I continue my exploration of this beautiful archipelago of Guadeloupe. Because yes, despite what people think (or don’t know), Guadeloupe is indeed an archipelago composed of several islands and dependencies, including the famous island of Terre-de-Bas, located in Les Saintes archipelago, which we had the opportunity to discover during a long weekend of four days.
You might ask me: why this choice, when all the tourists who come to the Antilles only stop for a day on the island of Terre-de-Haut, a much more touristy and renowned island, especially for its beautiful white sandy beaches and its beautiful underwater scenery? I must admit that we left it a bit late to plan to come and discover Les Saintes, and everything was already more or less booked on Terre-de-Haut.
We have just published our article about discovering the Saintes archipelago by sailing, if you are interested in discovering the archipelago. We loved it.
It is worth mentioning that I am not particularly fond of touristy destinations. In fact, spending a few days on a lesser-known island, which may not be picture-perfect, suits me (or rather, us) just as well. So, we booked our ferry tickets for the four of us and were looking forward to exploring this charming island at our own pace, as a family.
I know I have touched upon this before, but as I grow older (despite being only 37 years old, haha), I find myself increasingly drawn away from crowded tourist spots. I am fully aware that these places are popular for a reason. I am not suggesting that one should avoid such destinations altogether, but they are no longer my preferred choice.
Anyway, let’s get back on track. I would like to take you on a journey to discover the serene island of Terre-de-Bas, far away from the madding crowd… On a different note, but equally delightful, I highly recommend visiting the island of Marie-Galante during your stay in Guadeloupe.
First and foremost, as a proud geographer (for those who may not know, it is the basis of my studies), I would like to provide some clarifications and interesting facts. Given that we now live here, let’s ensure things are clear, shall we?
As I mentioned earlier, Guadeloupe is actually an archipelago, consisting of the “mainland” Guadeloupe and its dependencies. The mainland Guadeloupe is simply made up of the island of Grande-Terre (in the north) and the island of Basse-Terre (in the south). In addition to that, there are three dependencies: La Désirade (which includes the archipelago of the Petite-Terre islands), the island of Marie-Galante, and the Saintes archipelago, which comprises Terre-de-Haut and Terre-de-Bas. For your information, Terre-de-Bas has an area of approximately 8 km2. Yes, I agree, it is not particularly vast!
Well, let’s begin this exciting adventure in the form of a travelogue, or almost! We left the house in the early afternoon to drive to the town of Trois-Rivières, the nearest entry point to Les Saintes. I’ll give you all the practical details at the end of the article. It’s before the tourist season and it’s the last boat of the day. Needless to say, there’s hardly anyone preparing to board.
We boarded a medium-sized boat that reminded us of some of the crossings in Polynesia. The sea isn’t exactly calm, and if you’re going to be seasick, it’s probably better to take the “calm sea” option. Melanie is holding up well, even though she’s not a big fan of boats (I say that, but I haven’t crossed the Pacific either…). We gradually move away from the coast, sailing with the wind and the beautiful sunset lights that are starting to appear. After about 40 minutes, we approach the island of Terre-de-Haut. A few passengers disembark. We are now the only ones who will be visiting Terre-de-Bas during this long weekend. It promises to be an adventure!
It is really nice to arrive at Terre-de-Haut with these golden lights. Along the seafront and on the first slopes of this small island, you can easily see the beautiful houses with red roofs. The landscape is hilly and you can see some grassy hills here and there. We arrive at Terre-de-Bas in 10 minutes. It was almost dark. Knowing we hadn’t booked a car for our stay, we took one of the taxis at the Anse des Muriers pier. To keep it simple, you will arrive in the village of Grande Anse (on the east side). On the other side of the island, to the west, is the village of Petites Anses. That’s where we booked our few nights, at the Soleil Demery residence.
