Guadeloupe is often described as an island shaped like a pair of butterfly wings.
This butterfly badly scorched one of its wings when it danced too close to the fire.
The Caribs called Guadeloupe "Karukera," island of beautiful waters, and considering all the hot water springs and tall tumbling falls, it was aptly named.
Guadeloupe is sometimes characterized as the least sophisticated of the French West Indies, as if the snobbish veneer of Martinique is something to strive for. However, Guadeloupe is far more tourist friendly, and that's what counts.
Using the butterfly wing description, the island definitely is divided into two parts. One is Grand-Terre, the other Basse-Terre. The two wings couldn't be more different.
Grand-Terre, the flatter part of the island with several sandy coasts, is home to the capital city of Pointe-a-Pitre, most of the industry, and the majority of resorts.
Basse-Terre is a land of tall-forested mountains, with a huge, smoldering volcano that caused a massive evacuation from this part of the island in 1976. A walk up the steam-vented sides of this restless volcano, La Soufriere, is an amazing experience. I rate it the second best of all Caribbean hikes.
Comparatively speaking, an ascent up 4,813-foot La Soufriere is not as difficult or as dangerous as it might first sound: Local schoolchildren regularly make field trips to the summit of what they fondly term the "Old Lady."
About 40 percent of Basse-Terre is still a tropical forest of gommier and mahogany trees, climbing vines and orchids. On the warmer coastal levels, bananas, sugar cane, coffee and vanilla plants account for most of the land usage.
Basse-Terre is home to the 74,100-acre Parc Naturel, a green and mountainous expanse that has no gates, no admission fees and no opening and closing hours. That means you can walk its 180 miles of hiking trails whenever you wish, taking days if you like. And there are plenty of competent guides to lead you.
Background Facts & Map
Trail of the
French West Indies Proverb: "It's you who should direct your life, and not let your life direct you."