St Lucia is a lush island in the Caribbean. It’s somewhere that has always intrigued me and is one of only two countries in the world to be named after a woman. I have been to the island a handful of times and each time I visit I am left with a completely different impression of the island.
St Lucia is famous for housing the iconic Piton mountains. These majestic structures jut boldly out to sea, dressed head to toe in thick, green forests. It was no surprise really that the largest brewery on the island named their brew Piton beer, nor that the mountains featured in countless movies.
The Pitons have volcanic origins. They are actually volcanic plugs, structures that are formed when magma solidifies within a vent or lava dome. Experts believe they formed between 200,000 and 300,00 years ago.
Being a volcanic island, it should come to as surprise that St Lucia houses a volcano. But unlike the rest of the world’s volcanos, you can drive right into this one!
An Introduction to Sulphur Springs
Sulphur Springs is famous for being the world’s only drive-in volcano.
Sulphur Springs is currently St Lucia’s only volcano and was formed over 410,000 years ago from a weak spot in a large, collapsed volcanic crater. The volcano is dormant with the last eruption being in the 1700s. The formal name of the volcano is actually Qualibou.
How to Get to Sulphur Springs
Sulphur Springs are only a 10 minute drive from the town of Soufriere (French for sulphur mine) which used to be the island’s capital city before Castries.
A smooth, tarred road leads right up to the springs.
My Experience At Sulphur Springs
When I hopped out of the taxi the smell of sulphur hit me at once. I could definitely see why it was called sulphur springs. Now, I was not the biggest fan of the smell. The smell of sulphur can best be described as the smell of completely rotten eggs – millions of rotten eggs.
From my taxi, I was able to walk alongside lush, green rainforests, past trickling streams and even a waterfall.
It wasn’t long before the springs themselves came into view. Smoke billowed out from a great pit in the earth, disconnected from the path by a wooden barrier.
I nearly gagged at the scent that wafted up my nostrils. With each step I took, the stronger the stench of sulphur became. It was overpowering, like the scent itself was squeezing my body, threatening to suffocate me.
I stepped onto the viewing platform, aware that this barrier between us and the springs hadn’t always been present. The viewing platform was created after a guide fell through the crust of the volcano and into a pit in the 1990s. Fortunately, he survived but he experienced second degree burns.
My hands on the wooden barrier, I laid eyes on the volcano for the first time. It was a very different landscape to what I had anticipated. I had expected a volcano with very defined sloping flanks that you had to climb. I expected red lava bubbling away within a circular crater at the very top.
Instead I found myself gazing at a barren wasteland. It was a mixture of tawny rocks and thick, slimy mud with bubbles oozing out and plumes of steam hovering ominously above. The springs were in a slight hollow with thick forests surrounding it on all sides.
The mud which was bubbling away was said to be roughly 340 Fahrenheit (170 Celsius). It was black in colour due to a chemical reaction between iron and sulphur.
I marvelled at the landscape before me which almost looked like it belonged on another planet. But, as beautiful as it was, my nose couldn’t seem to get past the awful stench which was radiating from the thick plumes of sulphur that were being emitted from the black mud.
Would I recommend Sulphur Springs?
Absolutely! The springs are so easy to get to and are really interesting to see and learn about. You can also take mud baths at the springs although I admittedly didn’t try this.