This Weekend We Virtually Visted Guyana
The vivacious charm of South America’s majestic landscapes, vibrant cultures, and hospitable people appeals to every type of traveler. Brazil and Argentina figure on most travelers bucket lists, even though they are expensive to get to from most countries outside the Americas. Enticingly off-the-beaten-track is a place brimming with nature and untouched by tourists: Guyana.
Nestled between the Atlantic Ocean, Venezuela, and Suriname, it is a playground for travelers who love raw adventure. In recent times, it has become a familiar name amongst South Asians because of the Netflix show Indian Matchmaking, sparking interest in this mysterious country, 40% of whose population is Indo-Guyanese.
Home to 18% of the world’s tropical rainforests, opportunities for spotting elusive wildlife and bird species are abundant in Guyana. The country also has a unique blend of cultures ranging from the coastal Caribbeans to the indigenous Amazonian people, offering the modern traveler an immersive experience. With visitor numbers barely reaching 280,000 annually and as a country committed to following sustainable tourism practices, Guyana is an undiscovered South American wonderland begging to be explored.
To investigate the destination’s appeal, our proprietary Culture AI examined social media uploads from Guyana over the last month. These uploads were pulled from over 200 public Instagram and Twitter accounts, and the top emotions that got detected by our AI are Happiness, Creativity, and Affiliation.
Guyana’s natural landscape is an important factor contributing to the happiness levels of locals and tourists alike, especially during the pandemic where being in lockdown has had a grave impact on people’s mental health around the world. Guyana also has a close-knit community, and in spite of having six different ethnic groups, members of each ethnic group actively participate in each others’ cultural traditions and festivals. This has resulted in the Guyanese being more accepting of other cultures, making visitors feel welcome and signaling happiness and a sense of connectedness and affiliation. Creativity, on the other hand, can be attributed to the unique experiences and culture that travelers are privy to in Guyana, such as walking through one of the world’s largest forest canopies and meeting endangered turtles on a coastal beach.
The residents of Guyana also feel a genuine concern for the environment and take pride in the country’s pristine habitat. As a result of these sentiments, Guyana is an ideal port of call for the modern, responsible traveler.
36 Hours in Guyana
8:30 AM: Visit the Tallest Wooden Church in the World
Kickstart your journey in Georgetown, the capital of Guyana. St. George’s Cathedral has a notable wooden structure and is a breathtaking landmark. It provides a window into the country’s colonial history, reflecting the Anglican Church’s expansion in the region. Not only does it have a grand interior with gothic arches and clustered columns, but also has a beautiful chandelier that was once donated by Queen Victoria!
10:00 AM: Shop Inside an Iron Structure
Continue exploring Georgetown by going on a shopping spree at Starbroek Market for a taste of everyday Guyanese life. Built in the 1800s, the market ranks among the city's oldest buildings still in use, and the iron-steel structure put in place is estimated to weigh 635 tons! The building, with its towering clock, hosts a variety of vendors that sell everything from jewelry, clothing, and fresh fruits. Look out for pickpockets!
11:30 AM: Meet Endangered Turtles
Not far from the border of Venezuela lies a nesting ground for numerous species of endangered turtles. Of the world’s seven remaining species of marine turtles, four of them can be found in the 90 mile stretch of Shell Beach. Named after the numerous shells that are found here, the beach boasts of rare sightings of the Female Leatherback, Olive Ridleys, Hawksbills, and Green Turtles that sometimes come ashore to lay their eggs.
Those wanting to increase their chances of sighting these rare species can embark on exciting multi-day tours to enhance their experience.
1:00 PM: A Traditional Guyanese Lunch
Next, indulge in some lip-smacking Caribbean food at Hibiscus Restaurant and Lounge. With a quaint outdoor seating area and delicious cocktails to beat the summer heat, this restaurant has a quintessential South American vibe. The Giant King Prawn Curry and Barbeque Chicken with Plantain are a must try and have an authentic flavor. The Fried Fish and Creamy Cassava, a dish native to the continent, is also a compelling option. The restaurant also has daily specials for those that want to return!
2.30 PM: Get an Aerial View of the Kaieteur Falls
Voted as one of Guyana’s top sights, the Kaieteur Falls are majestic enough to give any visitor goosebumps. As the world's widest single-drop waterfall, they are located deep within the Amazon forest and are best viewed via a charter flight. This breathtaking waterway has no railings or fences set up at any of its viewpoints, making it a natural wonder left untouched and intact. Interestingly, an old Indian legend believes that a Chief saved his people by paddling over the Falls in an attempt of self-sacrifice to save his people.
The more adventurous ones have the option of embarking on a five-day hike to reach the top!
