French Guiana Travel Guide

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French Guiana


French Guiana is an overseas department of France located on the North Atlantic Ocean in the north-eastern part of South America . It is a part of the Guiana region, and the Atlantic Ocean borders to the north, Brazil to the south and east, and Suriname to the west.


It is separated from Brazil by the Ojapoque River and the Tumuc-Humac mountains. The country is not highly populated and it is the only country on the South American continent that is not independent. The country is a good destination for the adventurous and those wishing to avoid crowded tourists spots. Many areas are still only accessible by river.


French Guiana was settled by the Dutch and Spanish. It then became a French territory in 1667 and was used as a penal colony. Political prisoners were sent from France and detained in the colonies, including Devil’s Island until 1952. Many of the prisoners died from diseases such as Malaria. One detainee who managed to escape, Henri Charriere, also known as ‘Papillon’ (butterfly) wrote a book about his experience, which was made into a major motion picture. The country became an overseas department of France in 1947.


The population is mainly comprised of Black or Mulatto, Whites, E. Indians, Chinese, Amerindians, and others. The dominant religion is Roman Catholic. French is the official language with some Creole. French Guiana ’s economy is mainly dependent on France for imports and subsidies, but its industries include forestry and fishing. Rum is also produced from locally grown sugarcane.

Cayenne , the capital city and port, is located on Cayenne Island and holds the majority of the population. It has a good museum. Saint-Laurent, located inland from there, is a second major area of importance, being one of French Guiana ’s business centres. It was once the site of a transportation camp where prisoners were housed before being transferred to other colonies. Tours of the area are available.


The town of Kourou is another former penal colony. It is a small town but has a beach and is an interesting place to visit. The French Foreign Legion is situated in this area. Kourou is also the location of a European Space Centre satellite launch site and many of the employees live in the area.

The town of Sinnamary has retained its Creole charm and is a place where Creole food and souvenirs of crafts such as woodcarvings, embroidery, baskets and pottery can be found.


The Iles du Salut are located approximately 10 miles from the coast of Kourou and are the place for sport fishing. The archipelago comprises Ile Royale, Ile St. Joseph and Devil’s Island , which are all accessible by boat. The islands are now an interesting place for hiking where remains of the prisons can be seen, and also for exploring and swimming in the clear waters.


There is something for everyone who enjoys adventure in French Guiana . Activities include swimming, sailing, fishing, water sports, canoeing, horseback riding, mountain biking, hiking, river trips and golf.


Mount Favard , approx. 40 miles SE of Cayenne, is a place for walking and exploring remains of the country’s pre-Columbian period when it was inhabited by many native Indians such as the Carib and Arawaks.


For nature lovers there is a wide variety of species of flora and fauna to be found, including many protected species, such as anteaters, spider monkeys, armadillos, flamingos, scarlet ibis and macaws. Montjoly beach and les Hattes beach are places where the huge leatherback turtles can be see. There are some wildlife reserves, including the The Kaw swamps area which is a good place to see the wildlife, as well as many beautiful waterfalls where you can relax and enjoy nature.



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