French West Indies
This small group of islands lies opposite the western part of Guadeloupe. They were discovered in November 1493 by Columbus, who named them Los Santos. French settlers established themselves in 1648 and changed the name to Iles des Saintes, commonly known as Les Saintes. Since then the islands have been closely connected with Guadeloupe. Until a recent influx of tourism, Les Saintes were among the Caribbean’s most unspoiled destinations. Only two of the eight islands are inhabited: Terre-de-Bas and Terre-de-Haut. The latter is known for its impressive Fort Napoleon built in the early 19th century to replace an earlier 17th-century fort. From its vantage point there are fine views of the many tiny islets scattered in the bay and across to Guadeloupe. Terre-de-Haut is the main island of Les Saintes, with steeply scarped hills, scenic valleys, hidden coves and beautiful beaches. Its main settlement consists of a charming village of red-roofed houses situated along a curving bay. A number of small boutiques and gift shops invite browsing. Quaint cafés and restaurants offer food and drink. To the east of the village lies Grande Anse, a fine sand beach. Most of the attractions on this small island can be seen on foot. With just a few vehicles on the island, there are no organized tours possible. Time ashore here is at your leisure.