4:00 PM: Explore the Wild Side of Nature at Rewa
Next, hop on board a short 13-seater charter flight to the blissfully isolated village of Rewa, a land of extreme natural wonder and adventure. Not only will you have the chance to spot big mammals such as giant armadillos and jaguars, but can also go catch-and-release fishing and be rewarded with the Arapaima Gigas, the world’s largest freshwater fish! Other adrenaline-infused activities in Rewa include learning the traditional form of archery and going for hikes in the rainforest.
7.30 PM: Spend the Night at an Indigenous Eco-lodge
Following an action-packed day in the outdoors, go to the famous Rewa Eco-Lodge for a delicious local meal and overnight stay. Try tropical juices, fish caught from the Rewa river, or local Rupununi beef to get an authentic Guyanese flavor. Don’t forget to taste Pepperpot, the Guyanese national dish, a stew made of cassava and meat. Once you have satisfied your appetites, spend the night at the lodge, which is run by the indigenous people of the village who are conscious of taking up initiatives to protect the region’s wildlife and the forest.
Showcasing a conscious attempt towards sustainability, the entire lodging facility is solar-powered!
8:00 AM: Appreciate Nature From a Hammock
Start the next morning with a trail accessed from the lodge that leads up to Awarmie Mountain. A short rocky path that starts off in the jungle will finally emerge into a completely different landscape of open mountaintops that grant infinite views of the rainforest. Look out for colorful Macaws on your way up! Camping enthusiasts have the option of spending the night in a hammock on top of the mountain.
11:00 AM: Get Lost in a Forest Canopy
Considered to be one of the last pristine rainforests in the world, Iwokrama Rainforest covers an area of 3700 square kilometers and is a haven for wildlife lovers. With a series of suspension bridges hoisted 30 meters above the forest floor, visitors can get a direct glimpse of the forest canopy as they walk through the towering trees. For those who want to learn more about the region’s biodiversity, a walk across the river will lead to the Iwokrama Research Centre.
1:30 PM: A Top-Notch Culinary Experience
Rated by many travelers as the best Guyanese food in town, the Backyard Cafe offers visitors an exquisite cultural experience. Located in the restaurant Chef Delven’s backyard, diners will be shown and explained the local ingredients used in the dishes they will be consuming. In some cases, they will also be taken to the market to pick out the ingredients! The food is made to order as per customer requests and involves a demonstration of chicken and fish entrees, followed by a roti (bread)making session. This meal will certainly be the highlight of your Guyanese experience!
3:00 PM: Get Tipsy Over Rum
As proud as the Guyanese are about their flavorful food, they take even greater pride in their Rum! Hop on to a guided rum tour at Demerara Distillers, where you will get the opportunity to understand the machinery’s functioning and get to visit the storage facilities to sample various types of rum. The aged El Dorado Cask usually turns out to be every visitor's favorite!
5:00 PM: Enjoy Sundowners in a Speedboat
As the day comes to a close, embark on a thrilling boat ride down Essequibo River where you will get to see an abundance of local wildlife, including crocodiles in the water and local birds such as the orange-winged parrots by the river bank. Once you have explored the region on the boat, sit back and relax with cocktails in your hand as you enjoy the sunset in the waters, with a breathtaking view of the jungle canopy in the background.
7:00 PM: Ending on a Sweet Note
With almost 30% of Guyanese people coming from an Indian origin, an authentic Indian meal is a must-try during a visit to the country. Shanta’s is a popular choice for most travelers, offering the best chicken curry wrapped in roti, which is often eaten with dal, or lentil soup and chokas, which are roasted vegetables. End your 36-hour journey on a sweet note by indulging in Jalebis, which are deep-fried circular sweets soaked in sugar syrup.
Few places on the planet offer a travel experience as authentic as Guyana. Miles of biodiverse rainforests, lush savannahs, mighty rivers, and long coastal beaches make the country the continent’s best-kept secret. The warmth of the people from the nine indigenous groups provides an insight into the diverse culture of the land.
Apart from the fact that the country is a melting pot of cuisine, music, and art, it is also one of the pioneers of sustainable tourism, with every attempt to preserve their many protected areas and wildlife. With increased globalization which is in turn resulting in climate change, ecotourism is slowly becoming a significant factor for conscious travelers picking their next destination. So, when are you planning your trip to the Land of the Giants?
How To Get There
There are direct international flights into Georgetown from certain cities in the US. Flights from Europe and Asia generally include a stopover.
Where To Stay
Cara Lodge is considered to be one of the most luxurious hotels in the country. For those wanting a more budgeted alternative, Armoury Hostel or other local homestays are ideal options.
When To Go
February to April and September to October are the best times to visit Guyana.
A tourist visa is provided free of charge upon arrival to visitors from North America, Australia, and Europe. Travelers from most Asian and African countries require a valid visa.
Traveling from one place to another in Guyana requires a combination of charter flights, boat rides, and a minibus system. The road infrastructure is not very developed in the country.
The Guyanese Dollar (G$) is the official currency of Guyana.
English is the official language of Guyana. Guyanese Creole is also widely spoken.
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