What to see in French Guiana: cities and attractions not to be missed

Who I am
Joel Fulleda

wikipedia.org, lonelyplanet.com

Author and references

A small country mostly covered by the Amazon rainforest where there is no shortage of splendid Creole villages, Nature Reserves, rivers and white beaches to relax and sunbathe. A piece of Europe in South America, an unusual destination off the beaten track to be discovered.
Its name derives from the Arawak term "Wayana" which means "land rich in water"; we are talking about French Guiana, not to be confused with the state of Guyana, Suriname.


  1. Cayenne
  2. Chou-Ai Association
  3. Islands of Salut
  4. Kourou Space Center
  5. St. Laurent du Maroni
  6. Amazon rainforest
  7. Amana Nature Reserve
  8. Kaw Roura Marsh Nature Reserve
  9. Natural reserve of Nouragues
  10. Navigation on the Maroni river
  11. User questions and comments

1 - Cayenne

The first thing to see once you land in French Guiana it's the capital Cayenna is a town with colonial architecture where French and Amerindian customs are mixed. The result it is an authentic mix of races, colors, customs and flavors. Do not miss the fruit and vegetable market (opening hours: Wed-Fri-Sat 4: 00-14: 00, Tue-Thu 6: 30-13: 30) and the fish market (Mon-Sat 6: 30-13: 30; Tue-Thu-Fri 16: 00-18: 30), the Fort Ceperou which dates back to the th century (always accessible, free admission) and the colonial buildings of Place des Palmistes.
The famous carnival that takes place in the capital should be noted on the agenda; during the celebrations of Mardi Gras women dress up in elegant clothes, wigs and hats, masks and gloves so that no one recognizes them.

2 - Chou-Ai Association

This Association is located 13 km from Cayenne where they come welcomed, cared for and protected sloths to then be released. The volunteers' task is to raise awareness among tourists while still giving visitors the opportunity to interact with them.
The Reserve is open only on Wednesdays from 14:00 to 16:00 and it is possible to make donations.

3 - Isole du Salut

Less than 15 km from the coast, still in French territory, it is located an archipelago of volcanic origin composed of three islands: les Iles du Salut, or the Islands of Salvation.
The most famous is the Devil's Island which until 1954 housed a rather severe prison famous for having also inspired the film "Papillon".
In addition to visiting the remains of the penitentiary, during a boat excursion in this archipelago, it is possible to go for walks on the beach, snorkeling or just a bathroom.

4 - Kourou Space Center

60 km off the coast of French Guiana is another island, Kourou. Here is the Guyana Space Center, CSG, from where the spacecraft are launched a few days a year. And if you are lucky enough to be in French Guiana in those days you will witness a real show (however on those days access to the Ile du Salut is forbidden). However, you can visit the nearby museum and space base at any time with a guided tour. The 3-hour guided tour takes place twice a day (at 2:8 or 00:13) from Monday to Saturday, must be booked 00 hours in advance and costs € 48.

5 - St. Laurent du Maroni

Another place to visit in French Guiana is this small town founded in 1858 to accommodate inmates while remaining penitentiary base until the end of the Second World War.
Today it is possible to see some colonial buildings that once housed the prisoners (visits every hour from Tuesday to Saturday from 8:15 to 11:15 and from 15:15 to 17:15 and Sunday from 9:15 to 11:15; admission € 5,00).
Furthermore, St. Laurent du Moroni is famous for the local production of one of the best rums and you can visit the St. Maurice distillery (hours Mon-Fri 7: 00-14: 00 free admission).

6 - Amazon rainforest

The Amazonian Park of French Guiana occupies an area of ​​over 30.000 sq km accessible only by river on board of pirogues or with internal flights. The area is protected and can be admired by taking part in organized excursions of one or more days. A unique experience is the one called "Amazonia for all" which consists in discovering this green lung through different paths that start from Soul, a 45-minute flight from Cayenne. From here you reach the Galbao Mountains, a lookout point for the immense Amazon.

7 - Amana Nature Reserve

The Amana territory is located in the northwest of French Guiana, occupies an area of ​​15.000 hectares and extends from the mouth of the Maroni river to that of the Organabo river.
The shores of the sea, location of the reserve, are the natural habitat of red ibises, pink flamingos, monkeys, jaguars, snakes and manatees, but above all every year (usually in September) skin tortoises come to lay their eggs which weigh from 600 to 900 kg. Those who come to this country cannot miss an excursion in this Nature Reserve

8 - Kaw Roura Marsh Nature Reserve

Another must-see during a trip to French Guiana is the Kaw Roura Reserve which is located east of Roura and southeast of Cayenne and can only be reached by pirogue. It occupies an area of ​​95.000 hectares and it is home to red ibises, red caimans, black caimans and spectacled caimans visible especially during night hikes, as well as a large variety of birds that can be seen in daylight.

9 - Natural reserve of Nouragues

This humid forest crossed by the Balanfois mountains occupies about 1.000 square kilometers of surface area and takes its name from a now extinct ethnic group. Several species of birds live within the Reserve such as the macaw toucan, colorful parrots and the beautiful jaguars. For the visit it is always necessary to take part in tours organized by local guides and never go into the forest alone.

10 - Navigation on the Maroni river

Finally, during a stay in French Guiana you cannot miss the navigation on the Maroni River, the longest in the country with its 520 km as well as the one that marks the western border with Suriname. The excursion lasts 4-5 days, goes from Saint Laurent du Maroni to Maripasoula, is carried out by pirogue and at night you stay in comfortable huts in contact with nature. We visit Indian villages and treks in the forest that allow you to discover this still virgin place of the earth.

Travel informed: useful information and necessary documents

  • Inhabitants: 250.109
  • Capital: Cayenne
  • Languages: French, Creole and Indian idioms
  • Local currency: EUR
  • Weather: it is tropical hot-humid with abundant rainfall throughout the year except in September and October. Temperatures do not undergo significant variations and are always between 20 ° min and 32 ° max. The country is excluded from the trajectory of hurricanes that usually pass further north, on the Caribs.
  • Time zone: -4 hours during summer time and -5 when winter time applies
  • vaccinations: all travelers over the age of 1 year, coming from countries at risk of transmission of the Yellow Fever disease, must carry out the vaccine. The same rule applies to travelers who have even just passed through the airport of a country at risk of transmitting the disease for more than 12 hours.
  • Entry requirements: a valid identity card for expatriation (being a country of the European Community) or a passport is sufficient. No visas or special documents are required.
  • Travel / health insurance: recommended.

    Where it is

    French Guiana is a French overseas region located on the northeastern coast of South America. It borders to the south and east with Brazil, to the west with Suriname and to the north it faces the Atlantic Ocean. A short distance from the coast there are some islands, mostly uninhabited, called islands of Salvation "ile du Salut"

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