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La Désirade is one of the few islands in the Caribbean that is not touched by tourism of any significance. Most visitors come just for the day to enjoy the uncrowded white sandy beach, or perhaps to tour the island's barren expanses.

Columbus spotted this terre désirée, or "sought-after land," after his Atlantic crossing in 1493. The island, just 8km (5 miles) off the eastern tip of Guadeloupe proper, is less than 11km (6 3/4 miles) long and about 2km (1 1/4 miles) wide, and it has a single potholed road running along its length.

The island has fewer than 1,700 inhabitants, including the descendants of Europeans exiled here by royal command. There are a handful of exceptionally simple guesthouses charging from 50€ for overnight accommodations for two. Don't expect anything grand.

The main village is Grande-Anse, which has a small church with a presbytery and flower garden. Le Souffleur is a boat-building community, and at Baie Mahault, you'll see the ruins of the old leper colony (including a barely recognizable chapel) from the early 18th century.

The best beaches on the island's south side are Souffleur, a tranquil oasis near the boat-building center, and Baie Mahault, a small, quintessentially Caribbean beach with white sand and palm trees.