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10 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Dominica

Known as "The Nature Island of the Caribbean," Dominica remains an unspoiled paradise for divers, hikers, and naturalists. It is the largest of the Windward Islands and features dramatic volcanic landscapes with the highest mountains in the Eastern Caribbean, lush rainforests, waterfalls, lakes, gorges, rivers, and steamy hot springs. The rugged coastline shelters rustic coastal villages and rocky black-sand beaches, many of which are good snorkeling or diving spots.

Dominica is a fusion of British, French, and West Indian cultures, and is home to the Eastern Caribbean's largest Carib Indian community. Colorful Roseau, the main town and capital of the island, reflects these eclectic roots in its food, art, languages, and customs. Due to the fact that only two small airports service the island, Dominica remains untouched by package tourism and the large-scale resorts found on other islands. Many people visit Dominica on a day trip from a cruise ship or multi-day trip from other nearby islands. Others spend the winter in Dominica to escape colder climates and enjoy the island's stunning natural splendors.

1 Morne Trois Pitons National Park

Morne Trois Pitons National Park is the jewel of Dominica. Encompassing much of the island's mountainous interior, the park is primordial rainforest, ranging from thick jungle with giant ferns and wild orchids, to the stunted cloud forest on the upper slopes of 1,424-meter Morne Trois Pitons. Highlights of the 17,000-acre UNESCO World Heritage Site, include Boiling Lake; Victoria Waterfall; Trafalgar Falls; mist-shrouded Boeri Lake; Middleham Falls; Titou Gorge; Emerald Pool; and the steaming Valley of Desolation, an area of boiling mud ponds, brightly-colored hot springs, and mini-geysers. One of the best starting points for a visit to the park is the village of Laudat, 11 kilometers from Roseau.

2 Boiling Lake

Boiling Lake is one of the most popular attractions in Morne Trois Pitons National Park. This eerie-looking pool of bubbling, gray-green water lies at the end of a strenuous, three-hour hike through thick forest. But it's worth it. Geologists believe the 63-meter-wide actively boiling lake, the world's second largest, is a flooded fumarole, a crack in the earth allowing hot gases to vent from the molten lava below. The temperature at the edge of the lake ranges from 82-92°C and is at boiling point in the center. After rain, the trail becomes slick and muddy. Guides are highly recommended.

3 Victoria Falls

One of the most impressive and photogenic waterfalls on the island, the Victoria Waterfall, in Morne Trois Pitons National Park, is formed by the White River cascading over a cliff into a warm pool below. Minerals give the water a milky-white color. Wear water shoes with good grip as the approximately 40-minute hike involves river crossings and boulder scrambling, but these beautiful falls and the river itself are worth seeing. You can relax at the end with a dip in the warm pool. Guides are strongly recommended, as part of the trail was washed away by Tropical Storm Erika in 2015.

4 Trafalgar Falls

The hike to the the twin falls is one of the most popular things to do in Dominica. Known as Mother and Father, the falls lie at the end of an easy 10 to 15-minute hike through a forest of ginger plants and vanilla orchids. The cool main stream of Trafalgar Falls originates in the mountains and is joined near the bottom by a hot mineral spring. You can take a dip in the hot and cold pools amid the sulfur-dyed rocks at the base of the falls.

5 Cabrits National Park

In the Northwest of Dominica, Cabrits National Park preserves lush rainforest, swampland, black-sand beaches, and thriving coral reefs. This scenic peninsula boasts panoramic views from its highest point, and the reefs offer some excellent snorkeling and diving opportunities. Also found in the park are the remains of Fort Shirley, an 18th-century British garrison with beautiful views of Prince Rupert Bay. The town of Portsmouth also sits on this peninsula with The Cabrits, a cruise ship port and terminal.

6 Roseau

Framed by lush peaks, Dominica's capital of Roseau (pronounced "roze-o") is a colourful jumble of West Indian cottages, modern buildings, and busy market stalls with a cool Rastafarian vibe. Roseau's waterfront features a seaside promenade and cruise ship dock, which is crowded with visitors during the busy winter season. Near the dock, in the center of town, the Old Market sells fresh tropical fruit, vegetables, herbs, baskets, and coconut-shell souvenirs. St. Patrick's Catholic Cathedral, a 19th-century Gothic-Romanesque-style church, is one of the city's major landmarks. Other Roseau highlights include the Dominica Botanic Gardens and the compact Dominica Museum, with its fascinating exhibits on the slave trade and Creole and Amerindian culture. Many visitors also take the short drive to historic Morne Bruce for panoramic views of the city. You can also walk there from the botanic gardens.

7 Papillote Tropical Gardens

Pretty Papillote Tropical Gardens are a haven for artists, botanists, and photographers. Fed by a small stream, these 10-acre gardens form the grounds of a charming eco-lodge, the Papillote Wilderness Retreat. Paths wind among bamboo trees, ginger blossoms, indigenous orchids, bromeliads, and begonias. You can also see many frogs, birds, and butterflies in the lush gardens. The Rainforest Restaurant offers beautiful views of the mountains and valley, and you can enjoy a soak in the retreat's mineral-rich pool, fed by a nearby hot spring. The twin Trafalgar Falls lie a short uphill hike from Papillote.

Address: Trafalgar Falls Road, Roseau
Official site: http://www.papillote.dm/garden/

8 Champagne Reef

Dominica's most famous dive and snorkel site, Champagne Reef lies in a marine reserve off the country's southwest coast. Geothermal activity causes thousands of bubbles to emerge from beneath the rocks, a few feet from shore. Batfish, sea horses, barracuda, rays, squid, and trumpet fish are just some of the species found in the warm waters here. You can swim to the site from Champagne Beach, where you will also find change rooms, a shower, and snack bar.

9 The Carib Territory

Dominica has the largest remaining tribe of Carib Indians, also called Kalinago people, in the Caribbean, and a visit to this reserve, on the northeast coast, gives you a feel for their fascinating culture. Nestled amid banana and breadfruit trees, the village is a cluster of traditional wooden buildings. You can wander around the village and watch the Carib Indians carving dugout canoes, weaving baskets and mats, and sharing their knowledge of medicinal plants. The Caribs survive through fishing and agriculture as well as the crafts they sell to visitors.

10 Dominica's Festivals

Popular with tourists and locals alike, Dominica's lively festivals celebrate the nation's music, heritage, and ties to the sea. The country's Carnival kicks off the year with calypso competitions, a Carnival Queen contest, "jump-ups," and a costume parade. Celebrations are held during the traditional Mardi Gras period, in the two weeks prior to Lent. From April through June, DOMFESTA (Dominica Festival of Arts,) is an extravaganza of dance, music, drama, fine arts, cuisine, and literature. Dive Fest draws water lovers in early July with special packages, whale-watching deals, and canoe tours, while music lovers flock to The World Music Creole Festival, held annually in October. Dominica's Independence Celebrations usually take place from October through November. This important celebration honors Dominica's historic past and Creole customs with traditional clothes, food, dancing, music, and parades.