Why is Basse-Terre the capital of Guadeloupe?

Why is Basse-Terre the capital of Guadeloupe?
Why is Basse-Terre the capital of Guadeloupe?





If you aren’t familiar with the geography and politics of Caribbean islands, it can be mystifying to understand how these island nations operate. Does Guadeloupe have a capital? Is Guadeloupe a City or Country? What is the capital of Guadeloupe?

The capital of Guadeloupe is the town of Basse-Terre, located on the Basse-Terre island in the archipelago known as Guadeloupe. Basse-Terre island is the second largest island in the group after Grande Terre, and is known for its amazing natural beauty. Basse-Terre island is home to the Parc National de la Guadeloupe and amazing beaches. 

Guadeloupe is not just one island, but a group of six inhabited islands along with many uninhabited islands. Even so, these types of island chains will have a main capital area from which the region is governed. Read on for everything you need to know about Guadeloupe and its capital, Basse-Terre.

Where is the Capital of Guadeloupe Located?

Where is the Capital of Guadeloupe Located?
Where is the Capital of Guadeloupe Located?

Basse-Terre town is located in the southwest of Basse-Terre island. Guadeloupe is made up of six main islands, the two largest of which form a sort of butterfly shape. The western island of the “butterfly” is Basse-Terre. The other is the more populated Grande Terre. The other four islands are located to the south and east of the main islands. 

Guadeloupe itself is located in the Caribbean Sea, directly north of Dominica and south of Antigua. Guadeloupe is technically part of France and the E.U., due to the fact that it is an overseas department of France. 

Brief History of Basse-Terre

Roman Catholic Cathedral in town of Basse-Terre, Guadeloupe.
Roman Catholic Cathedral in town of Basse-Terre, Guadeloupe.

The island was originally inhabited by American Indians, before the arrival of the French in 1635. In fact, a large number of Native American artifacts have been found in sites around Basse-Terre, providing ample evidence of this time period. 

Christopher Columbus landed on Guadeloupe in 1493, naming the islands “Santa María de Guadalupe.” The archipelago was known as Karukera (or “The Island of Beautiful Waters”) in the native Arawak language.

The Spanish tried to colonize Guadeloupe but were successfully resisted by native people. The French began to colonize Guadeloupe in around 1626. 

The town of Basse-Terre was developed by the French starting in 1649, when a fort and a church were erected on the site. 

The island was annexed to France in 1674, though the period of the French revolution would see great turmoil in the area. The island became a department of France in 1946. Tensions would continue and there was an independence movement in 1970, after which the island was declared a French region in 1974. 

Some groups still pushed for full independence. In 2009, workers went on strike, demanding working conditions that equaled those in mainland France. 

When did Basse-Terre become the Capital of Guadeloupe?

Grande Anse beach on Basse-Terre island.
Grande Anse beach on Basse-Terre island.

French settlers originally came to the northern part of the island, though were forced south due to famine and poor conditions in the north. In addition, the settlers were engaged in violent conflicts with the native people. Eventually the settlers erected a fort in the southern part of the island, near Basse-Terre, and gained a foothold in the south. 

In the 1640s, the French settled on the banks of the Galion river and erected a church and fort, around which the town was formed. 

Why is Basse-Terre the capital of Guadeloupe?

The most populous city in Guadeloupe is not Basse-Terre, but actually Les Abymes, and the main center of commerce is the city of Pointe-à-Pitre, both of which are located on Grande-Terre island adjacent to Basse-Terre. 

However, historically Basse-Terre was a stronghold for the French and has remained the administrative capital. 

Best Places to visit in Basse-Terre.

Basse-Terre is a volcanic island, with 17,000 hectares of rainforest. If you are interested in exploring the wild beauty of a volcanic Caribbean island, Basse-Terre is your spot. 

Guadeloupe National Park

You can hike a huge range of trails in the national park, and see amazing sights such as waterfalls, native species, and native plants.

Grand cul-de-sac Marin

If you want to snorkel, check out this reef to see tropical fish and starfish. You can book a tour by boat. 

Fort Delgrès and Vieux-Fort

If history is your thing, check out the forts erected in the area. 

Fort Delgrès is a well-maintained and well-staffed spot with self-guided materials in English and French. You will get a good idea of the history of the fort and the area, and admission is free. 

You can also walk around Vieux-Fort and don’t forget to check out the lighthouse. The fort offers stunning water views in an often excluded spot. 

Marché de Basse Terre

Check out this colorful market to get an idea of the local life and flare, and pick up fresh fruits and veggies, amazing spices, and souvenirs. Or just walk around and get a bite to eat. If you are lucky, there may even be live music. 


Basse-Terre island is known for its amazing pebble and sand breaches, which shine in brown, gray and pink hues. 

Basse-Terre town is not directly on a beach, but you can check out the black sand Plage de Grande Anse to the south. The beach is frequented by locals and tourists alike, and boasts some of the most amazing sunsets. Be careful, as the surf can be strong, though you can’t beat the beauty of this beach. 

Get there early as parking is limited, and you may want to bring food since there are not many amenities. 

Bain Chaud De Bouillante

Want to relax in a hot spring after a long day of hiking to waterfalls? You can check out these geothermal springs north of Basse-Terre town. It isn’t the most picturesque area, though the water is warm and wonderful. 


What is the capital of Guadeloupe? Basse-Terre is both an amazingly beautiful island and an isolated capital city. Check out the neighboring islands, or just visit Basse-Terre by itself. There is so much history to learn along with amazing nature. You will truly feel away from it all. 

See Also

Capital Cities 

Hi and welcome to my travel blog! Based in London, I work in investment banking in a quantitative field and although I am not part of the travel industry, I have a ton of passion for travel. My blog is a reference guide for my fellow travelers with the same passion as me. Hopefully the blog is easy to navigate and my aim is to bring the most relevant and interesting information before you begin your journey!