13 Absolutely Amazing Things To Do In Guyana
Not many travelers make the effort to visit Guyana. It’s a real pity, because there are many unique and incredible things to do in Guyana that make it a fabulous place to explore.
Why You Should Travel To Guyana
There are many reasons to travel to Guyana. Nestled between Brazil, Venezuela and Suriname, in South America, this country has a lot to offer to anybody who loves raw adventure. It is incredibly authentic – and that’s perhaps what I enjoyed the most about it. In a way, it reminded me of Nicaragua, for it has yet to be polished up for mass tourism. And that’s a good thing, in my opinion.
This is the kind of place I’d recommend exploring before the masses discover it – and that is bound to happen soon, for it is breathtakingly beautiful. Guyana tourist attractions are just incredible, and the best part of it is that there are so few tourists (no more than 6000 per year visit, which to give you a perspective is the number of daily visitors to Machu Picchu!) that those who visit Guyana literally have the country and the best sites all to themselves – yes, even the most famous ones. No need to fight your way to the best spot for photos!
Another reason why I loved Guyana is its unique mixture of cultures – Caribbean on the coast, Amerindian and indigenous on the Amazonian interior. If Georgetown, the busy capital, is the place to be to party, the interior areas such as Rupununi are perfect to appreciate the untouched nature and wildlife of Guyana – actually, this is one of the ultimate things to do in Guyana.
The bonus? As it is an English speaking country, visiting Guyana is incredibly easy. No need to worry about communicating with the locals – who, by the way, are truly kind and welcoming!
If these aren’t already good enough reasons to travel to Guyana, read on to find out more about all the amazing things to do in Guyana that will have you pack your bags!
13 Unmissable Things To Do In Guyana
I feel that any trip to a foreign country should start with a visit to its capital. That’s where its heart is; where it is possible to learn more about the country’s history; where to find the biggest mix of cultures, and typically the best food. One of the unmissable things to do in Guyana is visiting Georgetown.
Facing the Atlantic, Guyana capital has an incredible Caribbean atmosphere, which actually (yet pleasantly) caught me by surprise. It is chaotic, colorful, loud and full of life. Georgetown definitely is one of the places to visit in Guyana.
If exploring local markets is one of the unmissable things to do in Guyana, Georgetown is the place to do it. I went on a market tour during which I had the chance to try delicious local fresh produce – several kinds of bananas; mango and watermelon; and a fantastic coconut.
The best part of the market tour is that we were accompanied by the owner and chef of the Backyard Café, who while explaining everything about local produce, bought whatever he was going to use to prepare the most delicious meal. His restaurant literally is in the backyard of his home, in a neighborhood that was once known for crime. There, he worked hard to involve the local community and to keep the youth away from crime. Visiting his restaurant is a must when visiting Guyana!
Georgetown St. George’s Cathedral is one of the top Guyana tourist attractions and a must see. It quite possibly is the most impressive building in the capital, for it is a sheer white (especially now that it’s being renovated), and it is in Gothic style. It’s a massive wooden building (thought to be the tallest wooden building) that was completed in 1892.
Other things to do in Georgetown include visiting Stabroek Market, famous for its cast-iron building and the clock tower and which dates back to the 1700s (though the current structure was built in 1880); exploring the Botanical Gardens; and visiting the small but interesting National Museum and Anthropology Museum.
These are the best places to stay in Georgetown:
- Duke Lodge, a nice boutique hotel located in front of the American Embassy. It has a fantastic pool that is the perfect place to relax and cool down from the heat of the city.
- Cara Lodge, by far the best hotel in town, is another boutique hotel with cozy rooms and a beautiful garden. The onsite restaurants offers really good food.
Visit a rum distillery
Rum is produced in most of the countries of Central America and the Caribbean. Cuba is possibly the most famous rum producing country, exporting it all over the world. I came back from a recent trip to Antigua with rum in my suitcase. But people in Guyana swear that their country produces the best rum in the world. So, sure enough, on of the things to do in Guyana is going to a rum distillery and having a few samples – just to make sure it really is the best rum.
