Guyana


Guyana destination

about Few places on the planet offer raw adventure as authentic as densely forested Guyana. Although the country has a troubled history of political instability and interethnic tension, underneath the headlines of corruption and economic mismanagement is a joyful and motivated mix of people who are slowly turning the country into the continent's best-kept ecotourism secret.

Georgetown, the country's crumbling colonial capital, is distinctly Caribbean, with an alluring vibe, happening nightlife and some great places to eat. The interior of the country is more Amazonian, with its Amerindian communities and unparalleled wildlife-viewing opportunities tucked quietly away from the capital's noise and bustle. From sea-turtle nesting grounds along the country's north coast to monkeys and jaguars in the rainforest, and giant anteaters down in the southern savannas, Guyana's natural wonders are well worth the mud, bumpy roads and sweat.

The interior and coastal areas offer countless outdoor adventure possibilities, from river rafting, trekking and bird-watching to wildlife-viewing and fishing. Community tourism is growing, particularly in the Rupununi. Most folk arrange adventures through Georgetown's tour agencies, but independent travel is possible – though it really pays to plan ahead, as many lodges and ranches are simply not prepared for last-minute guests.

What you can't expect almost anywhere in Guyana, however, is marked hiking trails – you're effectively going to be in the wilderness anywhere you'll want to walk. With this in mind it's always best (and often essential) to go hiking with a local guide, rather than to strike out alone. One walk that is particularly notable is the expedition-level hike to Kaieteur Falls, which usually begins at the gold-mining town of Mahdia and takes three full days. It's a challenging but highly scenic trek through the rainforest, including several stretches by boat on the river, and can even involve swimming in parts.

One of the few marked hiking trails in the country is the Panorama Nature Trail on the edge of the village of Annai in the North Rupununi. This is a short but fairly challenging half-day hike, with some excellent bird-watching to be had on the way.

There is little in the way of entertainment on offer in much of the country, although you'll see cricket matches are a ubiquitous feature of most towns. Live music is also performed all over Georgetown and in smaller cities, too, though you might have to look somewhat harder for it on the tourist trail.

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Standing proudly where the mighty Demerara River pours into the Atlantic, Georgetown is by far Guyana's biggest city and a place all visitors will spend at least some of their time. With its dilapidated architecture, unkempt parks and vibrant street life, Georgetown has a laid-back feel and considerable charm in parts, even if there's little to see beyond a smattering of museums, churches and colonial curiosities. Home today to the Caricom economic community, and thus a kind of Brussels of the Caribbean, Georgetown is no backwater, and its restaurants and nightlife reflect that, lending a distinctly cosmopolitan edge to the general chaos of a modern Guyanese city.

Sights

Georgetown can be explored comfortably in a couple of days, with several interesting museums and attractive parks to explore. The best 19th-century buildings are along Main St and especially along Ave of the Republic, just east of the Demerara River.

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Sleeping

Georgetown has a reasonable selection of hotels, with something to suit most budgets, although there's very little in the very cheapest categories.

Eating

Georgetown has a reasonable selection of restaurants, although things are often rather dead in the evening outside the weekend. Snackettes are small eateries that serve inexpensive small meals (you usually order at the counter and the food is brought to your table), and are an excellent option for backpackers.

Drinking & Nightlife

East of Newtown, Sheriff St is a raucous parade of bars, discos and nightclubs, with an equally raucous clientele plying the streets; it might be the action you're looking for, but it's not Georgetown's safest strip.

Shopping

While Guyana has relatively few handicrafts that will appeal to visitors, you'll find pottery, baskets, wood carvings and jewelry on sale at the kiosks in Hibiscus Craft Plaza, in front of the post office.

Travel with Children

Guyana is not a destination that springs to mind to attempt with children, as there is not a huge amount for them to see and do, travel is tough and journeys are long, facilities are basic, and creature comforts are lacking almost everywhere outside Georgetown. That said, adventurous kids will love the excitement of Kaieteur Falls, the Iwokrama Rainforest and river trips anywhere in the country.

LGBT Travellers

Guyana is the only country in South America where homosexuality is still illegal and penalties are severe, with life sentences still potentially possible. However, attitudes are slowly changing, despite opposition from fiercely conservative religious groups in the country, and President David Granger has publicly voiced his support for decriminalization. In 2018 Guyana held its first ever Gay Pride Parade, which was attended by hundreds of marchers and went off without arrests or violence. LGBTIQ+ visitors to Guyana should be careful and discreet, but not discouraged from visiting the country, though requesting a double room might be problematic in some hotels.

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