area’s beaches and related water sports.
But Soufriere is best known for the eponymously named volcano, La Soufriere, a gurgling wonder that never stops belching smelly sulfuric gases into the air. Visitors are attracted to the curiosity despite that little drawback.
For one thing, they can drive by, watch the steam rise and get a whiff of those gases before moving on. Alternatively, the truly curious can leave their vehicles and walk into the crater to see the bubbling mud, feel its heat and (need we mention?) clear their sinuses with sulfites. Like a good tourist attraction, the volcano — so far — has presented its show while giving no indication it may become dangerous.
Areas with this kind of geothermal activity have the makings of natural spas, and Soufriere is no exception. Visitors can bathe in mud and mineral waters. Other area activities include hiking in rain forests and, for a further reminder of the area’s colonial history, visiting historic plantations.
Soufriere gets good ratings from its visitors, and one additional — even essential — reason is the quality of several resorts located near the town. They provide the conveniences, the pampering, the beaches — and views of the Pitons.
Things to do for Venturers
- Join locals at Anse La Raye for the village’s weekly Friday Night Fish Fry. There is lots of seafood to choose from, and if a local band performs, expect to see — or do — some dancing in the streets.
- Stay in a cottage at the Fond Doux Plantation, a colonial-era working plantation.
- Have your pick of the island’s best hiking trails — for example, the Edmund Forest Reserve Rain Forest Trail. Visitors are required take this hike with a guide, as is the case with many other island trails.
- Take a look at what is under the water, too. There are several nearby dive sites.
- If you are experienced, climb Gros Piton, which can be done in half a day but you must be accompanied by a guide. Petit Piton is more dangerous.
- Come to town in the spring for the Soufriere Creole Jazz Festival, the local take on an all-island celebration of this music form.
Things to do for Centrics
- Work out the angles and take photos of the Pitons at sunrise and at sunset.
- Drive through the so-called drive-through volcano, Soufriere. Actually, for an up-close look, you have to walk (and hold your nose).
- Take a warm and therapeutic sulfur mud bath in the springs located just below La Soufriere’s parking lot. Rinse off at the top pool under a small waterfall that is heated by the volcano. Sulfur stains, so wear old clothes, no gold or silver.
- Start your day with a St. Lucian breakfast of bakes (an unleavened biscuit, salt fish and cucumber) and a cup of cocoa tea.
- Head to the beach. Liven up the day with some waterskiing.
- Lunch on sous kaye, a traditional St. Lucian dish of fish and spices in a broth, and wash it down with Piton beer.
Things to do for Authentics
- Book a cruise that includes Soufriere and its associated volcano on the itinerary.
- Stay at one of the area’s fine resorts and ask for a room with a view of one or both of the Pitons.
- Shop for souvenirs at the marketplace on the waterfront.
- Or try the baths at Diamond Falls and Botanical Gardens.
- Join a 90-minute tour, led by guides in French colonial costumes, of Morne Coubaril, a working cocoa plantation near town. See what is left of an 18th century sugar mill and a re-created Carib village and re-created plantation house.
- Take a sightseeing boat trip around this part of the island to see the Pitons from the sea.
For more information, consult the St. Lucia Tourist Board at www.stlucia.org