Known as the Isle of Flowers, Martinique is a stunning destination in the French West Indies that proves paradise isn’t as hard to reach as you may think—and this winter, it’s only getting easier. With a new, non-stop route from Toronto, sunseekers can start their vacations even faster. Starting this December, we’re saying “seeya” to layovers and going direct from regular life to island living. So pack your favourite tropical looks and grab those sunnies because there’s no better time to experience Martinique’s wild nature, delectable cuisine, historical sites and so much more. Here are just six memorable reasons to visit.1. The unique biodiversity Lush vegetation and spectacular natural landscapes are Martinique’s calling card. Tropical flora, especially flowers, grow abundantly. If you enjoy hiking, there are hundreds of trails to choose from, including challenging routes on Mount Pelée, the island’s only active volcano, and scenic paths with freshwater waterfalls that offer a breathtaking (and refreshing) reward. Photo credit: L. OlivierAs of September 2023, the volcanoes and forests of Mount Pelée and the Pitons of northern Martinique were listed as UNESCO World Heritage sites. These remarkably well-preserved areas boast exceptional geology and biodiversity. The protected parkland spans 13,980 hectares of forest, or 12 per cent of the island of Martinique, and encompasses every forest type along with 90 per cent of the West Indies’ endemic species. The special accolade makes Mount Pelée an even more special must-visit destination. Photo credit: Virginie Gilles-Lagrange2. The idyllic beachesWho doesn't dream of lying on a picturesque beach bordered by crystal-clear turquoise water? While the beaches to the north of the island are tinged with darker volcanic rock, the southern beaches have powdery white sand and are ideal for relaxing, snorkelling or scuba diving. Plus, it's not uncommon to spot sea turtles among the wide variety of colourful fish and coral. 3. The tantalizing hybrid cuisine The marriage of West Indian flavours and French gastronomic savoir faire has made the island’s restaurants famous. No visit is complete without a taste of traditional dishes like féroce d’avocat and poulet boucané. Spice blends unique to the island can be bought at Fort-de-France’s Grand Marché, a must-visit for any food lover. For a taste of Martinique that fits in a carry-on, look for Colombo, a West Indian curry powder consisting of ginger, cumin, coriander and nutmeg. It’s a deliciously versatile spice that’s fantastic on meat, fish and vegetable dishes alike. Photo credit: The Martinique Tourism Committee4. The local rumWhile most industrial rums are made from molasses and water, Martinique rum is made from pure sugar-cane juice. It is the world’s only rum entitled to use the Appellation d’Origine Controlée (AOC), a designation associated with fine French wines, and is a point of local pride. Visiting distilleries is a popular way to appreciate the exceptional quality of Martinique rum while enjoying picturesque properties and learning about the local history. In fact, these visits are so popular that reservations are recommended. Local rum is also widely available in bars and restaurants, where, when patrons order “ti’ punch,” a mixed drink popular in the French-speaking Caribbean islands, they may find themselves holding the bottle to free-pour their own cocktail. 5. The arts and cultureMartinique culture is heavily influenced by African, French, Creole, South American and Indian traditions, and comes to life in museums and historic sites. La Savane des Esclaves museum, for example, depicts the history of the island and the slave trade. Le Village de la Poterie, on the other hand, showcases local artistry and is an ideal destination to shop for handmade souvenirs. 6. The spectacular festivalsIn Martinique, music is omnipresent. Gatherings among friends and family—even picnics and events hosted by local bars and restaurants—quickly turn into joyous fêtes with a little help from musicians and their instruments. The island grooves to the beat of several music festivals throughout the year, including Carnival, arguably one of the most spectacular festivals in the Caribbean. Although Mardi Gras falls on Feb. 13 in 2024, the festivities kick off as early as January. Concerts, parades and celebrations take to the streets every weekend until the main event on Mardi Gras weekend. To learn more about the island and find Air Canada flights for your French Caribbean getaway, visit letsgomartinique.ca.