Tucked away in the corner of South America, French Guiana remains one of the continent’s best-kept secrets. A mesmerizing blend of pristine rainforests, historic colonial towns, and space-age technology, this French overseas department beckons travelers with the promise of untamed beauty and unparalleled adventure.
Imagine wandering through lush botanical gardens in Cayenne, where the air is filled with the intoxicating scent of tropical blooms. Or feeling the weight of history as you tread the haunting grounds of Devil’s Island, a testament to human endurance and the indomitable spirit. And for those who love the stars, the Guiana Space Center in Kourou offers a glimpse into the vastness of the universe. And the best part? It’s right from the heart of the Amazon.
As a travel blogger, I’ve been fortunate to witness many breathtaking landscapes, but there’s something undeniably magical about French Guiana. Whether you’re a history buff, nature enthusiast, or simply someone seeking the road less traveled, join me as we embark on a journey to discover the most beautiful places in this enchanting destination.
Eager to explore the captivating landscapes of French Guiana? As highlighted above, this South American gem offers diverse attractions for every traveler. Dive in to uncover the breathtaking beauty of French Guiana.
Seeking urban charm and rich cultural experiences? Or perhaps you’re inclined towards a serene retreat amidst nature? Regardless of your preference, French Guiana promises to meet your desires. Here are the must-visit spots in French Guiana to add to your list:
1. Devil’s Island
Devil’s Island, a name that once evoked fear and mystery, is now one of the most beautiful places in French Guiana. This former penal colony, surrounded by treacherous waters, has a history that contrasts sharply with its natural beauty. Today, the ruins of the prison stand as silent witnesses to its past, while the island itself beckons with its lush greenery and serene beaches.
The island, with its rocky shores and dense vegetation, stands as one of the prettiest places in French Guiana. Home to a variety of wildlife, from colorful parrots to curious agoutis, nature thrives in this isolated paradise. The waters surrounding the island are equally alive, with dolphins often spotted playing in the waves. For history enthusiasts, the remnants of the prison offer a glimpse into a bygone era. Every exploration here is not just a walk through its rich biodiversity but also a journey through time.
Visiting Devil’s Island is an experience that blends history with nature. As you walk its paths, the stories of its past inmates might echo in your ears, but the island’s undeniable beauty and tranquility will captivate your heart. It’s a place where the past and present coexist, offering visitors a unique and unforgettable adventure.
2. Guiana Amazonian Park
The vast expanse of the Guiana Amazonian Park is a testament to the untouched beauty of French Guiana. As the largest national park in France and the European Union, it covers a staggering 20,300 square miles. This makes it a haven for biodiversity. From towering trees to meandering rivers, every inch of this park whispers the secrets of the Amazon.
French Guiana’s beautiful places often hide in plain sight, and this park is no exception. The dense canopy shelters a myriad of creatures, from jaguars prowling in the shadows to colorful macaws soaring above. The rivers, clear and pristine, are home to unique aquatic species, making every boat ride an exploration of the unknown.
For those seeking solitude and a deep connection with nature, this hidden gem in France is the place to be. The vastness of the park ensures that every visit feels personal, every trail a path less traveled. As you immerse yourself in its wonders, the sounds of the forest become a symphony, and the sights, a visual feast. This park is a world waiting to be discovered.
3. Guiana Zoo
Nestled in the heart of French Guiana, the Guiana Zoo is a celebration of the region’s rich biodiversity. Spanning over 14 acres, this zoo is home to over 75 species, each representative of the unique fauna found in this part of the world. From the majestic jaguars to the playful capuchin monkeys, every enclosure offers a glimpse into the wild.
One of the best places to visit in French Guiana, the zoo is more than just a collection of animals. It’s an educational journey, with each exhibit designed to inform and inspire. The carefully crafted habitats ensure that the animals feel at home, while the informative plaques provide insights into their lives and habits.
A day at the Guiana Zoo is a day of discovery. As you wander its paths, you’ll come face to face with creatures you might have only seen in books. The zoo’s commitment to conservation and education is evident in every corner. This makes it a must-visit for both young and old. It’s a place where learning meets fun, and every visit leaves you with memories to cherish. Is this among the pretty places in French Guiana? You bet!.
4. Îles du Connétable
A shimmering jewel off the coast of French Guiana, the Îles du Connétable is a nature lover’s paradise. This archipelago, comprising two main islands, is a designated national nature reserve, ensuring its pristine beauty remains untouched for generations to come.
The islands are a haven for birdwatchers. With over 90 species calling this place home, every visit promises a symphony of chirps, songs, and calls. From the elegant frigatebirds soaring high to the red ibises adding a splash of color to the landscape, the avian life here is nothing short of spectacular. As you explore, you might also come across sea turtles nesting on the beaches, a sight that captures the essence of nature in its purest form.
