The Amazon rainforest really needs no introduction. Hundreds of thousands of tourists each year go to visit. It has the title of biggest in a lot of things: biggest river, biggest rainforest, biggest wildlife diversity, and biggest piranhas. (Though that’s not a high bar, since all piranhas are in the Amazon). It’s also home to some of the very few remaining areas in the world which have been untouched by human intervention.
Up on the top right corner of South America (northwest for those cartographly inclined) are three sections of land: two countries and a territory that seem curiously out of place. Not geographically, as they clearly are part of the continent, but that only makes it more odd that they typically are associated with the Caribbean. These would be the Guianas, or Guyanas, depending on your spell checker.
If you want to get away from the crowds that overcome most of the popular beaches in the Caribbean, then Guyana is definitely your place to go. The country boasts miles of Caribbean beaches, most of which remain uninhabited, and in their pristine natural state. A good example would be Shell Beach, which runs almost 150 km (nearly 100 miles) in the north west part of the country, near the border with Venezuela.
For getting up close and personal to the falls, the Argentine side is a lot better. There are two routes: the paseo superior and the paseo inferior. They both are a series of trails, bridges and catwalks that give you spectacular views of the falls. The paseo superior goes over the top, while the inferior climbs down to the base of the falls, so you can get a good view looking up.
Another advantage to the Argentine side are the two free boat tours that will get you close to the falls as well. It seems the locals will do anything to get you wet.
Who hasn’t heard of the romantic tales surrounding the Spanish Main? And the Pirates that plied the waters of the Caribbean, swashbuckling and riding the high seas? Of course part of the mysticism of pirate lore is that the Caribbean is a tropical paradise. Sparkling crystal water of soft white sands, warm tranquil weather and nature just a few steps away. Who wouldn’t be entranced?
Nowadays, Venezuela is becoming most known because of its eccentric and news-generating President, Hugo Chavez. But there is much more to this Caribbean nation than one man, of course. On the crossroads between the romanticized Spanish Main and the impenetrable vastness of the Amazon, there is a feast of activities and sites to see throughout Venezuela.
There are several well-known romantic vacation spots, such as Maracaibo and Curaçao (the latter being the namesake of a special spirit that is popular throughout South America). Most of the Venezuelan attractions are along the Atlantic coast, which is part of the Caribbean, and they are almost all stunning white beaches with palms waving in the breeze, hammocks swaying lazily with a travel snoozing under a straw hat. Across a small stretch of water are the Carabbean islands, with Trinidad and Tobago being the closest.
Surinam is one of the “top three”, three countries in the extreme north of South America, previously known as the Guianas, and somewhat separated from the rest of the continent in history. Unlike the rest of South America which was colonized by the Iberian countries, and provided something of a shared heritage among them, Surinam was colonized by Dutch settlers. There is a broad mix of languages among its people, but Dutch is the most common, and as a consequence, Surinam is not part of Latin America.
Guyana has managed to stay out of the well-beaten South America travel trail, and it’s hard to see why. There is a wonderful array of attractions and reasons to visit this country, yet it has slipped the mind of most tourists. This makes it ideal for anyone looking to have a pristine look at one of the undiscovered treasures of Latin America. But hurry! After this article, it might be too late…