Demerara Distillers is located in Georgetown. The Demerara Rum Heritage Center is one of Guyana tourist attractions, and a visit includes a guided tour of the El Dorado distillery – with old machinery and a walk through the storage rooms – and a sampling of various kinds of rum. After several tastings (what’s a girl got to do!) I determined that my favorite is the El Dorado Cask Aged 5 Years, for it has the softest flavor.
Go to Rewa
Rewa is located in the North Rupununi region of Guyana. Getting there is no joke – the only way to do it is taking an hour and 15 minutes flight on a 13 seater (from where there are amazing views, by the way) and a one hour boat ride along the Rupununi River. The place is blissfully isolated: there are no cars; no phone and by all means no internet connection. In fact, even electricity is provided by solar panels. Yet, visiting Rewa is one of the things to do in Guyana.
Rewa Ecolodge sits at the confluence of the Rupununi and Rewa rivers, in one of the most beautiful places to visit in Guyana. It is a community project started in 2005 by the local community in an effort to protect the local environment and its wildlife from poachers and exploitation. It is run in as much an eco-friendly way as possible by the people of Rewa village, who take turns in working there (they have 2 weeks shifts).
Rewa is the kind of place to visit in order to appreciate the wild nature of Guyana. Activities on offer include wildlife spotting, fishing (usually catch and release) and hiking. Read on for more about these and other fabulous things to do in Guyana.
And to Surama
Also located in North Rupununi, Surama is another tiny indigenous village at about 2 hours boat ride and one hour by car from Rewa (so it is not surrounded by water). Despite being in the same region, the experience one gets in Surama is completely different from that of Rewa. Thus visiting is one of the things to do in Guyana.
Much like Rewa, Surama is an extremely quiet place. Here, the local indigenous community has a dignified, proud approach to tourism, which sees visitors invited to learn and experience traditional dances and daily chores such as the production of cassava. It’s a fantastic way to learn more about this part of the country, and a must for anyone visiting Guyana.
Surama Ecolodge is the first community lodge created in Guyana. It’s an extremely basic place to stay, but the atmosphere is wonderful thanks to all the staff, and the views on the surroundings are incredible. It gives access to a variety of hiking trails and boat rides. Spending a few days at Surama Ecolodge is definitely one of the things to do in Guyana.
I will soon be writing a more in depth post about the villages in Guyana, so stay tuned!
Go on a boat ride
With so much water, the best way to move around Guyana is by boat. A boat ride along the Rewa and Rupununi rivers is a must, to enjoy the local flora and fauna, but also to simply appreciate the quiet atmosphere and the beauty of the place. It’s one of the best things to do in Guyana.
Spot the local wildlife
I have traveled to South America multiple times, and Guyana has always been on my travel list – despite knowing little about it. When I did a bit more research and learned that it is a fantastic place to admire wildlife I was hooked – I made it a point to travel there as soon as I could. Indeed, one of the things to do in Guyana is admiring wildlife.
I was quite lucky with the sightings, and I saw a lot of animals. Among them, an anteater, two giant river otters, a harpy eagle, various cock-of-the rock birds, black caymans and even a jaguar (which we saw at night, after a lengthy search).
Check out my post on The Most Amazing Wildlife in Guyana.
One of the most popular activities offered at Rewa Ecolodge is fishing. The most ambitious fish to catch is the Arapaima, the largest scaled freshwater fish (as the fish is highly protected, it is a catch and release kind of fishing), but as I am hardly into fishing I opted for something less challenging. Having spent two hours on a boat pulling up various piranhas and even a vampire fish, I can wholeheartedly recommend fishing as one of the most fun things to do in Guyana.
Stay tuned as I will be writing more about my fishing experience in the Rupununi River.
