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The Island of Guadeloupe, French Caribbean, is another of France’s Overseas Department or DOM (Département d’Outre Mer). Guadeloupe is a picture-postcard Caribbean island with all the comforts of France such as the euro, no visa to enter or the French language.
Despite this Gallic touch, the island has not lost its spicy side and visitors will also find colorful villages, savory creole food, locals’ joie de vivre and plenty of rum.
Dream landscapes, great hikes, good living and the pleasure of the senses under the gaze of the “Old Lady”, the nickname of the volcano La Soufrière, Guadeloupe is all this and more.
This France at the ends of the world is very popular amongst French visitors, especially during the coldest months in Europe mainland.
What are you waiting for to explore this corner of France?
GOOD TO KNOW: France Overseas consists of all the French-administered territories outside the European continent, mostly relics of the French colonial empire: Martinique, Guadeloupe, French Guyana, Réunion, and Mayotte.
About Guadeloupe, French Antilles
Guadeloupe is made up of five islands: Guadeloupe, Marie-Galante, La Désirade, and the Îles des Saintes, as well as many uninhabited islands and outcroppings. The main island, Guadeloupe, has the shape of a butterfly. The left side of the island (Basse-Terre) is mountainous, wild and with lush forests while the right side of the island (Grande-Terre), is the beachy side of Guadeloupe.
Both sides of the island offer some great places to see and they are best explored by car.
The perfect Guadeloupe itinerary combines time spent on both sides of the main island plus at least a day trip to one of the other islands.
What To Do in Guadeloupe, French Caribbean
What to do in Guadeloupe for one week or two? This is our list of best things to do in Guadeloupe, in the French Caribbean.
Many people visit Guadeloupe looking for its paradise beaches and exploring different beaches and bays is for sure one of the top things to do in Guadeloupe.
The archipelago boasts all kinds of beautiful ocean and lagoon beaches, from blond sand beaches to volcanic black-sand beaches. Best of all, all the Guadeloupe beaches are public and nearly all of them spectacular.
So what are the best beaches in Guadeloupe? Difficult to say, most of them are just amazing! Our favorite Guadeloupe beach was Plage de la Caravelle but we invite you to explore many beaches to find your favorite one.
Another cool thing to do in Guadeloupe is to explore the island’s waterfalls. There are many beautiful waterfalls in Guadeloupe but if you have time only for two, then head to Cascade aux Ecrevisses and Chutes de Carbet (Carbet Falls), both located in Basse-Terre.
La Cascade aux Ecrevisses is a natural basin of Corossol river very easy to reach, a mere 5 min walk from a car park. Here, it is possible to swim but arrive early in the morning as this is a very popular place amongst tourists and locals.
Carbet Falls (on the picture) are located inside Carbet National Park, set amid the tropical rainforests on the lower slopes of the volcano La Soufrière. There are three waterfalls at different heights. Fall number 2 (100 m high) is the easiest to visit and it only takes 25 minutes (each way) to reach it. To visit the other two falls, hiking boots and wet weather gear are necessary. The way to fall number 1 takes 1.5 hours each way while it takes 2 hours each way for fall number 3.
Water Sports Around Guadeloupe
With such a spectacular location in the Caribbean Sea, Guadeloupe archipelago offers many cool water activities to keep you entertained for a while.
Enjoy sailing to various points of interest in Guadeloupe or spend a day in the water exploring what Guadeloupe has to offer underwater, you will be spoilt for choice!
The sailing and snorkeling day tour to Les Saintes is one of the most popular day trips in Guadeloupe, and people are never disappointed.
We prefer kayaking instead so we enjoyed exploring the beautiful mangroves of Grand Cul-de-Sac-Marin. We highly recommend this tour!
Visit a Rum Distillery
Just like in its neighbor Martinique Island, rum is Guadeloupe’s favorite drink, and it is possible to drink good rum everywhere on the island for a good price.
The Bologne and Damoiseau are two of the most often served rums on the island but there are other smaller rum distilleries open to the public and they are definitely the best way to learn about rum and do some interesting tastings.
We visited Damoiseau Distillery in Le Moule, one of the biggest distilleries on the island, where we learned all about rum on a self-guided tour with tasting.
