THE famous twin peaks of Saint Lucia — Piton Mountains are the first landmark you can see when you approach the Castries port in this eastern Caribbean Island.
I was excited to finally check off this island from my bucket list after I joined a group tour a few months ago.
Fast forward, we boarded a tour bus from the port, went on a quick drive-around Castries before our bus headed to the west coast. I discovered too soon driving around St. Lucia is literally a breath-stopping adventure. You hold your breath while the tour bus driver negotiates hairpin turns and twists through mountains and cliffs but the view is worth it.
We passed by vast banana plantations along the way. Our tour guide explained how the island relies much on the banana industry. Women wave bunches of bananas to passing vehicles in hopes of enticing them to stop and buy local products from their stalls like banana chips, banana wine and banana liquor, banana catsup and more.
Very soon we reached Soufrière, a picturesque town nestled in the valley facing the ocean at the foot of the Pitons. Soufriere’s main street is filled with stalls selling souvenir items but only during the peak tourist season. We stopped briefly to check out souvenir stalls but some of us sneaked to the nearby Church of the Assumption to snap photos of the old building and the graveyard. We went up more winding roads and stopped for lunch at a roadside restaurant with an overlook.
And there they were—Saint Lucia’s iconic peaks called Gros Piton (2,530 ft) and Petit Piton (2,438 ft), two volcanic spires jutting out like forbidding towers. I never even saw what lunch was. I got too busy snapping photos of this iconic landmark which was awarded World Heritage Site status in 2004.
Hiking to the peak of Gros Piton is one of Saint Lucia’s most famous tours but I’ll leave it to the mountain climbers to tell me about it. The Pitons is just one of the reasons to visit St. Lucia. It is also home to the world’s only drive-in volcano.
A few miles up from Soufriere passing through lush rainforest and more winding roads is the world’s only drive thru volcano. We didn’t literally drive into a volcano crater with bubbling hot lava pouring all over us but it is more like looking closely at a crater of the moon with swirls of smoke spewing from several holes in the ground. A few meters down is the Sulphur Springs where tourists soak in a thermally heated pool and apply mud facials.
Saint Lucia has much more to offer in addition to its volcanic beaches, luxury resorts, fishing villages and lush rainforests. Spend more time and get to know the people who call Saint Lucia home.
For the finale, our guide produced his promised surprise—a bunch or ripe bananas as a special treat for us for booking a tour with them. The bananas were passed around and everyone took a banana and ate it. I took one and gave it to my seatmate. I never eat bananas without rice.
To visit Saint Lucia, holders of Philippine passports can acquire a visa on arrival. Check http://www.govt.lc/services/apply-for-saint-lucia-non-immigrant-visa for more information.