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French Overseas Possessions Travel Guide

French Overseas Possessions — Attractions

Each of the French Overseas Possessions has their own unique tourist draws. Most of these territories are islands or groups of islands rich in coastal attractions, sparkling beaches, dive sites, coral fringes, mountain trails, and adventure opportunities. You will also find historic and cultural sites almost everywhere, especially in Martinique and French Guiana where the infamous Iles du Salut and Devil’s Island are located.

Saint Denis

Réunion’s bustling capital of Saint-Denis is most notable for its stunning landscape surrounded by majestic mountains. The city is also rich in historic landmarks including large religious buildings that contribute to the beautiful town and reflect the colorful local history. Aside from mosques, cathedrals and temples, you will also find a selection of interesting museums and galleries, including Leon Dierx Art Gallery and the Natural History Museum.
Address: Saint Denis, Réunion
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Coral-fringed Beaches

Réunion has its share of beautiful beach and lagoon areas, all with great underwater treasures. Saint-Gilles-des-Bains is a must-see, especially with its reef-protected lagoon along with other dive spots along the picturesque Sous le Vent coast. Blessed with great surfing and stunning sand (choose from black, white or yellow), the areas of Saint Gilles, Saint Leu and Etang Sale make it an excellent destination for sun worshippers. Saint Leu’s Coral Turtle Farm is also an interesting place to visit.
Address: Réunion
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La Fournaise Volcano

This active volcano is one of the main draws of Réunion. It features great places to enjoy splendid views of the surrounding area as well as the river below (Riviére des Remparts), which is best seen from Nez de Boeuf or the Ox’s Nose. It is the best place to catch a glimpse of the Belle Compe Pass and Plaine des Sables. Its highest peak (8,632 ft) along with the Enclos Fouque crater can be explored on foot.
Address: Réunion
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Mountain Paths

With over 370 miles of marked trails, you will never run out of scenic walks in Réunion. These trails lead to some of the most beautiful volcanic peaks of the island as well as interesting destinations like Cilaos, a magnificent mountain area that offers superb views of Ilet a Cordres and Le Bras Sec. Hikes up Hell Bourg and the island’s highest point, Piton des Neiges are two of the most popular treks.
Address: Réunion
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Cirques

Réunion is best known for its volcanic valleys which are otherwise called cirques that are surrounded by mountains creating a beautiful natural amphitheater. Sightseeing around these enormous depressions is a must, especially Salazie, which features stunning waterfalls like the famous Voile de la Mariee or the Bride’s Veil, which is located close to Hell-Bourg.
Address: Réunion
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Fort de France

One of the most beautiful places to visit in Martinique, the capital town of Fort de France offers many interesting attractions typical of a historic capital, from winding streets to colorful markets, a bustling center and lush public parks. Among the best landmarks in the city are La Savanne Park, featuring an iconic statue of Napoleon’s Empress Josephine and Parc des Floralies. The nearby Pottery Center is a must-see. Empress Josephine’s birthplace, known as La Pagerie, is another major tourist draw which is located across the bay.
Address: Martinique
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Cathedral of Saint Louis

This imposing building is one of the best examples of 17th century architecture in Martinique. It features a glowing bell tower built in the Roman style and is the burial site of many important governors. Come early to avoid the crowds.
Address: Martinique
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Le Carbet

This town is the closest place to the site where Christopher Columbus landed during his 1503 voyage to Martinique. It is also a vibrant cosmopolitan area featuring a restored plantation and an arts center, known as Centre d’Art Paul Gauguin, which displays original works by the renowned painter.
Address: Martinique
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Musee Departemental

If you are interested in Martinique’s prehistory, the Musee Departemental in Fort de France is a must-see. It is the best place to discover some of the most important aspects of the island’s Carib and Arawak Indian prehistory. Also on site is the intriguing Caribbean Arts Center.
Address: Fort de France, Martinique
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Montagne Pelée

This volcanic mountain last erupted in 1902, literally ripping the summit off and destroying the once vibrant city of St Pierre along with its entire population. Today, the remains are a tourist attraction featuring a volcanology museum with exhibits commemorating the disaster. The city still shows signs of its old glory with some surviving stone bridges and stairways, as well as carefully restored historic buildings. The ruins of the old theater are one of the most iconic landmarks of the town, along with many other interesting wrecks. The area features a gray-sand beach and an old harbor where many shipwrecks can be explored. You can take a one-hour tour around the area via the Cyparis Express train.
Address: Martinique
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Pointe du Bout

One of the most popular tourist spots on the island, Pointe du Bout on the south side of Martinique is the main resort area. It features some of the best beaches like Le Diamant, Les Anses d’Arlets and Ste Anne.
Address: Martinique
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Cayenne

Cayenne is the capital city and chief port of French Guiana. It is home to many interesting attractions like Place de Grenoble (home of the prefect), Canal Laussat, the Botanical Gardens, and the museums of Musee Departemental Franconie and Musee des Cultures Guyanaises with impressive exhibits.
Address: French Guiana
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Iles du Salut

The infamous islands of French Guiana were once home to old prison camps that were notorious for their torturous methods of detention and execution. The Iles du Salut territory includes Devil’s Island, where political prisoners from early years were taken. On one of the islands is the Iracoubo Church, an iconic landmark painted entirely by hand by Huguet.
Address: French Guiana
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Carnival

