Introducing The Guianas
Mix a population of descendants of escaped and freed slaves with a well-established indigenous culture; add a sprinkling of Indian, Indonesian, Laotian, Chinese and Brazilian immigrants, some French, British and Dutch colonialism, and steam the whole lot on the Atlantic coast of Latin South America. The result of this unlikely recipe makes for one of the most diverse and least-visited regions on the continent. Divided into three countries that have been defined by their colonialist past, the cultural mishmash causes a little bit of chaos, some wild-hot cuisine and loads of feisty and eccentric personalities. Reggae music and an Afro-European vibe remind you that you that these countries consider themselves to be Caribbean before South American.
Deep, malarial jungles protected the region from getting too much European interest early on – most of the first settlers died of tropical diseases. Today, this gives these countries a trump card they have yet to fully exploit: some of the purest tropical rainforests on the planet, ideal for the most adventurous sort of ecotourism. Lack of tourist infrastructure makes traveling in any of the Guianas challenging and expensive yet incredibly rewarding. French Guiana, which is technically France, is the most tidy and organized of the three countries, with a colorful and spicy capital (Cayenne and some unique attractions such as the old penal settlement of Îles du Salut. The potholes increase as you travel west through kaleidoscopic Suriname and its vibrant colonial capital Paramaribo; by the time you reach Guyana you’ll have lost track of the last time you had a hot shower. But if you survive the Conradian wilds of the Coastal Plain and the Interior, rest assured that you're in for a rip-roaring time in fun-loving Georgetown!
A first-timer's guide to the Guianas
The Guianas: Guyana, Suriname and French Guiana hide so well under their blanket of South American jungle that even geography nerds have a hard time pinpointing them on a map.
South America on a Shoestring - French Guiana (Chapter)
French Guiana is a tiny country of colonial architecture and some of the world’s most diverse plant and animal life. As a department of France, it’s one of South America’s wealthiest corners, where Amerindians, Maroons and Hmong refugees live traditional lifestyles surrounded by vast, pristine jungle.
Amsterdam meets the Wild West in Paramaribo, the most vivacious and striking capital in the Guianas).
Overland adventures in Guyana
By oxcart to Nappi Village. Photo by Celeste Brash. Hilda, my oxcart driver, was drunk. It was Amerindian Heritage weekend in Nappi Village, Guyana and everyone had been drinking parakari, the local fermented beverage, for two days straight. It was now Sunday afternoon but Hilda was showing no signs of wilting.
South America on a Shoestring - Guyana (Chapter)
Find authentic raw adventure in Guyana, which is becoming one of South America’s premier ecotourism destinations. Georgetown, the crumbling colonial capital, is distinctly Caribbean with a rocking nightlife and great places to eat. The interior is more Amazonian with its Amerindian communities and unparalleled wildlife-viewing.
Guyana Nature Experience
Visit one of South America's lesser known locations. Low in tourist numbers but high in natural beauty and friendly local faces, Guyana is a versatile destination that is sure to please. This sun-soaked tour visits the best of Guyana, beginning with the Caribbean beats of Georgetown.
Guyana Wildlife Adventure
If you've travelled South America but want to go further afield, discover Guyana—the continent's hidden corner. A nature-lover's paradise and free of typical tourist infrastructure, you'll encounter mountains, savannah and jungle canopy walkways in search of exotic birds, jaguars and other wildlife.
Sights in The Guianas
Activities in The Guianas
Tours in The Guianas
Restaurants in The Guianas
Budget hotels & hostels
Guesthouses and B&Bs
Although the glory days may be over, Georgetown's easy-to-navigate streets, dilapidated architecture and unkempt parks offer a laid-back feel amid real-life chaos.