Guadeloupe

The Guadeloupian archipelago consists of two principal islands separated by the Salt River.  Basse-Terre is humid and mountainous, with La Soufrière, the island’s volcano, culminating at 1467 meters; the Pont de la Gabare Bridge links it to Grande-Terre, a limestone plateau, hence quite flat. There is a real geographical contrast between these two islands: a nature lover’s paradise and at the same time a playing-ground for those devoted to lazing around on golden sand under the shadow of coconut trees, in front of turquoise waters. In addition there are the dependent islands: Marie-Galante, La Désirade and Les Saintes which contribute to the astounding richness of Guadeloupe.

Basic Fact Sheet:

• Flight only as from: Depending on periods, 450 € for low-peak season, around 950 € for high-peak.

• Requirements: Any French citizen in possession of a national identity card or a valid passport can stay in Guadeloupe.

For a tourist visit of less than 3 months, European Union tourists, Americans, Canadians, Swiss or Norwegian citizens have to present a valid passport.

• Flight Time: 8 hours from Paris.

• Time Difference: GMT -4hrs ( -6 hours in summer, -5 hrs in winter).

• Language: French is the official language. English is mostly spoken in the area’s major tourist centers and on the North islands (Saint-Martin, Saint-Barthélémy).

• Religion: In majority Christian; other communities include: Jews, Muslims, Adventists, Baptists and Jehovah’s witnesses.

• Currency: Euro.

• Health and safety: No compulsory vaccine.

It is forbidden to export plants except for flowers bought in authorized shops.

• Area: 1702 km².

• Population: 411 000 inhabitants.

History

Around the 9th century, the Arawak Indians, the island’s first inhabitants were wiped out by the Caribbean cannibal warrior tribe, the Caribs. Christopher Columbus and his fleet arrived on these lands on the 3rd of November 1493.

Unlike the French colons who were sent on the island in 1635, the Spanish showed little interest for this inhospitable place. The Caribs were in turn exterminated and the exile of Slaves from Africa started.

The first cultivations of coffee and cocoa, cotton and spices as well as sugar-cane plantation started.

The abolition of slavery was voted on the 4th of February 1794 and Victor Hughes was sent to make sure of its implementation. In 1802, Napoleon Bonaparte restores slavery, but various resistance movements were created: under the commandment of Louis Delgrès in 1802, through the English who refused the Treaty of Slaves in 1807 and finally by the Vienna congress who banned it in 1815. However, it is only in 1848 that the arrival of Victor Schoelcher brought on the vote of the abolition.

Because of the tense relations between former masters and former slaves, a new labor force was called for: the coolies, who were free and paid, of Annamite, Chinese and Indian origins. In order to overcome an economic crisis as well as a number of strikes and to limit the country’s dependence on the sugar rate, production was diversified and the cultivation of bananas, pineapples and rice was developed.

On the 19th March 1946, Guadeloupe becomes a French territory. Its laws are those applied in France with a few arrangements concerning the salaries of civil servants, school equipments and medical and social welfare. In June 2000, a government bill concerning the development of the French Overseas Departments (DOM) is defined.

On the 7th December 2003, as a result of a referendum, the island communes of Saint-Martin and Saint-Barthélémy became two completely separated French Overseas collectivities.

Culture

Guadeloupe has a soul and maintains a very active cultural life. Its melting-pot of races makes her the richest island, culturally speaking, with strong popular traditions, bursting with musical, literary and artistic energies.

With landmarks such as the Museum Shoelcher and the Museum Saint-John Perse in Pointe-à-Pitre, Le Moule’s archeological museum, the arts center at Pointe-à-Pitre which welcomes all types of artists and Artchipel – the national theatre in Basse-Terre which is classified as an Art and History town, the island bears the footprints of its history with pride. The cultural richness of the island brings about the celebration of the ‘Lewoz’, traditional evenings in Guadeloupe, local festivities, cock-fighting, carnivals or other art exhibitions.

The “Saut de la Lézarde” is not to be missed: a thirty minutes walk leads you to a wonderful twelve-meter high waterfall, a very refreshing break after a day in the sun. The “Cascade aux écrevisses” will allow you to see a few crayfish but only with the help of a tuba mask.  The “Domaine de Valombreuse” is a park with flowers and animals which offers an easy yet enriching promenade for children.

It goes without saying that the island’s gastronomy as well as its music, with famous Zouk artists like Franky Vincent, Kassav or Zouk Machine, constitutes important elements of the archipelago’s culture.

Geography & Climate

Guadeloupe is an archipelago of the Northern Hemisphere, located between the two American continents. The island is surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean sea also known as the Sea of the Antilles. Until 1997, this French department was divided into 3 arrondissements (Basse-Terre, Pointe-à-Pitre and Saint-Martin / Saint-Barthélémy) which were in turn divided into 43 cantons and 34 communes. As from the 15th of July 2007, Saint-Martin and Saint-Barthélémy have been declared French Overseas collectivities.

Basse-Terre Island, to the west, is mountainous and humid with its highest peak, La Soufrière Volcano.  It shelters an exceptional flora with numerous freshwater and swirling rivers and cascades running across it. Basse-Terre is also home to the Guadeloupe National Park, designated as an International Biosphere reserve by UNESCO. To the east, Grande-Terre can be compared to a plain; its soil is of limestone and its outstandingly beautiful beaches are for some of them, touristic and livened up by vendors selling fritters, freshly cut coconuts or beachwear, and for others completely deserted.

Le Désirade is an island made of coral. Oblong in shape, it stretches over 11 km and looks like a vast plateau or an upturned boat. It is a tranquil island where life is simple and relaxed, and which shelters all types of animals including several endangered species.

Petite Terre, the ideal place to moor a sailboat, is a small island of 2 km² located at about 10km to the south of La Pointe des Châteaux in Guadeloupe and of la Désirade.

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