Last updated: 04:13 PM ET, Sun July 14 2019
The beach of Terre-de-haut, Les Saintes in Guadeloupe (photo via eyewave/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

Guadeloupe

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Guadeloupe became a French colony in 1635 and is now an Overseas Department of France, hence its enchanting French and Creole culture. This eastern Caribbean destination is comprised of two main islands linked by a bridge, Grande Terre and Basse Terre, which form the shape of a butterfly, as well as five outer islands.

Le fort Napoléon aux Saintes, en Guadeloupe.
Gabriel Anctil

You may consider timing your stay to coincide with All Saints Day. Cemeteries are packed with people placing flowers and candles on the graves. On the eve of the celebration, the thousands of candles are lit at once, creating a hauntingly magical scene. A particularly popular cite for the holiday is Grande Terre’s Morne a l’eau, an impressive hillside cemetery with massive black and white checkered tile graves rising in tiers.

On the eastern side is Grand Terre, with its vast, white sand beaches and lively port capital and economic hub, Pointe a Pitre. Here, visitors can sip some rum punch and learn to dance to the joyful rhythms of beguine, zouk and mazurka. In January, visitors can see the elaborate Carnival procession.

Champagne beach in Saint Francois, Guadeloupe, Caribbean.  (photo via Fyletto/iStock/Getty Images Plus)
Champagne beach in Saint Francois, Guadeloupe, Caribbean. (photo via Fyletto/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

The western Basse Terre is a French colonial town on the outskirts of the 74,000-acre National Park of Guadeloupe, a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve. The park is at the base of the active volcano La Soufriere and has 188 miles of marked trails leading into the rainforest to see raccoons, agoutis (huge rodents), waterfalls and bubbling hot springs.

Go diving in Cousteau Underwater Park from offshore Pigeon Island to spot peculiar types of sea turtles, sea urchins and parrotfish. Five other less-developed islands belong to the Guadeloupe archipelago, including Marie-Galante, with small hotels and a restored 17th century sugar plantation, that also make wonderful visiting spots.