Most people who travel to Guyana head straight into its jungle — but its capital Georgetown makes a good introduction to the country. Here are the best things to do in Guyana.
Table of Contents
- Best Things to Do in Georgetown
- An Introduction to Georgetown, Guyana
- How to Travel to Georgetown
- How Much Time to Explore Georgetown?
- How to Get Around Georgetown
- Where to Stay in Georgetown
- Things to Do in Georgetown
- Georgetown’s City Hall
- State House & Parliament Building
- The 1763 Monument
- St George’s Cathedral
- El Dorado Rum Distillery
- Manatees At the Central Park
- The Georgetown Waterfront
- Bourda Market
- Starbroek Market
- Backyard Cafe
- Museum of African Heritage
- Walter Roth Museum of Anthropology
- Georgetown Botanical Gardens
- Umana Yana Exhibition Centre
- Things to Do Beyond Georgetown
Best Things to Do in Georgetown
An Introduction to Georgetown, Guyana
The capital city of Guyana, Georgetown, is also known as “the Garden City of the Caribbean” for good reasons. It’s lush and green, and rich in history. Georgetown is culturally connected more to English-speaking Caribbean than the rest of South America. Because Guyana was a British and Dutch colony, the city is home to a hodgepodge of colonial architecture. Even though it is the biggest city in the country, it has a population of just over 200,000 in a country of 750,000 — so expect a small-town, everyone-knows-everyone feel.
Georgetown was actually originally known as Starbroek, when it was still under the Dutch rule. When the British colonized Guyana in 1812, the city was renamed “Georgetown” after King George III. In 1945, a huge fire caused great damage to the city, where most buildings are made of wood. Georgetown has since been rebuilt. These days, Georgetown has many tree-lined streets, colonial style buildings and several interesting markets.
Flickr image by Dan Sloan
How to Travel to Georgetown
The most common way to reach Georgetown is to fly. The Cheddi Jagan International Airport is located just 25 miles (41 km) away from Georgetown. There are direct flights from the USA, with Caribbean Airlines being the main airline covering the area.
Flights from New York to Georgetown are direct, and cost around US$700 return. There are no direct flights from Los Angeles to Georgetown; you’ll have to transit in Panama City and flights usually cost around US$900 return. Flying from Europe to Georgetown will actually cost around the same, at around $900 return. You will have to fly via New York.
How Much Time to Explore Georgetown?
As Georgetown isn’t a big city, you won’t need more than a few days here to see and experience everything. I spent only 2 days out of my 10-day Guyana itinerary in Georgetown, and the rest were spent in the savanna and jungle. If you have time, the ideal would be 3-5 days so you can slowly explore and see everything at a relaxing pace. Georgetown is also the best place in the country to try Guyanese food so be sure to eat as much as you can!
How to Get Around Georgetown
It is pretty easy to get around in Georgetown, with minibuses everywhere to get you where you wanna go in town. Minibus fares range from G$60-G$1000 depending on the length of the journey.
There are numerous taxi services too and they’re reasonably priced. Fares should never be more than G$500 for travel within the city and most fares should be around G$400, regardless of the number of people. There are set prices for taxis for different destinations, e.g. from the airport to town costs GD$5000, from the airport to Molson Creek is GD$24000, etc.
It is wise to ask at your hotel to recommend a driver. Drivers tend to be reckless so don’t panic or try not to! Sometimes traffic can get bad, especially at rush hour. We actually got a police escort in order to reach the Eugene F. Correira International Airport on time!
Where to Stay in Georgetown
In the capital city, there are all kinds of accommodations such as bed & breakfasts, hostels and hotels of all categories. It was really nice to really nice to take a nice, warm shower and indulge in some luxury and good food after all the adventures we hadgle.
Here are the places we stayed at in Guyana that are worth checking out:
Roraima Duke Lodge, Georgetown
We stayed at the Roraima Duke Lodge on our first in Georgetown. They have a swimming pool, huge rooms – ours had 2 double beds – with big showers, good wifi and good food with an restaurant. There is also an outside bar area which is more informal.
The King’s Hotel, Georgetown
We stayed at King’s Hotel on our last few nights in Guyana. This was the best hotel we stayed at, modern, with a sleek style, comfortable and with an excellent location. At King’s Hotel, the wifi speed was excellent. Rooms are huge and everything is clearly recently renovated. The only downside of our room was that it didn’t have a window!
This hotel is very well known in the city because of its fine dining restaurant. The food there was simply amazing. A real treat at the end of an adventurous trip!
Things to Do in Georgetown
Most of the main landmarks in Georgetown are located in the western part of the city. Here, you’ll find the large Independence Square, the Promenade Gardens, the Walter Roth Anthropology Museum, the National Library, the National Museum, the State House (residence of the President) and St George Anglican Cathedral.
