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Guadeloupe belongs to the Leeward Islands, the island chain directly north of the Windward Islands, where Martinique is found. Dominica separates the two cousin islands, but they are often thought of as neighbors. Guadeloupe is actually comprised of two islands that are joined by a very narrow channel of water called the Riviere Salée. Basse-Terre, in the west, is more mountainous than its eastern sidekick, Grande-Terre.

The island was originally settled by the Arawak Indians. They met their end at the hands of the invading Carib Indians, for whom this entire region of the world is named. Christopher Columbus was the first European to discover Guadeloupe, on November 3, 1493. The Caribs resisted European settlement for centuries, but fighting and disease finally killed most of them off. The French eventually settled Guadeloupe in the 1600s.

Guadeloupe is under the auspices of the French, which means that the Euro is the official currency here. French is the official language, although an influx of American tourism has allowed English to become more widely spoken in recent years.
The city of Basse-Terre is on the southwest corner of the island with the same name. It is the administrative capital of the island of Guadeloupe, if not its most popular destination (that honor goes to Pointe-à-Pitre).Basse-Terre's main attraction is a pair of natural wonders. La Soufriere, is an active volcano east of Basse-Terre. Peaking at forty-eight hundred feet, the volcano has not erupted since 1975, but the threat of another eruption looms over the region. Standing in stark contrast to La Soufrière is the Parc National de Guadeloupe, a nature reserve covering around 20 percent of Basse-Terre, with native plants and animals finding sanctuary here.

Guadeloupe is not an island for the timid. The best attractions are hidden and take time and effort to unearth. A day spent only in Basse-Terre will do little to educate you on Guadeloupe's beauty. If you take a ferry trip to Guadeloupe's smaller satellite islands, Îles des Saintes, you will be enchanted.

Docking & Local Transportation
Cruise ships dock at the Port of Basse-Terre, on the southwest corner of Guadeloupe. From here, there is easy access to the Iles des Saintes, an island chain directly to the south, or to the rest of mainland Basse-Terre.

Taxis are a popular and easy choice, but be advised that they are expensive. What's more, they aren't metered, so it's better to settle on a price before you step into the cab. Technically, fares are government regulated, but regulations and reality often differ. Cabs are allowed to charge an additional 40 percent in the evening, so take that into consideration. Buses can be taken from Pointe-à-Pitre to Basse-Terre. The best place to pick up a bus is at Gare Routière de Bergevin.

Things To See and Do
In the Eastern Caribbean cruises, the island archipelago of Guadeloupe enchants visitors with its evocative blend of natural beauty, Creole and French culture, and fascinating history.
 
Originally inhabited by the Arawaks, and later the Caribs, Guadeloupe was also coveted by the Dutch, attacked by pirates, and briefly occupied by Britain. Today the archipelago is an overseas region of France, and its food, language, and culture reflect this tie.Guadeloupe proper resembles a butterfly in shape with two main islands, Grand-Terre in the east and Basse-Terre in the west, separated by a narrow mangrove channel called the Rivière Salée. Pretty palm-fringed beaches rim the coastline, and the interior is lush and mountainous with waterfalls, hot springs, an active volcano, and great opportunities for hiking. Most tourist facilities are located on the southern shore of Grand-Terre, which is also home to the largest city and cruise port, Pointe-a-Pitre. Composed of volcanic mounds and ridges, Basse-Terre is high and rugged, with well-preserved tropical forests and the active volcano of La Soufrière.
 
The archipelago also encompasses the smaller islands of La Desirade, Les Saintes, and Marie-Galante, which offer many natural attractions of their own. All of Guadeloupe's islands boast excellent opportunities for birding, photography, hiking, and water sports such as surfing, snorkeling, swimming, and diving. Guadeloupe also hosts many colorful carnivals and festivals, including the five-day Mardi-Gras Carnival ending on Ash Wednesday.
 
Guadeloupe National Park, Basse-Terre Island
Designated a World Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO, Guadeloupe National Park (Parc National de la Guadeloupe) on Basse-Terre Island, often draws more than one million visitors per year. The park encompasses 300 kilometers of hiking trails, La Soufrière volcano at 1,467 meters, Col de la Matéliane at 1,298 meters, and a wide range of flora and fauna, including 100 species of orchids and 11 species of bats. Birdwatchers will enjoy the diversity here with resident species such as the black woodpecker, pearly-eyed thrasher, and lesser Antillean pewee. A good way to tour the park is via Route de la Traversée (D23). This scenic trans-coastal highway winds through the tropical forest of majestic mahogany trees, giant ferns, and bamboo. Along this route, visitors will find lookouts, picnic areas, jungle waterfalls, and a staffed roadside center at Maison de la Forêt. Many visitors also stop for a cooling swim at Cascade aux Ecrevisses, a small waterfall spilling into a pond.
Address: Habitation Beausoleil Montéran, 97120 Saint Claude, Official site: www.guadeloupe-parcnational.com
 