Unfortunately, we won’t be able to enjoy the scenery on the short 15-minute drive (along the coast) that separates the two villages, because it’s already dark. In the dark we discover our little corner for the 4 nights we spend here. The place is nice: a small apartment with a terrace, a fully equipped kitchen and a swimming pool for the few apartments in the area. A small plus, we are far from the road (well, there aren’t many people around…). Although we arrived late (not our fault!), the welcome could have been much warmer… We are exhausted and already thinking about tomorrow.
You might be asking me, what are we going to do on such a small island? Well, we walk, explore, hike and chat with people. In short, we are having a good time. We picked up the tourist map of the island, which shows the few places that are not to be missed, and in particular the famous three trails that run from the east to the west (or the other way round, if you like…). The next morning we set off on foot to explore the island’s interior. We had originally planned to hire a car for at least a day, but unfortunately we couldn’t find one available.
Anyway, we decided to try walking, looking for a trail that was visible on the IGN map at 1:25,000. After some information from the locals, it turns out that the trail is not maintained… About 5 minutes walk from where we are staying is the famous “Mare Grand Trou”. It was originally (as the sign says) the only source of drinking water for Petites Anses. It is simply a large pond, accessible from the roadside, where you can find coots, turtles and even iguanas (which we did not see here). The place is nice and you can stop for 15 minutes to rest and observe the surrounding fauna. The green colour of the pond contrasts well with the rest of the vegetation and you can easily walk around it.
Finally, we are on our way up the old road, the inland road between Petites Anses and Grande Anse. Judging by the state of the road and the fact that we haven’t met anyone (in a car), I’d say the road is more or less deserted. Even though the island is small, I have to say that walking up a steep slope in the blazing sun is tough. We will discover the interior of the island and the sparse vegetal cover that is naturally found at the foot of the Soufrière. We even treat ourselves to a cinnamon apple that we find by the side of the road, a pleasure we haven’t had for a long time… A beautiful view of the village of Petites-Anses opens up after the hairpin bends. We are almost on the plateau. We reach the junction where the three famous walks begin. Knowing that all three trails start from the same place when starting from the plateau, we decide to take the blue trail today.
I have to admit that I didn’t really know what I was in for. The walk begins in a wide and pleasant forest, easy to walk in. We show the children several anthills that we come across here and there. We even found a small pond with greenish tones where partridges and Molokoi turtles had settled. The path narrows and sinks into a forest of bois d’Inde (the bark is visible), gommiers and courbarils. We begin our descent, which I must admit is a little tricky with children, but is relatively easy between piles of stones and roots. The end of the blue path is at the end of Grande Anse, slightly uphill. From the end of the path, you can also enjoy a magnificent view of Terre-de-Haut.
We then make our way down to the sea front. It’s a shame. The beach at Grande Anse is more or less filled with sargassum and it’s impossible to swim there. Spotting Eugenette’s snack bar, which everyone recommends, we walk back up. In fact, we had to make a reservation for two days later in order to finally get here! For lunch, we continued our exploration of Grande Anse in the direction of the dock where we had arrived the day before. Speaking of which, a few words about this little village, which is quite lovely. It has an island atmosphere where time has been at a standstill for a while. There are quite a few old buildings from the past that still have a charming allure, cute little alleys with not many people around, and even a park for children in the centre of the village (very nice to let the kids play). Nothing too challenging, the crossing takes just 10 minutes.
We settled down for lunch at the Snack les Mûriers, which was taken over a few months ago during our last visit. Frankly, we were not disappointed: the service was good, the decor nice, and the food tasty. We cannot complain. After such a good meal, we go back to the house for Téo’s nap and to enjoy a bit of the swimming pool!
The next day I went with Louis to explore Petites Anses, where we were staying, intending to go to the beach. We reached the beautiful beach of Petite Anse after a twenty minute walk. It was the first time we had explored the streets of the village. They were just as pretty as those on the other side. Again, time seems to take its own course and things are slow. We found a small grocery store. It offered the bare minimum, but it was more than enough for our few days on the island. Once again there was a small playground for the children. I have to congratulate the community of Terre-de-Bas for thinking of the children in both villages on the island. This is rare.