To the south you will find the neo-gothic city hall, the Victoria Law Courts, the Parliament, the Starbroek Market and the Independence Arch. To the north, close to the sea, lies Fort William Frederick, the lighthouse and Umana Yana — a cone-shaped building by the Wai-Wai indigenous which hosts shows and events.
Georgetown’s City Hall
In the western part of Georgetown, not far from the river bank, stands the City Hall. It dates back to 1889 and is built in neo-gothic style. The building was constructed using local timber, cast iron columns, and a hammer-beam roof. It is the office of the mayor and city council, and it looks like a small castle.
The city hall is a local landmark and represents tropical colonial architecture during a time of great public building. It is thought to be one of the best examples of British Victorian design in the Caribbean.
Image by Dwayne Hackett used with permission
State House & Parliament Building
The State House, previously known as “Government House” is the residence of the President of Guyana. It was built in 1858. There are a few distinctive characteristics such as the Georgian six-paned windows and the “Demerara windows”, used before the invention of air conditioner to cool homes by placing ice or cool water at the window sill.
Guyana’s Parliament Building, designed by Joseph Hadfield, was completed in 1834 and is characterized by its dome. The Parliament Chamber walls are paneled with mahogany. Floor length shuttered windows allow light and air to enter, and north-facing windows have small balconies. The floor is made of local greenheart wood.
Wikipedia image by Kevin Gabbert
The 1763 Monument
The Square of the Revolution is home to the 1763 Monument. The monument was designed by a Guyanese artist Philip Moore, commemorating a slave called Cuffy. Cuffy was an Akan man who was captured in his native West Africa and sold as a slave to work in the plantations of the Dutch colony of Berbice, present-day Guyana. He became famous because in 1763 he led a revolt of more than 2,500 slaves against the colony regime. Today, he is a national hero in Guyana. The anniversary of the Cuffy slave rebellion, 23 February, has been Republic Day in Guyana since 1970.
Significant aspects of the statue include the pouting lips representing resistance to oppression. The pigs and dogs being squeezed in the figure’s hands represent greed, lust, and ignorance. The shield-like face on the chest represents a spiritual guard. The face at the back of the head represents current leaders who continue the popular struggle.
St George’s Cathedral
St George’s Cathedral is an Anglican Cathedral located in central Georgetown and it has been designated a National Monument. It’s one of the tallest wooden churches in the world, at 43.5 meters in height. The building is freestanding and completely white so it’s impossible to miss it. It was designed by Sir Arthur Blomfield and opened on August 24th 1892.
Inside, St. George’s Cathedral is characterised by Gothic design. The stained glass windows are impressive and reflect different colors in the sunlight. A large chandelier, which was gifted by Queen Victoria, hangs by the High Altar. Nearby, the wooden Centenary Cross marks the 100th anniversary of the Province of the West Indies, founded in 1883.
El Dorado Rum Distillery
The world famous El Dorado Rum is produced by Demerara Distillers in Guyana, right here in Georgetown. Visitors can enjoy a guided tour with a tasting of 3 different kinds of rum. Demerara Distillers is the only distillery remaining in Guyana and it produces El Dorado rum as well as other excellent selections.
After World War II, 8 out of 9 distilleries in Guyana were closed and Demerara Distillers nowadays hosts the alembics of those that were closed. Thanks to the mix of 13 different alembics, the products are unique and very typical of this distillery.
Image by Nicola Balram, used with permission
Manatees At the Central Park
As crazy as it may sound, there are manatees in the ponds at Georgetown Central Park. They were introduced to keep the dams clean from algae and grass. These large gentle giants, also called “sea cows”, don’t show themselves too much but you can try to feed them grass to catch their attention. If you’re lucky, they will come and nibble their food from your hands!
The Georgetown Waterfront
It’s always interesting to visit a city’s waterfront. In Georgetown, it is particularly interesting because most of the city stays below the sea level at high tide. The waterfront is protected by a seawall that runs along much of Guyana’s coastline.
Don’t come here expecting Caribbean beaches though. The beaches on the Atlantic coast are not great, but the waterfront is a nice, relaxing place where families and couples walk holding hands.
Bourda Market is one of the busiest and most popular vending spots in Guyana. The market is open 24/7 on the outer sections where a variety of perishable and non-perishable goods are sold. The inner section of the market is usually open from morning time until 5 pm in the afternoon with an earlier closure on Sundays. Here you can find and taste fresh fruits, vegetables, spices, local medicines, fish, meat and so on. One of the highlights for me was getting a coconut peeled to drink with a straw.
Starbroek Market is very well known for its unique architecture, with a prominent red and white clock tower. The market is huge, covering an area of about 80.000 square feet (24 square km). This is probably the busiest place in Georgetown, as it’s also a central hub for buses traveling across the country, taxis and ferries along the Demerara River.
Stabroek Market is open every day and apart from food vendors also sell jewelry and clothes. The tower is probably the most famous construction in Georgetown and the main landmark of the city.
