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Guadeloupe, formerly called “Karukéra” (the island of beautiful waters because of its numerous waterfalls) by the Amerindians, has been a French department since 1946. The island is part of the Windward Islands. It consists of two main parts:
Basse-Terre, the largest, mountainous, where the Soufrière volcano (which rises to 1467m) and the Guadeloupe National Park, designated “World Biosphere Reserve” by UNESCO in 1992, are located. Basse-Terre is full of waterfalls, rivers, golden or black sand beaches, and a tropical rainforest that covers its mountainous massif.
Grande-Terre, the smallest, not very hilly, with its sugar cane fields and its splendid beaches.
The two parts are separated by an arm of the sea, the Rivière Salée.
Several small islands depend on Guadeloupe:
- La Désirade, with its superb deserted beaches but poor in vegetation, is the wildest island of the Guadeloupe archipelago. It was for a long time reserved for undesirables. It was home to a leper colony and a prison. It is a district of Pointe-à-Pitre.
- Marie-Galante, named after one of Christopher Columbus’ expedition caravels. It is also called “the island of a hundred mills” because of its numerous mills that were built in the past to grind sugar cane, some of which are still standing.
- Les Saintes, which were named by Christopher Columbus because he discovered them on All Saints’ Day. Les Saintes are themselves made up of two main islands, Terre de Haut and Terre de Bas, and some rocks.