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Guadeloupe fuses French influence, both in terms of day-to-day culture and modern infrastructure, to create a truly unique country that is proud of its mixed heritage and is also excited to share it with travellers. Columbus discovered the islands in 1493, though they became a French colony in 1635. In 1946, they were given the status of a French Overseas Department. Two islands, which some argue, are shaped like the wings of a butterfly are joined by an area of swamp land. The string of beach towns dotted around the islands give visitors the chance to enjoy the traditional pursuits in this part of the world – from beach volley ball, to badminton and sunbathing – there is something for everyone.
Guadeloupe comprises the butterfly-shaped islands of Basse-Terre and Grande-Terre and the nearby smaller islands of La Desirade, Marie-Galante and Les Saintes. There are some wonderful white beaches on all of them. Basse-Terre is also home to some beautiful volcanic scenery, and there are also lush mountainous areas around the town. The western part, Basse-Terre, is home to the national park area and a volcano. There are some tremendous hiking trails around this area and fantastic water reserves for those interested in diving and snorkelling. Other, smaller islands close to Guadeloupe, such as La Desirade, are also full of individual character and are gorgeous examples of this fascinating culture. Hiring a car in Guadeloupe is recommended for negotiating the main island. Pointe-à-Pitre, the commercial capital of Guadeloupe, is a busy area and a great starting point for exploring. It is also home to the Schoelcher Museum and several Hindu temples. Traditional French forts also dominate the landscape. Guadeloupe also offers an excellent nightlife, with several discos, bars and clubs catering to the young travelling crowd. Make sure you try some of the rum for which Guadeloupe is famed.