La Soufrière
The highest peak in the lesser Antilles, La Grande Soufrière is an active volcano, which has erupted eight times since 1660. Hot springs, mud pools, and fumaroles punctuate its barren black sides. Hikers can ascend the volcano along the Chemin des Dames trail, an approximately two-hour climb with panoramic views from the highest points of the massif, as long as the weather is clear. The triple waterfall of Chutes du Carbet cascades down the eastern face of the La Soufrière massif, from a height of 115 meters, with lookouts over each waterfall. Hikers who follow the trail to Etang As de Pique will find one of the largest of the mountainside lakes formed in craters on the volcanic massif surrounded by lush hillsides.
Address: Habitation Beausoleil Montéran, 97120 Saint Claude, Official site: www.guadeloupe-parcnational.com
 
Terre-de-Bas Island
Terre-de-Bas is the western island of Les Saintes and features small fishing villages swimming beaches and hiking trails. Two hours is sufficient to cross the island, which is considered one of the most natural and wild in the Guadeloupe archipelago. Grande Anse on Terre-de-Bas features a small 17th century church, a pretty bay and beach with huts for swimming and snorkeling, and a hiking path to the promontory of 273-meter Grande Montagne. Gros-Cap is the main village of Terre-de-Bas with a ferry landing, hotel, restaurant, and the starting points of roads and hiking trails.
 
Terre-de-Haut Island
Terre-de-Haut Island, the eastern island of Les Saintes, exudes a more European character than its western counterpart. The terrain and climate were unsuited to raising sugar, so the settlers were mainly fishermen. The pastel-colored houses and brightly-painted fishing boats (saintoises) provide excellent photo opportunities. At the island's main village, Bourg des Saintes, "Sugarloaf" volcanic hill overlooks a curved blue bay fringed by white sands. The houses here are European in character, with whitewashed walls, red tile roofs, and flower gardens. Located on a hill overlooking the bay, 17th-century Fort Napoléon with its historical museum and Exotic Garden is one of the island's main tourist attractions. Another highlight, Morne du Chameau is the highest point on the island and takes around two hours to ascend from Terre-de-Haut village. Across the bay, Ilet à Cabrit is a small island where the ruins of 19th-century Fort Joséphine still stand.
 
Basse-Terre
Lying in the shadow of the Soufrière volcano, Basse Terre is the administrative capital of Guadeloupe and one of the oldest French settlements in the Caribbean. Banana boats fill their holds at the harbor, and the town is a mix of French colonial architecture and modern government buildings. Points of interest include 17th-century Fort St-Charles (also called Fort Louis Delgrès), the town square (Place du Champ d'Arbaud) and its adjoining park Jardin Pichon, and the Cathedral of St. Peter and St. Paul. At the Archaeological Gardens history buffs will find a series of Arawak petroglyphs and wildlife lovers will enjoy the Zoological and Botanical Park. Overlooking town, the suburb of St Claude is home to large colonial mansions, former homes of the fugitive French aristocratic families who founded sugar plantations in the 18th century. Hiking trails ascend the volcanic massif with sea views.
 
Zoological and Botanical Park
An easy drive from Pointe-a-Pitre, the Basse-Terre Zoological and Botanical Park is a popular hilltop garden and nature reserve on the banks of the Rivière aux Hérbes. Children love the animals here. Hiking trails thread through the tropical rainforest where visitors may spot tortoises, raccoons, monkeys, jaguars, and parrots. One section of the park is strung with rope bridges leading through the canopy with spectacular views over the mountainous terrain. Address: Route de la traversée, D23, Official site: http://www.zoodeguadeloupe.com/
 
Pointe-a-Pitre Shopping
Shoppers will find Guadeloupe's best buys in the archipelago's largest town, Pointe-a-Pitre. French perfumes, jewelry, cosmetics, crystal, and fashion tempt shoppers at the Center Saint-John Perse as well as the stores along Frébault, Nozières, and Schoelcher Streets. The colorful outdoor markets are fun to visit as much for the ambiance as their merchandise with many market vendors dressed in colors as bright as the tropical fruits they flaunt. The harborside market sells spices, flowers, crafts, and clothing, and fishing boats tie up here to sell their catch. Other markets around town include Saint-Antoine, Saint-Jules, and the Flower market.
 
