When we think of France the European Union, we normally think of, well, Europe. With France, we think of the country's romantic old cities, quaint villages, and baguettes. But French Guiana in South America is an integral part of France - like what Hawaii is part of the United States. When we think of South America we think of people there speaking Spanish and Portuguese, but Suriname speaks Dutch, Guyana speaks English and French Guiana speaks French of course. SoΒ you can visit the wild rainforests of South America and actually be in France and the European Union. Flights from French Guiana to Europe are just domestic flights.


Introduction To French Guiana

  • Capital And Largest City: Cayanne
  • Currency: Euro
  • Land Area: 83,000 Sq. km Or 32,000 Sq. Miles
  • Official Language: French
  • Population: 300,000

History Of French Guiana

The French first attempted to colonize Guiana in 1763 but this was an unmitigated failure with 10,000 of the 12,000 colonists dying from tropical diseases and the like. After the French losses of Quebec to the British, the French started to develop it as a penal colony. During the Napoleonic Wars the Portuguese took over the territory for a while but it was returned after the end of the wars.

Today most of the people living there were born there and around 10% come from metropolitan France. If you are ever looking for an unusual destination to explore the South American rainforests from, then consider French Guiana.

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Most of the flights are to France or to other French possessions. If you are flying from America it may be easier to fly into Suriname and then drive from there.

What To See And Do

French Guiana is a superb destination for those interested in eco-tourism. Here you can visit vast stretches of untouched dense rainforests. French Guiana is a melting pot of many different cultures from all around the world (much like other countries in this region). Here you will find a fusion of French, African, Brazilian, and African cultures. Here there are plenty of parades and carnivals for you to attend. It is also a major base for launching rockets into space.

With eco-tourism, it boasts an astounding amount of rich biodiversity with unbelievably exotic wildlife - including the vaunted Jaguars. It should be noted that this is not a well-developed tourist destination. It is not like visiting the Yucatan Peninsula or the Bahamas. While English is everywhere in the world, you may struggle if you can't speak French. And as the tourist infrastructure is undeveloped, it can also be a little pricey. So French Guiana is a great destination for the more intrepid of explorers and those looking for pieces of paradise not yet overrun with tourists.

  • Visa: Visa-Free

Here you will find abundant colonial architecture and learn about the place's dark penal colony history (only around 10% of convicts survived their terms). But in visiting this strange place one should be prepared for it being expensive as well as frustratingly difficult to travel around. There is a coastal road but going inland is a whole other story. Also, the climate here is tropical and you can expect it to be humid.

The Guianan cuisine is richly infused with a range of different cuisines. These include Creole restaurants and Chinese restaurants together with various native American cuisines and Bushinengue. There is also a notable French influence on French cuisine.

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One of the things to really do is explore the Tresor Nature Reserve, this is only a 1.5-2 hour drive from Cayenne and you can have guided tours of the reserve on local boats. Boats are the best way to explore these wetlands and you can choose between a selection of day and overnight tours. Maybe you will be lucky enough to see caimans. While this reserve is still quite accessible, it is certainly off the beaten track in international tourism terms.

Some of the main things to see and do here are:

  • Space Center: This Is One Of The World's Main Space Launch Centers And It Has A Space Museum
  • Hattes Beach: This Is An Important Nesting Site For The Giant Leatherback Turtles, Breeding Season Is April To July
  • Salvation Islands: Penal Islands
  • Tresor Nature Reserve: Unspoilt Marsh Bio-Diversity And Wildlife Hotspot (Also Home To Black Caimans)
  • Pirogue River Trip: You Can Paddle Along This Jungle Lined River And Spot Monkeys, Caybaras And Caimans.

Examples Of Expeditions

There are a number of tours to chose from. If you are interested in some larger Overlanding trips of the whole region then consider Dragoman Tours, here is an example of one of their tours:

21 Day Expedition

  • Where: Cayenne to Boa Vista (through French Guiana, Brazil, Suriname Guyana
  • Transport Mode: Expedition Vehicle, Minibus, And Boat
  • Accommodation: Mix Of Hotels, Camping, Guesthouses, and Basic Hotels
  • Meals: Half Of The Meals Covered
  • Cost: From $3,410

Another tour company that specializes in exploring the three Guianas isΒ The GuianasΒ and here is an example of one of their expeditions.

7 Day Tour

  • Cost: From $2,595
  • Visit: French Guiana Space Center, and French Guiana's Devil's Island (The Infamous Colonial Prison For Political Exiles)
  • Tour: The Capital Cayenne

French Guiana is not normally on the tourist map, but if you do go there it will be pristine and free from other tourists.

Next:Β 10 Must-Stop Destinations For A South America Road Trip