The charming old town of Soufrière (a prime area) on the island’s southwestern coast was a prominent trading centre under the French regime. In the 18th century, more than 100 coffee and sugar plantations prospered here. French colonial influence is still evident in the town’s culture and architecture, such as that of the Fond Doux Holiday Plantation Estate, a charming bed and breakfast, with Old World charm to go with modern facilities.
Soufrière is surrounded by so much natural beauty, including Saint Lucia’s most iconic natural landmarks, the twin peaks of the Piton Mountains: Gros Piton and Petit Piton. You can get a wonderful view of this distinguished pair on the way to the Sulphur Springs. Now part of the Saint Lucia National Trust, Sulphur Springs is the world’s only drive-in volcano—to be precise, it is the remains of a volcano crater. You can drive right into it, then get down and explore the area with a park guide who will walk you by large pools of bubbling, mineral-rich mud with steam clouds that billow 50 feet into the air (soufrière is French for “sulphur mine”).
A large part of the Saint Lucia’s large natural rain forest is included in Soufrière’s territory and is a favourite of hikers, nature lovers and bird-watchers. The National Rain Forest sprawls across 19,000 acres of green-cloaked valleys and mountains, a haven for vibrant tropical flowers and beautifully plumed birds such as the rare Saint Lucia parrot and the Saint Lucia peewee.
Climbing above the rain forest, several kilometres to the east of Soufrière, is Mount Gimie, Saint Lucia’s highest peak. Covered by profuse tropical vegetation, the mountain is a challenging hike even for experienced hikers, but there are guides that offer their services to those who want to give it a go.
If history is more your cup of tea, visit Morne Coubaril, a 400-acre plantation that includes a museum, a restaurant, a botanical garden, a worker’s village, manioc and cocoa houses and a sugar mill.