Coastal scenery, Guadeloupe ©
The islands of Guadeloupe are radiant gems of the Caribbean, offering those who travel here a unique combination of Creole culture, incredible beaches, and simply fantastic French food.
Guadeloupe is shaped rather like a butterfly, with Basse-Terre and Grand Terre as each of its wings. Better developed Grand Terre has exceptional beach towns and plenty nightlife along its shores.
First discovered by Columbus in 1493, the islands were known to the local Caribs as karukera - 'the island of beautiful waters'. French settlers arrived in the 17th century bringing with them disease, which wiped out the indigenous Caribs, and slaves to work the sugar plantations that were to be source of the islands' wealth for the next 200 years. In the 20th century Guadeloupe become an overseas department of France, enjoying its protection and economic support.
Guadeloupe is less known than Antigua, its neighbour to the north, so it enjoys a somewhat laid-back atmosphere and less developed infrastructure by comparison. It is however very modern with mostly high-end tourist facilities, and excellent health care.
The beaches are quite magnificent and remain the main drawcard for the steady stream of mostly French tourists. However, unusually for a Caribbean island, there is a wealth of attractions inland too. Tropical forests abound, especially around the base of Mt Soufriere, a dormant volcano. You can also find the Caribbean's highest waterfall on Basse-Terre. The diving is excellent, rated by Jacques Cousteau as one of the top 10 diving spots in the world.
Getting around the islands is a breeze, with a decent public bus network and plenty of bicycle rental spots presenting better options than the rather expensive taxis.
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