Geography and Landscape


Guyana is located in the north of South America. Guyana borders Suriname in the east. The border river Corantijn is disputed by Suriname and Guyana. Brazil is the neighboring state in the south and southwest. And in the northwest Guyana borders Venezuela. To the north, Guyana has approximately 600 km of coastline along the Atlantic Ocean. The area of Guyana is almost 215,000 square kilometers.

Guyana Satelliite PhotoPhoto: NASA in the public domain


Most of the country, in the middle and south, consists of rainforest. Mountain ranges lie to the west and south. Mount Roriama is the highest mountain in Guyana, but for the most part lies in Venezuela and Brazil; the highest mountain in its entirety in Guyana is the Appakaima.

Guyana Landscapeno changes made Photo:Bernard Dupont Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic

Along the Atlantic Ocean there is a fertile, 15-65 km wide coastal plain. This plain is partly below the water surface, which is why dikes have been built along the coast. The rivers are very important to Guyana. They are a good alternative to the bad roads. They can be navigated inland for large ships up to 100 to 150 km. Further inland, the decline becomes too great. The Potaro is one of the most important rivers, other rivers are the Essequibo, the longest river in Guyana, the Demerara, the Corantijn and the Berbice. The rivers all originate in the mountains of the south and west and end in the Atlantic Ocean.

Very special is the Kaiateur waterfall that crashes into the Potaro river and is located in the Kaieteur National Park in Essequibo. It is the highest single drop waterfall in the world with a total height of 251 meters, higher than Niagara Falls on the border of Canada and the United States and Victoria Falls on the border of Zambia and Zimbabwe. Every second, 663 m3 of water disappears over the edge of the waterfall.


Downpour Guyanano changes made Photo:Bernard Dupont Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Guyana has a tropical climate. This means that the influence of the seasons is very limited. The average annual temperature is 27 ºC. The temperature in the mountains is of course lower at higher altitudes. It is slightly cooler between October and May. Along the coast, the heat is tempered by a cool onshore wind from the Atlantic Ocean. There is precipitation all year round. It rains abundantly from May to August and from mid-November to mid-January.

Plants and Animals


Gyuana Tropical RainforestPhoto:Loriski Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported no changes made

About three-quarters of the country is covered by rainforest. Common plants, trees or crops are: balata, banana, green heart, coconut palm, mango, mora, palm and rice.


Jaguar in GuyanaPhoto:Marcusobal no changes made

The king of the rainforest is the jaguar. This animal has no natural enemies and feeds on mammals such as monkeys, anteaters and tapirs. The jaguar returns to the country's coat of arms and is considered the national animal by the people.

In the country's rivers, which are the only link to the interior, otters and the largest freshwater fish in existence, the arapaima, swim. They are food for the black caiman again.

700 different species of tropical birds live there. Native are different types of parrots such as the macaw.


Map Guyana 1649Photo:public domain

Before the arrival of the Europeans, the area of what is now Guyana was populated by two Indian tribes, the Caribbean and the Arawaks. They called the country "Guiana". The Dutch settled in the late 16th century. In 1763, a major slave rebellion was led by the slave Cuffy, who thus obtained the status of national hero. In 1796 the area came under British rule and from the Congress of Vienna (in 1815) it was officially part of England. In 1831, the area was named a 'British Guiana' colony. Three years later, slavery was abolished and the British hired cheap workers from India, China and Portugal to work on the plantations. Many of the former slaves migrated to the city and largely formed the current urban population. The Indian population remained in the countryside.

In 1953, British troops intervened in 'British Guiana' because the United Kingdom feared that the couple Jagan and the political party they founded, the People's Progressive Party (PPP), would turn Guyana into a communist state. Since the split of the PPP in 1955, Guyanese politics have been based more on ethnicity than ideology.

Guyana became independent in 1966. On February 23, 1970, the Republic was proclaimed on the day of Cuffy's slave rebellion. Forbes Burnham was president of the country from independence until his death in 1985. He ruled in an autocratic manner. After his death, Hugh Desmond Hoyte became president. He transformed the political system from state socialism and a one-party system into a market economy system with freedom of the press. In 1992, Cheddi Jagan became president. After his death in 1997, his wife Janet Jagan succeeded him. In 1999 she was replaced by former Finance Minister Bharrat Jagdeo. Hardly any changes in government policy were made by the new president.

In the March 2001 elections, monitored by an international delegation led by Jimmy Carter, Jagdeo's PPP / Civic won. He was inaugurated as President on March 31, 2001. After the elections, major political unrest arose, which coincided with a wave of crime; this gripped Guyana until May 2003.

