Guadeloupe is an archipelago comprising several separate islands. A narrow strait separates the two major islands, Basse-Terre to the west and Grande-Terre to the east, which together resemble the wings of a butterfly. Connected by a bridge, the two sides are usually referred to as a single island.
SightseeingPointe-á-Pitre is reminiscent of a port on the French Riviera. Tall, modern architectural structures form a backdrop for the city's tree-shaded historic area centered around the Place de la Victoire, where there are many quaint wooden houses with open-air balconies that date back to the island's colonial days.
South of the Place de la Victoire, the Rue Duplessis borders La Darse, the old port. West of here are the Guadeloupe Office of Tourism, on the corner of Rues Delgres and Schoelcher, and the main shopping streets, the Rue Frebault and the Rue de Nozieres. To the north, between the two streets, is the bustling open market. Behind the market, on the Rue Peynier, is the Musee Schoelcher, containing memorabilia about Victor Schoelcher, a 19th-century French political leader who was instrumental in abolishing slavery in the Caribbean colonies. South of the market, on the Rue Rene-Boisneuf, is the Mus‚e St. John Perse, dedicated to the 1960 Nobel Prize-winning Guadeloupean poet. The museum is located in a restored 19th-century Creole house.
For a commanding view of Pointe-á-Pitre, visit the 18th-century Fort Fleur d'Epee, a few miles southeast of the city on the coastal "Riviera" road that leads to many of the island's hotels. The Guadeloupe Aquarium, located just off the highway, boasts an impressive collection of brilliantly hued native reef fish, as well as electric eels, sharks and other marine life.
In the heart of Basse-Terre, you'll discover the island's main attraction, the Parc Naturel. This 74,000-acre natural wonder was designated a national park in 1989. Some 180 miles of marked trails traverse the park.
At St. Saveur, the Habituee Road heads inland to the Chutes du Carbet, an imposing trio of 410-foot-high waterfalls that empty into the sea at Capesterre-Belle-Eau. Farther south is La Soufriere, a spectacular, but relatively dormant, 4,813-foot-high volcano with steaming sulphur pits, mud cauldrons and fumaroles (smoke holes).
Fort St. Charles, in Guadeloupe's capital city of Basse-Terre, houses a museum with volcano displays that highlight the 1976 eruption of La Soufriere, as well as a historical military museum.
BeachesGuadeloupe has some 50 beaches, all of them equally lovely. All the public beaches have free access, although the hotels have the best facilities by far and charge only a minimal fee. Topless sunbathing is acceptable at resort hotels, but not on village beaches.
Three public beaches in Gosier, not far from Pointe-á-Pitre, are Plage de la Marina, Plage de l'Anse Canot and Plage de Petit-Havre. There are picnic areas at Plage de Petit-Havre, and water sports are available at Plage de l'Anse Canot and at the hotel beaches in this area.
To the east is Ste. Anne, with two popular public beaches: Plage de Bourg, a wide, white-sand shore with picnic facilities and water sports, and Plage de Bois Jolan, shaded by towering coconut palms. Calm, shallow water make both of these locations perfect for swimming.
SportsPigeon Island, on Basse-Terre's leeward coast, has been described as one of the top 10 scuba-diving areas in the world--a natural undersea aquarium of coral and sponge formations teeming with brightly colored fish and marine life.
Windsurfing is a prestigious sport on the island; Guadeloupe has been host to several international competitions. Snorkeling and sailing are favorites here, too.
On Grande-Terre, several land-sports options are offered. Golfers can try the 18-hole Robert Trent Jones-designed Golf Municipal de St.-Francois, adjacent to Hamak, one of Guadeloupe's most elegant resorts. You'll find tennis courts at many hotels, and there are both private and public clubs where visitors can practice their game.
ShoppingShoppers will enjoy special buys on luxury items made in France, including French wines and champagnes, crystal, silk scarves, fragrances and cosmetics. Early French and plantation-period antiques are also real finds, as are locally made goods.
Guadeloupe has a Value Added Tax (VAT) on store-bought goods, but tourists paying with traveler's checks or credit cards are exempt from the 20% tax. Some prices listed in U.S. dollars may already reflect the 20% discount; check with the sales clerk to be sure.
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