WHY VISIT FRENCH GUIANA
French Guiana is a tropical backwater with intriguing highlights to satisfy the curious traveller: from rich wildlife encounters to cultural curiosities that sound like the setting for an Evelyn Waugh novel, including the launch site of the European Space Programme, chilling ruins of notorious penal colonies, and isolated indigenous communities.
Tucked between the Brazilian Amazon and the Atlantic Ocean, the sparsely populated country harbours an abundance of plants and animals, well protected in parks and reserves. As an overseas French département, French is the official language. With the Euro as its currency, prices are on a par with Europe, not cheap.
Despite its lack of beaches and swampy coastline, exploration of the jungle-clad interior reveals rewarding sights. St Laurent is the best gateway, an appealing colonial city and former penal transportation centre. Guided tours of the prison are available, and boats go down the Marowijne River, to visit Amerindian and Maroon villages. The welcoming locals have handicrafts for sale, and you can trek to beaches where leatherback turtles lay their eggs.
French Guiana’s most notorious penal camp was on the Iles du Salut, which include the infamous Devil’s Island where political prisoners were held. Some 80,000 men died here from cruel hardship, disease and execution. Alfred Dreyfus was the most famous inmate, but it was Henri Charriere who recreated the camp’s horrors in his book, Papillon. Tours of the restored ruins relive this grim history, lightened up by the island’s rich wildlife, including parrots, monkeys and turtles.
By way of contrast, the other major attraction for visitors is the Ariane Space Station, Europe’s satellite launch centre. From the small coastal city of Kourou, you can visit the centre, and watch rocket launches. Nearby are some decent beaches to lounge on afterwards, or visit the village of Sinnamary, where an Indonesian community sells handicrafts and artworks.
WHAT TO SEE IN FRENCH GUIANA
WHEN TO GO TO FRENCH GUIANA
The best period to visit French Guiana is from August to November.
Tropical. The dry season is August to December; the rainy season is December and January and April to July. Hot all year round, with cooler nights. The average temperature is 27°C (85°F).
Following is a list of typical festivals and celebrations of French Guiana.
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HOW TO REACH AND TRAVEL THROUGH FRENCH GUIANA
GENERAL INFORMATION ON FRENCH GUIANA
health tips & vaccination:
local currency: European Euro
local time zone: GMT-3
electricity: type C, type D and type E (220 V – 50 Hz)
WHAT TO DO IN GUYANA
typical food in French Guiana
- Bouillon d’aoura: Smoked fish, crab, prawns, vegetables and chicken, served with aoura, the fruit of savanna trees.
- Forest game: A wide range of animals, including collared peccary, paca and tapir are hunted as game. These are usually eaten as a fricassee and are accompanied by rice and kidney beans.
- Couac: Grated and dried yucca, served as a side dish.
- Boucanage: Meat or fish cooked in banana plant leaves.
- Blaff: Spicy fish chowder, often eaten at breakfast.
- Ti’ Punch: A traditional aperitif of lime, sugar cane syrup and rum usually accompanied by cod rolls and black pudding.
- Planter: Rum cocktail, mixed with sugar and fruit juice.
- Kalou: Spicy dish of smoked fish, with collard greens.
- Roti: Bread, fried in oil and eaten dipped into stews.
- Doku: Creamy dessert made of mashed corn, with cinnamon and brown sugar.
souvenirs from French Guiana
- wood sculpture
- gold jewellery