EXPLORE AND EXPERIENCE THE RICH CULTURE
Guadeloupe was originally called “Karukera” by the indigenous Arawaks people who settled on the island around 300 AD. Columbus landed on the island in November 1493 and names it after the image of the Virgin Mary in the Spanish monastery in Villecrus in Guadeloupe in Extremadura in Spain. Like many of the neighbouring islands, Guadeloupe changed hands between Spanish, French, British and very briefly Swedish control in the following centuries but definitively came under French jurisdiction following the Treaty of Vienna in 1815.
Modern day Guadeloupe is home to over 400,000 people and is in fact an overseas France territory. As an integral part of France, the island benefits from modern infrastructure and a diverse economy and feels like a part of France transported to the tropics. Don’t be surprised to see locals walking down the road with an armful of baguettes from the local boulangerie. Correspondingly the official language is French although Antillean Creole is spoken by virtually the entire population.
Guadeloupe consists of many separate islands, of which the two main ones, Basse-Terre and Grand-Terre, are separated by a narrow straight crossed by bridges. The Soufriere volcano on Basse-Terre erupted as recently as 1976 leading to the displacement of over 70,000 residents. Grand-Terre, by contrast, is a flatter, limestone plateaux which houses the capital Point-a-Pierre. The other islands surrounding the two larger ones include Les Saintes and Marie-Galante to the South and La Desirade to the East. Marie-Galante is the largest of the three and is also known as the “Big Pancake” for its circular shape and flat terrain.
Guadeloupe has a rich culture of art and music, particularly the poetry of the Nobel prize winner, Saint-John Leger alongside numerous living writers, novelists and journalists. Guadeloupe’s musical heritage has French, African and Indian influences which has given rise to musical forms specific to the islands such as zouk and kompa. Sporting-wise, Guadeloupe’s heritage reflects French footballing rather than British cricketing influence, with the French World Cup winner, Thierry Henry, and the current star Manchester United striker, Anthony Martial both being of Guadeloupean descent, whilst another French World Cup winner, Lillian Thuram, was born on the island.
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In Guadeloupe we our recommended accommodation is Jardin Malanga in the South of Basse-Terre, close to the hiking locations. From here you will be picked up and taking to meet your guide at the hiking locations. However, for those who prefer to drive a rental car to the hotel, (which we will arrange for you) we also have a self-drive, self-catering option, Bananes Vertes, nestled up in the rainforest near to La Soufriere. The roads in Guadeloupe are of European standard so renting your own car is a viable option where as we wouldn’t recommend this on some of the other islands. This also allows you to access a couple of the self-guided hikes (Chutes Carbet and Isles-Des-Saintes) where the paths are clear so that you can hike without a guide if you want to.
Le Jardin Malanga
Le Jardin Malanga Hotel is in Trois Rivières on the south coast of Basse-Terre and has views out Les Saintes. It has easy access to Guadeloupe’s National Park, which is the seventh largest in France and its territories and is about an hour away from the international airport in Pointe-a-Pitre. Trois Rivières is a small village town with shops and restaurants along the beach and sea front and is home to the Roches Graves Archaeological park which contains ancient rock art set amongst tropical gardens.
The hotel itself is on a former banana plantation and offers accommodation in the main house which next to the restaurant and infinity pool which has jaw-dropping views over the surrounding coast and islands. There are also many separate guest’s rooms dotted amongst the lush tropical gardens which are home to hummingbirds and fruit trees. The restaurant on site offers evening meals often using produce from their own gardens.
Nestled in a green area in the town of Saint Claude, at the foot of the volcano of Soufriere, the Green Bananas lodge is the perfect place to recover from your days of active discovery. Your hosts, Laurence and Eric, have roamed for over twenty years in the footsteps of the National Park of Guadeloupe and there is little they don’t know about the hiking paths and the wildlife of the area. As the name suggests, Bananes Vertes is committed to sustainable tourism with wooden construction, solar heaters, energy-saving lamps and rainwater collection all helping to minimize the use of power. Each of the lodges here has its own covered patio with kitchenette and provide all the necessary comfort to make your stay enjoyable. You can pick up food to eat from nearby supermarkets or in the drive down from the airport, or alternatively the owners will organise take away food for you from a local restaurant. You are provided with a continental breakfast each day in your room.
