advertisement

The British colonial town of Basseterre is built around a so-called Circus, the town's round square. A tall green Victorian clock stands in the center of the Circus. After Brimstone Hill Fortress, Berkeley Memorial Clock is the most photographed landmark of St. Kitts. In the old days, wealthy plantation owners and their families used to promenade here.

Try to visit the marketplace, especially on a Saturday morning. Here country people bring baskets brimming with mangos, guavas, soursop, mammee apples, and wild strawberries and cherries just picked in the fields. Tropical flowers abound.

Another major landmark is Independence Square. Once an active slave market, it's surrounded by private homes of Georgian architecture.

You can negotiate with a taxi driver to take you on a tour of the island, costing from $80 for a 3-hour trip; most drivers are well versed in the lore of the island. You might want to make lunch reservations at either the Rawlins Plantation Inn or the Golden Lemon. For more information, call the St. Kitts Taxi Association, the Circus, Basseterre (tel. 869/465-8487, until 10pm).

The island's most popular attraction is the St. Kitts Scenic Railway (tel. 869/465-7263; www.stkittsscenicrailway.com). In double-decker and air-conditioned railcars, you're taken on a panoramic tour of the most spectacular scenery the island has to offer. The upper level features a spacious, open-air observation deck. The narrow-gauge railway follows the old sugar-cane train tracks, taking in the best vistas of mountains and the Caribbean Sea. You can enjoy a service bar and live musical entertainment. The train is boarded at Needsmust Station. This is certainly the quickest and easiest way to see all "St. Kitts in a nutshell," especially if you're a cruise-ship passenger with limited time. The 50km (31-mile) ride costs $89 for adults, half-price for children. Trips last 3 1/2 hours, with departure daily at 8:10am. Sometimes a second daily tour will be announced if business merits it.

If you want to go on a "safari" in the sky, Sky Safari Tours at Wingfield Estate (tel. 869/466-4259; www.skysafaristkitts.com), on the site of an old sugar plantation, leads cable-line treks that zip through St. Kitts Rainforest at speeds of up to 80kmph (50 mph), from as high up as 76m (250 ft.) above the ground. Most tours vary from 1 1/2 to 2 hours, costing $89 per person and $65 for children 14 and under. Tours begin at 8am daily, shutting down around 4 or 5pm when the last cable line comes in.

Brimstone Hill Fortress (tel. 869/465-2609), 14km (8 3/4 miles) west of Basseterre, is a major stop. This historic monument, among the largest and best preserved in the Caribbean, is a complex of bastions and barracks ingeniously adapted to the top and upper slopes of a steep-sided 240m (787-ft.) hill. The fortress dates from 1690, when the British attempted to recapture Fort Charles from the French. Admission is $8 for adults, $4 for children.

Today the fortress is the centerpiece of a national park, with nature trails and a diverse range of plant and animal life, including the green vervet monkey. It's also a photographer's paradise, with views of mountains, fields, and the Caribbean Sea. On a clear day, you can see six neighboring islands. Visitors can enjoy self-guided tours among many ruins and restored structures, including the barrack rooms at Fort George, which contain an interesting museum. The gift shop stocks prints of rare maps and paintings of the Caribbean. Admission is $8, half price for children. The Brimstone Hill Fortress National Park is open daily from 9:30am to 5:30pm.

You can visit the site where a large tamarind tree in the hamlet of Half-Way Tree once marked the boundary between the British- and French-held sectors. It was near the hamlet of Old Road Town that Sir Thomas Warner landed with the first band of settlers and established the first permanent colony to the northwest at Sandy Point. Sir Thomas's grave is in the cemetery of St. Thomas Church.

A sign in the middle of Old Road Town points the way to Carib Rock Drawings, all the evidence that remains of the former inhabitants. The markings are on black boulders, and the pictographs date from prehistoric days.

Into the Volcano

Mount Liamuiga was dubbed "Mount Misery" long ago, but it sputtered its last gasp around 1692. This dormant volcano on the northeast coast is one of the major highlights for hikers on St. Kitts. The mountain's peak often lies under cloud cover.

The ascent to the volcano is usually made from the north end of St. Kitts at Belmont Estate. The trail winds through a rainforest and travels along deep ravines up 788m (2,585 ft.) to the rim of the crater. The actual peak is at 1,138m (3,734 ft.). Figure on 5 hours of rigorous hiking to complete the round-trip walk.

The caldera itself is some 120m (394 ft.) from its rim to the crater floor. Many hikers climb down into the dormant volcano, but the trail is steep and slippery, so be careful. At the crater floor is a tiny lake, along with volcanic rocks and various vegetation.

Greg's Safaris (tel. 869/465-4121; www.gregsafaris.com) is the most competent and best-accessorized trekking outfitter in St. Kitts, maintaining seven different four-wheel-drive Land Rovers for access to some of the island's toughest terrain. Owner and founder Greg Pereira charges $95 per person for 9-hour hiking tours of remote regions of his island, recommending that participants be reasonably fit and that they carry a dry shirt (the one you'll wear will get drenched with perspiration) and a waterproof bag or knapsack for transport of bottled water and your camera. Hikes go up the sides of Mount Liamuiga ("fertile isle" in Carib) and include a picnic lunch and a rum-based drink or two at the conclusion of the day's hiking. Treks include a guide and running commentary on the island's topography, sociology, ecology, and history. The same outfit also offers half-day rainforest explorations for $65 per person.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.