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Named 'The Island of Beautiful Waters' by the Carib Indians who inhabited it at the time of its discovery, Guadeloupe's 'beautiful waters' are now the island's major attraction for overseas visitors. Whether you want to relax on the beach, enjoy a swim in the warm Caribbean, or test your surfing skills on one of the island's first-rate surfing spots, you should basically count on spending most of your time in, on, or next to the water. Of course, a hiking excursion to the summit of La Soufrière, Guadeloupe's active volcano, is a must. And Guadeloupe's interesting mix of cultures (the people are a hybrid of French, African and East Indian) makes for a varied and unique people group. But nothing beats the Caribbean attraction.
During his second trip to America, seeking fresh water in November 1493, Christopher Columbus became the first European to land on Guadeloupe. He called it Santa María de Guadalupe de Extremadura, after the image of the Virgin Mary venerated at the Spanish monastery of Villuercas, in Guadalupe, Extremadura. The expedition set ashore just south of Capesterre but did not leave any settlers ashore.
After successful settlement on the island of St Christophe (Saint Kitts), the French Company of the American Islands delegated Charles Lienard and Jean Duplessis, Lord of Ossonville to colonize one or any of the region’s islands, Guadeloupe, Martinique or Dominica. Due to Martinique’s inhospitable nature, the duo resolved to settle in Guadeloupe in 1635, took possession of the island and wiped out many of the Carib Amerindians. It was annexed to the kingdom of France in 1674. Over the next century, the island was seized several times by the British. The economy benefited from the hugely lucrative sugar trade introduced during the closing decades of the seventeenth century: one indication of Guadeloupe's prosperity at this time is that in the Treaty of Paris (1763), France, defeated in war, agreed to abandon its territorial claims in Canada in return for British return of Guadeloupe which was captured in 1759.
On 4 February 1810 the British once again seized the island and continued to occupy it until 1816. By the Anglo-Swedish alliance of 3 March 1813, it was ceded to Sweden for a brief period of 15 months. The British administration continued in place and British governors continued to govern the Island. By the Treaty of Paris of 1814 Sweden ceded Guadeloupe once more to France.
In 1946 the colony of Guadeloupe became an overseas department of France, and in 1974 it became an administrative center. Its deputies sit in the French National Assembly in Paris. On 15 July 2007 the island communes of Saint Martin and Saint Barthélemy were officially detached from Guadeloupe and became two separate French overseas collectivities with their own local administration, henceforth separated from Guadeloupe.
Located as the southernmost of the Leeward Islands in the eastern Caribbean Sea, Guadeloupe comprises two main islands: Basse-Terre Island, Grande-Terre (separated from Basse-Terre by a narrow sea channel called Salt River) forming Guadeloupe proper. The adjacent French islands of La Désirade, Les Saintes and Marie-Galante come under jurisdiction of Guadeloupe. Basse-Terre has a rough volcanic relief whilst Grande-Terre features rolling hills and flat plains. Guadeloupe was formed from multiple volcanoes, of which only Basse-Terre is not extinct.
Le Moule once was an early French capital of Guadeloupe. Besides that, it was an important Native American settlement before the colonial period. It is one of the most authentic provincial towns on Guadeloupe and has a bustling main street, fish market and a scenic harbor. There have been archaeological excavations in the region and Guadeloupe's archaeological museum, on the outskirts of town, is well worth a visit.
The town square has several historic buildings, including the town hall and a Neoclassical Catholic church. Along the river are some ruins from an old customs building and a fortress dating back to the French colonial times. Nearby is tranquil beach with reef-protected waters at L'Autre Bord, about one kilometer out of town. Baie du Moule, on the west side of town is equally popular, mainly with kayakers and surfers.
Jacques Cousteau made Pigeon Island world famous several decades ago by declaring it to be one of the world's top dive sites. The waters surrounding the island are now protected as the Reserve Cousteau. The place is an underwater paradise teeming with fish and coral reefs to explore. Naturally, snorkelling and diving are the main activities here but the island itself is just as nice to relax a bit and enjoy the sun.
Guadeloupe has some fine beaches. Although some like St. Anne are very touristy and packed with people on most days, there are some more secluded areas the further you go from the main towns and tourist spots. Grande Anse is one of the most beautiful beaches of the island with white sands, palm trees and turquoise waters.
Guadeloupe has some fine examples of refreshing waterfalls, which makes for a welcome relief after a bus ride or drive by car. Some of them are just near the road while others are set deep in the hilly jungle and require some more strenuous walking. Either way, having been to Guadeloupe without seeing any waterfall is a shame and almost impossible!
