Guadeloupe, a French overseas region, is an island group in the southern Caribbean Sea. Resembling a butterfly, its 2 largest islands are separated by the Salée River. Hilly Grande-Terre Island has long beaches and sugarcane fields. On Basse-Terre Island, Parc National de la Guadeloupe encompasses Carbet Falls and the volcano La Grande Soufrière. Smaller islands include Marie-Galante and La Désirade.
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Parc National de la Guadeloupe
Tucked amid Basse-Terre's verdant mountain landscape sits the Parc National de la Guadeloupe (Guadeloupe National Park), a 74,100-acre rainforest filled with picturesque traces (walking trails). The park's trails brush past lush forest foliage, magnificent waterfalls and the summit of La Soufriere volcano. The trails range from short- to long-distance routes that vary in difficulty. Before you strap on your hiking gear, you'll want to pick up a "Guide to the National Park" brochure from the Guadeloupe tourism office (located in St. Claude, Basse-Terre) to map out your journey. If you would prefer to admire the park's natural splendors from behind the wheel, drive along the Route de la Traversee, a scenic 16-mile road that cuts through the forest.
It's no wonder Christopher Columbus and his crews were awestruck by the unspoiled beauty of La Desirade (meaning "the desire" in French). Legend has it that Columbus caught sight of the island after days without fresh drinking water, and hence named the island after his desire to behold landfall (and clean water). On the island, you'll find cacti, coconut palms and sea grape trees dotting La Desirade's sunny beaches, like Souffleur and Fifi Beach. When you need a break from soaking up the rays, pick up a scooter to explore the winding, main road that stretches up to Grande Montagne, the island's tiny village. From Grand Montagne, you'll behold spectacular panoramic views.
Les Saintes consists of a group of islands (most of them uninhabited) skirting Guadeloupe's southern coast. The picturesque cluster gets its name from explorer Christopher Columbus who, after discovering them in the 15th century, named them Los Santos (translated to Les Saintes in French). Terre-de-Haut, the main island – and the biggest of the bunch – features a variety of bistros, shops and sunny beaches. If you don't mind stripping off layers, head to Anse Crawen, a tranquil, clothing-optional beach on Terre-de-Haut often overlooked by tourists.
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