BETA: Guyana

4.8604° N, 58.9302° W


One of the smallest countries in South America - and one of the least visited - Guyana is a diverse, natural paradise. With almost all of the country covered in pristine, virgin rainforest, massive waterfalls and a plethora of flora and fauna (including one of the biggest raptors in the world, the Harpy Eagle).


Guyana is still very much "off the beaten path" - it only saw 315,000 visitors in 2019 (for comparison, 30 million people visit the town of Venice a year). So definitely consider adding this beautiful country to your bucketlist before other people realize how magical it is.



Fast Facts

  • Guyana is located on the northern mainland of South America, though it is considered part of the Caribbean region because of its strong cultural, historical, and political ties with other Caribbean countries and the Caribbean Community as a whole.

  • Guyana is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean to the north, Brazil to the south and southwest, Venezuela to the west, and Suriname to the east. With 215,000 square kilometers, Guyana is the third-smallest sovereign state by area in mainland South America after Uruguay and Suriname (and the second least-inhabited).

  • The region known as "the Guianas" consists of the large shield landmass north of the Amazon River and east of the Orinoco River known as the "land of many waters". This area is incredibly diverse (and beautiful), as well as one of the oldest geological areas in the world.

  • There are nine indigenous tribes that reside in Guyana: the Wai Wai, Macushi, Patamona, Lokono, Kalina, Wapishana, Pemon, Akawaio, and Warao.

  • The country was colonized by the Dutch before coming under British control in the late 18th century. It was governed as British Guiana, with a mostly plantation-style economy until the 1950s. It gained independence in 1966.

  • Guyana is the only South American nation in which English is the official language. However, the majority of the population, speak Guyanese Creole, an English-based creole language, as a first language.

All facts from here.


Fun Facts

  • According to the Worldwide Waterfall Database’s rankings of the top waterfalls in the world, Guyana is home to the No. 2 waterfall: Kaieteur Falls, which is located on Guyana’s Potaro River in Kaieteur National Park (one of the oldest national parks in South America). The waterfall has a single drop of 741 feet - in comparison, Niagara Falls is drops 167 feet. Kaieteur Falls is considered to be the largest single-drop waterfall by volume in the world.

  • Of Guyana’s total population, 36% of the residents are of African descent, while half of the people are of East Indian origin.

  • The country gained fame in the wrong way when Jim Jones, the religious cult leader, and his 900+ supporters committed suicide in the compound of Jonestown in western Guyana in 1978 (unfortunately this was the first thing we knew about the country).

  • About 70-80% of the total area of Guyana is covered with virgin rain forests. This is why it has such incredible biodiversity in terms of animals and plants.

  • Also, the mountain from the Disney movie Up was inspired by Mount Roraima, the highest peak of the tepui plateau in South America, where the borders of Venezuela, Brazil, and Guyana meet. The area was also the inspiration for Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's 1912 classic "The Lost World", a book about dinosaurs attacking a group of explorers amid the rocks and swamps (and the obvious inspiration for the Jurassic Park series). Learn more about the mountain here.

  • Norway and Guyana signed an agreement to protect Guyana’s Amazon rainforest as part of the country’s Low Carbon Development Strategy (LCDS). The commitment ended in 2015, with Norway having paid Guyana $250M to avoid deforestation. This first of its kind partnership has paved the way for similar LCDS and non-deforestation programs between developed and developing countries.

  • A vast majority of Guyana’s historic architecture is reflective of the country’s British colonial past. For example, St. George’s Cathedral, an Anglican church in the capital city of Georgetown, was once the tallest wooden church in the world, at 43.5 meters (143 feet).

Facts are from here and here.


Foggy green mountain scenery
Ruggedly beautiful Mt. Roraima. PC Rough Guides.

Adventures


| If you are looking to head into the heart of the rainforest, consider adventuring out to Rewa Village, a small Amerindian community located at the confluence of the Rewa and Rupununi Rivers in the North Rupununi Region of Central Guyana (aka very, very remote - perfect!). Rewa is home to about 300 villagers, mostly from the Makushi tribe. The village offers a minimalist lifestyle through farming and living off the assets of nature, so expect a community that is un-spoilt by human interference. The area is renowned for its abundance of wildlife and ecological diversity. Some of the best adventures to do in the area include hiking, climbing the nearby mountains, bird watching, and floating along on dug-out canoes.


| Or head out along one of the many rivers. The country is nicknamed, “land of many waters" so it makes sense to do at least one boat tour - if not more. The Rewa and Rupununi rivers are a great place to start. This is also a fantastic way to get a unique view of the local flora and fauna - which include massive fish (called the Arapaima), caimans, and a plethora of birds.


| No visit to the country is complete without a visit to the Iwokrama Rainforest, a protected area that is an A+ area to spot the local wildlife - including the elusive jaguar. If you want to check out the virgin rainforest, this is a great place to start. And if you are looking for an especially amazing view of the forest, head out to The Canopy Walkway of Iwokrama - a trail with multiple wooden bridges suspended over the rainforest floor.


| Now no trip to Guyana is complete without a visit to Kaieteur Falls, which is located deep within Guyana’s region of the Amazon Forest. The falls lie within Kaieteur National Park (makes sense...). The park is almost 63000 hectares big, and is heavily protected because of its incredible tourism potential – which itself depends on the place remaining intact. There are two ways to get to Kaieteur Falls: on a small charter flight for an easy day trip from Georgetown (or other locations in Guyana), or on an overland journey that can last up to five days (this also includes trekking up some of the beautiful forest mountains).


More Information:


History and culture of Guyana: https://www.britannica.com/place/Guyana

More information on things to do and see in Guyana: https://www.lonelyplanet.com/the-guianas/guyana

First-hand account of traveling in Guyana: https://www.adventurouskate.com/whats-it-like-travel-guyana/