The 10 French Guiana Tourist Attractions To Visit

Last Updated on 13/05/2022 by Alfred

Want to visit Guiana? Between an Equatorial forest populated by extraordinary animals, a rich history influenced by colonization, and rocket launches from the Kourou space center, the 10 French Guiana Tourist Attractions To Visit!

French Guiana is both a region and a French overseas department in the North-East of South America, nestled between Brazil, Suriname, and the Atlantic Ocean. 

Covered 98% by a dense equatorial forest – one of the least ecologically fragmented globally – Guiana is home to rich and diverse fauna and flora. 

Ariane rockets are launched regularly from the Guiana Space Center, one of the largest French and European aerospace bases, on this lush land rich in paradoxes.

Covering an area of 83,846 km² for a population of only 259,865 inhabitants (2015), French Guiana is the second least populated region in France after Mayotte. 

When you visit French Guiana, you’ll find breathtaking nature, a cosmopolitan culture, especially in Cayenne, the capital, and a rich history marked by colonization and the famous prisons where some prisoners became legends. 

So, what to do in Guiana? Here are the 10 best things to do in Guiana.

The 10 French Guiana Tourist Attractions To Visit

1. The Zoo of Guyana

French Guiana Tourist Attractions To Visit

As an introduction to Guiana’s incredible endemic wildlife, who says better than visiting Guiana Zoo? This zoological park is home to nearly 450 animals, including jaguars, sloths, agoutis, crocodiles, howler monkeys, anteaters, and many birds, including toucans and aras.

The zoo is home to a 1,000 m² tropical greenhouse whose landscaped route allows visitors of all ages to discover the emblematic species of French Guiana, such as the red ibis, as well as a myriad of unique and sometimes unique rare species. 

The zoo also offers themed areas, including the ponds of the caimans, the island of Ateles, and the lair of felines … One of the best things to do in Guyana.

2. The Islands of Salvation

Located fourteen kilometers off the coast of Kourou, the Salvation Islands form an archipelago of three islets of volcanic origin. 

Only the Royale and Saint-Joseph islands are accessible. Devil’s Island, the northernmost, is strictly forbidden, especially because of the strong currents.

It was here that more than 2,000 convicts had been imprisoned in terrible and humiliating conditions of detention in the past. Formerly closed in the middle of the twentieth century, the prisons are now open to visitors. 

Île Royale, the largest of the three islands and the former administrative seat of the colony, is the busiest.

Explore the restored prison buildings or stroll along an island covered with plants and populated by maces, monkeys, and agoutis. 

To get to the Salvation Islands, you have to board a catamaran at the fishermen’s wharf at Avenue General De Gaulle. The journey takes about 90 minutes.

3. Cayenne

Located on the Guianese Atlantic coast, the city of Cayenne is the most populous in French Guiana. Despite poorly maintained historic buildings, Cayenne is worth a visit. 

Several mountains overlook the city, and the peaks along the shore offer lovely views.

If you visit French Guiana for its beaches, however, it is not in Cayenne that you have to go since the mangrove invades them.

4. The Guiana Space Center

It is impossible to visit Guyana without taking a tour of the Guiana Space Center, one of the flagship attractions of this overseas territory

The Center organizes about twelve rocket launches per year, offering tourists the opportunity to reserve their place to live an unforgettable moment: the launch of an Ariane rocket!

Discover the Space Museum, retracing the epic of Man in Space, the conquest of the moon, and European space programs. The opportunity to make a real journey in space and time through 7 thematic modules, including the Universe, crewed flights, satellites, and the future.

5. Treasury and Kaw Nature Reserves

Located on the southwestern flank of Kaw Mountain and spanning a relatively limited area of 2,500 hectares, the Trésor Regional Nature Reserve offers an environment of staggering biodiversity.

Several of the reserve’s animal and plant species are endemic due to its topography and geographical location. 

Much larger in comparison but less easily accessible than the Treasury, the nearby Reserve of the Kaw Roura Marshes extends over more than 90,000 hectares.

It is only accessible by river, and it is mainly marshes sheltering mangrove ecosystems, flood savannah, and tropical rainforest. 

