A Morning at Sulphur Springs in St Lucia – The World’s Only Drive-In Volcano

The peaceful calling of birds woke me from my sleep. I lifted my head and silently cursed as I realised how sore my face was when I shifted my facial expression. I was still burnt.

Part of me had hoped that the sunburn hadn’t really been that bad and I’d wake up to find my burns shifting into a glorious tan. That had been wishful thinking.

I vowed never to fall asleep under the midday sun again.

It was our last morning in St Lucia. This afternoon we would be moving on to our next island – Antigua.

But before that we had the morning to see more of this tropical island paradise.

We were visiting ‘Sulphur Springs’ which is famous for being the world’s only drive-in volcano.

Sulphur Springs is St Lucia’s only volcano and was formed over 410,000 years ago from a weak spot in a large collapsed volcanic crater.

Sulphur Springs is a volcano which formerly goes by the name ‘Qualibou’. Qualibou is dormant with the last eruption being in the 1700s.

View of Petit Piton from our accommodation
A small river near Sulphur Springs

Sulphur Springs was located only a 10 minute drive from where we were staying, between the two Piton mountains. The iconic Pitons are actually volcanic plugs or lava domes which formed hundreds of thousands of years before the caldera itself.

It’s also just outside the large town of Soufriere (French for sulphur mine) which used to be the island’s capital city before Castries.

The road leads right up to the springs and was in good condition. Our taxi driver dropped us a little way away so we could enjoy a leisurely stroll through the forest to the springs.

What I hadn’t expected was the smell that greeted me as soon as I left the car.

I wrinkled my nose in disgust. The smell of sulphur can best be described as the smell of completely rotten eggs – millions of rotten eggs.

From our taxi we were able to walk alongside lush green rainforests and past trickling streams and beautiful waterfalls.

Alongside the road leading up to the springs, you can find access to mud baths which are believed to have medicinal properties. You can also find the visitor and information centre.

A waterfall in the jungles which surround Sulphur Springs
Ahh, 14-year-old sunburnt me. What a sight to behold.
Sulphur Springs peeping out from behind the jungle

I wandered over to the springs which were separated by a wooden barrier. The viewing platform was created after a guide fell through the crust of the volcano and into a pit in the 1990s. He survived but experienced second degree burns.

I was greeted with a very different landscape to what I expected. This was not your average tall volcano with lava streaming from a circular hole.

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 is 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. As beautiful as it was, my nose couldn’t seem to get past the awful stench which was radiating from the thick sulphur that was being emitted from the black mud.

The bubbling mud
Plumes of stinky sulphur

We hopped back into our taxi and prepared for our journey to the north of the island.

Our flight to Antigua was departing from ‘George F. L. Charles Airport’ which is located just north of St Lucia’s capital of Castries. It was the smaller of the island’s two airports and flights which operated here were to other Caribbean islands.

The drive was estimated to take an hour and a half and would take us along the west coast through thick rainforest.

The road snaked through the forest, winding this way and that as we gradually ascended into the hills. We were greeted with an array of hairpin bends and with the smell of sulphur still clinging to my nostrils, I couldn’t help but feel queasy.

Suddenly, the forest fell away to our left and we were presented with a jaw-dropping view of Soufriere town, nestled in a bay, with the stunning Piton mountains in the background. Other than the red roofs of the town, the surrounding rainforest faced no obstructions and for a moment I marvelled at the wild remoteness.

The drive continued and as we found ourselves hugging the side of forest-coated mountains, my car-sickness only got worse. Everything smelt of sulphur and my head was starting to spin.

We were miles away from the volcano now. Why did everything still stink?!

As we approached the district of Castries, the mountainous landscape fell away and we found ourselves driving through farmland. Vibrant green fields passed us on all sides, often with lonely palms dotted here and there. Horses swished their tails as they grazed.

I was grateful for a straight road ahead of us.

When we eventually reached the airport, I was more than relieved to be out in the fresh air, giving my nose a chance to finally clear some sulphur fumes.

The airport was tiny with just a couple of check-in desks outside.

Finally over my car-sickness I was able to allow a knot of excitement to stir in my belly. We were going to Antigua!

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