Truth: Guyana was never on my radar as a travel destination.
I knew very little about my neighbour down south and what I did know didn’t excite me. But an unexpected work trip took me not only to Georgetown, but deep into the country’s interior, and after just two full days of exploring and experiencing, I saw and did enough to convince me that the Land of Many Waters is indeed Travel Bucket List material.
Guyana’s beauty is untamed and natural in a way that trendy tourist destinations never will be again. Unassuming and unpretentious, it offers you its purest self, not a version that it thinks you would like. You can either take or leave it. If you’re smart (and you’re interested in a rich and unique travel experience) you’ll take it. And you’ll love it.
Of course, it’s not for everyone. But if you’re a genuine experience traveller, who appreciates cultural nuances and doesn’t mind a little inconvenience here and there (for the sake of an unadulterated travel experience) Guyana should be on your travel itinerary. Here are 4 reasons why:
1. Georgetown is a quirky city with a lot of personality
Old and new, fast and slow, uptown and downtown coexist in a melting pot that’s 50% confusion and 50% charm. Horse drawn carts carrying anything from furniture to appliances to what could be piles of trash hang out alongside luxury cars, buses and trucks during rush hour traffic. Centuries old wooden buildings with intricate Dutch architectural features line congested roadways, sharing block after block with modern facades. And cows graze on the lawns on even the most affluent neighbourhoods. The general vibe of the city seems to be function above of all else, so if it’s not broke don’t fix it and if it needs to happen for the sake of productivity and prosperity, let it be.
2. The terrain is diverse and perfect for exploring
Guyana seems to have everything going on all at once. The terrain I experienced in only a couple days was quite varied – compact blocks and crawling traffic in the city, acres of green plains and empty thoroughfares in the countryside, and expansive Savannah lands in the interior. And let’s not forget the lush rainforest, which I haven’t had the pleasure of visiting (yet). It’s perfect for the experience traveler who prefers the authentic over the manufactured. So, put on your walking shoes and stroll through Georgetown, rent a bike and cruise along the empty country roads, or strap on your boots and spend a day or two discovering the interior.
3. The water offers a different type of adventure
Pristine coastlines come a dime a dozen in the Caribbean. Guyana lets you mix things up a bit and develop an appreciation for the silt laden brown waters of it’s many waterways. So roll down your windows and take a mile long drive across the Demerara Harbour Bridge. If you’re lucky you can spot dozens of brightly feathered Scarlet Ibis feeding along the coastline. But the real fun starts when you venture into the countryside (Parika for me) to take in the massive magnificence that is the 21 mile wide Essequibo River. Along its bank you’ll encounter an unexpected, unassuming, unconventional type of beauty you never imagined would entice you. Hopefully you’ll have the time to board a water taxi and visit out one of the 365 islands that exist in this expansive waterway – one of them is said to be the same size as Barbados!
4. It’s got great spots to fall off the grid
Take a plane, take a car, take a boat, anything to visit the country’s interior and witness the truly untouched, natural beauty of the remote villages that exist in the less populated regions. I made it to Region 1, Barima-Waini, and visited 5 communities that took me back to a time before I was even born. Winding red, dirt roads; wooden houses built on stilts; motorised canoes, tributaries, lush green stretches of land and the traditions of the region’s indigenous people make for a humbling and simultaneously relaxing experience.
It’s not often you find a destination as earnest in its presentation of itself as this, making it a rare treat for open-minded travellers. As I said, I haven’t spent as much time as I’d like to in Guyana and I can’t wait to head back there in a few days. If you’ve got more specific details about the destination feel free to share them in the comments!