La Soufrière is the volcano that dominates the island. Very often in the clouds, the summit nevertheless remains accessible after 2-3 hours of walking. The vegetation changes gradually as we ascend to the summit at 1467 metres, from the dense tropical forest to grasslands. Sulfur fumaroles escape from volcanic mouths. In return, it is possible to swim in warm water basins "les bains jaunes".
A week before Ash Wednesday, islanders dress in colorful and extravagant costumes and parade the streets. The main events are held in Basse-Terre and Pointe-a-Pitre. On the day before Ash Wednesday, people are dressed as white and black devils and go outdoors to dance.
Held in April, this event is a fashion show for goats. The animals are fit for fancy dresses that are normally worn by humans. Participants can also sample goat dishes cooked in a variety of ways.
More than 200 delegates come to Guadeloupe in May to participate in surfing events held in Saint-Francois, Grande-Terre and Anse-Bertrand. Dates vary by year, so check the official competition calendar.
This internationally renowned festival honors the zouk music genre and is held in July. Spectators can enjoy local performances by renowned artists and traditional musicians.
The Festival of Women Cooks in August is one of the most spectacular events on Guadeloupe. Contestants serve a banquet of French and Creole foods, and everyone is welcome to participate and sample the dishes. Parades and dances also take place, and the attendees dress in traditional Creole costumes.
International Creole Day is the highlight of a full week which honors the Creole heritage in Guadeloupe in October. Festivities include theater performances, concerts and poetry readings.
An event that should not be missed for movie buffs and fans of independent films, every year in November French films that are rarely shown to the public are screened in Guadeloupe’s theaters, libraries and schools for all to appreciate.
Guadeloupe has a hot and humid tropical climate with average daytime temperatures throughout the year of 30 °C and average nights around 23 °C. Most rain falls between June and October with a change of hurricanes from August onwards. Therefore, the drier (and slightly cooler) December to April period is the best time to visit weather wise. Unfortunately prices rise sharply during this period and the months of November and May still have good weather. So budget wise these latter months may be a good option as well.
Air Caraibes is the major airline of the French Caribbean and Guadeloupe is its main base. Among the other French islands, it has direct flights to Cayenne in French Guiana and to Paris in France. Other destinations include Stockholm, Copenhagen, Havana and Panama City. Air Antilles serves Saint Lucia and several French islands.
L'Express des Iles operates almost daily services between the islands of Dominica and Guadeloupe. They leave Roseau, the capital of Dominica on Mondays, Thursdays and Saturdays at 3:00pm (Saturday 1:00pm) and take about 2.5 hours. In the opposite direction, they leave Pointe-a-Pitre in Guadeloupe at Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays at 8:00am (Sundays 10:00am) and take under 2 hours.
L'Express des Iles has regular services between Pointe-a-Pitre and Fort-de-France, the capital of Martinique. They leave almost daily around 8:00am and arrive around 11:45am. The ferries first go to Dominica, travelling onwards to Martinique.
L'Express des Iles has at least 3-4 weekly services to Castries. It's the same ferry which goes to Dominica and Martinique, thus leaving around 8:00am from Pointe-a-Pitre. It arrives in Castries around 3:00pm.
From Point-a-Pitre internatioanl airport there are domestic services to La Désirade, Terre-de-Haut and Marie-Galante with a number of airlines, including Air Caraibes and Air Guadeloupe.
Renting a car is very good way to cover both Basse Terre and Grande Terre and there are numerous agencies in the airport and the capital, both local as well as international. Prices are reasonable, especially if you are with 2 or more people sharing costs. Traffic drives on the right. and the roads in Guadeloupe are of good quality. A national driver's licence is enough.
Guadeloupe has an efficient, reliable and cheap bus system with several lines running frequently all days, except Sundays. Most major towns and cities are connected by road from Point-a-Pitre and many other places on both Grande Terre as well as Basse Terre. There are also buses on Marie-Galante every day except Sunday. For an overview, check thebusschedule.com.
Taxis are available in and around Point-a-Pitre and the airport but are expensive.
L'Express des Iles has daily services between the main island of Guadeloupe and several other islands. To the Iles des Saintes, there are daily connections leaving Pointe-a-Pitre (Grande-Terre) for Terre de Haut at 8:00am. In the opposite direction they leave Terre de Haut at 4:00pm.
There are two crossings daily (one in the morning and one in the late afternoon) as well between Terre de Haut and Trois Rivières (Basse-Terre) and between Terre de Bas and Trois Rivières.
From Terre de Haut you can take another local ferry to Terre de Bas as well.
Other connections include the ferry from Point-a-Pitre to Grand Bourg on the island of Marie Galante, which travels 3 times on weekdays, one of which is via Saint Louis. During weekends, especially on Sundays, there are less services.
Trois Rivières and Marie Galante are connected by ferries as well.