French Guiana’s King Carnival is a major event, where groups in multi-colored costumes dance around the streets entertaining expectant crowds. It is one of the most exciting Mardis Gras celebrations in the world, featuring the parade of red devils and many other unique traditions.
Address: French Guiana
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The Rivers

French Guiana’s rivers are not just idyllic, but offer plenty of opportunities for water sports. For those looking for challenging rapids, head to Iracabo, Counamana, Kourou, the lower, Sinnamary, and Hermina.
Address: French Guiana
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French Space Center

If you want to see the modern side of the French Overseas Possessions, visit French Guiana’s Space Center, located in the town of Kourou. One of the most active space stations in the world, it conducts regular launches that are open to the public. A tour of this ultra-modern facility is a must, as is a visit to the towering skyscrapers and equally fascinating modern architecture in the city.
Address: Kourou, French Guiana
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Mouragues Nature Reserve

You cannot escape nature in French Guiana, but if you are serious about wildlife watching and exploring the diverse landscapes of its forests, Mouragues Nature Reserve is the best place to go. This paradise stretches from the area of Roura to Regina and among its more interesting spots include the Kaw Swamps, which host countless bird species including flamingos and the famous Toco toucan.
Address: Mouragues Nature Reserve, French Guiana
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French Fort

An imposing historic landmark in Basse Terre, the French Fort is also one of the best examples of 15th century architecture in the territory. It is now a museum that features great exhibits about Guadeloupe’s rich past. Basse Terre is also home to a magnificent 19th century cathedral. For those who wish to experience the local scene, a colorful marketplace can be found near the town center.
Address: Guadeloupe
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Hindu Temple

This 19th century Hindu Temple can be found in the town of St Marie in Guadeloupe. It is known for its bright walls and beautifully painted Hindu god sculptures. It is an active prayer center where many religious ceremonies still take place.
Address: St Marie, Guadeloupe
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Parc Archeologique des Roches Gravees

Guadeloupe’s archeological park is best known for its fascinating rock carvings said to have been made by the early Arawak and Carib Indians who inhabited the island 300-400 AD. The park is close to Trois Rivieres in the town of Basse Terre.
Address: Parc Archeologique des Roches Gravees, Guadeloupe
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Grande Terre

This 650-acre mangrove swamp in Guadeloupe is also a marine park, which gives a glimpse into the rich birdlife of the region. A few miles out is the village of Port Louis, where more astonishing mangroves can be explored.
Address: Grande Terre, Guadeloupe
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National Park of Guadeloupe

Just like any other French Possession, Guadeloupe has its share of natural parks, including the National Park, which contains more than 188 miles of marked trails leading to a glorious rainforest. Here, you will find great examples of the region’s wildlife, stunning waterfalls and lake areas like the Cascade aux Ecrevisses and Grand Etang.
Address: National Park of Guadeloupe, Guadeloupe
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Food Festival

Guadeloupe’s Food Festival is one of the territory’s most notable celebrations featuring a huge banquet of French and Creole cuisine open to all. Events include a parade, dancing and a display of the best Creole costumes worn by attendees.
Address: Guadeloupe
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Galion Waterfalls

One of the tallest waterfalls on the island, Galion features an impressive 131-foot drop. To hike, you will have to take the scenic route up to La Soufriere, which leads to the rainforest.
Address: Guadeloupe
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Arahoho Blowhole

The blowhole of Arahoho is one of the most mystifying wonders of Tahiti in French Polynesia. It launches water skywards toward the Vaipahi and Faarumai waterfalls.
Address: Tahiti, French Polynesia
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Moorea Island

One of the best islands to explore in French Polynesia, the beach-laden Moorea not only offers excellent swimming and snorkeling, but spectacular diving as well, especially in its crystal-clear lagoons. It features majestic volcanic peaks and excellent water sports from windsurfing to waterskiing and even deep-sea fishing.
Address: Moorea, French Polynesia
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Bora Bora

The island of Bora Bora is an excellent place for active outdoor pursuits. The mountainous terrains give way to exciting climbing experiences, and its tall peaks offer the best views of the surrounding areas including the famed Leeward Islands. Among the best to take on are Mount Aorai and Mount Diademe.
Address: Bora Bora, French Polynesia
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Papeete Market

The capital city of Tahiti has many interesting attractions, but the public market is one of the most exciting draws, featuring merchants selling all kinds of curios from flowers to fabrics, spices and fresh produce.
Address: Tahiti, French Polynesia
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Tahaa Island

Fondly called Vanilla Island, Tahaa is best known for its sprawling vanilla plantations, giving the island air a distinct, sweet whiff of its cash crop. Tahaa also shares a stunning coral reef with the neighboring island of Raiatea.
Address: Tahaa, French Polynesia
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Fatu Hiva Island

Known for its volcanic terrains, Fatu Hiva boasts the beautiful valley of Hanavare, tucked between a splendid volcanic rock and the sparkling Pay of Virgins. The island is also home to Puamau, which is one of the most important archaeological sites in the region, featuring a seven-foot high tiki figure.
Address: Fatu Hiva, French Polynesia
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