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Visit the Iles du Salut

Iles du Salut French Guiana

Visit a notorious penal colony spread over a trio of tropical islands, most famous as the setting for the novel and film, 'Papillon'.

Slowly decaying in the corrosive heat and humidity of the jungle, the eerie remnants of a controversial French penal colony guard their brutal secrets beneath the sweltering equatorial sun.

The deceptively named Îles du Salut ('Isles of Salvation') were the dumping ground for France's criminal class between the mid 19th and 20th centuries, during which time they gained a reputation as one of the most hellish and inhuman prison facilities in existence. Effectively banished to the ends of the Earth and surrounded on all sides by hopelessly treacherous, shark-infested waters, many of the unfortunate captives fell victim to tropical disease or met violent deaths at the hands of wardens or other prisoners.

The most notorious of all the islands was the Île du Diable, or Devil's Island, where political prisoners including Alfred Dreyfus were held captive. Its rocky boundary and rough waters make it so naturally impregnable that even now it is completely inaccessible to visitors.

However, it is possible to take a tour of the other two isles, where you can wander amongst abandoned prison buildings clawed back by the jungle, visit the cemetery, guardhouse and museum, and stare out across the cruel sea to the unreachable island beyond.

French Guiana
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Real Latin America Experts

  • Evie Oswald
    Evie Oswald - Travel Expert

    It's hard to believe that Evie has had time to cram so much in to her life so far. Having lived as a child in the Americas and Europe she found herself immediately attracted to Latin America.

  • Ben Line
    Ben Line - Travel Expert

    Ben fell in love with Latin America on a six month backpacking trip from Colombia to Mexico in 1995. Since then he has explored most of South America, including living in Peru for a year. He is now Head of Sales.

  • Mary Anne Nelson
    Mary Anne Nelson - Travel Expert

    Born in the Atacama Desert in northern Chile, Mary’s insider knowledge and dry sense of humour make her a highly valued member of the Tailor-made Holidays and Group Tour sales team.

  • Hannah Waterhouse
    Hannah Waterhouse - Travel Expert

    Hannah had an early introduction to Latin America when her family moved to Ecuador and she returned to study in Buenos Aires for a year before backpacking across the continent.

  • Kathryn Rhodes
    Kathryn Rhodes - Travel Expert

    Kathryn backpacked across Argentina, Chile, Bolivia and Peru before joining us. She has a degree in Philosophy and French and is a keen netball player.

  • Carrie Gallagher
    Carrie Gallagher - Travel Expert

    A former JLA tour leader, Carrie brings a wealth of on-the-ground experience to our London-based Tailor-made and Group Tours department.

Meet the team