Montserrat, nicknamed the Emerald Isle by Irish immigrants, has the dubious distinction of being the only Caribbean island with an active volcano, the Soufriere Hills Volcano. The volcano began erupting in 1995 and has continued to some degree to the present day. Although tourism has dropped dramatically since the volcano became active, Montserrat still offers much to the intrepid traveler, including deserted beaches in lovely bays, hiking in the jungle of the mountainous interior, scuba diving and snorkeling, and of course watching an active volcano erupt.
Soufriere Hills Volcano on Montserrat
Soufriere Hills Volcano
The Soufriere Hills Volcano belches out ash and steam on a fairly regular basis. The dome of the volcano grows over time until it collapses under its own weight, producing pyroclastic flows (a mixture of rocks and gases that flow like a liquid). The main village of Plymouth was destroyed by the volcano, and the southern part of Montserrat is in an “exclusion zone” in which no one is allowed to enter. (The exact boundary of this zone changes over time in relation to volcanic activity.) The best places to view the volcano are from the new lookout on Jack Boy Hill, the Montserrat Volcano Observatory, or the top of St. George’s Hill (requires a 4WD vehicle to reach the top, or one can walk).
House engulfed in mud and ash from volcano
Montserrat contains a number of hiking trails through the mountainous interior. The Centre Hills trail, also known as the Oriole Walk, leads to a spring where you may catch a glimpse of the Montserrat Oriole, a bird found only on Montserrat. From Runaway Ghaut, a trail leads down to the sea (it is very steep). To access Rendezvous Bay (see below), a trail runs over a hill from Little Bay. The vegetation is short and scrubby, so it’s best to do this one early or late in the day. Take water.
View from Centre Hills trail on Montserrat
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Interactive map of Montserrat