Climbing La Soufrière is one of the most popular attractions in Guadeloupe. The peak of this volcano rises up to a height of 1467 meters. This mountain is also the highest peak of Lesser Antilles.
The total journey takes a few hours to pass, but it is much worth the effort of climbing. Let’s take a look at few facts about La Soufrière and its trail.
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The last eruption of La Soufrière – waiting for disaster
The last serious seismic activity of La Soufrière took place in 1976. In the beginning, the scientists were not sure about how certain the eruptions were. But in the end, the prefect of Guadeloupe decided to evacuate more than 70 000 people from the Basse-Terre region, at the volcano’s feet.
Two persons refused the evacuation. They were two men who decided to stay at the mountainside waiting for fate. While the information about it came to Europe, German director Werner Herzog get really interested in this situation. He immediately completed his filming crew and came to the island to create a documentary film and make an interview with abandoned men.
In 1977 he published a film called “La Soufrière – Warten auf eine unausweichliche Katastrophe” (ger. “La Soufrière – Waiting for an Inevitable Disaster”). He was the last person to film the deserted city of Basse-Terre before the predicted eruption. He also found the men that he was looking for and had a discussion with them about reasons for their decision. Below you can watch his creative work (in English) found on Youtube.
Finally, La Soufrière did not erupt. It is one of the biggest mysteries in volcanology. After weeks, evacuated inhabitants were allowed to come back to their homes. Nowadays, climbing the volcano is very popular both for tourists and for local people.
The trail to La Soufrière’s peak
Making use of a rented car we decided to make a trip to visit La Soufrière. Next to Carbet Falls it is the most popular trail in Guadeloupe. The volcano lies in the middle of the Basse-Terre region, in a National Park, among other mountains and smaller volcanos (La Citerne, La Madeleine, L’Échelle, Carmichaël,
Because of the earthquake in 2004, the trail changed a lot and it became more difficult than before. The number of climbers drastically decreased since that time, but still, the trail is often visited.
Psst. If you’re not comfortable to climb the volcano totally on your own, you can also do this hike with a professional guide by clicking here.
Bains Jaunes – natural SPA
Today, the trail starts next to Bains Jaunes, next to a small car parking, at the height of 950 meters. In this place, you can enjoy a bath in a natural SPA, where the water comes from thermal sources. Local people often gather here, taking advantage of the sulfuric characteristic of the volcano.
Starting from this point you need to take a walk in the tropical forest, on a stone path called Pas-du-Roy. This trail takes around 30 minutes and allows you to reach the next significant place.
La Savanne à Mulet – a destroyed trail
After the finished walk in the jungle, you will be able to contemplate an amazing view. From a plateau which is called La Savanne à Mulet, you can see the wonderful mountain of La Soufrière in all its glory.
From the plateau, we can also see the beautiful marine view. While the weather is good, we can see other Guadeloupean islands like Les Saintes, Marie Galante and even another country – Dominica.
This place used to be an old car parking. Because of the earthquake in 2004, it was damaged and it is accessible by a car anymore. The height at this point is 1140 meters. So in here, we start our proper trail to the peak.
Le Chemin des Dames – the proper trail
The main trail to La Soufrière’s summit is called Le Chemin des Dames (fr. The Trail of Ladies). According to signs, it takes around 1h15min. to reach the destination with this trail. Of course, it depends on the
The trail is relatively easy to defeat. Easier than the path to La Citerne starting next to Carbet Falls. The path is clear yet filled with rocks, which are quite comfortable to walk on. It leads us around 300 meters up, to the peak. Only the last 50 meters require much more attention and more climbing than walking. Even so, the trail is also accessible for children. Actually, we had almost the same speed as a small 5 years old girl, taking a mountain walk with her dad.
At this height, so close to the volcano peak, you can already smell a horrible scent. It is not paralyzing, but the scents of old eggs coming from the sulfuric volcano interior escort you during a while.
The Trail of Ladies is a beautiful path. But where this specific name comes from? Until the previous century, La Soufrière could be achieved only by climbers with very good condition and people from outside the island visited it only with a local guide. After years an exactly specified and quite comfortable path was established. Thanks to this “even” women were able to achieve the summit of the volcano.
Reaching the peak – drowning in clouds
Since we were closer to the summit, the surroundings did change. The weather changed from sunny to more cloudy and it gets a bit colder. But the views were still amazing. Near the peak, you can observe crevices and landslides caused by volcano eruptions and earthquakes.
Reaching the peak – La Découverte – was more difficult and exhausting than the rest of the trail. We needed to climb the rocks, while the weather got worst. When we get to the top, unfortunately, the mountain drowned in clouds, so we couldn’t admire the views of the island. Nevertheless, discovering the top of the highest peak of Lesser Antilles in such a mysterious environment was an amazing experience.
For us, this journey was really worth the effort. Even beside a downpour on our way down, an injured knee (after rain the path is really slippery sometimes) and the lunch in a bunker on the mountain top because of bad weather we were happy and satisfied to reach the highest peak of Lesser Antilles.
How to get to La Soufrière – useful tips
- You can find all the actual news and practical information on the official website of the volcano.
- To find the beginning of the trail you need to head to a town called Sainte-Claude. There you will find proper road signs leading to the small car parking at the beginning of a trail.
- If you’re going by car it better to start a journey in the morning. The parking at the foot of the volcano has very limited space so the earlier you will be there, the closer the car place you will find.
- La Soufrière trail is very popular among local inhabitants. They climb the volcano mostly during weekends. So during the workdays, the trails are less crowded.
- Plan your visit in accordance with the weather. After rain, the trail becomes slippery and it is harder to walk through.
- Take the proper shoes – we did it well with sailing leather shoes with a non-slippery sole. In my opinion, they are better than hard trekking shoes, because we can feel the ground better. And you will not go overheat. But sandals or flip-flops are not the best ideas.
- Remember about the hydration and nutrition – the walk will take you a few hours. In our case, it was around 5 hours. Be sure to take with you a proper amount of water and snacks to renew your energy.
Wanna explore Guadeloupe even more? Check out those articles:
- 9 most fabulous things to do in Guadeloupe
- The list of food, sweets, and drink you must try in the Caribbean!
- How to get around with public transport in the French Antilles?
- The fascinating trip to the Coffee Museum in Guadeloupe
- The ultimate packing list for a memorable Caribbean vacation
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Dominika is a founder of Sunday In Wonderland and she recently switched her life to be local independent. She aims to travel the world and admire all of its wonders. She is much focused on sustainable life, self-development and making this world a better place.