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The Island of Guadeloupe, French Antilles, is a picture-postcard island in the Caribbean Sea with all the comforts of France. 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 visitors from France mainland and will likely steal your heart too. What are you waiting for to explore this corner of France?
About Guadeloupe in French Antilles
Guadeloupe is a group of French Islands located in the Caribbean Sea. This archipelago is part of the French Antilles and 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 island’s left side (Basse-Terre) is mountainous, wild, and with lush forests, while the right side of the island (Grande-Terre) is the beachy side of Guadeloupe.
Guadeloupe island is 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.
BEST TIME TO GO TO GUADELOUPE
The best time to go to Guadeloupe Island, France, is during the dry season, from December to April. The weather is good (around 27 C), and the hotels are full.
May, June, and November are pleasant months to visit Guadeloupe. Not too hot, not too crowded, and not too expensive seems like the perfect combination for us. Choose May or June to see Guadeloupe in full bloom!
TRAVEL BY PLANE:
Direct flights from Paris to Pointe-à-Pitre (PTP) last 9 hours. This is always France, so Europeans and Swiss only need their ID card to enter Guadeloupe. The currency in Guadeloupe is the euro €.
If you plan to visit other islands around, come with your passport. Same for travelers entering through the airport Princess Juliana of Saint-Martin (Dutch side), which is out of the European Union.
Canadians don’t need a visa for stays of less than 3 months.
BY CAR: A car is a must in Guadeloupe. With a car, some good tunes, and the best company, you are set for one of the best adventures in your life. Visit the most picturesque villages and historical sites and then go off the beaten path to visit the most secluded beaches and hidden waterfalls.
BY SCOOTER: This is a fun and cheaper alternative to the car that also avoids Guadeloupe’s traffic jams!
What To Do in Guadeloupe, French Caribbean
What to do in Guadeloupe for one week or two? Here’s the list of best things to do in Guadeloupe, French Caribbean, with something for everyone.
For many visitors, the island’s beaches are one of the best things to do in Guadeloupe, especially when it is cold in Europe. From family beaches to untouched shorelines, the archipelago has the ideal beach setting for everyone.
All the beaches in Guadeloupe are relatively easy to access and can be easily discovered by car. 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 Plage de Pompierre (Terre-de-Haut), Plage de Malendure (Bouillante), and Plage de Grande Anse (Deshaies, Basse-Terre) are also worth a day trip.
Exploring the island’s waterfalls is another fun thing to do in Guadeloupe. 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.
The Cascade aux Ecrevisses is a natural basin of Corossol river very easy to reach, a mere 5 min walk from the car park. Here, it is possible to swim but arrive early in the morning as this is a popular spot amongst locals and tourists.
Carbet Falls (on the picture) are located inside Carbet National Park, set amid the tropical rainforest 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 (one 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 (one 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, the Guadeloupe archipelago offers many fun water activities. From sailing to various points of interest to snorkeling or scuba diving, you will be spoilt for choice in Guadeloupe!
The sailing and snorkeling day tour to Les Saintes is one of the most popular day trips in Guadeloupe, and people are never disappointed.
If you prefer something more adventurous, try with the stand-up paddle along a mangrove.
Visit a Rum Distillery
Just like in its neighbor Martinique Island, rum is Guadeloupe’s favorite drink, and it is possible to drink excellent rum everywhere on the island for a good price. The Bologne and Damoiseau are two of the most often served rums on the island.
In Guadeloupe, there are many 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, one of the biggest distilleries on the island, where there’s 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.
Visit the Small Towns of Guadeloupe
One of the best things to do during your Guadeloupe holidays is to visit some of the island’s picturesque towns. There is not much to see and do, but they are charming with their colorful buildings and small church.
The small towns of Guadeloupe are never far from the beach, with its palm trees and beach restaurants selling the last catch. 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 in Guadeloupe 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, especially the western side of the main island (Basse-Terre), is also a paradise for hikers.
Amongst all the well-marked hiking trails, the walk up to the active volcano La Soufrière is the most popular. La Soufrière Volcano (1,467 meters) is the highest peak in the French Antilles. Its name means ‘big sulfur outlet’).
The hike up to the peak 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 sites connected to slavery, mostly coffee plantations. In our opinion, it is interesting to visit at least one of these sites.
We visited the 17th-century Fort Delgres, named after Louis Delgres, who fought against slavery in Guadeloupe. The history of this courageous man is fascinating, 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 covered with lush 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 trees and plants.
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 in the background. For more information, opening times, and prices, check Deshaies Botanical Garden’s website.
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! In Basse-Terre, Parc des Mamelles 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 it!
Visit Guadeloupe’s Smaller Islands
Although most of the fun things to do in Guadeloupe are concentrated on the main island, it is always a good idea to explore at least one more island.
The most popular islands to explore in the archipelago are Desirades, Les Saintes, and Marie-Galante. You can visit any of these islands on a day trip, but you can also consider spending more time on-site.
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 a touch of exoticism from the East India and Southeast Asia.
Obviously, fresh seafood is an essential 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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