Once a retreat for mega rock stars: beyond the Caribbean resorts lies the tiny volcanic island of Montserrat.
The tiny Caribbean island of Montserrat is almost unknown as a travel destination to this day. At the beginning of the eighties it was still a Mecca and a retreat for VIPs from rock and pop. Beatles producer George Martin founded the “Air Studios Montserrat” and music legends like Paul McCartney (73) and Eric Clapton (70), the “Rolling Stones” and “The Police” were inspired by the colonial charm of the island.
Between Island Paradise and Moon Landscape
Since the catastrophes of 1995 and 1997 there is little left of the former grandeur of the British colonial era in the capital Plymouth. The two eruptions of the Soufrière Hills volcano leave it shaped by lava like a ghost in the lush green landscape: almost two thirds of the already small population had to leave the island and a large part of the area is uninhabitable.
The inhabitants return, Montserrat to grow again
But meanwhile many have returned and dropouts and ecotourists populate the “Pompeii of the Caribbean”. This alone makes Montserrat with its relaxed, friendly inhabitants a real alternative destination in the Caribbean.
Nature is also beginning to recover and a good third of the island is untouched by the volcanic eruption anyway: anyone who has ever bathed on a volcanic beach knows about the fascination of black sand. Instead of the Caribbean turquoise, the sea presents itself in a mystical grey-blue and the green of the surrounding plants shines all the more.
Those who then put their toes into the soft sand of the surf will be surprised by the radiating heat: the black volcanic rock stores the heat of the day much more than white mussel sand.
Unique in the world
Little Montserrat has always been something very special here in the Caribbean. Today it is probably unique in the world: In the northwest of the island, the new capital in Little Bay is already being built. However, the buried Plymouth will still remind the inhabitants and visitors of the outstanding and still active Soufrière Hills for a very long time.
Montserrat belongs to the Lesser Antilles and lies southwest of Antigua and northwest of Guadeloupe. With a size of just over 100 square kilometres, Montserrat is one of the smaller islands of the Lesser Antilles. Today, about 5,000 people live on Montserrat. In the mid-1990s the population was twice as high, but thousands of people left Montserrat after a devastating volcanic eruption in 1997, which made large parts of the southern half of the island uninhabitable (including the former capital Plymouth).
Christopher Columbus discovered the island in 1493 and named it after a well-known monastery of the same name in Spain. In 1632 Montserrat was settled by Englishmen and Irish. From 1871 to 1956 Montserrat belonged to the Federation of the Windward Islands, and in 1958 it became a member of the West Indian Federation. After the Federation was dissolved in 1962, the islanders voted to remain a British Crown Colony.
Since the 1980s, Montserrat has been hit several times by severe natural disasters. In 1986, Hurricane Hugo swept the island and wreaked havoc. In 1995, the Soufriere Hills volcano began to become active again after a 400-year pause, culminating in a gigantic eruption in 1997. 75% of the population fled from the island, the capital Plymouth was covered by a lava and ash layer several meters high and had to be abandoned. A transitional government seat was then established in Brades, at the northwestern end of the island. The volcanic eruption completely changed the face of Montserrat and two thirds of Montserrat (including the entire south) have since been restricted.
Due to its volcanic origin with one of the few still really active volcanoes in the Caribbean, Montserrat does not fit into the usual cliché of most Caribbean islands. One looks for long, white beaches here in vain, because with one exception (Rendezvous Beach in the north of the island) Montserrat’s beaches offer predominantly pearl-gray volcanic sand. Holidaymakers who want to spend a beach holiday should therefore better choose one of the other Caribbean islands.
Nevertheless, Montserrat offers some extraordinarily interesting holiday possibilities due to its volcano and the tourism industry has adapted to the new conditions after the setbacks caused by the natural catastrophes. Especially adventure tours to the volcano watching are very popular, as Montserrat offers the very rare opportunity to observe an active volcano from a safe distance. Visitors can now learn all about its history and geological origins and observe it from safe positions. The protection zone from the volcano covers the entire southern part of the island. From different positions, it is possible to see the volcano and the destruction it has caused everywhere.
Also very popular are walks through the untouched mountain landscape in the north of the island (preferably with a guide), where mangoes, papayas, coconuts and bananas grow in the lush rainforests. Divers will find some excellent diving spots on the east coast (recommended only for experienced divers) and west coast of Montserrat with beautiful reefs and a large fish abundance.
The accommodation on Montserrat is not huge, but there are possibilities in every price range. Montserrat can be reached almost daily from Germany via Antigua.