Top Things to Do in French Guiana

French Guiana, an overseas department of France located on the northeastern coast of South America, is a unique destination that offers a blend of rich cultural heritage, stunning natural beauty, and fascinating historical sites. Whether you’re an adventure seeker, a history enthusiast, or someone looking to relax and soak in the tropical atmosphere, French Guiana has something for everyone. Here are the top things to do in French Guiana to make the most of your visit.

Explore Cayenne

Cayenne, the capital of French Guiana, is a vibrant city known for its colorful Creole architecture, bustling markets, and rich cultural scene. Start your exploration at Place des Palmistes, a central square surrounded by historic buildings and palm trees. Visit the nearby Musée Départemental Franconie, which offers exhibits on the history, culture, and natural history of the region. Don’t miss the lively Marché de Cayenne, where you can shop for local produce, spices, and handmade crafts.

Discover the Space Center in Kourou

The Guiana Space Centre (Centre Spatial Guyanais) in Kourou is one of the most important spaceports in the world. Visitors can take guided tours of the facility, learn about the history of space exploration, and witness rocket launches. The space center offers a fascinating insight into the role of French Guiana in global space missions. Be sure to check the launch schedule in advance to plan your visit around a live launch.

Visit Îles du Salut

The Îles du Salut, or Salvation Islands, are a group of small islands located off the coast of Kourou. The most famous of these is Île du Diable (Devil’s Island), which was once a notorious penal colony. Visitors can take boat tours to the islands, explore the remnants of the prison, and learn about the history of the penal colony. The islands also offer beautiful scenery, hiking trails, and opportunities for wildlife spotting.

Relax on Plage des Hattes

Plage des Hattes, located in the town of Awala-Yalimapo, is one of the best beaches in French Guiana. This long stretch of sandy beach is known for its beautiful sunsets and serene atmosphere. Plage des Hattes is also a significant nesting site for leatherback turtles, and visitors can witness these majestic creatures laying their eggs during the nesting season. The beach offers a perfect spot for relaxation, swimming, and picnicking.

Explore the Kaw Marshes

The Kaw Marshes, located northeast of Cayenne, are a vast and biodiverse wetland area that offers a unique and immersive nature experience. Visitors can take guided boat tours through the marshes, spot diverse wildlife such as caimans, capybaras, and numerous bird species, and learn about the importance of this ecosystem. The marshes also offer opportunities for fishing, hiking, and photography, making it a perfect destination for nature lovers.

Visit the Mana River and Cacao Village

The Mana River, located in western French Guiana, offers a scenic and tranquil setting for exploration. Visitors can take boat tours along the river, enjoy the lush tropical vegetation, and spot wildlife such as monkeys and exotic birds. Nearby, the village of Cacao, founded by Hmong refugees in the 1970s, offers a unique cultural experience. Visit the Sunday market in Cacao, where you can sample traditional Hmong cuisine, shop for handmade crafts, and learn about the community’s history and traditions.

Discover the Maroni River

The Maroni River forms the natural border between French Guiana and Suriname and is an important cultural and ecological area. Visitors can take boat tours along the river, explore the traditional villages of the Maroon communities, and learn about their unique way of life. The Maroni River also offers opportunities for fishing, canoeing, and wildlife spotting, providing a diverse and enriching experience.

Explore the Tumuc-Humac Mountains

The Tumuc-Humac Mountains, located in the interior of French Guiana, offer a rugged and remote landscape for adventurous travelers. The mountains are home to pristine rainforests, diverse wildlife, and indigenous communities. Visitors can take guided expeditions into the mountains, explore the lush vegetation, and learn about the traditional practices of the indigenous peoples. The Tumuc-Humac Mountains provide a unique and off-the-beaten-path experience for those seeking adventure and cultural immersion.

Visit the Village of Saint-Georges-de-l’Oyapock

Saint-Georges-de-l’Oyapock, located on the banks of the Oyapock River, is a charming village that offers a blend of French and Brazilian influences. The village is known for its colorful houses, friendly locals, and vibrant cultural scene. Visitors can take boat tours along the Oyapock River, visit the local market, and enjoy the beautiful scenery. Saint-Georges-de-l’Oyapock also offers opportunities for hiking, fishing, and exploring the nearby nature reserves.

Experience the Culture and Traditions

French Guiana is a melting pot of cultures, with influences from Africa, Europe, the Caribbean, and indigenous peoples. Visitors can experience the rich cultural heritage through various festivals, events, and traditions. The Carnival of French Guiana, held annually, is a vibrant celebration featuring parades, music, dance, and traditional costumes. Other cultural events, such as the Hmong New Year and traditional Amerindian ceremonies, offer unique and immersive experiences.

Conclusion

French Guiana offers a diverse and captivating array of activities and attractions for visitors to explore. From the vibrant city life of Cayenne and the historical significance of the Îles du Salut to the natural beauty of the Kaw Marshes and the cultural richness of the Maroni River communities, there is something for everyone in this unique and enchanting destination. Plan your visit to French Guiana and experience the best that this fascinating region has to offer.

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