Travel

Guadeloupe: These tiny islands are the French Caribbean's greatest secret

Seen from above, the French Caribbean islands of Guadeloupe look like the emerald wings of a butterfly. The country is located between the islands of Montserrat and Dominica.

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They also have waterfalls, mountainous rainforests and cultural institutions highlighting the islands’ pre-Hispanic inhabitants and the changes that came to the area with the slave trade and colonization.

Melissa Banigan for CNN

Tourists delight in trying their hand at the lingua franca, French, while stopping at boulangeries and cafés to enjoy an espresso and croissant. Here are 10 things to do and see when you travel to this tiny French territory:

Courtesy Ellen van den Doel

1

Relax on the white sand beaches. La Caravelle, Sainte-Anne, Le Gosier and Petit-Havre are standouts.

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2

Take in spectacular views of the Atlantic and Caribbean, especially from Le Sentier de la Grande Pointe or the cliffs of Pointe des Châteaux.

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3

Go to its national park -- a giant rainforest.

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4

Swim with tropical wildlife at Pigeon Island, part of Guadeloupe’s National Park. Visitors can duck beneath the waves to snorkel or dive with hundreds of colorful species of fish, coral, eels, sea turtles and small sharks.

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5

Learn about the island’s history at Edgar Clerc Archaeological Museum on Grande-Terre, the Parc Archéologique des Roches Gravées on Basse-Terre or Mémorial ACTe museum, which is on the site of a former sugar factory in Pointe-à-Pitre, the largest port city in Guadeloupe.

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6

Listen to traditional drumming in every village, especially on Saturdays, when Gwo'ka drummers play in the city of Pointe-à-Pitre on Grande-Terre or during “Goziéval” (Carnival), which is celebrated in most villages for two months every year in early winter.

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7

Eat French Créole cuisine next to the beach.

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8

Enjoy spectacular views from any room at any hotel on the island.

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9

Explore five islands:
Grande-Terre
Basse-Terre
Désirade
Marie-Galante
Les Saintes

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  • Grande-Terre and Basse-Terre are the most popular islands, but Guadeloupe’s three other smaller islands, filled with local markets and fishing villages, are worth a visit too.
  • Désirade is the oldest sub-continental land in the Lesser Antilles.
  • Marie-Galante is known for its windmills and ruins of a sugar factory.
  • The two inhabited islands of Les Saintes have unparalleled views over the Caribbean.

10

Sail into a stunning sunset in Deshaies.

Melissa Banigan for CNN