Destination Guyana: The South American Gem You Should Add To Your Bucket List
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Take your adventures to a gorgeous but underrated destination this summer with a trip to the stunning country of Guyana.
Located in the northeastern corner of South America, Guyana is a beautiful land filled with rainforests, calypso music, and endless bucket list opportunities. It also puts a strong emphasis on sustainable tourism to protect its rainforests, wildlife, and coast. No wonder Guyana is a top destination for eco-tourism.
Fun fact: Guyana is the only English-speaking country in South America. This makes it the perfect place for visitors to dip their toes into the beauty and culture of Latin America, even if you don’t speak Spanish!
And with direct flights to the capital city of Georgetown from New York, Miami, and Houston, visiting Guyana is easy from any part of the U.S.!
If you’re interested in visiting Guyana, here’s everything you need to know!
What’s Guyana Like?
Even though Guyana is just the size of Ohio, the country has a wide range of natural habitats. Nature lovers will find plenty of gorgeous scenery to explore, from tours deep in the rainforest to treks along the savannahs and marshlands.
About 87% of Guyana is covered in pristine rainforest. It’s actually one of the world’s largest, unspoiled rainforests, and many parts are barely accessible to people. Because the rainforest is so untouched by humans, it provides the perfect sanctuary for endangered animals like giant river otters and harpy eagles.
In the northeastern part of Guyana, just below the Atlantic coast, visitors can see dense populations of the country’s native Greenheart trees. These rare hardwood trees are beautiful and only grow naturally in Guyana.
Guyana also has several beautiful mountains, which are part of the Pakaraima mountains range. They have such captivating landscapes and characteristics that many believe these mountains were the inspiration for Arthur Conan Doyle’s 1912 novel, The Lost World! You can take numerous hikes to visit the gorgeous landscapes and waterfalls within these mountains.
Guyana’s rainforest gives way to a dry savannah along the Rupununi River. You’ll find Amerindian villages and ranches and eco-lodges all across the savannah. The savannas are also the only place to see 21 of Guyana’s bird species, including many endangered species.
Finally, Guyana’s Atlantic coast is a narrow, marshy plain where most of the country’s population lives. The charming capital city of Georgetown sits along the coast, where you can visit the national museum, parliament building, and Stabroek Market. The coast is also home to many smaller villages brimming with unspoiled culture.
Incredible Wildlife in Guyana
Thanks to its highly protected environment, Guyana is home to many rare species of animals.
The rainforest is filled with incredible creatures, big and small, that you’ll only find in South America. These include jaguars (the Guayana national animal) and certain species of monkeys, snakes, birds, and mammals.
The Iwokrama Forest Reserve is the perfect place to see many of these animals, including capuchin monkeys, white-throated toucans, and giant river otters. Take a short trek to the Iwokrama Canopy Walkway to get bird’s eye views from an extensive series of suspension bridges and walkways. This fun experience gets visitors closer to the mid and upper canopies to see the wildlife without intruding on the forest floor.
Guyana is also known for its red howler monkeys, whose calls can be heard up to 3 miles away! This particular species is only found throughout northwest South America, and they are incredible to see in person.
Bird Watching in Guyana
If you enjoy bird watching, you’ll find no shortage of incredible birds to look for because Guyana has 784 species! Many of these are fascinating, colorful, and rare.
One of the most incredible birds to watch out for is the endangered Harpy Eagle. It is the largest eagle in the world and has beautiful features! You can find it in the Kanuku Mountains, Iwokrama Rainforest, and Rupunini Savanna.
Blood-colored Woodpeckers, macaws, parakeets, and toucans of all kinds are frequent fliers on the coast, while Kaieteur Falls is known for its population of fascinating and colorful Cock-of-the-rock. You’ll also see many other colorful birds on excursions along the Essequibo River, Iwokrama River, and Ireng River.
Be sure to keep an eye out for some of the more dangerous creatures. In the rivers, you may encounter piranhas or a black caiman, which is similar to a crocodile. And while it may be cute, the giant river otter is not a cuddly creature! These 70-pound animals can be very protective of their territory, so respect their space.