Walk through the thick forest
With so much jungle, it is quite obvious (and actually inevitable) that one of the things to do in Guyana is walking through the forest. This is a great chance to admire the local wildlife – and especially to do some birdwatching. Keep in mind that insects thrive in the forest and that the terrain is very muddy, so make sure to wear hiking boots and apply mosquito repellent.
Then admire it from the canopy of Iwokrama
One of the reasons to travel to Guyana is to be immersed in nature. There’s no better place to admire the jungle than the Iwokrama Rainforest. Managed by the Iwokrama Centre for Rainforest Conservation and Development, this part of the country is a great place for wildlife spotting (it’s where we caught a glimpse of the jaguar).
The Canopy Walkway of Iwokrama, which is best accessed from Atta Rainforest Camp (a wonderful ecolodge completely isolated in the thick forest), is a great way to appreciate the nature of this incredible country. This is a series of suspension bridges hoisted 30 meters above the forest floor from where there are incredible views of the jungle. The starting point is located at about 1 km from the lodge, via a walk in the forest and a staircase of around 160 steps. Walking the canopy bridges is one of the ultimate things to do in Guyana.
Guyana isn’t exactly a hiking destination. I suspect this may be due to the fact that the weather is unbearably hot and humid to be able to appreciate a walk up a mountain. But I am a hiking junkie, finding places to climb anywhere I go. Having been hiking in the Dolomites last summer, I was ready for another challenge. After having puffed (and inwardly cursed, but don’t tell anyone!) my way up a couple of very steep mountains, I can actually say that hiking is one of the most challenging yet rewarding things to do in Guyana.
Watch this space, as I will be writing a more detailed post about the hikes I did in Guyana.
Sleep in hammocks
One of the ultimate things to do in Guyana is sleeping in hammocks. It’s how most of the indigenous communities sleep, after all. I had the pleasure to try sleeping in hammocks one night that I spent camping near Rewa. I can hardly say I enjoyed it, to be honest. But hey, I was all up for the experience and at least now I know that, despite some initial difficulties (I move around in my sleep a lot, and I can only fall asleep if I lay flat on my stomach), I am actually able to sleep in a hammock.
Be mesmerized by Kaieteur Falls
I have seen many waterfalls in my travels. I have visited Iguazu Falls when I went to Argentina, and Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe, and a bunch of smaller ones around the world. Yet, the view of Kaieteur Falls gave me goosebumps. This is one of the top Guyana tourist attractions for a good reason.
I suppose it is the whole experience that made it amazing (though let me clarify, the falls are actually stunning). I got there on a 13 seater plane (apparently that’s a thing in Guyana!), and enjoyed the most spectacular view from above. Once I got to the actual site, I went to three different viewpoints, each offering a splendid view. The cherry on the cake was that the only visitors that day was the small group I was traveling with. That’s crazy for a place so beautiful!
For sure, visiting Kaieteur Falls is one of the things to do in Guayana. The best and easiest way to do it is on a day trip from Georgetown leaving on a small plane, though keep in mind that planes typically leave when full (so make early enquiries and be a bit flexible on the dates). Otherwise, if you are up for the challenge, you can opt for a 5-day overland journey that requires going up river and a steep (but I bet incredibly rewarding) hike.
Try the local food
Guyana is a melting pot when it comes to cultures, and the local food reflects this. It is the kind of place where it is possible to eat rice and beans (which here is called cook-up rice), much like in the Caribbean countries; or chicken curry and roti, like in India (around 30% of the country population is originally from East India). Add to this the abundance of fresh tropical fruits and vegetables, and it is easy to see why one of the things to do in Guyana is eating!
Those who travel to Guyana will quickly learn that a “bake” is anything but baked (it’s actually fried dough of bread and it is delicious). Pepperpot (a meat and cassava stew) is one of the national dishes, along with farine which is made from cassava, looks a lot like cous cous and is typically used as an accompaniment.