Visitable with the help of canoes or floating carbets, the reserve is home to an exceptional fauna of rare species such as the black caiman, from the same family as the American alligator, as well as a rich diversity of birds, including the splendid red ibis.

6. A Boat Ride in French Guiana

Navigation is one of the best means of transport to discover the beauties of French Guiana. And it is not necessarily a question of sailing on the ocean but of sailing to discover the great Amazon rainforest. Rivers are indeed the main routes of circulation of the territory.

Therefore, it would be a shame not to rent a boat in French Guiana and thus miss discovering this magnificent setting!

7. The Beach of Les Hattes

Located in Awala-Yalimapo, on the edge of northwestern French Guiana, Les Hattes Beach is the world’s most crucial giant leatherback turtle spawning site. 

During the high season, from April to July, hundreds of leatherback turtles follow one another on the beach to lay their eggs that hatch between July and September.

Five kilometers long, this beach is also an important nesting site for green turtles and, occasionally, olive and hawksbill turtles. 

The beach offers a relaxing setting and tables to eat, and you can even hang your hammock between two palm trees—one of the most pleasant beaches in French Guiana.

8. The Carnival of Guiana

One of the significant events that punctuate Guianese life, the Carnival of Guiana, takes place in Cayenne between the Epiphany around the end of January and Ash Wednesday in February or March. 

It also takes place in Kourou and Saint-Laurent-du-Maroni, but Cayenne remains the best place to celebrate carnival.

Initially originating from Guianese Creole culture, carnival originates from the practices of a European carnival that was forbidden to enslaved people. 

However, it was practiced clandestinely by the latter, who saw it as a way to regain some freedom and mock the settlers.

Today, participants include the metropolitan, Brazilian and Chinese communities, offering spectators a parade of costumes as colorful as it is parodic. 

One of the must-see things in Guyana is if you have the opportunity to visit Guyana during this period.

9. The Prison of Saint-Laurent-Du-Maroni

Located in the border town of Saint-Laurent-du-Maroni, the Transportation camp was once a prison intended to temporarily take care of prisoners as soon as they arrived in French Guiana before they were transferred to penal colonies throughout the country.

The prison housed famous former prisoners such as Alfred Dreyfus or Henri Charrière, known as “Papillon.” 

If the lush nature seems to soothe the place today, the hints of its dark and brutal history continue to haunt the site. 

Self-guided tours are free, and you can rent the services of French-speaking guides whose tours are more detailed. Look for the name of Butterfly engraved in one of the cells.

10. The Beaches of Remire-Montjoly

If you are tempted by sunbathing on a sandy beach, look no further than the beaches of Remire-Montjoly. 

These beaches are dotted with coconut trees and bordered by lush nature; these beaches offer a wild yet pleasant setting to relax on the sand.

Admittedly, the loamy waters are not ideal for swimming but are enough to cool off after a hike in the surrounding area, such as the beautiful Rorota Trail. If you are lucky, you may even spot sea turtles during the laying season.

How to get to French Guiana?

Guyana is located on the American continent. During your stay in French Guiana, you will land at Félix Éboué Airport (CAY), the only airport in the territory. 

You can go to French Guiana on a flight from Paris to Cayenne with Air Caraïbes. Flights depart from Paris Orly (ORY), and Air France also offers flights to French Guiana. 

Daily connections exist. You can leave from Bordeaux, Lyon, or Marseille, with a stopover in Paris Orly before flying to the beaches of French Guiana.

When to go to French Guiana? The best time to go to French Guiana is between August and November, during the dry season.

Where to stay in French Guiana?

Staying in French Guiana will not be as easy as when you book accommodation for Rome or Paris. For example, there are no youth hostels or even campsites. 

Ideally, one should stay in a guest cottage that corresponds to a traditional habitat (palm leaf roofs, wood cottages, etc.). 

Therefore, they are found in the forest (usually by the river and accessible only by the river), in a Native American village, in the savannah, or on the beach. It is usually individuals who manage the carbets of hosts.

There are also homestay rentals, via Airbnb, usually in major cities such as Cayenne, Kourou, Saint-Laurent-du-Maroni, and all coastal towns. Classic hotels also exist in these destinations.

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