Introduction

French Guiana is a remote region of France covered in thick jungle and wilderness, although you'll also find colonial architecture, eerie prison-camp history and some of the world's most diverse plant and animal life here. It's a strange mix of French law and rainforest humidity where only a few destinations along the coast are easily accessed and travel can be frustratingly difficult as well as expensive.

As a department of France, it's one of South America's wealthiest corners, with funds pouring in to ensure the smooth working of the Guiana Space Center at Kourou. But not even a European superpower can tame this vast, pristine jungle: you'll find potholes in newly paved roads, and ferns sprouting between bricks, while Amerindians, Maroons and Hmong refugees live traditional lifestyles so far from la vie métropole that it's hard to believe they're connected at all.