Visiting French Guiana and missing out on the Îles du Connétable would be a missed opportunity. The islands offer a serene escape from the hustle and bustle, a place where time seems to stand still. As you walk along the sandy shores, with the gentle waves caressing your feet and the cool breeze playing with your hair, you’ll understand why this is one of the region’s most cherished gems. Every moment here is a celebration of nature in all its glory. This makes it a must-visit for anyone seeking tranquility and beauty.
5. Ilêt la Mère
Ilêt la Mère, a small island off the coast of Cayenne, stands as one of the most beautiful places in French Guiana. With its sandy beaches, clear waters, and lush vegetation, this slice of paradise promises both relaxation and adventure. Whether you’re looking to unwind by the shore or explore the island’s diverse ecosystem, Ilêt la Mère offers a unique experience that showcases the natural beauty of French Guiana in all its glory.
The island is renowned for its population of saïmiri monkeys. These playful creatures, with their bright eyes and curious nature, are a delight to observe. As you walk the trails, you’ll often find them swinging from tree to tree or foraging for food, their antics bringing a smile to every visitor’s face. The dense mangroves and tropical forests of the island also shelter a variety of bird species. This makes it a hotspot for birdwatching enthusiasts.
One of the most scenic places in French Guiana, Ilêt la Mère offers a range of activities for visitors. From snorkeling in its crystal-clear waters to picnicking on its beaches, there’s something for everyone. The island’s tranquility is its biggest allure. Away from the crowds, it’s a place where you can truly connect with nature, listening to the gentle rustle of leaves and the distant calls of wildlife. A visit to Ilêt la Mère is a rejuvenating experience, a reminder of the simple joys that nature has to offer.
6. Les Hattes Beach
A pristine stretch of golden sand, Les Hattes Beach is a coastal gem in French Guiana. Located in the town of Awala-Yalimapo, this beach is not just a haven for sun-seekers but also plays a crucial role in the life cycle of the leatherback turtle. As the sun sets, the beach transforms into a nesting ground for these majestic creatures. This makes it a spectacle of nature that few places can rival.
The rhythmic sound of waves crashing on the shore, combined with the gentle breeze, creates an atmosphere of serenity. It’s easy to lose track of time as you stroll along the coast, with the vast Atlantic Ocean stretching as far as the eye can see. French Guiana destinations often surprise with their untouched beauty, and Les Hattes Beach stands as proof to this.
For those keen on witnessing the miracle of life, visiting during the turtle nesting season is a must. Watching a mother turtle lay her eggs or seeing the young ones make their first journey to the sea is an experience that stays with you. Les Hattes Beach is more than simply a lovely location; it’s also a place where you can witness the wonders of nature up close. This makes every trip here unforgettable. With so much charm, it’s easy to see why this beach is among the most beautiful places in French Guiana to visit.
7. Maroni River
Winding its way through the landscapes of French Guiana, the Maroni River stands as a lifeline and a symbol of the region’s rich history. Originating from the Tumuk Humak mountains, this river flows northward, marking the border between French Guiana and Suriname before emptying into the Atlantic Ocean.
The Maroni River is not just a river; it is a mosaic of traditions and cultures. The riverbanks are dotted with villages, each with its own unique charm and stories to tell. As you navigate its waters, you’ll encounter the Maroon communities, descendants of African slaves who have preserved their customs and way of life for generations. Their vibrant music, dance, and crafts add a splash of color to the river’s green surroundings.
Stunning locations in French Guiana often come with tales of adventure, and the Maroni River is no exception. Canoeing or boating along its course offers glimpses of diverse ecosystems, from dense rainforests to mangrove swamps. Every bend in the river reveals a new sight, be it a playful otter or a traditional pirogue gliding by. The Maroni River is not just a geographical feature; it’s the heartbeat of French Guiana, pulsating with life, culture, and history.
8. Petit Saut Submerged Forest
In the heart of French Guiana lies a landscape that seems almost otherworldly: the Petit Saut Submerged Forest. What was once a dense rainforest is now a vast expanse of water, with the treetops of ancient trees peeking above the surface. Following the construction of the Petit Saut Dam, this distinctive ecosystem was established, and it now stands as evidence of how adaptable and resilient nature is.
The submerged forest is a haven for biodiversity. Beneath the water’s surface, a myriad of fish species dart between the submerged tree trunks, while above, birds like the harpy eagle and the scarlet macaw find refuge in the remaining treetops. As you explore this watery wonderland, you’ll encounter sights that are both haunting and mesmerizing. The silhouettes of the trees, reflected in the calm waters, create a scene that’s both serene and surreal.