Five Things To Know Before You Travel To Guyana
Guyana is a destination like no other – and you should know I have traveled wide and far. Though it is breathtakingly beautiful, traveling there can be challenging, given the conditions. It’s better to go prepared knowing what to expect. So, here’s a few things you should know before you travel to Guyana.
It is always, inescapably, incredibly hot
There is no escaping the heat in Guyana. The weather varies between hot and dry (and humid) and hot and rainy (and even more humid). The temperatures hardly go down at night, and considering that most lodges run on solar power, fans (let alone air con) is not a thing. Add to this the fact that long sleeves and full length pants are required (see more below) and it’s easy to guess that one of the things to do in Guyana is bearing the heat.
There are bugs and more
It’s the jungle baby! A place with such thick vegetation is bound to have a thriving life in terms of bugs. Cockroaches, spiders (including tarantulas), flies, chiggers and mosquitos are common and they often are unwanted guests in rooms, along with the occasional mouse, bats and frogs. It’s all part of the jungle experience, and I think it adds to the adventure aspect. I guess these are all enough reasons to understand why one of the things to do in Guyana is wearing long sleeves and long pants!
Internet is not a thing (and that’s a good thing)
After my digital detox in Botswana and Namibia, I knew I wasn’t going to miss social media while in the jungle. Wifi is hard to get hold of in Guyana: most ecolodges don’t have it at all, and those that do charge a fee for that as it is tremendously expensive for them to get data. If you are planning to travel to Guyana, be prepared to be offline for a while, and to fully enjoy whatever the country has to offer.
People are truly welcoming
It may be because it is an English speaking country; it may also be because tourists are such a rare thing that the locals feel appreciative of them. One of the things to do in Guyana that I enjoyed the most is getting to meet and talk to the locals. I found them to truly kind and generous.
It is an up and coming ecotourism destination
Guyana is finally opening up to tourism, and it is doing so in the best possible way, making it a point to respect its environment, its wildlife and its cultures – after all, these are its biggest resources. Having said so, garbage disposal is still an issue in the most remote parts of the country (they are so isolated, after all!). So I recommend to those who plan to travel to Guyana to leave as little footprint as possible. An easy thing to do is taking your own water bottle to fill up at the lodges, instead of relying on plastic bottles.
I will have more recommendations on what to pack for Guyana in another post.
How to travel to Guyana
The best way to travel to Guyana is by plane, as there really is only two legal land border crossings at Nieuw Nickerie (Suriname) and Bonfim (Brazil). There is no legal land crossing with Venezuela. There are direct flights to Georgetown from the United States (Miami and New York); Trinidad and Tobago (Port of Spain); Bridgetown (Barbados) and Paramaibo (Suriname).
How to move around Guyana
With so much forest and so many rivers, moving around Guyana is easier said than done. Traveling from one place to the other often requires a combination of charter flights (they typically depart from Ogle International Airport in Georgetown); 4X4 rides and boat rides. There is a minibus system in Georgetown and minibuses go from the capital to Lethem and to destinations along the coast.
Since it is so hard to move around in Guyana, the best way to travel there may well be on an organized tour. Several companies can help out to organize a trip. More information is available on the website of the Tourism Board of Guyana, which is also available to help with the organizational aspects of the trip.
Health and vaccinations
Proof of yellow fever vaccination is required to those who travel to Guyana. Furthermore, as malaria and dengue fever are still common, one of the things to do in Guyana is taking malaria medications and protecting from the bites by wearing long pants and long sleeves, and even shoes at all times, and regularly applying a good good mosquito repellent with deet.
Visa on arrival is provided free of charge to visitors from North America and Europe, who can stay in the country for up to 90 days.
The local currency is the Guyanese Dollar (G$). At the time of writing the currency exchange is G$ 209 to $1 USD. US dollars are widely accepted.
Are you planning to travel to Guyana? What are the things to do in Guyana that you are looking forward to?
Legal Disclaimer: I was a guest of the Tourism Board of Guyana during my visit, and wish to thank them for the wonderful welcome and the incredible experiences. The views expressed in this post remain my own.