Cayenne French Guiana...

Flag of French Guiana (2010).
French Guiana Flag (2010) - © Istockphoto

Several Amerindian groups inhabited the region - later named Cayenne French Guiana - way before the arrival of the first Europeans.

Among other aboriginal tribes, there were the Carib, Arawak, Galibi and Wayampi.

At the end of the 1400s, Cristopher Columbus sailed the region on his third voyage, however, due to several reasons it went largely ignored.

France's first attempt to colonize it in 1624 faced hostility on behalf of the Portuguese, who considered it a violation of the Treaty of Tordesillas, signed by Portugal and Spain in 1494.

A second attempt in 1630 also failed due to native aboriginal's resistence. By 1643, the new company of Rouen led by Poncet de Brétigny managed to establish a settlement, giving birth to Cayenne French Guiana.

He acquired the land - a very strategic hill overlooking the estuary of the river - from Chief Cépérou, where the fort bearing his name was built in the XVII century. Another Indian Chief, Cayenne, gave his name to the village that grew at the foot of the hill.

The French settlement at Cayenne wasn't a smooth ride by any means. During the following years, the colony changed hands between the French, Dutch and English. After the invasion of Cayenne in 1809 it was administered from Brazil, until 1814, when finally returned under French control.

In 1852, during France's Second Empire under Napoleon III, French Guiana became home to the most infamous prison of all times, Devil's Island - Île Du Diable. For a period that lasted until roughly the middle of the next century, over 80,000 prisoners served time there, most of them never managed to return to France.

The place gained additional notoriety in 1895, when Alfred Dreyfus - a Jewish captain in the French army - was sent to Devil's Island after being falsely accused of treason. He served four years, until 1899, when he was released with his name cleared and returned to his homeland.

French Guiana (Guiane) is an overseas department of France (département d’outre-mer or DOM) together with Guadeloupe, Martinique (both in the Caribbean), plus Réunion and Mayotte (Indian ocean).

Cayenne French Guiana Attractions

Cayenne French Guiana seats on the banks of the estuary of Cayenne river. Ethnically diverse, it's influenced by Creole, Haitian, Brazilian, European, Hmong and other Asian communities, most evident in the variety of languages spoken as well as in the flavors of its aromatic and spicy cuisine.

Let's not forget that Cayenne pepper comes from there, a hot chili pepper not to be taken lightly in the least. It's also claimed to be a male aphrodisiac because it contains capsaicin which can increase blood flow to all parts of the human body.

With a population of 229,000 (2009), Cayenne has a tropical monsoon climate that sees a very large amount of rain most of the year. Dry season is September and Octuber. Observe the city map here.

As for tourist attractions, here are the main sights to include when ready to explore Cayenne...

The best beaches in the area are found at Rémire-Montjoly, a suburb SE of Cayenne. It is in the commune of Remire-Montjoly, on the estuary of the Mahury River, where French Guiana's main seaport is located, known as Dégrad des Cannes.

For hiking, there are some excellent trails leading to Montagne du Mahury and also in the Le Rorota lake area. For bird watching, The Mount Grand Matoury National Nature Reserve was created in 2006 and it's located just 5 miles from Cayenne.

How to Get There

Félix Eboué Airport (CAY) - formerly known as Cayenne-Rochambeau - is located in the southern suburb of Matoury. Main airlines operating to/from Cayenne are Air France, Air Caraibes, Air Guyane and TAF.

There is a daily flight connection between Paris (Orly) and Cayenne as well as flights several times a week to neighboring countries, Martinique (Fort-de-France), Guadeloupe and Brazil (Belém and Macapá). Internal flights are also available to and from Maripasoula, Saint-Laurent du Maroni, Grand-Santi, and Saul

Connection via ferry to Suriname is done at St. Laurent of Moroni, to Brazil instead, the crossing takes place at Saint Georges, on the Oyapock (Oiapoque) river.

Where to Stay

Here are some accommodation options in Cayenne French Guiana...

Find and compare hotel rates in Cayenne and Kourou.


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