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Only 10km from Guadeloupe are the “Saintes” : a string of small islands on a turquoise sea concealing post cards sceneries considered as a kind of earthly paradise by everyone.

The archipelago of Les Saintes is composed of two big rocks, Terre de Haut and Terre de Bas and six little stones. Very uneven with jagged coasts these tiny islands have a very dry climate which is surprising since they are just a stone’s throw away from the luxurious Basse-Terre island. The vegetation is characteristic of this climate because one can find, among other species, a lot of cactus such as the Guadeloupe cierges cactus and mostly the strange variety called "tête à l’anglais" (English head), which gets its name from its resemblance to the furry hats of the English guards.

Discovered by Christopher Columbus on All Saints day, Les Saintes benefit from a special position, a strategic site qualified as "the Gibraltar of Guadeloupe" which was the stakes of all the rivalries between the French and the English. Armed with fortified towns and artillery parts, Les Saintes were the scene of dreadful wars between the French and the English in 1666 and 1782. Les Saintes became permanently French again in 1816.

Today, Les Saintes possess the very envied title of number three in the very selective club of the most beautiful bays in the world, after the bay of Rio de Janeiro in Brazil and the bay of Along in Vietnam. The bay of Les Saintes which long ago welcomed pirates and other freebooters is renowned throughout the West Indies and is now a very sought after anchoring place.

More than 3.000 people live on the archipelago, mainly descendants from Brittany and Poitiers. With white skin, blonde hair and blue eyes, the Saintois are a special population. Indeed, because the islands did not offer much land to cultivate, few black slaves were brought to the Islands and still today, the mixing of cultures is not common. With no food-producing cultures, the inhabitants’ resources depend entirely on the sea. The carpenters of Les Saintes are the authors of the famous Saintoises, small fishing boats used by all of Guadeloupe. Even if motor boats have now replaced traditional boats, the Saintois are still considered the best fishermen in the West Indies, a reputation that the fishermen of Désirade dispute.

Nowadays, tourism means new resources that are much appreciated by Les Saintes which are now visited by many tourists from Guadeloupe for the day. However, Les Saintes deserve a longer stay even if it is only to soak up the nonchalant pace and ambience of this enchanting island.

Leaving from Pointe à Pitre from the harbor station of Bergevin, it costs 30€ round trip to get to Les Saintes and 16€ leaving from Trois Rivières. The boat heads for Terre de Haut first, then to Terre de Bas and during the day, a shuttle service goes back and forth between the two islands for 8€.
When you arrive at the pier of Terre de Haut the charm starts to operate. The bourg is a real dolls’ village composed of white houses with red roofs, surrounded by flowered hedges and white fences. The church marks the border between the ancient part of the notables, the Anchoring area and the fishermen’s area of Fond curé. The island is small enough to travel on foot, but for visitors who would prefer to travel by scooter, the only vehicle allowed on the island, with special exclusion for firemen and the police, you can easily rent a scooter near the pier for around 23 € a day. Even if the hot weather is appreciated, whether on foot or on a scooter, the sun is nonetheless dangerous and it is recommended to wear a hat or a cap and to not skimp on sun protection cream. Indeed, only too often, the enchanting memories of the visit are spoiled by dreadful sunburn…

All the more so since there is a lot to do and see on Les Saintes, starting with the inescapable visit to Fort Napoléon, the last vestige of the past warrior on the island. At 140 m high, the place offers an exceptional panoramic view over Basse Terre, Marie-Galante and Dominique. The fort accommodates a conservatory botanical garden of local flora and an art and popular traditions museum.
The Chameau trail is an option. It is the highest point of the island at 309 m. Two hours climbing on a road that winds on the hillside are necessary to be able to admire the exceptional view over the bay. Plan to leave early with a hat and water.

And when you really are hot, the beaches of the island offer the comfort of their clear waters. The beach of Pain de Sucre, called as such because of the basalt headland which despite its proportions reminds one of Rio, offers a wonderful setting and transparent waters. The beach of Pompierre, which can be reached by crossing the island at its narrowest part, surrounds a superb creek which is almost closed in by a small island.
The palm trees and the sea grapes cast shadows over the yellow sandy beach, one of the most beautiful on the island.
Anse Rodrigue and Anse du Figuier are charming creeks with fine sand but offer no shade. In a sheltered spot at the other end of the island, Anse Crawen is a gorgeous beach of which a part has been taken over by amateurs of naturism. The bay of Marigot and its shallow waters are ideal for young children. Swimming is only forbidden on the beach of Grande Anse, the longest beach on the island.

This insular position is ideal for snorkeling enthusiasts. This little paradise on earth has its under water match.
The snorkeling sites of Les Saintes are pristine and hardly visited and has exceptional abundance and mainly Sec pâté, a plateau showing at less than 30m from the surface and regarded as one of the most beautiful spots in the West Indies.
Hiking enthusiasts will also be satisfied because a number of footpaths cut across the island.

During visits, the indispensable meeting with an iguana will leave you with undying memories. Finally, before leaving the island it is proper to taste the local speciality, the Tourment d’amour, a delicacy specially elaborated by a Saintoise to contain the appetite of her lover.
One must also taste the coconut sorbets that have an authentic taste and are not completely altered by almond oil like those on the continent.
One must make a note of the patronal fête of Les Saintes, on the 15th of August, which is the opportunity for a happy gathering for all lovers of Les Saintes.

Terre-de-Bas is even more wild than the latter. Only two roads cross the island. The Mapou association welcomes visitors at the pier by giving out fliers about environmental awareness and offers 2 or 3 hour hikes with a guide.

Town hall:
Tel: +590(0)590 99 53 12


 

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