Medium length / challenging (a well laid path but some very steep sections)
La Soufriere at 1467 is the highest point in the Eastern Caribbean islands. To hike La Soufriere from the Yellow Baths (Les Bains Jaunes) will take you to the top in about 2 to 3 hours and slightly less time on the way back. We take a slightly different route, so you see more of the volcano and its surroundings. Your guide will tell you all about the history of the place, the fauna and flora and even some volcanology. Along the trial, the sulfur smell, very characteristic of the volcano, will add a special connotation in this adventure that you are not likely to forget!
Along the way, on a clear day, you can enjoy remarkable views of the coast of Basse-Terre and the Caribbean Sea. It also boasts beautiful plant life full of superb colours, which varies as you ascend the hill and can be admired during your walk. On the way back; you will also enjoy the warm Bains Jaunes (spring water pool naturally heated by the volcano) to relax your muscles after a long hike so don’t forget your swimming costume!
You can also choose to drive to the starting point of the La Soufriere hike and follow the well marked path to the summit, though we think the alternative route taken by our guides gives you a better experience.
The Cascade Paradise
Short / Easy
Cascade Paradise is the most beautiful waterfall in the town of Vieux Habitants. It is geologically remarkable due to the configuration of its basin – the wall surrounding its basin is adorned by beautiful basalt columns. It is located on the Paradis ravine that flows into the Grande-Rivière. The visit of this waterfall allows you to see the Grande-Rivière de Vieux-Habitants, one of the most beautiful rivers of Guadeloupe. The hike takes place entirely in the National Park of Guadeloupe.
Le Chutes Carbet
medium/ medium challenge
Our guided hike enables you to see all three of the Le Chutes Carbet which cascade majestically down from the highest mountains of Guadeloupe. As the path between the lower fall 3 and the higher falls 1 and 2 is inaccessible after Hurricane Maria we transfer you between the two starting locations.
Alternatively, if you are driving yourself, then you can hike up to Les Chutes du Carbet which are the highest waterfalls in the Lesser Antilles with a combined height of 245 meters. There are a series of well-marked paths up through the falls and a visitor center. There are also lots of other marked trials through the park which enable you to see different flora and fauna of the island.
Medium / medium challenge (some short steep sections)
For this hike, you will be picked up from your hotel and taken to board the ferry at Trois Rivieres. From here you arrive in the port of Terra De Haut which is the main island on the small archipelago of in Les Saintes. From there you will hike to Fort Napoleon, which was rebuilt in a867 after being destroyed by the British in 1809 and is now a museum dedicated to the history and culture of Les Saintes.
Following this, you hike across to the beautiful Grand Anse bay on the other side of the island, climb up to the highest point to sea views of many of the other islands of Guadeloupe and return to catch your ferry to Trois Rivieres. There will be time for lunch and to sunbath before you catch your ferry.
If you prefer to drive yourself we can organise ferry tickets and maps of hiking routes on Isle-Des-Saintes.
There are lots of other opportunities for hiking in Guadeloupe all within the large national park in Basse-Terre which has over 17,000 hectares of tropical forest. Outside of the park, the Cousteau Reserve is located around the Pigeon Islets. Commandant Jacques-Yves Cousteau filmed in these waters and its under-water bio-diversity has fantastic opportunities for divers and snorkelers to explore. Further out to sea you can also travel to one of the other islands within the archipelago.
Or if you are a fan of the TV series Death in Paradise, we can arrange a tour to see the small town of Deshaies in Guadeloupe where the filming takes place. There is also the opportunity to visit or drive over to Grande-Terre to see the more developed side of the main islands and its contrasting scenery.