Europe in the heart of South America
French Guiana is located between Brazil and Suriname on the Atlantic Ocean. The country that is still part of France today is part of the European Union. Culture, politics and religion are under French influence.
The country consists of 90 percent primeval forest, only the coastal region is inhabited. In the capital Cayenne the tourist experiences the typical South American flair. Carnival time with its colorful parades, especially in Cayenne and St. Laurent, is THE party time in French Guiana. Numerous bars and discos invite you to party, almost like your big Brazilian neighbor.
The cuisine is exotic, for example the meat of rainforest animals is one of the most common foods in the country. In French Guiana there are also steakhouses and Chinese restaurants that need not fear comparison with Europe.
A little more than 200,000 people live in French Guiana, significantly fewer than in a city like Karlsruhe, for example, which has around 290,000 residents. But the population is growing steadily, French Guiana has the highest birth rate of all French departments. The high birth rate reduces the average age, which is currently less than 29 years. French Guiana is the destination of numerous immigrants from the region. People immigrate especially from Guyana, Suriname, Brazil, Haiti but also from South Asia.
The majority of the population in French Guiana are Creoles and Blacks. These are descendants of the people enslaved in West Africa who were brought to South America during the colonial era. The descendants of immigrants from European countries still make up 12 percent. The indigenous people, the Indians, make up only 5-10 percent of the total population and are a minority in their own country.
French Guiana – key data
Area: 86,534 km²
Population: 229,000 residents (2009). Creoles and blacks make up the largest proportion of the population (around 60%). There are also descendants of European immigrants (12%), indigenous natives (5 – 10%) and Southeast Asians (especially Laotians and Vietnamese from the former French colony of Indochina).
Population density: 2.6 people per km²
Population growth: 3.3% per year
Capital: Cayenne (62,996, 2006 census)
Highest point: Mont Bellevue de l’Inini, 850 m
Lowest point: Atlantic Ocean, 0 m
Form of government: French Guiana (also French Guiana, French Guyane française or Guyane) has been an overseas department and a French region with limited self-government since 1946. French Guiana is a fully integrated part of France and therefore part of the European Union. French Guiana sends two members each to the French National Assembly and the Senate. Every six years, 19 members of the Conseil général (for the département) and 31 members of the Conseil régional (for the region) are elected.
President Regional Council: Alain Tien-Liong
Head of State: French President François Hollande, since May 15, 2012
Language: The official language in French Guiana is French.
Religion: Roman Catholic, indigenous people maintain their traditional religions.
Local time: CET -4 h.
In French Guiana there is no changeover between summer and winter time.
The time difference to Central Europe is 4 hours in winter and 5 hours in summer.
International phone code: +594
French Guiana – Geography and Map
The French department of French Guiana covers an area of 86,504 km² (roughly equivalent to the area of Austria). The border with Brazil in the south and southeast is 730 km long, the border with Suriname in the west is 510 km long. In the north, French Guiana meets the Atlantic Ocean.
French Guiana is largely located on the Guiana Highlands, which occupy more than 1.5 million square kilometers in northeastern South America. Due to the altitude, this area is climatically isolated from the lowland rainforest, numerous endemic animal and plant species have been able to develop here. French Guiana has steep Table Mountain cliffs with cascading waterfalls.
The highest peak at 850 m is Mont Bellevue de l’Inini. Other mountains are Mont Machalou (782 m), Pic Coudreau (711 m) and Mont St Marcel (635 m).
French Guiana consists of two defining geographic regions: a stretch of coast, where the majority of the people live, and the dense, almost inaccessible rainforest that gradually rises to the peaks of the Tumac-Humac Mountains along the Brazilian border.
In the southern area runs the Massif Tabulaire, a small mountain range with elevations of up to 800 m.
French Guiana is the largest contiguous forest region in the European Union. Almost the entire area (90%) is covered with tropical rainforests.
By far the greatest number of residents live on the coast, and the largest cities are also located here: the capital Cayenne, Saint-Laurent-du-Maroni, Kourou, Matoury and Remire-Montjoly.
Although the common French metropolitan area is closely linked to the French-speaking areas in the Caribbean, French Guiana cannot be considered part of the Caribbean region, as the Caribbean Sea lies several hundred kilometers to the west, behind the arc of the Lesser Antilles.
The Barrage de Petit Saut hydropower plant in northern French Guiana forms an artificial lake where hydropower is used. There are many rivers in French Guiana. The most important of them are the Maroni (border river to Suriname), the Approuague, the Sinnamary and the Oyapock (border river to Brazil).
Several small islands are located off the coast, the Iles du Salut Salvation Islands include Devil’s Island and the isolated Iles du Connétable bird sanctuary towards Brazil.