Finally, Louis and I arrived at the beautiful beach with its clear sand at the foot of a beautiful cliff. It was really a lovely spot and we had a nice dip in the crystal clear water. I took the opportunity to take some photos of the place. From the beach we could see the headland of Vieux-Fort. We could even see the lighthouse of the village. To rest and meet Mélanie and Téo, we went back to the house. Then we took the stroller to another bay in the village, Anse à Dos. A lovely shady road leads to this large beach of sand and pebbles, where we found an old jetty and a pontoon. There was nothing special to do here, but as a family we had a lot of fun with the kids and took a lot of pictures.
In the evening of the next day, we called the taxi that brought us to the pension to take us to the famous viewpoint on the central road of the island. This road is not used anymore because it is in bad condition in some places. To reach this magnificent viewpoint, which offers a truly magnificent view of Terre-de-Haut and all the surrounding islands, we had to drive back to Grande Anse. We took some time to enjoy the beautiful scenery and to take some photos, as we always do. Note that you can walk from the village of Grande Anse to this viewpoint, but it’s a steep climb! Bring water (or pay a taxi to take you there).
We visited what I consider to be the most beautiful beach on the island, Grande Baie beach in Grande Anse, several times during our stay in Terre-de-Bas. It is located on the road that leads from the village of Grande Anse to the pier (where we arrived). The beach is indicated on the right hand side. There is a small beige sandy beach with crystal clear water. It is perfect for swimming. Have a look at the cliffs on the land side. You might be able to see some big iguanas there! To be honest, there was no seaweed when we were there. The water was clear and the place was really nice, especially at sunset.
On our last full day, we decided to hike one of the trails again, the famous yellow trail, also known as the “cliff trail”. However, this time we decided to be dropped off at Grande Anse, where we started the walk “backwards”, rather than repeating the start of the walk from the first day. In fact, we started the walk more or less at the arrival of the blue trail. This is where we arrived on the first day. There are several shelters with beautiful views of the sea in the whole area. I have to say right from the start that this is a really nice walk. It is quite easy (even with children) and everyone really enjoyed it.
The start of the walk runs along the sea and climbs slightly up the hillside, offering some very nice panoramic views of the turquoise sea below and Terre-de-Haut just in front. The walk itself is not very difficult, although there are a few passages that are a little steep (but they are few and far between). The path runs along the rocky coast, sometimes in the shade of the undergrowth, which is nice. Funny thing: in some places we find the same vegetation, bent in the direction of the wind, as on the “Sentier de la Grande Pointe” in Trois-Rivières.
An hour and a half’s walk will take you to Anse à Chaux. At this point, the path climbs up a steep slope to the start of the three trails. If we’d kept going, we’d have ended up on the blue trail, which we started on the first day. We climbed a little, but Louis started to get tired (not so Téo, who was lucky to be carried in a baby carrier). The path leaves the forest to wind its way through a beautiful open meadow, strewn with metre-sized stones. We stop here to rest and enjoy the beautiful view over Terre-de-Haut. From this point, we turn back. We walk quietly back to Grande-Anse.
We finish off the day with a good meal at Eugenette’s place. We had made a reservation two days in advance to make sure that we would have a place… We enjoy the famous cod fritters: excellent and nothing like what we find in Vieux-Fort, even at the market. The taste and texture are really different. A pleasure. We followed it up with a great triggerfish. This is the first time we’ve had the chance to eat it, and it’s really delicate like seafood.
