Guadeloupe is a French overseas region in the Caribbean. It is made up of more than 12 islands of which Basse-Terre and Grande-Terre are the main islands. These two are separated by the Salée River and their aerial view resembles a butterfly, hence the nickname Butterfly Island. Other notable islands include Marie-Galante, La Desirade and Terre-de-Haut.
Even though the main island Basse-Terre literally means “low land” in French, the island has mountainous terrain and is home to an active volcano – La Soufrière. The volcano is part of Guadeloupe’s only national park, Parc National de la Guadeloupe – a hiker’s paradise. The aforementioned La Soufrière volcano and Chutes du Carbet – a cascading waterfall are the most popular hiking trails.
Other highlights in Basse-Terre include Rum Distillery Bologne, Fort Delgrès, Basse-Terre Market and Basse-Terre Cathedral. The island is home to several great beaches like Plage de Malendure, Grande Anse, Plage De La Perle and Plage Leroux. Located north of Basse-Terre, the tiny village of Deshaies is a popular yacht stop with great restaurants and bars. Pigeon Island, located near Plage de Malendure, is a UNESCO Biosphere reserve known for its excellent diving.
The second island Grande-Terre is another example of mismatched names. In French, Grande-Terre means “Big Land”, but the island is smaller than Basse-Terre. Grande-Terre is the most visited island in Guadeloupe and the southern region of the island has some of the best beaches, resorts and diving spots. However, the eastern region of the island remains almost unknown to visitors – except for surfers, as it has a rocky coastline instead of sandy beaches. Grande-Terre is home to Pointe-a-Pitre, Guadeloupe’s largest city and economic hub. The city is known for its vibrant markets like Marché de la Darse, French-era remains and Saint-John Perse Museum.
Terre-de-Haut is the most vibrant of Guadeloupe’s outlying islands, with a hilly terrain and a few great diving spots with healthy coral reefs. Since it has a huge international sailing scene, you are likely to hear more English than French. La Désirade island also has a mountainous landscape and has an untouched natural charm quite similar to the time when Columbus found it in 1493. In contrast, the island of Marie-Galante has flat terrain and is known as the “Big Pancake”. If you like beaches but hate the crowds, then this is the perfect destination for you. The island is also known for its old buildings and excellent dining and stay options for its visitors.
If you are looking for some relaxation after exploring other top tier Caribbean destinations, Guadeloupe is without a doubt one of the best bets. People here mostly speak French and learning a few basic French terms will be helpful.
The main islands of Guadeloupe, Basse-Terre and Grande-Terre are separated by the Salée River and from above they look like a butterfly.