Sainte-Anne, Guadeloupe (Grand-Terre
At Sainte Anne, visitors will find a settlement dating to the 17th century and one of the finest beaches in Guadeloupe. Sainte Anne was the capital of Grande-Terre until 1759, and today the ruins of sugar mills surrounding town are a testament to its former status as an important sugar exporter. A seaside promenade invites travelers to stroll under the palms, and the beach here is busy, but beautiful with white sand and shallow water in dreamy shades of blue. Visitors will also find a selection of restaurants and a market selling local crafts near the beach.
 
La Désirade
Meaning "The Desired One" in French, La Désirade certainly lives up to its name. A 45-minute boat ride from Saint-Francois, this peaceful island, is ringed with beautiful palm-fringed beaches and protected by long coral reefs. Snorkeling, swimming, and diving are all popular pursuits here, and a hiking trail at Le Morne du Souffleur offers spectacular sea views as does Grande Montagne, the island's tiny village. Composed of tabular rock, this beautiful island was once a leper colony, but is now a geological nature reserve. Not far from La Désirade lie Petite-Terre, two uninhabited island nature reserves known for their biodiversity.
 
La Pointe des Châteaux (Grande-Terre)
La Pointe des Châteaux is a scenic isthmus at the easternmost point of Grande Terre. The windy, wave-battered point with castle-like rock formations exudes a rugged beauty reminiscent of Brittany. A botanical path leads from the village to a vantage point among great black rocks, which gives a clear view to the islands of La Désirade, Petite-Terre, and Marie-Galante.
 
Port-Louis (Grande-Terre)
Port-Louis, a small fishing village is home to one of Guadeloupe's prettiest beaches, Plage du Souffleur. This wide-open stretch of beautiful white sand is fringed by flame trees, which look especially beautiful when they blossom in the spring. Brightly painted wooden houses and vintage iron lampposts give the town a cheery feel. A drive through an area of desert vegetation leads to Pointe de le Grande Vigie, the northern-most point in Guadeloupe, with 360-degree views across the sea to neighboring islands on clear days.
 
Marie-Galante Island
Called the Big Pancake by its inhabitants, Marie-Galante is a round, flat island known for its gorgeous beaches. Sugar farming and tourism are the primary industries and visitors will see the ruins of many windmills around the island. Sunbathing, swimming, hiking, and local events are all popular activities. At Habitation Murat, an eco-museum honors Marie-Galante's arts and culture, including the history of its sugar industry. Also on-site are a restored colonial mansion, windmill tower, and the ruins of a sugar factory. Feuillere Beach is one of the nicest stretches of sand on the island.
 
Jacques Cousteau's Underwater Reserve
Off the coast of Basse-Terre near Bouillante, the waters surrounding Pigeon Island comprise the popular Jacques Cousteau Underwater Reserve (Réserve Cousteau) with some of Guadeloupe's best sub-aquatic scenery. Visitors can snorkel along the shallow water reefs, scuba dive, or view the coral from a glass-bottom boat. The dive sites cater to all skill levels. Turtles and large schools of fish, as well as parrotfish, trumpetfish, and barracuda frequent the coral gardens here, and the area offers good wall and wreck dives. Travelers can also kayak over to the reserve from the mainland. Address: Bouillante, Guadeloupe , Plage de Malendure 97125
Jardin Botanique de Deshaies
Brimming with beautiful tropical flora and many colorful species of birds, Jardin Botanique de Deshaies is a peaceful botanical garden on Basse-Terre's northwest coast. Paths lined with bright splashes of bougainvillea wind throughout the grounds where visitors stroll among cascades, lily-topped ponds, and gazebos. Children will love feeding the fish as well as the rainbow lorikeets, which descend on outstretched arms. A hilltop restaurant provides beautiful views of the gardens and the sea.
Address: Deshaies 97126, Guadeloupe (Basse Terre), Official site: http://jardin-botanique.com
 
Beaches
 
Chances are your hotel will be right on a beach, or no more than 20 minutes from a good one. Plenty of natural beaches dot the island, from the surf-brushed dark strands of western Basse-Terre to the long stretches of white sand encircling Grande-Terre. Public beaches are generally free, but some charge for parking. Unlike hotel beaches, they have few facilities. Hotels welcome nonguests but charge for changing facilities, beach chairs, and towels. Sunday is family day at the beach. Topless sunbathing is common at hotels, less so on village beaches.
 
Most of the best beaches lie between Gosier and St-François on Grande Terre. Visitors usually head for the hotel beaches at Gosier. Stone jetties were constructed here to protect the beaches from erosion. Since this area has the largest concentration of tourists, it's likely to be crowded.
 
