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Introducing La Désirade

If a refuge from the troubles of the world is what you seek, look no further: La Désirade is Guadeloupe’s least-developed and least-visited island. Even the nicest beaches are nearly deserted; for the ultimate do-nothing vacation it’s a place that’s hard to beat.

Looking somewhat like an overturned boat when viewed from Guadeloupe, La Désirade is only 11km long and 2km wide, with a central plateau that rises 273m at its highest point, Grand Montagne.

The uninhabited north side of the island has a rocky coastline with rough open seas, while the south side has sandy beaches and reef-protected waters. There are no diving operations or places to rent snorkeling equipment on the island, so those who want to get underwater should bring their own gear.

La Désirade’s harbor and airport are on the southwest side of the island in Beauséjour, the main village. The island’s town hall, post office and library are also in Beauséjour. There are smaller settlements at Le Souffleur and Baie Mahault.

In 1725 Guadeloupe established a leper colony on La Désirade, and for more than two centuries victims of the disease were forced to make a one-way trip to the island. The leprosarium, which was run by the Catholic Sisters of Charity, closed in the mid-1950s. Its remains, a chapel and a cemetery, are just to the east of Baie Mahault.

La Désirade’s main road runs along the southern coast and ends at an art-deco-style weather station on the eastern tip of the island. Nearby is a lighthouse. The trip is worthwhile for the scenery, if nothing else. Gangs of goats that apparently don’t see many cars wander the windswept fields here – it’s an area of desolate beauty.