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French Guiana

Guyane (French Guiana) is not an independent nation; it’s an overseas department of France and therefore part of the EU. The country is a melting pot of ethnic diversity – creole and immigrants make up 80% of a population which also includes metropolitan French, Amerindians and Maroons - the descendants of escaped slaves.

Geographically, the country is a tangle of rainforest with an incredible biodiversity. The mangrove swamps of Kaw are one of Guyane’s most accessible wildlife areas.

However, Guyane is most famous for the former penal colony immortalised in the film Papillon. The abandoned penal colonies are now historical monuments in themselves, and visitors are drawn to the Îles de Salut including Devil’s Island. The main island, Île Royale, offers an evocative insight into the conditions the prisoners faced, since many of the cells can still be visited.

Guyane seldom hits the news - except when there is activity at the European Space Station at Kourou. The space station visitors' centre is open except when the next launch of the Ariane rocket is imminent.

Our insider tips for French Guiana

Chris Parrott

Taking a guided tour of the futuristic European Space Agency (CSG) launch centre in Kourou (if you're around when one of the Ariane-5 rockets lifts a satellite into space, there’s a nearby hill where good views can be had, but the CSG itself is closed to visitors).

Surveying the macabre allure of colonial France's torturous past offshore on the three Îsles du Salut (commonly known as Devil’s Island), the site of the notorious prison for which the country is infamous. 
For advice on travelling to French Guiana
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