Updated: Jul 20
In a continent that boasts of places like Peru, Bolivia, Brazil and Chile, the quiet and earnest Guyana slips under the radar. So obviously, this is the country I have had my eye on for quite sometime. It is after all, the least visited country in South America.
In spite of its access to pristine rainforests, incredible wildlife, and the cultural diversity, Guyana remains untouched and largely unknown. The thought of flying over the Amazon jungle to have an entirely magical waterfall all to ourselves had me sold.
ITINERARY Kaieteur Waterfalls
TABLE OF CONTENTS
FLIGHTS + VISA
The easiest way to fly down to Guyana is a direct flight from Miami to Guyana.
If you are holder of a weak passport, you will need to apply ahead for online pre-approval letter from the ministry before entering. This process takes 4 weeks, best to plan ahead. With this letter, you will be eligible for a Visa on Arrival, which is $25 per person.
You may be asked for a Yellow Fever card, carry it on you, especially if you plan to travel further down to Suriname.
This is the only English speaking country on the continent. Getting by here on your own is simple.
BEST TIME TO VISIT
The summer time, when we went, is not the best time to visit Guyana as it is rainy season. Thanks to climate change, this pattern is changing all over the world, with droughts becoming more frequent. That said, the best time to visit is February & March or August to September.
We took a chance and it paid off but if you're goal is to visit Kaieteur, then be ready for disappointment if you travel off season.
We used dollars but if you are staying longer, better to carry Guyanese dollar.
HOW TO GET AROUND
It is simple and very safe to walk around the city but the days can get very warm. I recommend hiring a taxi for the day to go around the city. $30 for a day in the city.
SOLO TRAVEL + SAFETY
Guyana is not cheap but it felt like a safe place for solo travelers, with lots of check points along the way.
WHERE WE STAYED
Since we were only there for a few nights, we stayed at Grand Coastal Hotel in the city, close to the airports. It was a little overpriced but it is one of the better hotels in town. The food was great, and there a lot of good restaurants near by.
VEGAN + VEGETARIAN FOOD. HOW HARD IS IT?
Luckily, food is never an issue in this part of the world. Given the cultural diversity in Guyana, Indian food was plenty and easily available - that is what they eat too. They call it roti, often served with a dry potato bean curry.
Nestled deep in the amazon forest is one of South America's most underrated waterfall, and the world's widest single drop waterfall.
There is no doubt that Niagara Falls and Igazu are extremely popular with the tourists but something like this is even more impressive to me because of how naturally well preserved it is. Add to that the remote location and the lack of easy access to Guyana, you have a mere thousand odd tourists visiting in a year.
For the unreal aerial visuals of the Amazon forest and the towering waterfall, and the flowing rivers, this one deserves so much HYPE.
How to visit the waterfalls?
Like I mentioned, the Kaieteur Waterfall is not easy to access. It is surrounded by the dense Amazon forest and further protected by the Guyana Shield. The best and quickest way to visit is by taking a flight over the waterfalls and then hiking down for a up close look of the valley and the waterfall.
Costs + things to remember
It is important to book a tour ahead of time. I got Touring Guyana to do the booking for us. They will pick you up, take you to the check in country for Trans Guyana Airlines, where your weight will be checked and a boarding pass issued. Simple process and very friendly staff.
The tour costs EUR 199 per person. You have to book ahead as the flight carries only 13 passengers at a time. The flights are often prone to cancellation due to rough weather or if they don't have enough passengers. Best to book for weekends, as the odds of a full flight are higher.
Can I avoid flying?
If you have more time and if you are up for an epic adventure of a lifetime, you can rough it out by hiking through the Amazon jungle for 5 or 6 days. I was very tempted to do this but we didn't have the time.
How long is the flight? Is it scary?
Not really scary, unless you are a nervous flyer. The flight is sturdy and takes 90 minutes on average from take off to the National park. Get a window seat and enjoy the breathtaking views. Chances are, you have never seen anything like it. For this jungle girl, it was straight out of her wildest dreams.
Hiking inside the Kaieteur National Park
Once you get off the flight, you will be met by a local guide, who will take you through the national park. It is not a long hike, expect to spend 3 hours in total.
The Kaieteur National Park is one of the oldest protected regions in the Amazon forest. In the heart of the park thunders the Kaieteur Falls, which is more than four and a half times the height of Niagara Falls. Often listed as "Top 5 Most Powerful Waterfalls in the World", this fall is also significant to the lives and culture of the area's Patamona People.
As you get closer to the steep edge of the cliff, the power of the Potaro river can be heard long before you get a glimpse of the magnificent cascade. Kaieteur Waterfalls has a sheer drop of 226 meters and a total height of 251 meters; the deep plunge is what makes it one of the most powerful waterfalls on the continent.
Another highlight for me was the views of the Potaro Plateau from both the flight as well as from inside the national park. The remoteness of the place, and the tail of the Potaro river swerving all the way down the length of the massive mountain range is a sight that you won't forget any time soon.
This is the closest you can get to unfiltered nature, which is much more beautiful than those other waterfalls in the region. You cannot be help but be humbled by the sheer force and power of nature in front of you. As the flight descended into Georgetown, our hearts were filled with immense gratitude for having made it there, our odds weren't great but when you manifest, things have a way of working itself out. Don't you think?
One our second day, we explore the laid-back former British-Dutch colony. The city has a very casual energy, more Caribbean than South American. It's a very small place, with a "everyone knows everyone" vibe.
Like I mentioned earlier, this is the only English speaking country in the region, which dates back to it being an English colony (almost became a Dutch one, but then the English persisted and won the battle). The cultural diversity also dates back to the slave-trade colonial era, where Indians, West Indians, African and Portuguese were brought in ships to these lands.
We also liked the visit to the Natural History Museum, where you can learn about the many hundred endemic creatures of this region. Right up our alley. It was such an interesting place.
Since this is basically the Caribbean coast, there is a huge Rum distillery you can check out. We skipped that and went straight to the Botanical Garden to cool off from the intense mid-afternoon heat.
In countries like this, in remote corners of the world, with limited space and infrastructure, mere thousands of travelers visit a year. The lack of tourism is precisely what makes them so attractive to me. Unfortunately, we were not able to spend more time here but if you can, definitely plan to spend 7-10 days exploring the wild nature in this country.
While Guyana might take a bit of time and planning to get to, it is entirely worth going here, simply to swerved over the incredible Amazon rainforest for an aerial view of this iconic waterfall.
Thanks for reading. Leave your questions and comments below.
Lots of love,