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La Désirade, GuadeloupeView of La Désirade from Grande-Terre, Guadeloupe
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Guadeloupe is an overseas region of France in the Caribbean. Comprising an archipelago in the Leeward Islands, Guadeloupe covers 1,628 sq km (628.6 sq mi) and has a population of 406,000 (2011 estimate). The island group is in the eastern Caribbean Sea, to the southeast of Montserrat, to the south of Antigua and Barbuda, and to the north of Dominica. The main town in Guadeloupe and its administrative capital is Pointe-à-Pitre.

Guadeloupe comprises five main islands. The biggest is Guadeloupe Proper, which itself comprises two islands, Basse-Terre and Grande-Terre, separated only by a narrow sea channel called the Rivière Salée ("Salt River"). The other islands of the group include La Désirade, to the east of Grande-Terre; Marie-Galante, to the south of Grande-Terre; and Les Saintes, to the south of Basse-Terre.

Guadeloupe coastGuadeloupe coast
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Guadeloupe is in the Eastern Caribbean Time zone, which is four hours behind Coordinated Universal Time (UTC-4). The island uses the euro as its official currency, as it is regarded as part of France and part of the European Union. However, it is not part of the Schengen Area.

Christopher Columbus was the first European to land at Guadeloupe, when he went ashore in search of fresh water, during his second voyage in 1493. He named the island Santa María de Guadalupe de Extremadura, in honor of the image of the Virgin Mary in Guadalupe, in Extremadura, Spain. It was in Guadeloupe that Columbus saw the pineapple for the first name, calling it piña de Indias, or "pine of the Indies".

Guadeloupe was colonized by the French under Charles Lienard and Jean Duplessis in 1635, an act which decimated the native Carib Indian population. The island was annexed by France in 1674.

Gosier island lighthouse, GuadeloupeGosier island lighthouse, Guadeloupe
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During the French Revolution, Guadeloupe was also plunged into turmoil, as the populace was split into two camps, monarchists wanting independence while republicans wanting to remain with revolutionary France. The monarchists won and declared independence in 1791. They rejected a governor appointed by Paris. The British took advantage of the situation and captured Guadeloupe in 1794, but held on to it for just a few months before being obliged to surrender.

Guadeloupe remained in turmoil with freed slaves turning on their former masters. In 1802, Napoleon Bonaparte sent troops to bring down the slave rebellion and reinstituted slavery. In 1810 the British again seized Guadeloupe, ceding it to Sweden in 1813, which in turn ceded it back to France in 1814.

Saint Anne Beach, GuadeloupeSaint Anne Beach, Guadeloupe
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In 1946 Guadeloupe became the first overseas department of France. Its deputies sit in the French National Assembly in Paris. The territory has a majority population of African descent. Most of the people here are Roman Catholics.

Planning your visit to Guadeloupe

You can fly to Guadeloupe from San Juan in Puerto Rico on American Airlines. There are regular flights from Paris by Air France. To travel within Guadeloupe, it is best that you rent a car.

Major Towns in Guadeloupe

  1. Pointe-à-Pitre - capital
  2. Anse Bertrand
  3. Baie-Mahault
  4. Gosier
  5. St Anne
  6. St François
  7. Morne à l'eau

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