A large sheltered port forms the heart of the city, allowing Pointe-à-Pitre to become Guadeloupe’s largest city and economic hub. A leafy plaza – the Place de la Victoire – is shaded by palm trees and poincianas and hemmed by a sprawling market that leads to the docks. Although lacking in Old World colonial character, the city is a bustle of activity with a riddle of narrow streets to explore. Guadeloupe’s main seaside resort, Le Gosier, is located in a nearby suburb.
Guadeloupe’s commercial capital Pointe-à-Pitre sits on a limestone plateau in a strategic point on the isle of Grande Terre near the Rivière Salée (‘Salt River’) at the junction with Basse-Terre Island.
The island’s lush swathes of rainforest offer some excellent walking trails and picnic areas for those keen to find an alternative to lying on the beach. Excursions out to Basse-Terre provide an opportunity to stroll around a fine old French colonial town, situated at the foot of the dormant volcano of La Soufrière. Bareboat charter or skippered cruises set sail each day to explore the archipelago of Guadeloupe with snorkelling boats and fishing captains in good supply around the dock.
• Pavillion d’Exposition de Bergevin
• Centre Cultural Rémy Nainsouta
• Fort Fleur de L’Epée
• Sainte Marie de Capesterre, where Columbus landed
• Trois Rivières
• National Park of Guadeloupe, near St Claude, the base of La Soufrière, a dormant volcano
• St Charles Fort, built in 1605 and now restored and converted into a museum
Office du Tourisme
5 square de la Banque, BP 555, 97166 Pointe-à-Pitre, Guadeloupe
Tel: (590) 820 930.
From the dock, the market sprawls into town in a ramshackle collection of stalls and vendors. Choose from local handicrafts and goods, such as rum, straw goods, bamboo hats, Creole dolls and palm-woven baskets. Several stalls also offer a fine collection of colourful Creole jewellery. French imports are everywhere, be it boutiques, supermarket or a local store with wines and liqueurs surprisingly good value.
Seafood appears on every menu in town, cooked in French, Creole, African or South East Asian styles. Choose from shrimp, lobster, turtle, red snapper, conch and sea urchin – generally served with plantain and rice. Stewed conch and stuffed crab are island specialities together with slow-cooked curried goat and rabbit. The local tipple, a potent brew of rum, lime, bitter and syrup called ‘Punch’, is best approached with caution. While local rum, beer and French brandy are most often drunk you’ll find a good supply of Bordeaux wines, champagne and liqueurs.
When to go:
Year-round warm tropical heat is the norm, bringing steady highs of around 32°C (89°F) that drop to 20°C (68°F) at night. Brief downpours can occur at any time, but are most common during the rainy season June to October.
1km (0.6 miles).