French Guiana is the “France outside of France”. Tourists can therefore benefit from the inherent natural beauty of a South American country and the perks of a French colony.
This overseas department of France lies north of Brazil and east of Suriname. It has few people, lots of Amazon rainforest, a bit of savanna and a long and easily accessible coast along the Atlantic Ocean.
Here are the 11 reasons to make it your travel destination:
1. The year-round tropical climate
Seasons are divided to rainy and dry. Tourists who want to escape winter from the north will find its tropical climate one of the top reasons to visit French Guiana. Secondly, the country is blessed with natural scenery that cannot be likened to France. It leans more towards the wilder side of nature with its untamed forests, rare plants, and exotic wildlife. Third is the colonial heritage imparted by the French as seen from its historic landmarks, architecture, and art. Museums and art galleries provide an in-depth look at the historical and cultural influences of France on French Guiana.
2. 20th Century Architecture in Cayenne, French Guiana’s Capital
A specific reason to visit Cayenne (and Kourou) is the celebration of carnival in February/March. With a 4-day spectacle that includes different parades and a lot of partying until the early morning hours, it is one of the major carnival events in South America.
Check out the Chou Aï Rescue Center (open on Wednesday and Thursday afternoons), where you can hold sloths and learn all about them – or volunteer rescuing and taking care of them.
Organise a trip in a dugout canoe. Trips range from an hour and a half to full day adventures and take place throughout the country including, the Kourou, Iracabo, Counamana and the lower Sinnamary. The rivers are a mixture of calm water and more challenging rapids, such as those at Hermina.
4. Explore the world of French Guiana’s Penal Colonies and Papillon
Although several French public figures have served time in French Guiana’s penal colonies, it is Henri Charrière’s novel (or autobiography, depending on the source) Papillon that put French Guiana on the map. There are two places to visit the ruins of the penal colony that was closed in 1953.
In French Guiana's capital and chief port, points of interest include the Jesuit-built residence of the Prefect in the Place de Grenoble, the Canal Laussat, and the Botanical Gardens. In the centre of town, the Musée Départemental Franconie and the Musée des Cultures Guyanaises feature good exhibits on indigenous peoples and the notorious penal settlements on Devil's Island.
6. Mouragues Nature Reserve
Discover nature and wildlife at the Mouragues Nature Reserve, which stretches from Roura to Régina and is renowned for its diverse scenery and flora. The Kaw Swamps, near Rora, are host to many species of birds, such as the Toco toucan and the flamingo.
7. Haut-Maroni and Haut-Oyapoc
Visit the Amerindian villages in Haut-Maroni and Haut-Oyapoc. Visits are restricted and a permission must be obtained from the Préfecture in Cayenne before arrival in the country.
8. Iles du Salut
The Iles du Salut include the infamous Devil's Island where political prisoners were held. Do not miss the Iracoubo Church painted entirely by hand by the famous convict Huguet. There is a hotel (an ex-mess hall for the prison warders) on Ile Royale.
Travel to French Guiana is made all the more worthwhile because of its superb cuisine. French Guiana food is a blend of traditions and cuisines of all cultures that are present and ever existent in the country. French Guiana food is known for its delicious and delectable taste that will tantalize the taste buds of the South America tourist. While backpacking South America, you can savor the different tastes the various cuisines offer in the numerous hotels and cafes.
10. Join the carnival
King Carnival starts after Epiphany and goes on until Ash Wednesday. Every Sunday for over two months, carnival groups delight the thronging crowds with their multicolored costumes and the frenetic rhythm of their music. On Mardi Gras, the towns are almost literally painted red for the parade of the red devils. Ash Wednesday sees the crowd dressed in black and white and ready to witness the final moments of the life of King Carnival, soon to be burnt at the stake amid a seemingly incessant hullabaloo.
11. For Future Buffs
French Guiana now has another amazing site to offer; it is home to the Space Centre built by the French because of its suitable location and climate. This influx of development has given rise to a new, profound interest in the island which draws many who are backpacking South America. This location is a hot South America tourist spot for people who travel to French Guiana. This is one of the main reasons why the country has prospered quickly and developed into a tourist attraction. Other relevant infrastructure such as hotels, night clubs and shopping areas has developed rapidly, making it a pleasant place to visit.
