Guadeloupe travel guide

A butterfly-shaped archipelago in the Caribbean Sea, Guadeloupe is a picture of tropical island idyll – no wonder the French are reluctant to let it go.

Known as Karukera to the original Caraïbe inhabitants, this French overseas region might share the same attributes as other coveted Caribbean destinations – white powdery beaches, vertiginous mountains and dazzling coral reefs – but Guadeloupe’s Franco-Caribbean culture sets the archipelago apart from its neighbours.

Ascribed by Jacques Cousteau as one of the world’s premier diving destinations, Guadeloupe was at the front of the queue when they were giving out natural beauty; from the lofty heights of La Grande Soufrière volcano to the resplendent reefs of the Pigeon Islets, this archipelago is exquisite on the eye.

Comprising eight islands and numerous small islets, Guadeloupe’s varied typography is a big draw for adventure travellers, who come to trek the terrain, ride the waves and cycle through a slice of paradise.

But the archipelago is also a hit with more sedentary travellers, who while away lazy days on sandy shores and quaff rum in ramshackle beach bars to the rousing rhythms of Guadeloupian beguine.

Each island, of course, has its own character, but few travellers have time to visit them all. Most base themselves on one of the two main islands – Basse-Terre and Grande-Terre – which are linked by dense mangrove swamps rich in wildlife.

These two islands are home to Guadeloupe’s main resorts; they are where most of the hotels and evening entertainment can be found; where you can eat at the best restaurants; and fall out of the best bars.

They are also home to the archipelago’s leading historical attractions, including forts, defunct sugar plantations and museums, which, between them, trace the DNA of modern day Guadeloupe and explain how it remains an unlikely member of the European Union.