salvation islands best places to visit in french guiana

10 Incredible places to visit in French Guiana

Looking for the most incredible places to visit in French Guiana? You are in the right place! Having lived in France’s wildest region for 10 years, I know a thing or two about magical places and where to find them. So without no further ado, let’s see the unmissable and most iconic locations in the land of the many waters!

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Table of Content

Salvation Islands

The Salvation Islands are among the most famous destinations in the world for dark tourism. Prisoner Henry Charrière made them world-known when he published his memoirs in the book “Papillon” (butterfly from French). Narrating his tormented years on the islands, the book shows the difficult living conditions prisoners and guardians endured through the 100 years the prisons were active.

Nowadays the remains of the buildings are still in very good condition and you can visit them on a one day trip from Kourou or even spend the night there inside the Royal Island’s only hotel.

The Salvation Islands are also one of the few places in French Guiana that benefits of crystal waters as it’s far from the coast. Enjoying the tropical ambience while also learning about the history of French Guiana, make the Salvation Islands one of its most important attractions.

Would you like to know more about the Salvation Islands history and how to explore them? In this detailed guide I tell you everything. From getting there to what to expect and see.

salvation islands kourou incredible places to visit in french guiana

Guiana Space Center

Renowned as the gateway to space, the Kourou Space Centre is a must-visit for any science enthusiast. Explore the launch pads, gain a deeper understanding of humankind’s exploration of the final frontier, and if you are lucky witness the launch of a rocket.

The Kourou Space Centre is not only a hub for launching satellites and spacecraft but also a vibrant scientific community. Scientists, engineers, and researchers from around the world gather at the center to collaborate on cutting-edge space missions and technologies.

Visitors to the spaceport sometimes have the chance to witness ongoing preparations for future launches, providing a glimpse into the behind-the-scenes work that goes into each mission.

Marais de Kaw Natural Reserve

Marais de Kaw Natural Reserve is a captivating destination for birdwatchers and nature enthusiasts situated nearby Roura. It’s a vast and diverse wetland ecosystem that offers the unique opportunity to immerse yourself in the beauty of nature and observe a wide variety of bird species, mammals, and reptilian (mainly caimans) in their natural habitat.

One of the best ways to explore the area is by taking a leisurely cruise along its winding waterways. You can choose among two different solutions:

  • Caiman Ecolodge is a large floating wooden structure, very similar to a carbet that is on three different levels. The ground floor is the living area, the first floor is for sleeping in hammocks, while the highest level is a private area you can reserve. Excursions to navigate the marshes are onboard of small pirogues, and include also night activities to observe the stars and caimans.
  • Le Morpho is a floating boat where you can sleep, that also has access to its roof for observing birds and animals, and (why not?) even jumping from the roof into the reserve waters. All the activities are onboard of the Morpho boat, including fishing. At night you can observe the caimans hunting or if the sky is clear stargazing.

The reserve also plays an important role in conservation efforts, as it provides a protected sanctuary for numerous plant and animal species. By visiting and supporting the local economy, you will contribute to the preservation of this delicate and unique ecosystem.

Photo by Jo Carletti. License.

Tumuk Humak Mountains

Drawing a natural border between Brazil, Suriname, and French Guiana, the Tumuk Humak Mountains are more a series of hills than a mountain range, with the highest peaks being between 600 and 700 meters. The inaccessibility of the place and its remoteness make it one of the most interesting places to visit in French Guiana. In addition, of course, to its amazing beauty.

As you traverse the rugged trails, you’ll encounter a myriad of flora and fauna, including orchids, bromeliads, and a rich variety of bird species. You will also have the incredible feeling of going back in time.

Guided tours are the best and safest way to enjoy immersive journey inside the lungs of the Earth. The 10-days expedition of Guyane Evasion is one of the best ways to explore the area as you will be with an expert guide.

The Tumuk Humak Mountains are a testament to the untouched beauty of French Guiana and the Amazonian Forest. With its rugged landscapes, rich biodiversity, and cultural heritage, this mountain range offers a unique and unforgettable adventure for those willing to venture into its unspoiled wilderness.

tumuk humak mountains french guiana brazil suriname
Photo by Remi Laurent.

Petit Saut Submerged Forest

Located within the heart of the Amazon rainforest, Petit Saut Submerged Forest is one of the most unique natural (but also artificial) wonders in French Guiana.

The area changed its aspect following the construction of a hydroelectric dam on the Sinnamary River, which caused the surrounding forest to be submerged.

After 30 years, the ghostly remnants of this submerged forest creates an unique landscape, with towering tree trunks rising eerily from the tranquil waters. The sight is both haunting and enchanting. And even though you may be tempted bathing in the lakes tranquil waters I would avoid that because of the underwater fauna that lives in the lake (caimans, anacondas, and giant catfishes).