Places to see in French Guiana often surprise with their unique charm, and the Petit Saut Submerged Forest is no exception. Whether you’re kayaking through its waters or observing its wildlife from the shores, the beauty and mystery of this place will captivate you. It’s a reminder of the ever-changing nature of our planet and the wonders that await in the most unexpected places.
9. Pirogue River
Amidst the lush landscapes of French Guiana, the Pirogue River flows with a quiet majesty. This meandering waterway, surrounded by dense rainforests and vibrant wildlife, offers a journey into the heart of nature. As its waters gently ripple, they reflect the verdant canopy above, creating a mesmerizing tableau of greens and blues.
The river is named after the traditional wooden canoes, or “pirogues,” used by the local communities. These boats, handcrafted with skill and care, glide seamlessly over the water, allowing for an intimate exploration of the river’s many secrets. The sights and sounds of the forest will greet you as you embark o a pirogue journey. From the playful calls of howler monkeys to the vibrant plumage of parrots, every moment is a celebration of life.
One of the most beautiful places in French Guiana to visit, the Pirogue River offers more than just scenic beauty. It’s a gateway to understanding the rich cultural heritage of the region. The riverbanks are dotted with villages where traditions are passed down through generations, and where the rhythms of nature dictate the pace of life. A journey along the Pirogue River is not just a visual feast; it’s an immersion into a world where nature and culture intertwine in perfect harmony.
10. Remire-Montjoly Beach
Stretching along the coast near Cayenne, Remire-Montjoly Beach is a vision of tropical splendor. The golden sands, kissed by the warm Atlantic waters, beckon visitors to relax and soak in the sun. Palm trees sway gently in the breeze, casting dappled shadows on the beach. This creates a picture-perfect setting that seems straight out of a postcard.
This beach is more than just a place to unwind. It’s a hub of activity, especially during the early mornings and late afternoons. Locals gather for their daily exercise routines, families build sandcastles, and vendors sell refreshing coconut water. The beach also plays host to a unique natural phenomenon. Between April and September, sea turtles, including the endangered leatherback, come ashore to lay their eggs. This spectacle draws nature enthusiasts from all over, eager to witness the circle of life in action.
French Guiana’s beautiful places often leave an indelible mark on the hearts of visitors, and Remire-Montjoly Beach is no exception. As the day draws to a close and the sky is painted with hues of orange and pink, the beach takes on a magical quality. The sound of waves, the laughter of children, and the distant melodies of local musicians come together in a symphony that celebrates the joys of life. It’s a place that reminds you to cherish the simple pleasures and to always find beauty in the world around you.
11. Salvation Islands
A trio of islands off the coast of French Guiana, the Salvation Islands are steeped in history and natural beauty. Comprising Îles du Salut, Île Royale, and the infamous Devil’s Island, these islands have stories that range from tales of incarceration to tales of redemption. Once a penal colony, the remnants of the past can still be seen in the form of old prison buildings and administrative structures.
Today, the islands have transformed into a popular tourist destination. Île Royale, the largest of the three, boasts a museum that offers insights into the islands’ past. The old church and the lighthouse add to the island’s charm, providing panoramic views of the surrounding waters. The flora and fauna here are equally captivating. From agoutis scurrying around to colorful parrots perched on trees, nature thrives in this idyllic setting.
Where to go in French Guiana often leads travelers to the Salvation Islands, and it’s easy to see why. The juxtaposition of the islands’ dark history with their present-day serenity makes for a compelling narrative. As you walk along the pathways, the whispers of the past mingle with the sounds of nature. Thi creates an ambiance that’s both haunting and enchanting. A visit to the Salvation Islands is not just about exploring a destination; it’s about journeying through time and understanding the resilience of the human spirit.
12. Trésor Regional Nature Reserve
In the heart of French Guiana, the Trésor Regional Nature Reserve stands as a testament to the region’s rich biodiversity. Spanning over 100,000 acres, this reserve is a mosaic of ecosystems, from lush rainforests to serene wetlands. As you venture into its depths, the symphony of nature surrounds you, with the calls of exotic birds and the rustling of leaves underfoot.
The reserve, recognized as one of the most beautiful places in French Guiana, is a sanctuary teeming with wildlife. Scarlet ibises paint the sky red as they take flight, while jaguars prowl the forest floors, their eyes gleaming in the dappled sunlight. For those keen on birdwatching, the reserve is nothing short of paradise. With over 400 bird species recorded, every visit promises new discoveries. Well-marked trails guide visitors through the most scenic parts of the reserve. This offers a glimpse into the breathtaking beauty that French Guiana has to offer.
French Guiana destinations often boast of their natural beauty, and the Trésor Regional Nature Reserve is no exception. As you explore its vast expanse, you’ll come across clearings where the sunlight filters through the canopy, illuminating the forest floor in a golden hue. These moments of tranquility, amidst the wild beauty of nature, are what make a visit to the reserve truly special. It’s not just about witnessing nature; it’s about immersing oneself in it, feeling its pulse, and understanding its intricate web of life.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About Visiting the Beautiful Places in French Guiana
What is French Guiana famous for?
