Guadeloupe and its neighbouring islands are spread over 1 628 km2 of diverse and contrasted land.
The total surface of Guadeloupe is 1 434 km2, Guadeloupe itself is comprised of two different pieces of land, separated by a thin sea inlet, of a maximum width of 200 m2, called the Salt River (la Rivière Salée).
Basse-Terre on the west, (sheltered from the wind, the trade wind on the Caribbean coast) is mountainous and densely covered from north to south with tropical forest and numerous waterfalls and river, is in fact a volcanic island, as are several other islands in the archipelago. The highest peak is the active volcano the Soufrière, 1,467 metres, the highest in the petites Antilles. As in most volcanic islands, there are several beaches of red or black sand.
Grande-Terre on the east, (exposed to the wind, on the Atlantic coast) with its limestone plateaux, is a plain with a mangrove at its south-west limit and compose irregular mornes (mountains) called the Grands Fonds (deep pits) in the centre and an arid plateau with wild rocky coasts in the north. The south coast, dotted with white sand beaches and sheltered from coral reefs, hosts the main tourist resorts and is called the “Riviera”.
La Désirade, on the east of the Castles Peninsula (Pointe des Châteaux), is an elongated limestone island, a north-east slanted plateau. The Grande Montagne, which reaches an altitude of 275 metres, is its highest point.
Petite-Terre, is a small archipelago of 2 km2. Its two isles (Terre de Haut and Terre de Bas) are surrounded with a coral reef and situated around 10 km south from la Pointe des Châteaux and la Désirade. The archipelago is protected as a natural marine reservation.
Marie-Galante, towards the south, is a hilly limestone island, swept by the trade winds and is nicknamed the pancake because of its circular shape (15km diameter)
Les Saintes, 9 isles, of which two are inhabited, Terre-de-Haut and Terre-de-Bas, respectively 5 km2 and 8 km2, are an archipelago of arid and steep islands.
Basse-Terre and Saintes are recent volcanic islands, part of a chain of which the culminating point is à la Soufrière, whereas the other islands are coral islands. Guadeloupe and the surrounding islands are ranked III in the old French seismic zoning system and 5 in the new system, in any case, always at the highest level of risk.