The next morning we enjoy a couple of hours by the pool and leave early in the afternoon to take the boat back to Vieux-Fort (our home), passing Terre de Haut Island as we did on the way there. I took advantage of the opportunity to take a couple of nice pictures of the island. We’ll be back to visit it. I hope this tour makes you want to visit Terre-de-Bas. We really enjoyed it, and spending 3-4 days on this island is a great way to relax from everyday life…
And that is where I am going to end the story of the few days we spent here. Since then, we have visited the beautiful island Terre-de-Haut, just opposite, but very different. Don’t hesitate to read our article to get a good idea of these places.
As usual, here are some practical tips for visiting this little corner of the world.
First of all, you have to go to Guadeloupe. I have already written a complete and detailed article on how to get to Guadeloupe, so I will not repeat everything here, but here is what you need to remember! From France, the cheapest flights are generally from Paris. Occasionally you can find cheap flights from other cities in France (even direct flights), but they are rare. Expect to pay around €350-400 if you are flexible. You can find the cheapest flights from Paris here. Note that there are 3 airlines flying to Guadeloupe from France: Corsair, Air France and Air Caraïbes. For travel from other French islands or French Guiana, I have detailed everything in the article above.
To get to Terre-de-Bas you have several options depending on where you are. I will consider writing a mini-article on this topic, but here are some basic things to bear in mind. As timetables, prices and conditions often change, I will leave you with the links to the various companies:
- You can reach Terre-de-Bas from Pointe-à-Pitre with the Val’ferry company company. Expect to pay around 35€ return.
- From the town of Basse Terre you can get to Les Saintes with the CTM Deher company company for 29€ per person.
- We took the Val’ferry from Trois-Rivières, but you can also take the CTM Deher or the Beatrix shuttle. The prices are pretty much the same.
While it is possible to rent small electric cars on Terre-de-Haut, I haven’t heard much about getting around on Terre-de-Bas. Here are a few things to bear in mind:
- It is not a very big island, but it is too wide to walk around, especially with children. That said, when we walked the blue trail from Petites Anses to Grande Anse on our first day, we walked from one end of the island to the other. So, yes, it can be done, but whether or not you want to do it every day depends on how you feel about doing so. There are two other options if you want to get around more quickly:
- You can hire a car on the island. We tried this when we were there, but all the cars were taken at the time. So if you don’t book ahead, you may end up stuck (figuratively speaking). I do know that you can hire a car from Iguana Location or Autolagon-Relay Terre de Bas. It is also possible to rent a car from some of the accommodations. Just contact them in advance.
- Finally, if, like us, you haven’t booked your car in advance or on site, you can order any taxi to pick you up and drop you off anywhere on the island. It costs €2 per person per trip. It’s an easy, cheap way to get around, and you know what? It worked really well for us during our 4 days on the island.
The choice of places to stay in Terre-de-Bas is much more limited than it is in Terre-de-Haut. We stayed at the Residence Soleil Demery for a period of 4 nights. To be honest, that wasn’t so bad. The reception on arrival could have been better (just hello and “how will you pay?”), but the place itself is pretty decent. It’s clean. It’s big enough for four people and fairly well equipped. The only complaint we had was that the sofa bed Louis slept on was really old and almost broken. There were also no mosquito nets, which was a shame (especially in the tropics). Apart from that, you can enjoy the pool and the place is well known enough to be able to order a pizza, call a taxi, etc.
It’s not complicated, as the boats that go to Terre-de-Haut usually stop at Terre-de-Bas. So nothing too difficult. There are also other small shuttles that run between the two islands.
I’ve come to the end of this nice little tour of Terre-de-Bas, Les Saintes. I hope our story has made you want to go there during your trip to Guadeloupe. We have really enjoyed our time here. Is it the most beautiful tropical island we’ve ever seen? Of course not! But the island exudes peace, tranquillity, serenity, and between you and me, it feels good to walk around a place without tons of tourists wandering the streets.
For those of you who know both islands, what do you think? Do you have a preference between these two tropical islands? Let us know what you think! If you’re looking for something a little different, don’t miss Pointe des Châteaux in Grande-Terre.
See you soon,