Embarking on La Soufrière volcano hike is an adventure into the heart of lush rainforests and the opportunity to witness the raw beauty of Guadeloupe’s most renowned natural landmark. Standing as the highest peak in the Lesser Antilles, rising 1,467 m high, La Soufrière is an active stratovolcano that has shaped the island’s landscape and history.

La Soufrière isn’t just a hike; you’ll be stepping onto a living, breathing geological giant. Here are some tips to make the most of this special adventure.

Distance: 7 km
Time: 3-4 hours
Difficulty: moderate

Note that this article is about La Soufrière in Guadeloupe. La Soufrière means “sulphur mine” in French, and a few volcanos in the Caribbean (Saint Vincent, Montserrat) are named like this.

Sign indicating "La Soufriere" with the mount in the background and a beautiful blue sky

Disclaimer: The hiking time and difficulty are based on our experience. We are experienced hikers with a good level of fitness, used to hiking long distances and scrambling. Always check the park alerts and notes, as trail conditions change over time, which may affect the hike’s level of difficulty.

Planning your trip

When you’re thinking of hiking La Soufrière Volcano in Guadeloupe, a bit of planning can go a long way. You’ll want to ensure that the timing is ideal, that you know how to get there, and that you’ve packed everything essential for an enjoyable hike. One important tip: there are no toilets there!


The archipelago isn’t huge, so you can easily make a day trip to La Soufrière from anywhere on the island of Basse-Terre or even Grande-Terre. However, staying in the town of Basse-Terre* makes it simpler. You’ll be closer to the volcano, allowing you to arrive early and avoid the crowds, and possibly even the clouds.

We absolutely loved the beautiful views of the mountains, including La Soufrière, and the ocean from our chalet at Paradis Tropical* in Basse-Terre. The nice part was that we could easily change our plans when we woke up to a cloudless sky on La Soufrière on our last day in Guadeloupe!

The best time to hike La Soufrière

Sign indicating "La Soufriere" with the mount covered by clouds in the background

The best time to hike La Soufrière is when you can see the summit! I thought it would be good to mention this at the start of my article as it’s an important consideration when planning your La Soufriere volcano hike. La Soufriere has very frequent rainfall; 10 times more than the nearby coast! You may be lucky to hike La Soufriere on a good day, but don’t get your hopes too high as the summit is often in the clouds.

If you can plan your trip to Guadeloupe during the dry season, from December through April, it’s better to hike La Soufrière. The weather is most stable then, reducing the chance of rain interrupting your ascent. You’ll have higher chances of clear views and a cooler climb.

Try to arrive early in the morning so you can beat the crowds and, more importantly, the heat and, if you’re lucky, the clouds.

Is it worth hiking La Soufrière if the summit is in the clouds?

Not for everyone. The first part of the hike from Les Bains Jaunes to the former car park is through a beautiful rainforest, which is lovely even if it’s raining a bit. However, everything is more slippery—and cold—during the rain, and the path becomes harder. So, those who aren’t used to hiking and are there only for the views might be disappointed.

We hiked La Soufrière twice during our trip. The first time was in the rain. We still had fun on the trail and enjoyed looking at the vegetation around us, but the views were completely obstructed. At the summit, we all got really cold while we waited hoping the wind would push the clouds for a few seconds so that we could see the sulphur gases coming out of an abyss. It didn’t really happen but we didn’t regret trying as we like conquering mountains. However, it was obviously a lot more rewarding when we hiked it on a clear day with stunning views.

Is it safe to hike La Soufrière?

Guadeloupe’s Soufrière has had the highest number of volcanic eruptions in the Lesser Antilles since the 17th century, with the last eruption activity in 1976 (watch this documentary if you’re interested in learning more about it). As the volcano erupts on average every 50 years, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the next one soon!

While the volcano’s activity level can fluctuate and has increased since 2018, frequent monitoring assures your safety, allowing you to enjoy the scenic beauty and geological wonders without undue concern. When we reached the summit, we could observe that part of the trail going closer to the gas eruptions had been closed to ensure visitors’ safety. You must respect any warnings or closures from local authorities.

If you’re simply worried about getting treatment if you get injured during the hike, Guadeloupe has good medical infrastructure and there’s even a hospital in the town of Basse Terre, only 12km from La Soufrière. In worst-case scenarios, rescue operations can be organised.

Getting to the trailhead

The trailhead for La Soufrière is near Sainte-Claude (5km), at the parking area of Bains Jaunes (950 meters elevation). You’ll need a rental car to get there, or you can also join a guided tour. The car park is very small (15 cars only) and extremely busy during the peak season. Be ready to have to patiently let cars go down as you go up, and park on the side of the road.

The trail used to start a bit higher up the mountain where there’s a larger car park. However, an earthquake in 2004 created a landslide and it’s now only accessible on foot, making the Soufrière hike a bit longer.