French Guiana is renowned for its rich biodiversity, pristine rainforests, and unique cultural heritage. It’s home to the Guiana Amazonian Park, one of the largest national parks in the world, which houses a myriad of plant and animal species. Additionally, French Guiana is known for its spaceport, the Guiana Space Centre, which is Europe’s primary launch site near the equator. The region’s history as a penal colony, with sites like Devil’s Island, also draws interest. Moreover, the blend of indigenous, Creole, and other cultures makes it a melting pot of traditions and festivities.
Do people vacation in French Guiana?
Absolutely! French Guiana is becoming an increasingly popular destination for those seeking both adventure and relaxation. With its stunning locations in French Guiana, such as the Salvation Islands, and activities like river cruises on the Maroni, there’s something for every traveler. Its rich history, combined with its natural beauty, offers a unique vacation experience.
What is the French Guiana best known for?
French Guiana is best known for several distinctive features and attractions:
1. Spaceport: Centre Spatial Guyanais (Guiana Space Centre) is one of the most significant and well-known aspects of French Guiana. It’s a major global spaceport used by the European Space Agency, the French space agency CNES, and Arianespace.
2. Diverse Ecology: French Guiana is renowned for its rich biodiversity. It’s covered by extensive rainforests that are home to a wide variety of plant and animal species, including many that are endemic to the region.
3. Cultural Diversity: The region is a melting pot of cultures, with a population comprising indigenous peoples, Afro-descendants (including Maroons), and individuals of European, Chinese, and Hmong descent.
4. Historical Sites: Îles du Salut (Salvation Islands), a group of small islands off the coast, is historically significant. One of the islands, Île du Diable (Devil’s Island), was a notorious French penal colony where political prisoners, including Captain Alfred Dreyfus, were held.
5. Rivers and Waterways: French Guiana is crisscrossed by numerous rivers, making river travel a common mode of transportation. The Maroni and Oyapock rivers form natural borders with Suriname and Brazil, respectively.
6. Unique Geography: It’s the only territory in the mainland Americas that is fully integrated into a European country.
7. Indigenous Communities: French Guiana is home to various indigenous communities, each with its own unique traditions, languages, and lifestyles.
Does French Guiana have good beaches?
Yes, but the beaches in French Guiana are quite different from the typical white sandy beaches found in many other coastal destinations. Some popular beaches in French Guiana are:
- Plage des Hattes: Located in the town of Awala-Yalimapo, Plage des Hattes is one of the most famous beaches in French Guiana. It’s particularly known as a nesting site for leatherback turtles.
- Remire-Montjoly Beach: This beach near Cayenne, the capital city, is popular for weekend outings, picnics, and leisurely walks.
How safe is it to travel to French Guiana?
French Guiana is generally safe for tourists. However, like any destination, it’s essential to be aware of your surroundings, especially in urban areas. It’s always a good idea to check travel advisories and be informed about local customs.
What’s the best time to visit French Guiana?
The best part of French Guiana in terms of weather is during the dry season, which runs from August to December. This period sees less rainfall, making it ideal for outdoor activities and exploration.
Are there any unique festivals or events in French Guiana?
Certainly! French Guiana boasts a vibrant cultural scene. The Carnival, which runs between January and March, is a major highlight, filled with parades, music, and dancing. Local festivals showcases the beauty of French Guiana celebrating its diverse heritage.
Can I explore the Amazon rainforest in French Guiana?
Yes, you can! The Guiana Amazonian Park offers a chance to delve deep into the Amazon rainforest. Guided tours are available, ensuring you get the most out of your experience while respecting the environment.
Final Thoughts on Visiting Beautiful Places in French Guiana
French Guiana, with its tapestry of cultures, lush landscapes, and historical significance, is a destination waiting to be explored. From the depths of the Amazon rainforest to the shores of its pristine beaches, every corner of this region offers a unique story. The blend of indigenous traditions with Creole influences creates a vibrant atmosphere that resonates in its festivals, food, and daily life.
For the intrepid traveler, the beautiful places in French Guiana present an opportunity to connect with nature in its purest form. Whether it’s the mesmerizing sunsets over the Salvation Islands or the chorus of wildlife in the Trésor Regional Nature Reserve, the experiences here are bound to leave an indelible mark on one’s soul.
As the world becomes increasingly connected, destinations like French Guiana remind us of the beauty that lies in untouched places. It’s not just about ticking off a location from a bucket list; it’s about immersing oneself in a world that offers both adventure and tranquility. So, if you’re looking for a destination that promises both thrill and serenity, where history intertwines with nature, French Guiana awaits your discovery.