Published on 18 october 2013 at 0h00
On discovering this little archipelago situated to the south of Guadeloupe on All Saints' Day 1493, legend has it that Christopher Columbus, having to find a name for it, resigned himself to naming it after the day: 'Los Santos', Les Saintes! Inaccessible and very beautiful…
Since 4th November 1493 and Columbus's visit, a lot of water has flowed between the islands, and although Les Saintes are just as beautiful as ever, they have become easily accessible. Situated just ten miles or so from Pointe à Pitre's Bas du Fort marina, and the same distance from Prince Rupert Bay, on Dominica, the little archipelago is a compulsory stopover on a cruise leaving from Guadeloupe... Compulsory, we say. We could even say essential, as the Les Saintes' anchorage has the reputation of being one of the most beautiful in the world… And I have to say, that on each of my visits, the beauty of the place delights me!
Les Saintes are made up of two inhabited islands and seven small uninhabited islands. Terre de Haut and Terre de Bas, the inhabited islands, are quite mountainous, and are good places for walking and relaxing. Terre de Haut is the more touristy, and we find here the famous 'Maison du Medecin' in the shape of a liner, and the no less famous Fort Napoléon, which you must go and visit, even though it reaches an altitude of 120m on the summit of Morne à Mire. To get there, you have just two solutions: walk, (and we would then advise you to go there early in the morning, before it gets really hot), or hire a scooter... The trip is worth a look, as the panorama on the climb up to the fort is superb, with a view over Guadeloupe on one side, and over Les Saintes' anchorage. As you climb, you can thus check that your catamaran is not dragging its anchor, as the anchorage off the 'Maison du Medecin' is particularly poor... We speak from experience! Once up there, you will discover a rather nice little museum and above all, an impressive exotic garden, inhabited by numerous iguanas, which are finally rather likeable.
In the evening, when the day-charter boats have taken their tourists back to Guadeloupe, you will be able to enjoy a different island, which you will have almost to yourself. You can wander through its peaceful lanes bordered with charming houses, and enjoy life, drinking (in moderation, of course) a ti'punch.
Terre de Bas is much wilder than its neighbour, and nowhere near as busy. However, the Grande Anse beach is superb, and the many walks on the island make it worthwhile spending a few days here. Finally, there are the small uninhabited islands: l'îlet à Cabrit, le Grand-Îlet, la Coche, les Augustins, la Redonde, le Pâté and les Roches percées. Lots of goals for walks and anchorages to discover before going diving and discovering the beauty of the underwater life, with just a simple mask.
- Getting there:
Numerous charter flights and regular airlines have links to Guadeloupe from Europe and the USA, not to mention the inter-island links in the West Indies. From there, you just have to get to the Bas du Fort marina at Pointe à Pitre, to take possession of your catamaran.
The best period for cruising in the West Indies stretches from December to June. But the summer months are also very pleasant, even though they are a bit wetter, and the hurricane season generally doesn't start until the beginning of September.
Les Saintes are France. For EU residents, valid passport. Identity card alone accepted for French residents.
- Official language: French.
The currency is the euro.
- Not to be missed:
Fort Napoléon, the Pain de Sucre anchorage, drinking a ti'punch on the terrace at sunset...
Arriving from Guadeloupe, it is best to go through the Pain de Sucre pass, rather than the Baleine, if you don't know the area well. Then an anchorage off the Maison du Medecin is essential, before then exploring all the anchorages that this archipelago, covering just 13 km², has to offer, over no less than 22 km of coastline.
But although the visit to Les Saintes is enough in itself, it would be a shame not to take advantage of the other neighbouring wonders.
Here are two one-week itineraries, leaving from Guadeloupe, to be followed in one direction or the other, according to the prevailing winds:
Day 1 Pointe-à-Pitre
Day 2 Les Saintes
Day 3 Dominica (Portsmouth)
Day 4 Marie-Galante
Day 5 Point a Pitre (about 90 miles)
Day 1 Pointe-à-Pitre
Day 2 Les Saintes
Day 3 Deshales
Day 4 Antigua (English Harbour, North Sound, Green Island)
Day 5 Return to Les Saintes
Day 6 Pointe-à-Pitre (200 miles)
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