Guyana is an Indian word meaning “land of many waters,” and these many waters are the major thoroughfares along which people and produce move about the country. All tours to the interior begin in Georgetown, the country’s capital and commercial heart, located at the mouth of the Demerara River. Once called the “Garden City of the Caribbean,” Georgetown is a quaint combination of Victorian elegance—legacy of its British heritage and in turn the only English-speaking country on the continent—and tin-roofed mining town. And there are many interesting sites to see: St. George’s Anglican Cathedral, which opened in 1892, towers 142 ft. to rank the world’s tallest wooden building. Inside, a huge stained glass window casts a many-colored glow on the simple wooden pews. Beyond the cathedral lie several gingerbread-trim buildings, including the City Hall (1887) and Tudor-style law courts. Among the historic building is the 150-year-old Cara Lodge, a heritage house converted to a small hotel. An essential capital visit is the extensive (180 acres) and beautiful Botanical Gardens and Zoo, displaying one of the most extensive collections of tropical flora in the Caribbean and sheltering over 100 species of Guyanese wildlife, including jaguar, river otters, birds, snakes and other reptiles. The shopping experience is a “don’t miss” at the Stabroek Market, an iron building once described as “a bizarre bazaar,” selling everything from agricultural produce and caged songbirds to pirated DVDs and gold jewelry.
Guyana is tailor-made for the growing number of natural history buffs and adventure travelers, while birders find among the more than 700 species the elegant cock-of-the-rock and the majestic harpy eagle. From Georgetown, they depart to journey by waterways, small aircraft and 4WD vehicles to the famous Kaieteur Falls, where the 400-ft.-wide Potaro River plunges 741 spectacular ft.; to the lush forests of the north and to the wild-west Rupununi savannahs in the southwest. Stays include accommodations at Amerindian lodges where living among the local communities, guests learn about their conservation efforts, school programs and explore their treasured forests and rivers.
BEST TIME TO GO: During the dry season: February to May and August to November on the coast; August to May in the interior
FUN-FACT: Guyana is an Amerindian word meaning “Land of Many Waters”; one of those, the Essequibo River runs the entire length of the country and is the third-largest in South America after the Amazon and the Orinoco
GETTING THERE: Delta flies from New York (JFK) to Georgetown
ENTRY DOCUMENTS: Valid passport, valid six months from time of entry
CURRENCY: Guyana dollar
MUST-TRY LOCAL FOOD: For more than 50 years, Shanta’s has been serving up the city’s best curries: boulanger choka (eggplant), pumpkin or boneless chicken curry paired with homemade peanut punch.
In small villages, adventurous eaters can also sample a range of wild meats, such as labba, agouti, peccary and paca
BEST BUYS: Items made of all different beautiful hardwoods, Amerindian weavings of the Wapishana and Makushi communities, jewelry, as well as aged El Dorado rum are good picks. Calabash Gift Shoppe/Hadfield Foundation Fine Art Gallery sells quality local paintings and woodcarvings
INFORMATION PLEASE: Guyana Tourism Authority—guyana-tourism.com