- Beaches of Cayenne
- Space Center of Kourou
- Incredible Biodiversity of Guiana Amazonian Park
Though sharing cultural affinities with the French-speaking territories of the Caribbean, French Guiana cannot be considered to be part of that geographic region, with the Caribbean Sea actually being located several hundred kilometres to the west, beyond the arc of the Lesser Antilles.French Guiana consists of two main geographical regions: a coastal strip where the majority of the people live, and dense, near-inaccessible rainforest which gradually rises to the modest peaks of the Tumac-Humac mountains along the Brazilian frontier. French Guiana's highest peak is Bellevue de l'Inini (851 m). Other mountains include Mont Machalou (782 m), Pic Coudreau (711 m) and Mont St Marcel (635 m), Mont Favard (200 m) and Montagne du Mahury (156 m). Several small islands are found off the coast, the three Iles du Salut Salvation Islands which includes Devil's Island and the isolated Iles du Connétable bird sanctuary further along the coast towards Brazil.The Barrage de Petit-Saut hydroelectric dam in the north of French Guiana forms an artificial lake and provides hydroelectricity.
French is the official language of France, although Creole is widely spoken. Everyone understands French but few people understand English. Most officials, police and gendarmes understand and speak English. But they may say they do not. They comprehend the English language very well as they are taught such in schools.
In French Guiana beyond cash, credit cards are widely accepted, and you can get Visa or MasterCard cash advances at ATMs ( guichets automatiques ), which are on the Plus and Cirrus networks. Eurocard and Carte Bleu are also widely accepted. The currency is the Euro €.
French Guiana is a wet country: even when it's not raining, the air hangs heavy with humidity. The country's tropical rainforests top out at around 30°C (85°F) and receive over 250cm (100in) of rain a year. The rain falls heaviest from January to June, with May seeing the worst of it. Cayenne, the capital, and Guiana's other Atlantic coast settlements are less muggy than inland areas.
Nearly 400 years as a cultural melting pot has given French Guiana’s cuisine inspiration, originality, and passion, with a wide range of tastes and spices. Influenced by Europe, Africa, India, and Amerindian traditions, all the flavors of the world are found in French Guiana—and your taste buds will thank you. It’s good. It’s delicious. Creole cuisine is waiting for you.Nutmeg, ginger, cloves, cinnamon, pepper and chili peppers.French Guiana used to produce these spices, and they remain a basic ingredient in local recipes.French Guiana’s waters are full of fish, so there’s a great variety of fish and shrimp prepared in number of ways.From the small sea-bob, similar to Breton prawns, to giant shrimp, which you could almost mistake for scampi, the seafood is presented in a variety of forms, including marinades (fritters) and kebabs. These stews are delicious with either red or white meat. All these dishes are accompanied by generous helpings of rice, red beans, or couac (a sort of semolina, more or less fine, made from roasted manioc).
French Guiana was originally inhabited by a number of indigenous American peoples. Settled by the French during the 17th century, it was the site of penal settlements from 1852 until 1951, which were known in the English-speaking world as Devil's Island. A border dispute with Brazil arose in the late nineteenth century over a vast area of jungle, leading to the short-lived pro-French independent state of Counani in the disputed territory and some fighting between settlers, before the dispute was resolved largely in favour of Brazil by the arbitration of the Swiss government. In 1946, French Guiana became an overseas department of France. The 1970s saw the settlement of Hmong refugees from Laos. A movement for increased autonomy from France gained momentum in the 1970s and 1980s. Protests by those calling for more autonomy have become increasingly vocal; demonstrations in 1996, 1997 and 2000 all ended in violence.
The vast majority of French Guianans are Roman Catholic. There are many other religions practiced by the minority groups. These include indigenous Amerindian shamanistic religions, Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, and Africanbased religions
The Black, the American Indian and the Vietnamese have influenced the origin of folk art within this region while coming up with crafts made of textiles, pottery, and wood carving.
French Guiana's, enjoy watching television or going for a movie during their leisure hours. The young crowd is even attracted towards the ongoing disco clubs, cafes, and dance club. Beaches along the Cayenne offer a suitable location for picnicking and swimming. One even indulges in recreational activity like boating, swimming, fishing and playing soccer.
The French Guiana people resort to music and dance that is accompanied with a drum. A woodwind instrument is the sole instrument that is used while playing the American Indian pro music. French ballads, pop and rock music have made it place in recent time while attracting the present generation.