Image by Guyana Tourism Authority, used with permission
Backyard Cafe is a unique cultural experience that you can have in Georgetown thanks to its owner and cook, Delven Adams. Delven not only shows you around the markets and suggests the tastiest ingredients to buy, but also cooks for you whatever you have picked, serving a delicious meal in his own backyard.
Our lunch at Backyard Cafe included cassava farine, oven baked fish, Guyanese style pizza and an amazing cheesecake with passion fruit grown in Delven’s garden. Everything was paired with delicious fruit juices which you could of course mix with rum.
Museum of African Heritage
This museum was founded in 1985 and was initially called “The Museum of African Art and Ethnology”. The name was changed in 2001 with the aim of fully addressing the African experience in Guyana. At the Museum of African Heritage, you will find a wooden replica of the 1763 Monument, items of African art and traditions, musical instruments, clothes, scales and various tools.
Walter Roth Museum of Anthropology
The Walter Roth Museum of Anthropology is the first anthropology related museum ever founded in the English-speaking Caribbean. The Government of Guyana created the museum as a non-profit institution to preserve artifacts related to the many ancient cultures of Guyana and share knowledge and awareness about the indigenous people of Guyana.
It first started with collections from a Guyanese archaeologist Dr. Denis Williams in 1974. The museum’s collections now include artifacts from all of Guyana’s 10 regions, including an ethnographic collection of the Wai Wai indigenous tribe.
Georgetown Botanical Gardens
The Botanical Gardens of Georgetown is quite a nice place to chill and relax and get to know Guyana’s flora. The gardens feature Victorian bridges, pavilions, palms, and tropical flora. Look out for the huge lily pads of the Victoria Regia Lily, Guyana’s national flower. It was first discovered in the Berbice River and named after Queen Victoria.
Flickr image by Allan Hopkins
Umana Yana Exhibition Centre
Umana Yana is an exhibit and conference centre, built in 1972 featuring Amerindian architecture. Its unique conical shaped roof makes it impossible to miss. The roof is made from thatched allibanna and manicole palm leaves, and wallaba posts lashed together with vines. No nails were used.
“Umana Yana” is a Wai-Wai word means “Meeting place of the people”. It was erected by a team of about sixty Wai-Wai Amerindians of Guyana. The building is fashioned like the Wai-Wai benabs or shelters which are found deep in Guyana’s interior. It occupies an area of 460 square metres, making it the largest structure of its kind in Guyana.
Just outside of the main building is the African Liberation Monument, unveiled by President Forbes Burnham in 1974, “in memory of all of those who have struggled and continue to struggle for freedom from Human Bondage”. In 2001, the Umana Yana and the African Liberation Monument were declared Guyana’s National Monuments.
Wikipedia image by Stacey Dos Santos
Things to Do Beyond Georgetown
A Cruise on the Essequibo River
I highly recommend jumping on a boat if you have a few days in Georgetown. A cruise on the Essequibo River will bring you along the river and to its islands where you’ll learn more about Guyana’s history.
We took a boat from Roden Rust, about 1 hour outside of Georgetown. To get there, we crossed the Demerara Harbour Bridge, one of the longest floating bridges in the world. The first stop of our cruise was Fort Island, where we visited Fort Zeelandia and its armory, built by the Dutch in the 18th century. There is no electricity or running water on the island, but there is a rather small population living here. Other than humans, the island is also home to animals like sloths, salamanders and pet capybaras.
Further along the river, we visited the remains of Fort Kyk-Over-Al on a small island at the confluences of the Essequibo, Mazaruni and Cuyuni Rivers. The fort’s name comes from the Dutch phrase ‘Kyk-Over-Al’ which means to ‘see over all’.
Relax on An Island Along Essequibo
Another popular activity on the Essequibo River is spending time at one of its beautiful luxury beach resorts. We stopped at Baganara Island Resort for lunch. It’s a very quiet place to relax, swim and go kayaking. If you have the time, you can also spend a few days, exploring the river with more day trips to waterfalls and the forts. The staff here is extremely nice and friendly.
A Daytrip to Bartica
Bartica is a town on the left bank of the Essequibo River, in the Cuyuni-Mazaruni Region. It is considered the “Gateway to the Interior” and it has a population of about 15,000. This would be a good place to come and experience a bit of rural Guyana, if you’re not planning on venturing into the remote interior.
The name “Bartica” comes from an Amerindian word meaning “red earth”, which is abundant in the area. The town was founded by Anglican missionaries in 1842 and it’s the launching point for people who work in the bush, mining gold and diamonds.
The Bartica Regatta takes place every year in the Easter weekend in Bartica, offering many different activities such as water sports, cricket, boxing, soccer, talent shows, parades and a Miss Bartica Regatta Pageant. The Regatta attracts people from all around Guyana and even from abroad.
Flickr image by smallest forest
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