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Hiking the Pitons, Soufrière

St. Lucia's insider take:

These craggy peaks rise 2,600 feet into the air on the south part of the island known as the Val de Pitons. Sure, you can view the mountains from the comfort of your cruise boat or hotel room while idly drinking a beer that bears their name, but to truly experience the Pitons, lace up your hiking boots. The smaller (and steeper) Petit Piton is the more difficult, and is best suited to experienced climbers. Scaling the taller Gross Piton will take two hours each way, winding up a rain forest trail of boulders and twisted tree roots that circle the mountain. There's no point pretending it's easy, but most make it up, thanks in good part to the knowledgeable and patient guides from the Rastafarian community at the mountain's base (whom you can hire on-site or book through your hotel). Right when you think you can go no farther, your guide will stop and tell you about foliage or history, choosing strategic times to give ambitious but exhausted climbers a break. The reward is magnificent views to the south and north, with the neighboring islands of St. Vincent and Martinique clearly visible. The best time to start is between 7 and 9 am, to beat the heat and crowds.—Update by Douglas Wright

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