These beaches are not peas in a pod. There's no shade at the Creole Beach fronting Creole Beach Hotel, although you can retreat to the bar there for a drink. A stone retaining wall blocks access to the water. Nearby, the Salako Beach has more sand and is set against a backdrop of palms that provide some shade. Part of this beach also leads up to a jetty. This is a fine sandy beach (although a little too crowded at times), and it also contains a snack bar.
 
 Also nearby, Arawak Beach is a gorgeous spot, with plenty of swaying palm trees providing a bit of shade on the beige sands. It, too, is protected by jetties. Close at hand, Callinago Beach is smaller than Arawak but still has a pleasant crescent of beige sand and palms.
 
Le Bas du Fort, 3km (1 3/4 miles) east of Pointe-à-Pitre and close to Gosier, is another popular area. Guests at the Hotels Fleu d'Eté and Marissol share its beaches, which are also protected by jetties. This is a picture-postcard tropical beach with tranquil waters, plenty of sand, and palms for shade. There are hotel bars as well as snack bars and vendors (some of whom are rather aggressive).
 
Some of Grande-Terre's best beaches are in the Ste-Anne area, site of Club Med La Caravelle. Plage Caravelle is heaped with white sand, attracting crowds of sunbathers; snorkelers, too, are drawn to the beach's reef-protected waters.
 
The French visitors here often like to go nude, and there is no finer nude beach than Pointe Tarare, a 45-minute drive from Gosier. This beach lies east of St-François at Pointe des Chateaux. It's one of the island's most pristine, tranquil beaches, but there's no shade to protect you from the fierce noonday sun. You can snorkel here if the water's not kicking up. There's a good restaurant by the car park. Warning: The tourist office doesn't recommend that women come here unaccompanied.
 
If you're not a nudist, you can enjoy the lovely strip of white sand at Anse de la Gourde, lying between St-François and Pointe des Chateaux. It has good sand, but it tends to become crowded on weekends.
 
The eastern coast of Grande-Terre is less desirable for swimming, as it fronts the more turbulent Atlantic. Nonetheless, the sands at Le Moule make for an idyllic beach because a reef protects the shoreline. There are also beach bars here -- and the inevitable crowds, especially on weekends. You'll find a more secluded strip of sand north of here at La Porte d'Enfer.
 
There are two other excellent beaches on the northwestern coast: one at Anse Laborde just outside the village of Anse-Bertrand, the other called Anse du Souffleur at Port-Louis. We especially like the beach at Souffleur for its brilliant, flamboyant trees that bloom in the summer. There are no facilities here, but you can pick up provisions in the shops in the little village, then enjoy a picnic on the beach.
 
In Basse-Terre, a highly desirable beach is La Grande-Anse, just outside Deshaies, reached by heading west from Sainte Rose along the N2. You won't find any facilities here, but we think you'll like the powdery sands, tranquil waters, and palm trees. Another desirable beach is Plage de la Malendure, on the west coast (the more tranquil side) of Basse-Terre across from Pigeon Island. This is a major center for scuba diving, but the sand tends to be dark here.
 
If you want to escape the crowds, seek out the spurs and shoulders produced by the mountains of Basse-Terre. In the northwest is a string of fine sandy beaches. Although small, these are highly desirable enclaves for sunbathing. Favorites include La Plage de Cluny (near Pointe Allegre), Plage de la Tillette, and Plage de la Perle. Warning: The beaches on the north coast of Basse-Terre are exceedingly dangerous for swimming. Plage de Cluny is especially treacherous (with very large waves), and there have been several deaths by drowning.
 
South of Pointe Noire, also on the west coast, is Plage des Caraïbes, with its calm waters and sandy strip. This beach has picnic facilities, a shower, and toilets.
Other good beaches are found on the offshore islands, Iles des Saintes and Marie-Galant
 
Eating Out
The better restaurants in Basse-Terre are spread out all over the island, with many concentrated in the north, near Deshaies and Ste-Rose. For good Creole seafood, try Restaurant Clara (Ste-Rose, 590/287-299). Although everything on the menu is delicious, the crabs and clams stand out above the rest.
 
Heading south, you will encounter Chez Vaneau (Mahuat, 590/980-171). A saltwater tank holds live lobsters, and you can't get much fresher fish than that! Roast pork is another delicacy here. Continuing down the west coast of Basse-Terre, make a stop at La Touna (Malendure, 590/987-010) for an exotic menu. If you can stomach the idea, sea urchin is quite good here, and you can wash it down with some delicious Caribbean rum. For a quick lunch in the area, try Chez Loulouse (Malendure Plage, 590/987-034). The reggae music combined with the tranquil view on the veranda makes this a popular dining spot.
 
