Known by its first inhabitants as “Karukera” (meaning “the land of beautiful waters”), the island stands out on a map of the Caribbean thanks to its butterfly shape. It is actually composed of two islands separated by a sea channel (la Rivière Salée, “the Salted River”): flat Grande-Terre on the east side, with white sand beaches, urban centres and sugar cane fields; and verdant Basse-Terre on the west side, a pristine land of mountains, with one volcano, rainforests, rivers and cascades. East of these islands, La Désirade offers “away-from-it-all” tranquillity, while south authentic Marie-Galante boasts about its exquisite rum and beaches. The tiny Les Saintes islands, to the south-west, feature one of the most beautiful bays in the world. All of them are connected to the main islands by ferry. Between those easy connections and the distinctive atmosphere of each island, Guadeloupe is one of the best places in the world for island-hopping.
If the islands have such different personalities, one may wonder what holds them together. For starters, Guadeloupe archipelago is a Department of France in the same way Hawaii is part of the US, not just a territory. Its half a million inhabitants, called Guadeloupéens, are French citizens by birth, benefit from the French health system, live with a high level of safety and security, have representation in Parliament, speak a mix of French and Creole languages and are gifted with an authentic culinary savoir-faire!
Guadeloupe is not one of those destinations that has covered all its farmland with sprawling resorts or exploited its fisheries into oblivion. In fact, when it comes to preserving its authentic way of life, rainforests, mountains, beaches, historical sites, and coral ecosystems, it has been ahead of the game for decades. Simply put, Guadeloupe isn’t the Caribbean you know. It’s a bit of France in the Americas, yet with an undeniably Caribbean vibe, that will make you love traveling all over again.