What to pack for La Soufrière

Here’s a quick checklist to ensure you’re well-prepared for your hike:

  • Food: Bring energy bars, fruits and lunch to keep you fuelled as there are no shops at La Soufrière.
  • Water: At least 2 litres of water per person to stay hydrated – again, you won’t find any potable water there.
  • Waterproof hiking shoes: I found that sturdy hiking boots with a good grip for slippery parts made the hike a lot easier.
  • Wind and rain jackets: While you’ll probably feel hot at the start of the trail, it may not last. You can experience sudden changes in weather during this hike. It is a lot colder at the summit of the volcano, and you’ll be happy to be protected from the wind and rain.
  • Swimmers and towel: It is surprising to find these items on the list of a volcano hike, but there’s a naturally heated thermal pool at the car park that you may want to enjoy after your hike!

The trail overview

Trail difficulty

La Soufrière isn’t an easy hike for those not used to physical activity, mostly because it goes uphill almost non-stop. But if you take your time, you’re in for a treat. The ecosystem also changes quickly during the climb, as you start in a vibrant tropical rainforest that quickly transforms into sparser vegetation. Even if you don’t reach the summit, you’ll get splendid views and the sulphur smell will regularly remind you about the special experience of hiking a living volcano.

The initial part, from the Bains Jaunes car park to the former car park, is a gentle introduction with a modest incline. As you progress, the gradient increases. The path is well-maintained but can be slippery, especially after rain. You’ll need to watch your step around loose rocks and steeper sections as you approach the peak.

Hiking duration

It took us 3 hours to complete the 7 km return walk. On average, you should set aside about 2 to 3 hours for the ascent and another 1 to 1.5 hours to descend. It depends on your fitness level – especially going up, some will need breaks – and how often you stop to admire the breathtaking views. It’s worth noting that the weather can also impact your hike duration, as it gets more slippery when you’re hiking in the mist.

On the trail

Part 1: from Les Bains Jaunes to the old car park

It’s nicely in the shade of the beautiful rainforest too. Those not used to walking uphill will be puffing, but for experienced hikers, it really is easy. When you reach the old car park, if you’re lucky to be hiking La Soufrière on a good day, the views will take your breath away. On one side, the view of the volcano peak is impressive and on the other side, you’ll have panoramic views of the neighbouring islands (Les Saintes, Marie Galante, Dominica…).

Part 2: From the old car park to the summit (Chemin des Dames)

The mountain’s rugged terrain requires more attention than in the forest. Some parts at the end are quite steep and slippery, but the path is generally very well maintained. They have even installed stairs for the steepest part. Take your time to stop and admire the vegetation around you; it changed a lot since the lush rainforest. We particularly liked the stunning rift covered in beautiful moss and colourful lichen. Keep an eye out for the 50 shades of clays along the path.

Part 3: The summit

There’s plenty of space at the summit to accommodate a few groups of visitors without feeling too crowded. Because of the volcanic activity, visitors must stick to the area next to the peak. If you’re adventurous and want to go closer to the crater, you’ll need to hire a guide and wear masks.

Activities after hiking La Soufriere volcano

Relaxing at Les Bains Jaunes

After conquering the Soufrière volcano hike, you have earned a bit of relaxation. Les Bains Jaunes is a naturally heated thermal pool. This natural spa, surrounded by lush greenery, is a soothing escape for many hikers. The warm, mineral-rich waters are perfect for relaxing your muscles. Make sure you follow the safety advice and do not put your head underwater or splash water around people’s faces.

Other hikes from Les Bains Jaunes

Unfortunately, we didn’t have sufficient planning (i.e. we didn’t pack a lunch!) to hike to the top of another nearby volcano, La Citerne.

Carbet Waterfalls

In the heart of Guadeloupe National Park, you’ll find the renowned Carbet Waterfalls, often recommended as a must-see attraction. Among the trio of falls, the second stands out as the most easily accessible, requiring just a 45-minute round trip on a boardwalk to reach the beautiful 110-meter (360-foot) cascade. Driving from La Soufrière to the Carbet Falls takes roughly an hour. However, be prepared to share the second waterfall with other visitors, and viewing it from a distance might be your only option. That’s why our original plan was to hike to the first falls instead, a couple of falls measuring together 115 meters (377 feet), that you’ll see after a scenic 1.5-hour trek through the forest.

Exploring Basse-Terre

There are a few things to do back in town at Basse-Terre. Our first stop was for Sorbet Coco, a homemade coconut ice cream sold on the side of the road. The beach in the town of Basse-Terre might not match the typical picture-perfect style of Guadeloupe’s beaches, but its dark sand adds a unique touch, and the water is delightful.

If you started the hike very early, you might still have time to visit the Distillerie Bologne for a guided tour and a tasting session. Those interested in history won’t want to miss Fort Delgrès.

Have you hiked La Soufriere volcano? Share your experience in the comments below!


Eloise is the creator and writer of MyFavouriteEscapes.com. She writes about her experiences exploring exotic destinations and finding hidden gems closer to home. Her goal is to share tips and stories to inspire and encourage others to go on their own adventures. She loves outdoor and nature-based activities like scuba diving, hiking, kayaking, and sailing. She grew up in France and has lived in England and Turkey before calling Australia home for the past decade. So let's get ready for another adventure!

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