The best time to visit rum distilleries is from February to June, during the cane harvest. Because we visited it in December there was less to see but we enjoyed wandering around the estate, which still keeps its historic machinery.
Picturesque Villages of Guadeloupe
Another thing you will love to include in your Guadeloupe itinerary is some of its picturesque towns. There is not much to see and do in terms of sightseeing but they are very cute with their colorful buildings and whitewashed church.
In these towns, you are never far from the beach with its palm trees and beach restaurants selling the last catch and they are the perfect place to slow down, perhaps with a glass of rum, after a more active day hiking in the jungle.
Our favorite towns are Deshaies (Basse-Terre) and the main town at Les Saintes (on the picture) but there are many more small towns to explore.
Hike up to the Soufrière Volcano
Guadeloupe is also a paradise for hikers, especially on the western side of the main island (Basse-Terre).
Amongst all the well-marked hiking trails, the one up to the active volcano La Soufrière, part of the National Park, is the most popular one.
La Soufrière Volcano (its name means “big sulfur outlet”) is the French Antilles’ highest peak. Despite its last eruption was in 1976, there are still lots going on under the surface.
The hike up to the peak, at 1467 meters, takes about 2 hours each way. The first part goes through the forest and then it’s a 90-minute ascent, with a bit of scrambling at the end.
After the hike, you can relax your aching muscles at the Bains Jaunes thermal pool, conveniently located near the car park.
Learn About Slavery in Guadeloupe at Fort Delgres
Unfortunately, slavery is an important chapter in Guadeloupe’s history and most of the locals in Guadeloupe are actually descendants of slaves.
There are still many sights connected to slavery, mostly coffee plantations. In our opinion, it is interesting to visit at least one of these sights.
We visited the 17th century Fort Delgres, named after Louis Delgres, the man who carried on a rebellion against slavery in Guadeloupe. The history of this courageous man is very interesting plus the views from the fort are great.
Fort Delgres is located at Le Carmel, Basse-Terre. It is open every day from 9.30 am to 4.30 pm, except on Mondays.
Deshaies Botanical Garden
Guadeloupe is rich in vegetation, with many botanical gardens to visit. We loved to explore the Deshaies Botanical Garden, where we learned many interesting things about the island’s vegetation.
Apart from its beautiful flowers, plants, and trees, Deshaies Botanical Garden is populated by colorful birds and everybody seems to enjoy taking selfies with them on the background. You can find more information on Deshaies botanical garden here.
Markets of Guadeloupe
Guadeloupe’s markets are very colorful and they are always a great place to see local life and learn about Guadeloupe food, especially local fish, vegetables and spices.
If you like street food, don’t miss the Friday night market in Le Gosier, from 4 pm to 9 pm
Walk the Rainforest Canopy at Parc des Mamelles
In Guadeloupe, it is possible to explore the rainforest and its wildlife if you don’t mind heights! Parc des Mamelles, in Basse-Terre, has a network of rope walkways strung between the trees and 15 meters above the ground.
Only two people are allowed on each walkway at a time and they were swinging a little bit too much for my taste but it was great to see the rainforest from the monkeys’ perspective, we recommend!
Visit Guadeloupe’s Smaller Islands
Although most of the interesting activities are concentrated on the main island, it is also well worth exploring at least one more island.
The most popular ones to explore, which are also the biggest, are Desirades, Les Saintes and Marie-Galante.
You can visit any of these islands on a day trip but you can also consider spending a night there to get the most out of your visit.
Guadeloupe is considered one of the true culinary capitals of the Caribbean, with some 200 or so restaurants recommended by the Tourist Office.
It’s in the kitchen where the different Guadeloupe cultures, with their different specialties, meet: local Créole specialties combine the finesse of French cuisine with the spicy world of African cookery and the exoticism of East Indian and Southeast Asian recipes.
Obviously, fresh seafood is a very important element of Guadeloupe cuisine and it appears on most menus. Other Guadeloupe specialties include shellfish, smoked fish, stuffed land crabs, stewed conch, and curry dishes.
Local rum often precedes a good meal, which is usually accompanied by wines imported from France mainland.
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