In Basse-Terre itself, an old restaurant has staked its claim as the area's best. Le Houelmont (Rue de la Republique 34, 590/813-596) is named for a now extinct volcano. This restaurant was one of the first to open in the area, and it remains hugely popular with locals and tourists alike.
If you are visiting La Soufrière, you may want to stop to gather your courage and grab a bite to eat at Chez Paul de Matouba (Rivière Rouge, 590/800-177). Crayfish is the specialty here, and you will also find Indian food, a rare treat in the Caribbean.
 
Nightlife in Basse-Terre is fairly quiet, with most of the nighttime activities centered on Grande-Terre.
A smaller casino, with fewer slot machines, is Casino de St-François, avenue de l'Europe (tel. 590/88-41-31), near the Le Kalenda Resort in St-François. It is open daily 10am to 2am.
 
If you don't like casino action, you can find other nighttime diversions in Guadeloupe, although these tend to be seasonal, with more offerings in the winter. Sheathed in wood and open to the outdoor breezes, the Zoo Rock Café at La Marina in Gosier (tel. 590/90-77-77; www.zoorockcafe.com) offers a revolving series of theme parties ("Midnight in Rio" and "Carnival in New Orleans") that might remind you of something in St-Tropez.
 
Cuban salsa and Latin dancing draw patrons to Lollapalooza, 122 Montauban, Gosier (tel. 590/84-56-18), where pictures of dictator Fidel and the long-dead Che Guevara decorate the walls. If you get tired of this joint, try Fanzy Bar, Mathurin Poucette (tel. 590/84-41-34), where musical styles might include 1980s-style French disco, Bob Marley reggae, and, in an occasional orgy of nostalgia, Edith Piaf singing songs from the 1940s and '50s. All these bars are free, but the island's dance clubs charge a uniform fee of about 20€, which includes the cost of a first drink. After that, most cocktails are a pricey 10€ to 15€.
 
The clientele and psychedelic colors of Bar Americano, sur la Plage in Ste-Anne (tel. 590/88-38-99), might make you believe that the 1960s era of flower power is still alive and thriving. Set directly adjacent to the beach and artfully grungy, it's the kind of hangout that might remind you of your college years. More animated, but open only Friday and Saturday nights, is La Cascade, in Gosier (tel. 590/84-33-69), which rocks and rolls, often to salsa or other Latin beats, for an audience of locals and short-term holidaymakers.
 
Shopping
Shopping is not your priority when you visit Basse-Terre. The local shops basically sell various trinkets and cheap souvenirs. There is nothing worth mentioning, but if you have to buy something, just walk around near port and visit the small shops. Better yet, take a short trip to Pointe-à-Pitre, and visit Distillerie Bellevue. This is a great place to sample and purchase some fine Caribbean rum.
 
The luxury items that you can purchase in Guadeloupe are all imported from France. You'll find lingerie, perfumes, designer fashion, jewelry, china, cheese, patés, and liquor all with French labels.
 
If you are looking to really support the local economy, try picking up products made right in Guadeloupe. As you browse the markets, you'll find dolls dressed in madras, fishermen hats woven of split bamboo, woven items, spices arranged in baskets, coffee, and locally distilled rum.
 
Where to Shop
The best shopping to be had in Guadeloupe can be found in the city of Pointe a Pitre. Here there are a number of open air markets, where ladies sell spices and handicrafts alongside food booths. The Central Market is located atPlace de la Victoire, the main square. Frebault, Nozieres, and Rue Schoelcher are the main streets to wonder down for boutiques featuring French products. Also, at the Darse on the first Sunday each month, there is a flea market selling simliar products as the open air markets. Moule, Sainte-Anne and Saint-Claude also hold flea markets on alternating Sundays.
 
Carrefour, which is located just outside Le Raizet Airport, offers the best mall experience on the island. There are also a number of art galleries situated throughout the island, if you are after the works of local artisans.
 
Specialty Shops
One of the more popular specialty retailers in the area is Pascal Foy. They are located on Terre-de-Haut, in southwestern Guadeloupe. Local artist Pascal Foy paints pictures of traditional Creole architecture, pieces that continue to grow in popularity each year. These days, prints are often made into murals and wall hangings which are favored by tourists. Guests will be able to find them on Route a Pompierres.
 
A second option is Golf de St-Francois Pro Shop, which is located 33.6 mi. (54.0 km) to the northeast of Pascal Foy. All of your golf needs are readily handles at this pro shop, which features a staff well-versed in the sport. Customers can contact them at (059) 088-4187.





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