There are also daily regular ferries to Grande Anse on the island of La Desirade, east of Grande-Terre with Le Colibri. You can contact them at 357947 in Port de Peche. Iguana is another ferry operator between several islands, including connections between St Francois and Terre de Haut and Marie Galante and La Desirade and between St Anne and Terre de Haut and Marie Galante and La Desirade.
From Sainte Anne and/or Saint Louis in the west of Grande Terre you can take ferries to most of the above mentioned places, like La Desirade, Marie Galante and Iles del les Saintes. To add, there are also ferries to Petite Terre between Grand Terre and La Desirade, that make brief stops here.
CTM Deher has services between Basse Terre and Les Saintes several times daily.
You can find detailed maps, schedules, prices and information about companies at this website
See also Money Matters
As an Overseas Department of France, Guadeloupe has adopted the Euro (ISO code: EUR, symbol: €) as its official currency. One Euro is divided into 100 cents, which is sometimes referred to as eurocents, especially when distinguishing them with the US cents.
Euro banknotes come in denominations of €5, €10, €20, €50, €100, €200, €500. The highest three denominations are rarely used in everyday transactions. All Euro banknotes have a common design for each denomination on both sides throughout the Eurozone.
The Euro coins are 1 cent, 2 cents, 5 cents, 10 cents, 20 cents, 50 cents, €1 and €2. Some countries in the Eurozone have law which requires cash transactions to be rounded to the nearest 5 cents. All Euro coins have a common design on the denomination (value) side, while the opposite side may have a different image from one country to another. Although the image side may be different, all Euro coins remain legal tender throughout the Eurozone.
For European people coming from an EU country, working in Guadeloupe is allowed without problem. If you're from outside the EU, you will probably need a work permit - check with the French Embassy in your country. Do not forget though that the unemployment rate is around 28%. But if you work in the health sector (doctor, nurse), it will be much easier. Else you could find a job in bars, restaurants, and/or nightclubs. The better is to have a precise idea of what you want to do, inform yourself and prospect before going there.
French is the official language, although Guadeloupean Créole (very different from French) is the native language. Everyone speaks French but few people understand English. Most people working in the tourism industry will speak English and sometimes Spanish or German.
Not to be missed, the plate Colombo (chicken, rice, curry), imported from India, has become the typical regional plate.
Sunset Surf Camp, 97118 Saint François, Grande-Terre. One of the few backpackers accommodations in Guadeloupe, with both private rooms and dorm-style rooms of three beds. The surf camp is located within a 2,500m² tropical garden located a few hundreds meters from Raisins Clairs beach and it takes less than 10 minutes to walk to the center of Saint François.
The local drink is white rum. Do try the "'Ti Punch" (Petit Punch/small Punch) (rum, lime, and sugar cane/brown sugar).
See also Travel Health
There are no vaccinations legally required to travel to Guadeloupe. There is one exception though. You need a yellow fever vaccination if you have travelled to a country (7 days or less before entering Guadeloupe) where that disease is widely prevalent.
It's a good thing to get your vaccinations in order before travelling to Guadeloupe. The general vaccination against Diphtheria, Tetanus and Polio (DTP) is recommended. Also a hepatitis A vaccination is recommended and vaccination against hepatitis B and typhoid are also sometimes recommended for stays longer than 3 months.
Dengue sometimes occurs as well. There is no vaccination, so buy mosquito repellent (preferably with 50% DEET), and sleep under a net. Also wear long sleeves if possible.
Finally, other possible health issues include diarrhea and other general travellers' diseases like motion sickness. Watch what you eat and drink and in case you get it, drink plenty of fluids (to prevent dehydration) and bring ORS.
See also Travel Safety
The main tourist areas (city center of Point-à-Pitre, Le Gosier, St. Anne, St. Felix) are pretty safe, especially by day. When it gets dark, you should avoid walking around in Point-à-Pitre alone and stay on the main roads and plazas and be aware of smaller side streets. Always try to keep a low profile as a tourist to avoid attracting unwanted attention.
There's wifi available in some places like hotels and restaurants. It might be free, but sometimes there's a charge.
See also International Telephone Calls
Guadeloupe's international country code is 590.
Few foreign mobile phone companies offer international roaming to Guadeloupe so double-check before leaving. Your company should provide specific roaming to Guadeloupe since it has deferent mobile phone companies than in mainland France.
Alternatively, you should be able to get a Pay-as-you-go SIM card from various locations. There are two companies offering wireless services: Bouygues Telecom Caraïbe and Orange Caraïbe.
Post offices are found in all cities. Letter boxes are colored in yellow. In most Post Offices you will find an automatic machine (yellow) with a scale and a screen. Just put your mail on the scale, tell the machine (French or English) the destination, pay the indicated amount and the machine will deliver a printed stamp.
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