Basse Terre Guadeloupe is the administrative capital of Guadeloupe, though by size it is second to Pointe-a-Pitre. Although smaller and less of an economic hub than Pointe-a-Pitre, which has the benefit of the shipping port and international airport, Basse Terre is a worthwhile visit for its colonial architecture, cathedral, great hiking trails up the nearby volcano of La Soufriere, and historical fortress. This is a great place to look for Basse Terre hotels in preparation for hiking up La Grande Soufriere, Basse Terre's resident volcano.
Basse Terre was the first habitation to be founded on Guadeloupe in 1643. Located on the western island of the same name, Basse Terre Island, it is easily accessible by car or bus from Pointe-a-Pitre by crossing over the Rivière Salée (Salty River) and driving westward along the south coast. Basse Terre Guadeloupe retains much of its period charm with well preserved colonial buildings all throughout town and a vibrant arts and culture scene. The prefecture buildings and the church of Notre-Dame du Mont Carmel are good examples of period European architecture. There are also many colonial buildings grouped around La Place du Champ d'Arband, the main square in town.
Fort St Charles, also known as Fort Louis Delagres, stands on a hill overlooking the ocean at the southern end of town. This well-preserved historical fort is named after the founder of Basse Terre Guadeloupe, Charles Houl, whose original residence was located in the fort. The fortress was originally designed to withstand the assaults of the native Caribs, original inhabitants of Guadeloupe. Today the buildings and walls have been carefully restored, giving visitors a good idea of what the French garrison looked and felt like. The stone buildings and grassy hill overlooking the clear blue sea is truly picturesque. Don't miss the museum on site, giving more historical details, and the graves of two soldiers.
Possibly the biggest attraction of Basse Terre Guadeloupe is the volcano of La Grande Soufriere, clearly visible from the town. Located within the breathtaking reserve of Guadeloupe National Park, La Grande Soufriere is an active volcano with fumaroles, hot springs, and other geothermal attractions. Buses depart from the town of Basse Terre, taking tourists almost all the way up the mountain, where they can hike around the mountain's attractions. One popular hike is to the Etang As de Pique, a secluded mountain lake up on the mountainside. This large mountain lake is a great place to appreciate Guadeloupe's natural beauty, surrounded by lush tropical forest. Much of Guadeloupe National Park is accessible by car on modern roads within easy reach of Basse Terre, making a good place to begin exploration of the island.
For travelers looking for Basse Terre hotels, most hotels in the area tend towards the small and independently run. There are some nice inns and hotels in the town of St Claude, just a few miles from Basse Terre. For more of a resort town, the town of Deshaies up the western coast is much more popular with tourists, and is the place to find Basse Terre hotels on the western side of the island.