Les Saintes is a small archipelago within the archipelago of Guadeloupe, in the Caribbean Sea.
9 small islands form Les Saintes Islands, 2 of which are inhabited: Terre de Haut and Terre De Bas. Both islands combine about 3,000 inhabitants.
Many consider Les Saintes Islands among one of the Caribbean Best Kept Secrets. Actually, tens of thousands of visitors roam this charming French bundle of islands each year. Les Saintes' natural beauty has been well preserved over the decades. It has kept its "untouched look".
Les Saintes Bay, which is located in Terre de Haut, has been named One of the Best Bays in The World by UNESCO.
Terre de Haut & Terre de Bas are rather small so it could take you 1-2 days each to explore both. But that would depend on your pace & activities. However, if time doesn't permit, you best choose to spend the day in Terre de Haut, which has more to offer.
There are a few guest houses where you could stay at on both islands.
I've only got the chance of visiting Terre de Haut for the day, so all photos in this post were taken there.
The Tourism office, restaurants, retail & souvenir shops, scooter rental companies, and a church, are all within walking distance from the harbor in Terre de Haut.
The population in Les Saintes is mostly made up with Descendants of French colonists especially coming from Brittany (Northern France). As a result, there are lots of Crepes for sale on the island, in addition to the various seafood meals. Bon Appétit!
You can get around the inhabited island either on your own, by renting a Scooter. You also have the option to join a Tour company, who will take you around the island and answer your questions. I chose the latter to get some more insights on the island's history.
I hope that the Tips below will be useful to you if you decide to visit Les Saintes Islands.
Choose Your Port Wisely
Lucky you if you're onboard a sailing boat, a yacht or cruise ship, but most of us have to get to Les Saintes by Ferry, from mainland Guadeloupe.
Guadeloupe’s mainland is shaped like a butterfly. On one hand, you have Grande-Terre which is mostly flat land, much more commercial and touristic. It’s also where the International Airport is located. On the other hand, you have Basse-Terre, which has a volcano, lots of mountains, rivers and waterfalls.
If you’re new to my blog, you can read more about the Archipelago of Guadeloupe here .
The round-trip journey to Les Saintes is approximately 25-45 euros. Most ferry companies go to both Terre de Haut and Terre de Bas.
Leaving from Saint Francois
Most tourists stay in Grande Terre and therefore choose to take a Ferry from the city of Saint-Francois. The latter is closest to their hotels to go to Les Saintes.
I grew up hearing about how rough the waters between Saint Francois and Les Saintes have always been.
I went to Les Saintes, accompanied by a few friends (their 1st holiday in Guadeloupe) who were all staying in hotels located in Grande Terre. I had no choice but to meet them on the Ferry in Saint Francois. They preferred the harbour the shortest drive away from their hotel.
The journey to Les Saintes from Saint Francois takes 2 hours (one way), with a stopover on the island of Marie Galante.
Rough waters indeed, despite the sunny weather… Both ways!! I don't even want to try to picture this journey on a rainy day.
Leaving from Basse-Terre
If you have rented a car and can get to the city of Trois-Rivieres located in Basse-Terre, get ready to enjoy a smooth and enjoyable Ferry ride. It is also a much quicker option (15 minutes).
Respect Your Stomach
Please don’t do like my friends and eat a short time before getting on board the Ferry.
Granted, there is a pleasant crew member who go through the double-decker ferry, offering bags to vomit in, but try to avoid needing those.
If you are sea sick, ensure to visit a pharmacy the day before. Since I was aware of the size of the ferry and the rough waters, I played it safe with my stomach. I therefore visited the pharmacy the day before.
My only tasks on the ferry were to avoid looking at my friends when they were vomiting and holding on tight to my seat.
Before leaving Les Saintes, all my friends had gulped some of my pills to better handle the ride back. Therefore, none of them needed the crew member and his bags!
Terre de Haut, Les Saintes
You cannot go to Les Saintes without visiting the infamous Fort Napoleon, which is perched on the hilltop of Terre de Haut.
Both the British and The French Kingdom relentlessly fought over Les Saintes during the 17th and 18th Centuries. As a result, Les Saintes changed hands several times between these 2 kingdoms.
La Bataille des Saintes (The Battle of the Saintes Islands) was one the French forces biggest defeat. They suffered 2,000 casualties and 5,000 prisoners. The British also captured 5 battle ships.
Les Saintes Islands became part of the French Kingdom from July 22nd, 1816.
Fort Napoleon, which was at first named Fort Louis, was destroyed by the British in the 1800's.
When rebuilt in 1867, it was renamed after Napoleon III and was used as a penitentiary.
Fort Napoleon became an Historical Museum 20 years ago and is ideal to learn about Les Saintes' History & Culture.
There are guided tours daily, except on public holidays. You also have the options to roam the fort on your own and at your own pace, once you pay the entrance fee. It's 3.5 euros (adults) and 2 euros (kids, 11 and younger).
You'll have the opportunity to take as many pictures as you want while you are at the Fort, including a picture of Les Saintes Bay. The Fort offers breathtaking views of Les Saintes and it would be a pity not to take full advantage of that.
Wild Iguanas are roaming throughout the Fort's garden. They love to tan there. Be ready with your camera because they tend to take off and disappear quickly into the bushes as they see you approaching.
You should put aside at least 1-1.5 hour, to make the most of your visit to the Fort.
See photos below.
Fort Napoleon, Terre de Haut, Les Saintes
Eat a "Tourment d'Amour"
This sweet pastry is a must during your visit. It's a small round tart and is a specialty of Les Saintes. It’s filled with guava, banana or coconut jam. The latter is my favourite. Typing this makes me hungry for some! Yum!
Tourments d’Amour are easily available near the harbour, as vendors set up in that area, with their baskets filled with those goodies.
Enjoy the Beaches and Landscapes
Of course, coming to any island without going to the beach and enjoying the scenery is unthinkable!
Les Saintes is surrounded by crystal clear waters and you have many beaches to choose from.
I've heard that “Pain de Sucre” Beach, is known to be the best in Les Saintes. A pity i didn't get to check it out for myself.