Montagne Pelée Morne-Rouge Martinique
©Montagne Pelée Morne-Rouge Martinique|MDES
Mount PeléeThe multi-faceted volcano

Mount Pelée

Its majestic silhouette dominates the entire northern part of Martinique. No doubt about it: the Montagne Pelée is the emblematic tourist site of the island! Famous throughout the world for its deadly 1902 eruption, the still-active volcano, which peaks at 1397 m, offers the public a number of remarkable viewpoints. The most courageous will discover throughout their ascent a great diversity of environments while the most tranquil will discover its history through visits to museums and walks in the surrounding villages… Volcano, forest, water tower, land of rum: the multiple facets of Montagne Pelée are worth the detour!

A still active volcano

May 8, 1902, The day St. Pierre was wiped off the map

At the turn of the 20th century, St. Pierre “the Little Paris of the West Indies” had an intense economic and cultural life. It was a modern city with a public power grid, a tramway, a botanical garden, an 800-seat theater, and an impressive water distribution system. Its black sand lined bay attracts ships from around the world. A prosperity stopped short by the terrible eruption of May 8, 1902.

From the beginning of 1902, disturbing phenomena follow one another: sulfur smells, seismic tremors, column of black smoke, explosions, ash rains, river flooding, tidal waves… On May 8, shortly before 8:00 am, the mountain expels a huge cloud of ash, mud, rocks, burning gas. Darkness invaded Saint-Pierre. The fiery cloud with a temperature of about 1000° rushes at nearly 400 km/h on the city, charring everything in its path, men, women, animals, buildings … Saint-Pierre is wiped off the map, and with it nearly 30,000 people.

A second phase of eruptions (1929-1932) erected a second dome in the crater of the volcano, slightly higher than that of 1902, without causing casualties. Since 1933, Mount Pelée has regained its calm, only the hot springs show that the activity is not dead

An exceptional forest

The Montagne Pelée departmental-domain forest covers more than 2000 hectares. Its management, provided by the “Office National des Forêts”, combines environmental protection and public reception through, in particular, the maintenance of three marked trails allowing hikers to climb the volcano.

Remnants of primitive forest, variation in altitude (1200 m over a few kilometers), multiplicity of environments and habitats, richness of fauna and flora (a plant formation unique in the world for more than a quarter of the tree species), natural dynamics thanks to climatic events: all these elements contribute to the exceptional character of the site and require protection.

A forest to preserve

Classified Integral Biological Reserve (IBR), the Montagne Pelée forest is left to evolve freely, in order to preserve its dynamics and richness. In 2019, the forest of the Volcanoes of Martinique entered the National Network Exceptional Forest®, led by the ONF and its partners, which distinguishes forests recognized for their unique heritage. Becoming the emblem of the humid tropical forest in France, it includes the forest ranges of Montagne Pelée and the Pitons du Carbet.*

*Source ONF

Fertile land and infinite source

Mount Pelee also produces very fertile soils, once widely exploited within the numerous plantations, those large estates developed around the culture of sugarcane. In 1902, the town of Saint-Pierre had more than twenty operating distilleries and thirteen around.

A prodigious source of water

In addition to its heritage importance, the Montagne Pelée massif represents – along with that of the Pitons du Carbet- a real water tower for Martinique. Prodigious hairy networks that never dry up drain the water from the Pelée through tiny ravines to the coastline. The abundance of its rivers is such that even in dry periods the Capot River supplies the entire center and south of Martinique!

A must-see

The visit of the Depaz Distillery

At the foot of the volcano, the Depaz distillery last still in activity in Saint-Pierre with unobstructed view on the mountain and the sea in a perfectly maintained setting and its mansion, the Château Depaz.