A tiny little country in the Amazonian region of South America, squished between Brazil and Suriname along the North Atlantic coast, French Guiana sits as a testament to colonial days gone by. Officially overseen by the French government, French Guiana is a South American country that has a distinctly cold European feel to it in comparison with the rest of the vibrant South American culture which surrounds. There’s no doubt that the landscape, the beaches, the forests, the mountains, and the wildlife make for an exceptionally beautiful view, but there seems to be something missing in French Guiana, and it’s hard to put a finger on it.
Initially settled in 1604 by the French, the country gained notoriety as one of the strictest penal settlements that are today known as Devil’s Island, all the way up until 1951. These days the structures are pristinely maintained, but the majority of focus from Europe seems to be on the European Space Agency, which launches all of its satellites from Kourou, a city within the country. As a result, French Guiana is the only country in South America that is governed by an overseas nation.
The national language is French, and getting into the country isn’t a problem. However, once you’re here, it’s difficult to determine exactly what to do. While other countries in South America celebrate their tropical environment and ecosystems, the entire focal point of this nation is the satellite launch site, which leaves little room for anything else. Still, there are plenty of colonial ruins, including the prisons, for travelers to explore, as well as plenty of tropical jungle. The issue lies in the fact that it’s fairly inconvenient, and you’ll have to do most of the legwork yourself if you want to take advantage of everything that this country has to offer. Still, the leatherback turtles along the coast of Awala-Yalimpo or the Tresor Nature Reserve make this country worth visiting, as long as you are willing to deal with the hassles of figuring it all out for yourself.