The natural and popular choice for a cruise destination

The Guadeloupe Islands offer verdant landscapes coupled with a rich and diverse culture

The natural and popular choice for a cruise destination
Guadeloupe’s natural beauty has made the island a hotspot for ecotourism

By Elly Yates-Roberts |

Nestled in the Caribbean, Guadeloupe Islands attributes its success as a cruise destination to its environmental and natural beauty, as well as its long and diverse cultural history. 

The islands are home to one of the best-preserved tropical forests in the Lesser Antilles, marine spaces composed of reefs and seagrass beds, and a vast mangrove. Guadeloupe National Park – which was the first national park of France’s overseas territories – was created in 1989 to preserve and promote these natural wonders and educate locals and tourists about the environment.  

One of the park’s most sensitive areas is the ‘Coeur de Parc’, which was designated as a biosphere reserve by Unesco in 1992, earning it global recognition as a territory with high-quality ecosystems.  

Known for its butterfly shape due to the two main islands of Grande Terre and Basse-Terre being separated by a narrow sea channel, the Guadeloupe Islands are home to many endemic animals and plants, such as the Guadeloupe Woodpecker, which digs its nests in the trunks of dead trees by using its powerful straight beak. Guadeloupe also has more than 100 species of orchids, five of which grow only on the mountainous island of Basse-Terre.  

The islands’ natural beauty has contributed to many areas becoming popular tourist attractions. For example, Deshaies on Basse-Terre – the filming location of British drama series Death in Paradise – has become an important ecotourist stopover for cruise ships in recent years. The picturesque principality is formed by two parallel streets lined with Creole houses that lie between the sea and forest. This popularity has driven the construction of two cruise terminals in downtown Pointe-à-Pitre, which is classified as a city of arts and history, enabling the port to offer safe, high-quality services to cruise lines and their passengers. 

The southern island of Les Saintes has also become an increasingly important destination for cruise lines thanks to its landscapes and small village atmosphere. Nearby Terre-de-Haut is known for its beautiful bays, while Terre-de-Bas delights hikers and bird enthusiasts with its unspoiled nature.  

Beyond its natural heritage, Guadeloupe also has a rich cultural tapestry shaped by African, Indian, South American, Syrian-Lebanese and European influences. This complex history can be seen throughout the islands’ gastronomy, architecture, painting, sculpture, music, dance and the conviviality of its inhabitants. Basse-Terre, for example, offers cruise visitors the chance to discover the heritage of the administrative capital, as well as pre-Columbian site, the ‘Fort Delgrès’ and the volcano ‘La Souffrière’ called ‘The old lady’.  

Rum is also central to life in Guadeloupe. It has been produced there for more than three centuries in distilleries that continue to be run by local families. There are 10 distilleries and nearly 13,200 hectares of sugar cane on Guadeloupean farmland, making rum tastings a popular activity with cruise guests. In addition, Guadeloupe hosts multiple events to celebrate the spirit, including the ‘Arts and Rum’ event, which combines rum tasting with a street art tour. In June 2022, Guadeloupe will also host the 23rd edition of the Spirits Selection Competition, allowing local producers to showcase their distillation knowledge and expertise.  

“A visit to Guadeloupe is a soulful experience, with surprising and beautiful opportunities to indulge in the islands’ landscapes and culture,” says Willy Rosier, the executive director of the Guadeloupe Islands Tourist Board.

This article was first published in the Spring/Summer 2022 issue of Cruise & Ferry Review. All information was correct at the time of printing, but may since have changed. 

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