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By Naomie

Climbing Mount Pelée

Nature
visuel drone de la montagne pelée
photo drone de la montagne pelée (Verrier)
montagne pelee

A wonder of nature 

Besides its rich cultural heritage, Martinique is also home to a natural jewel that was listed a UNESCO World Heritage Site on September 17, 2023: Mount Pelée, also known as "the Grande Dame du Nord". This volcano is considered to be the Holy Grail for hikers, nature lovers and anyone who wants to challenge themselves by climbing Mount Pelée at least once in their lives. This great volcano rises to an altitude of 1,397 metres and covers an area of 120 kilometers. So take good notes of what awaits you before you reach the summit of Mount Pelée, but let me reassure you, once you're there it's nothing but bliss!

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Route information

Duration

between 4 and 6 hours

Recommended age

+6years

Recommended months

All year round

Steps

1

The Aileron trailhead

First of all, you can access the volcano's crater from three different points, starting with the Aileron trail, which is more popular due to the fact that the difference in level is smaller, unlike the Prêcheur slope, which is faster but very steep, and the north slope, which is much longer. As you can see, I prefer to start from the sentier de l'Aileron, especially as there's a parking area and, throughout the ascent and descent, an incredible view of the Caribbean Sea.

Tips and Interesting Facts:

  • Get warm clothes, such as pullovers or long-sleeved hiking boots, because the higher you go, the cooler the air becomes.
  • Don't forget your hats, sunscreen and water because after the sun rises it starts to get hot, so you need to keep well hydrated and protected
  • Make sure you arrive early if you want to start the ascent of the Aileron as the parking lot is small and fills up fast.
  • If you're a sunrise lover, that's a bonus, arrive straightaway around 05:00/05:30 to make sure you don't miss this summit show! In that case, get a good night's sleep beforehand and don't forget your headlamps, as it gets dark at this hour.
  • Take weather conditions into account, as if it has rained a few hours before or during the ride the route will be simply muddy and quite unpleasant.
2

The second refuge

Just before you reach the second refuge, you'll cross the trail quietly to the irregular steps followed by a few slopes. It takes around 1 hour's walk to reach the Plateau des Palmistes, which lies just before the second refuge, at an altitude of around 1,200 metres. You'll recognize the second refuge quite easily once you're there - a bit of a ruin, this place acts as a landmark that already offers a great view of the crater.

3

La Caldeira

The Caldeira is a relatively flat path forming a semicircle, which is why this stage is also called The Caldeira Tour, where you can walk around to get different views of the crater and the Caribbean Sea.  

 

 

4

The rise of the Chinese

After circling the Caldera and passing the third refuge, it's time to head for the summit of Le Chinois, the highest point of Montagne Pelée. It's important to note that this last stage is short but very intense, as it's really steep, and you'll need to use your hands to grip the rocks carefully, as the route is slippery. For the more experienced, this crossing will take less than 30 minutes, and for the others, don't be afraid to take your time and you'll be fine. Assume that it would be a shame to stop so close to your goal. Especially as, once you've reached the top, you're in for a real treat. When the weather's clear, the view is immense, both from the panoramic vantage point overlooking virtually the whole of Martinique, and from the clearly visible summit.

Top spots

Tips and Interesting Facts:

  • After you've rinsed your eyes, there are two options for getting back to the starting point: either continue up to the Cône de 1902 and then descend to the bottom of the Caldera to the Etang sec, or hike back and forth from the Caldera. If you're a real hiker at heart, I'd recommend the first option: you have to go up a very steep path to get back to the second refuge, and the little bonus after the effort is the view inside the crater, which is magnificent.
  • If, on the other hand, you want to return quietly and you're a bit tired, make the round trip by circling the Caldera again, it'll be quicker and the route less perilous than the first option.
  • I have a little ritual after climbing Montagne Pelée, I go to the nearest beach to relax my body, so I head for the town of Saint-Pierre to access its beach. It's about a thirty-minute drive from the climb and easy to get to. This gray-sand beach also offers a beautiful view of Montagne Pelée, so you'll be able to say you've seen the Mountain from near and far!

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visuel drone de la montagne pelée

Climbing Mount Pelée