If you prefer sea life, be sure to spend some time on the coast to see sea turtles, manatees, sharks, and stingrays.
Guyana is an incredibly eco-conscious country with a significant emphasis on sustainable tourism. In fact, it is the #1 country in the world for eco-tourism!
This travel trend allows people to experience the country’s beauty without negatively affecting the local community or environment. This includes choosing eco-friendly housing, taking local transportation, and eating local food. It also emphasizes choosing types of tourism that help the environment and support conservation.
Guyana is perfect for eco-conscious experiences, thanks to its many opportunities to explore nature. Many tours also offer the chance to learn about Guyana beyond the natural beauty, with a look at the cultural heritage and preservation efforts.
Guyana is a land filled with natural wonders. Everywhere you go, you’ll see breathtaking sights and have incredible adventures. Particularly with so many opportunities to explore the rainforest and mountains, it can be challenging to decide what to add to your bucket list. If you need some help, here are our top recommendations to visit while you’re there.
Kaieteur National Park
You’ll find Kaieteur National Park on the western side of central Guyana. This park is 242 square miles and is the country’s only national park.
There is so much to see and do here that you could spend days trying to fit it all in!
Kaieteur Falls is the highlight of Kaieteur National Park and one of the most iconic tourist destinations in Guyana. As the largest single-drop waterfall in the world, it is an absolutely magnificent sight! It is over 4 times as tall as Niagara falls, with a total height of 822 feet. After crashing over the falls, the water flows downstream to join the Essequibo River, the longest river in Guyana.
But many tourists fail to go past Kaieteur Falls and miss out on the other destinations in Kaieteur National Park! The area includes savannas, massive river systems, and rainforest, all teeming with wildlife.
It’s also the perfect place to experience Guyana’s cultural heritage. The park is home to more than one local indigenous community whose ancestors have lived in the Amazon forest for thousands of years. A visit to their villages is a rare opportunity you won’t want to miss.
If you’re on the coast, Shell Beach will give you a rare glimpse at a rare ecosystem. While most of Guyana’s shoreline is muddy and suffers from coastal erosion, Shell Beach is the exception. It extends for 90 miles along the coastline and is home to 4 different species of sea turtles! The turtles come ashore between March and August to lay their eggs on the shell-covered sand, and you can book a tour to watch from a safe distance.
Guyana Botanical Gardens
The Guyana Botanical Gardens and Zoo is one of the biggest tourism highlights in Georgetown. The gardens are stunning and contain one of the largest collections of tropical flowers in the entire Caribbean! They are also beautifully maintained and designed, with bridges, canals, and even a bandstand.
The gardens include a zoo, which contains many indigenous species from Guyana. It also has several endangered animals that are hard to find in the wild. Some of its most popular animals include jaguars, emerald tree boas, tapirs, and even manatees! The zoo works hard to not only entertain its visitors but also educate them on Guyana’s unique wildlife and help conservation efforts.
Orinduik Falls offers an entirely different waterfall experience from Kaieteur Falls but in a wonderful way. It is considered one of the most beautiful places in Guyana with good reason!
Located in the grassy hills of the Pakaraima Mountains, Orinduik Falls is made from a series of cascades that flow over red jasper and are the perfect place for a swim!
Unfortunately, you can’t just walk or drive to Orinduik Falls. However, direct flights from Georgetown to the nearby airstrip make it accessible to visitors.
If you want to branch out and explore while you’re in the area, you’ll also find several small villages inhabited by the Macushi and Patamona peoples.
You haven’t seen a tabletop mountain until you see Mount Roraima. This glorious mountain in the Guiana Shield sets majestically on the edge of Brazil, Guyana, and Venezuela. It is considered one of the most incredible tepuis (tabletop mountains) in South America.
This 1300-foot tall mountain features sharp, almost square-cut edges that rise above the landscape in tiers. As if that weren’t jaw-dropping enough, multiple waterfalls cascade from the upper plateau. These are large enough to see from far away.
While only experienced hikers and climbers should attempt to scale the mountain, catching a view of the entire mountain from far away is enough for most.