The original inhabitants were the Arawak people. They named the island “Karukera”, meaning “The Island of Beautiful Waters”. They were spot on – it is a beautiful place to be out on the water.
There are two main islands; Basse-Terre to the west and Grande-Terre to the east. Guadeloupe has two principal isles; Basse-Terre and Grande-Terre. A small mangrove swamp separates the islands, but bridges enable easy crossing from one to the other. Guadeloupe’s two main islands are diverse in their landscape, but they are equally appealing.
Grand Terre has extensive beaches and picturesque seaside towns along the east coast. Basse-Terre is a western and mountainous island. This region boasts the spectacular Guadeloupe National Park, overlooked by La Soufrière volcano. Basse-Terre is popular with yacht charter clients looking for natural beauty and some additional outdoor activities and sailing. The island especially suits those wishing to spend a day or two ashore, trekking in the hills.
The regional department also includes the Dependencies of Guadeloupe; the smaller islands of Marie-Galante and La Désirade, and the Îles des Saintes. As an overseas region of France, there is a tremendous French influence in the culture and way of life. For instance, Guadeloupe offers visitors delicious French cuisine with a Caribbean twist. Generally, the wine here is French, and locals take their home-grown coffee sweet, strong and black. The local languages are Creole and French.
Like other overseas territories, the region forms an integral part of France regarding government. Additionally, it is a constituent territory of the Euro, which is the official currency. European Union citizens are free to live and to work here. Conversely, the Schengen area agreement does not cover Guadeloupe.
Christopher Columbus spotted the island during his second trip to the Americas in 1493. His main task was to find freshwater. Columbus also found pineapple trees here. He took credit for discovering this new fruit, even though it had previously flourished in South America. Columbus named the island ¨Piña de Indias¨ which translates as “Pine of the Indies”, naming the fruit after pine cones as they are similarly shaped.
The Treaty of Vienna
Due to nearby Martinique’s inhospitable nature, the French looked for further territory. They took possession of the island, killing many of the native Carib Amerindians.
In 1674, the region became part of the Kingdom of France. The British captured the island several times during the next century. Eventually, the British government decided that Canada was strategically more important. In 1763, the Treaty of Paris ensured that Canada remained with the British.
The French retained Guadeloupe, thus ending the Seven Years War. But the troubles were not over. There were slave rebellions, British takeovers and even input from Sweden over the forthcoming years.
Napoleon Bonaparte decreed the “Law of 20 May” in 1802. This restored slavery to all colonies captured by the British during the French Revolutionary Wars. However, it did not apply to some French overseas possessions, including Guadeloupe. Finally, The Treaty of Vienna in 1815 definitively placed Guadeloupe under French control.
“La Soufrière” is an active volcano. It is one of nine active volcanoes in the Lesser Antilles. In 1843 and earthquake caused the volcano to erupt, killing 5000 people. The last eruption was in 1976. Consequently, 73,600 people had to evacuate the area, but none died.
In Guadeloupe, they refer to their dry season as “Lent”. It runs from January to June. The wet season is called “winter”, lasting from July to December. Guadeloupe has a tropical climate affected by maritime influences and Trade Winds. It is also within the “Hurrican belt”. Islanders have often experienced the effects of hurricanes throughout the last decades.
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