GUADELOUPE – Invited by Air Transat and Guadeloupe Islands Tourism to visit the magnificent archipelago, your humble journalist has returned to the frozen country with sparkling eyes of beauty glimpsed and lush landscapes observed. Because it is impossible not to fall in love with these Caribbean islands.
The green mountains are numerous and high; the beaches, wide and delicious; the water is turquoise and transparent and the people, decidedly friendly. But more than the lush nature of the place, it is the mixture of Caribbean and European influences that makes it a unique set of islands that are very pleasant to browse and discover. Guadeloupe certainly represents an alternative to the tourist capitals of the south, which most of us know. Its cultural and historical attractions are different and numerous.
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Here’s a look at some highlights of my visit.
Made up of nine islets, the Saintes offer a short getaway from the two main islands of Guadeloupe: Grande-Terre and Basse-Terre. The islands are easily reached by a ferry from the port of Trois-Rivières, located on the south shore of Basse-Terre. Thirty minutes later, visitors discover a beautiful bay where the sailboats rock and where time seems to have stopped. The roofs of the houses are red, and the streets romantically narrow, with rare cars and numerous, small, white sand beaches that are easy to reach by foot.
The paradise setting is worth the trip, but it’s also very interesting to visit the Napoleon fort, which sits high on a hill and overlooks the craggy peaks and deep blue bays of the islands. Inside the museum, we learn that this military building never served in war and that Napoleon never even set foot in Guadeloupe. The museum also lets visitors discover the history of the archipelago, which has been intimately linked to that of France and her conflicts against historical European enemies
Guadeloupe is full of beautiful beaches, one more spectacular than the others. But the one that impressed me the most is Grande-Anse, located near the small town of Deshaies. Lined with grapes and coconut palms, stretching for more than a kilometer, it is surrounded by green mountains that add to the feeling of intimacy.
Located south of the Grande-Terre, you can make wonderful purchases (local spices, rum, hats, clothes ) and then go for a nap on the beach, which is located at the end of the small market. It’s a perfect place to observe the magical sunsets that colour the end of the day of this small, authentic and friendly village.
The tip of the Castles
At the extreme south-east of the Grande-Terre is the peninsula of the Pointe des Châteaux, which juts out into the Atlantic Ocean. Its bare rocks are bombarded by waves; sometimes caressing and sometimes furious. The wild and desolate landscapes offered by this point are impressive and worth seeing.
The Crayfish Waterfall
Lovers of nature and hiking are well-served in Guadeloupe. Many trails allow visitors to explore the natural parks of the island. For the less adventurous, a walk of just a few minutes on a well-laid out path leads to the crayfish waterfall. This ten-meter high cascade, surrounded by a tropical forest, falls into a pool where brave souls can go for a swim. With 200,000 visitors a year, it is the most visited site on the island of Basse-Terre.
Air Transat offers two direct flights from Montreal each week, on Wednesdays and Sundays, from mid-December to the end of March.
For more details: www.airtransat.com