Guadeloupe is really two islands: the western Basse-Terre, which is mountainous and forested, 'green Guadeloupe', with a huge national park on and offshore; and Grande-Terre, to the east, which is smaller, flatter and more densely populated. The comparatively low-lying Grande-Terre is mainly given over to sugar cane, livestock raising and fruit trees (mango, coconut, papaya, guava, etc). Mostly a limestone plateau, it does have a hilly region, Les Grands-Fonds, and a marshy, mangrove coast extending as far north as Port-Louis. The vegetation of Basse-Terre ranges from tropical forest (40% of the land is forested: trees such as the mahogany and gommier, climbing plants, wild orchids) to the cultivated coasts: sugar cane on the windward side, bananas in the south and coffee and vanilla on the leeward. On both parts the flowers are a delight, especially the anthuriums and hibiscus.The best beaches are of golden sand from the coral limestone of Grande-Terre. Tourists come mostly from France. The outer islands of Les Saintes, La Désirade and Marie Galante are easily reached from Guadeloupe but are quiet and untouched by mass tourism,with no large hotels, although Les Saintes are a popular day trip.

Getting there

All European connections are with Paris and there are daily flights with
Air France
Air Corsair
Air Caraïbes
. Apart from
Air Canada
, which flies from Montréal, and
Air Transat
Air Transat
, which fly once a week in high season, the only other scheduled services from North America are
Air France
's daily flights from Miami,
American Airlines
. Connections are good with neighbouring islands if you want to island hop. This is also possible by sea, as there are high-speed ferries between Guadeloupe, Les Saintes, Martinique, St Lucia and Dominica. Cruise ships call frequently and are increasingly using Guadeloupe as a useful repositioning stopover on their way to the Mediterranean for summer cruising.

Getting around

There are three main
terminals in Pointe-à-Pitre. It is possible to cover the whole island by bus in a day - cheap, interesting and easy, but exhausting. You can just stop the bus at the side of the road or wait at the bus stations in the villages. Buses are crowded at peak times; have your money ready when you get off.
Car hire
is available mainly at the airport, but can also be arranged through the major hotels. A small, old Peugeot will cost about
36 per day. International and local agencies are represented. Pointe-à-Pitre has a dual carriage ring road which runs from Gosier across the Rivière Salée to the industrial centre at Baie-Mahault and south towards Petit-Bourg. The metred taxis are expensive and some now accept credit cards. Fares increase at night. They
are mainly found at the airports and outside the main hotels, although you can also phone for one.
can be rented.

This is edited copy from Footprint Handbooks. For comprehensive details (incl address, tel no, directions, opening times and prices) please refer to book or individual chapter PDF
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