Martinique sails for the 1st time on to UNESCO's Heritage List

Martinique Yole sailboat race
Martinique Yole sailboat race
Martinique Yole sailboat race
Martinique Promotion Bureau
Press release


UNESCO includes Martinique’s Yole traditional sail boat to the World Cultural Heritage

Recognition is a historic first for the island

On Thursday, December 17, the intergovernmental Committee of UNESCO officially included the traditional Yole sailboat of Martinique in UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage List, a candidacy that was fully supported by the Presidency of the French Republic and the French Ministry of Culture.

Martinique receives this honor with great enthusiasm. Karine Mousseau, Martinique’s Tourism Commissioner was moved to say: “Martinique’s traditional Yole is much more than simply a boat. It symbolizes the people of Martinique, that, united by their traditions and culture, can brave the elements. We are truly honored that UNESCO has chosen to distinguish our know-how, history and cultural heritage."

Yole boats are constructed with painstaking detail in the grand tradition of Martinican fishing vessels initially developed by local craftsmen in the 40’s. Each vessel flies brightly colored rectangular sails over rounded canoe-like wooden hulls made from local pear trees. As distinctive in style as they are challenging to sail, quick and agile yawl boats test the mettle of even the most experienced sailors; their rounded hulls ensuring an instant capsize if ever the vessels should come to a stop at sea.

The boats are the centerpiece of the Tour des Yoles Rondes, the race that is a highlight of the annual Martinican social calendar each summer for 35 years and counting. Teams representing various towns across Martinique compete alongside international competitors from neighboring islands on the route that literally circles the Island of Flowers. Akin to Carnival, supporters on land cheer on their teams with boisterous enthusiasm and bountiful parties. Similarly, the party extends to the high seas where hundreds of yachts, catamarans and other private vessels trail the racers partying along the way.

It is the island first UNESCO recognition, but hopefully not the last. In view of Martinique’s successful application made by its steering committee, Martinicans are confident about the two subsequent candidacies. The island is a candidate for the UNESCO’s Biosphere Reserves list and its volcanoes and forests of Mount Pelée and the Pitons of Northern Martinique are candidates for inclusion on UNESCO’S Natural sites lists.

Press Contact

Geraldine Rome

The French Caribbean Island of Martinique is also known as the Isle of Flowers, The Rum Capital of the World, the Birthplace of coffee in the New World, The Isle of the Famed Poet (Aimé Césaire) – Martinique ranks among the most alluring and enchanting destinations in the world. As an overseas region of France, Martinique boasts modern and reliable infrastructure – roads, water and power utilities, hospitals, and telecommunications, services all on par with any other part of the European Union. At the same time, Martinique’s beautifully unspoiled beaches, volcanic peaks, rainforests, 80+ miles of hiking trails, waterfalls, streams, and other natural wonders are unparalleled in the Caribbean, so visitors here truly get the best of both worlds. The currency is the Euro, the flag and the official language are French, but Martinique’s character, cuisine, musical heritage, art, culture, common language, and identity are of a distinctly Afro-Caribbean inclination known as Creole. It is this special combination of modern world conveniences, pristine nature, and rich heritage that has earned for Martinique several notable distinctions in recent years. Hot off the press: Martinique has earned Silver honors in Travel Weekly’s 2020 Magellan Awards as an Art & Culture Caribbean Destination. In December 2019 and for the second year in a row, Martinique was named “Culinary Capital of the Caribbean” by the Caribbean Journal. The island was also recognized in January 2019 by and in first place in their list of “The 19 Best Winter Getaways.” Martinique was also featured in the Caribbean Journal’s Best Caribbean Islands to visit in 2019. Martinique has also been featured in Travel + Leisure and the New York Time’s “52 Places to go in 2018.”