Exploring Petit Saut by renting a kayak or with pirogue tours is ideal thanks also to multiple days formulas allowing you to explore more of the lake, including the abandoned Anamites Prison. Pirogue excursions like Atmosphere d’Amazonie and Guyane Evasion are the best services for beginners and experts alike.

Would you like to know more about Petit Saut? Check out our complete guide to organize the perfect trip.

petit saut archipelago best places to visit in french guiana

Cacao Village

Home to the Hmong community, Cacao Village is nestled in the hills and can be reached within two hours from Kourou or an hour from Cayenne. But what makes this village lost in the hills, one of the most unique places to visit in French Guiana? Its vibrant community, delicious food, and the insects museum.

Every Sunday the Hmong market offers a feast for the senses with its vibrant colors and enticing aromas. Don’t miss the opportunity to taste the traditional soup and indulge in the delightful Nam Van drink.

Another must-visit is the Insects Museum, known as Le planeur bleu, where you can explore the fascinating history of Cacao and admire an impressive collection of insects, including living spiders, butterflies, and beetles.

The village also hosts the annual Rambutan Harvesting event, around the month of April, allowing visitors to partake in the harvest of these juicy fruits. And if you’re visiting in November, make sure to attend the Hmong New Year Celebrations, where you can witness traditional dances and immerse yourself in the culture of the Hmong community.

cacao insect museum most incredible places to visit in french guiana

Maroni River by Motor Canoe

La remontée du Maroni (the upriver of Maroni) is a 5 days adventure onboard of a motor canoe that will let you enjoy remote villages, beautiful waterfalls, and an incredible nature.

It’s an exciting journey that presents an opportunity to encounter indigenous communities that reside along the river, providing insights into their way of life and cultural traditions.

Some practical info: don’t forget to pack your raincoat, sunglasses, sunscreen, hat, and a small pillow for the bumpy ride. Ideally you should bring a wet suit to protect you from the sun rays also, they filter better than clothes and sun at the equator hits stronger.

For organizing your trip you can choose from different providers, the easiest ones to contact are Jal Voyages and Guyane Evasion.

Pro tip: When choosing between the upriver or downriver, I’d advise you to go with the first option. Your adventure will climax in the end with the arrival to the most remote villages. And it’s also a bit longer as you navigate against the stream.

pirogue on maroni river places to visit in french guiana

Saul village

Saul Village is a hidden gem that offers a unique and immersive experience for travelers seeking to connect with nature. Situated in the middle of the Amazonian Forest, this remote village is accessible by one type of transport only: plane.

Even though there are archaeological finds attesting an ancient Amerindian presence, the history of Saul is very recent. At the end of the 19th century the thirst for gold attracted the attention of Antillean immigrants and in particular from Saint Lucia. Saul was the name of one of the first gold diggers who installed in the region.

Nowadays nature enthusiasts can explore the hiking trails nearby. Since its location is in the heart of the Amazonian region, bird watching and wildlife spotting can be very interesting and relatively easier than in other parts of French Guiana.

Accommodation options in Saul Village are essentially rustic cabins similar to carbets, which provides an authentic experience of living in harmony with nature. The evenings offer an opportunity for stargazing, as the absence of light pollution allows the brilliance of the night sky to shine through.

saul french guiana
Photo by Ronan Liétar. License.

French Guiana Zoo

French Guiana Zoo is a sanctuary displaying only local animals that were rescued from injuries or that were born with an handicap. For this reason, don’t be surprised if you see an animal limping. Illustrative panels are there to explain more about the animal history and the species characteristics.

Try to match your visit on the zoo’s feeding schedule to admire the animals eating, and especially the larger caimans that are difficult to see otherwise.

Visiting French Guiana Zoo is an excellent activity that will let you admire the region’s animals that are difficult to spot in their natural habitat.

caiman eating in french guiana zoo

Ilêt la Mère, the Monkey Island

Ilêt la Mère is the largest island in Remire-Montjoly commune, 49 hectares. Anciently it hosted one of French Guiana’s infamous prisons. But today what makes this small island one of the most incredible places in French Guiana, is the community of squirrel monkeys that lives on it.

Let me warn you: if you are afraid of monkeys and wild animals you should avoid visiting it, as the community is very friendly and they won’t hesitate jumping on you and also try to steal small objects and food.

The excursion organized by Tropic Alizés has 3 different formulas that will leave you with enough time to explore both the ancient prisons and enjoy some free time to bathe in the crystalline waters or enjoy some time with the monkeys.

Remember though these little adorable monkeys can be quite intrusive!

squirrel monkey ilet la mère french guiana

One last word on the most amazing places in French Guiana

French Guiana is a destination that offers a captivating blend of natural wonders, cultural richness, and intriguing history. Whether you’re an adventure seeker, a nature enthusiast, or a history buff, this overseas territory has something to offer everyone. From the awe-inspiring Kourou Space Center to the amazing jewels hidden by the Amazonian Forest, be ready to live and incredible experience!

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