In 2004, politics was dominated by disagreements over presumed links between the police, Interior Minister Ronald Gajraj, and a death squad that has been active since 2002. Gajraj has offered to leave, which could ease tensions between the ruling PPP / Civic and the PNC / Reform. However, the national elections in the first half of 2006 are already beginning to dominate politics again. With ethnic loyalties deeply ingrained, the current president remains the firm's favorite and chances are he will win elections for the fourth consecutive time.

Bharrat Jagdeo Guyana
no changes made Photo:Wilson Dias Attribution 3.0 Brazil (CC BY 3.0 BR)

In August 2006, President Bharrat Jagdeo wins a new five-year term. In September 2007, a UN tribunal settled a conflict over an oil-rich section off the coast between Guyana and Suriname. Both countries will receive a share. In October 2008, Jagdeo concludes a trade agreement with the EU after a previous conflict. In November 2011, Donald Ramotar wins the presidential election, but his party loses the absolute majority in parliament. In May 2015, ex-General David Granger wins the presidential election, ending 23 years of PPP dominance.

Guyana School ParadePhoto:amenderson2 Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0) no changes made

737,718 people live in Guyana (2017). The population density is about 3.5 inhabitants per square kilometer.

Natural population growth is 0.32%. (2017)

Birth rate per 1,000 population is 15.4 (2017)

Mortality rate per 1,000 population is 7.4 (2017)

Life expectancy is 68.6 years. (men 65.6 and women 71.8 years (2017)

Of the population, 39.5% are of Indian and 29.5% of Afro-Caribbean descent. The other population groups are: mulattos and mestizos (together 20%), Indians (10.5%), others (0.5%).


The official language in Guyana is English. Furthermore, creole, Hindi, Urdu, Portuguese and Indian languages (including Arawak) are spoken.


Half of the inhabitants of Guyana adhere to a Christian religion. 35% of the population are Hindu and 10% Muslim.


State Structure

There is a single-chamber Parliament with 65 members, 53 of which are directly elected and 12 are elected from regional governments. The term of office for Members of Parliament is five years. The highest legal institution is the Court of Appeal.

Parliaments Building GuyanaPhoto:David Stanley Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic no changes made

In addition, there is also local government. Guyana is divided into ten districts (Barima-Waini, Cuyuni-Mazaruni, Demerara-Mahaica, East Berbice-Corentyne, Essequibo Islands-West Demerara, Mahaica-Berbice, Pomeroon-Supenaam, Potaro-Siparuni, Upper Demerara-Berbice, Upper Takutu- Upper Essequibo). These districts each have their own administrative body, the Regional Democratic Council. It is elected for a period of five years and four months, but may be dismissed by the President if desired.


Guyana has been a republic since 1970, with the President as the highest authority. The President is appointed from the party that received the most votes in the elections. He may hold or replace, as the case may be, the National Assembly.

Replacing the president requires more effort. The President may only be removed from office if he is ill, violates the Constitution, or is charged with wrongdoing.

Political unrest remains in Guyana despite the institutional improvements of the past decade. For a long time, the December 1997 election results were contested by the opposition party PNC (of which mainly Afro-Guyanese are members) and the new election results have also sparked a new outbreak of violence.

Ethnic conflicts have played an important role in Guyanese society since the 1960s. Racial riots involved a great deal of violence and material damage worth millions of dollars.

In February 2002, ethnic disturbances arose again as a result of the release from prison of Afro-Guyanese Andrew Douglas. The Afro-Guyanese in the country feel politically and economically disadvantaged in the mainly Indo-Guyanese oriented society, which has made Douglas a folk hero for the Afro-Guyanese. Since his escape, at least ten Indo-Guyanese have been killed and a number of police officers have been murdered. The president is powerless because the Afro-Guyanese people give Douglas massive support. The murder of two Afro-Guyanese protestants by the police in the same year has sharpened the ethnic conflict. Ethnic-inspired violent disturbances erupted several times, particularly in and around Buxton. In July 2002, violence escalated during the 23rd CARICOM meeting in Georgetown. In 2003, the government of Guyana was able to restore peace by deploying the police and the army. According to some in Guyana, the government allegedly used death squads, which would have eliminated the instigators of the disturbances. There is currently no evidence for this. It is certain, however, that the actions of the army and the police have been accompanied by a great deal of violence.

Rising trafficking and drug use is seen as another cause of the increasing violence. The government, in collaboration with the OAS 'Inter-American Drug Abuse Control Commission' has formulated a so-called 'National Drugs Strategy Master Plan' with five main objectives: inventory reduction; demand reduction; control measures; institutional restructuring; and an evaluation function. In addition, a 'National Anti-Narcotic Commission' has been established to implement the stated objectives. Despite these ambitious plans to combat drug trafficking and drug use, both are only increasing. Due to the economic, political and social situation and the inability of Guyana to keep the drugs outside the borders, a lot of cocaine enters the country. There is insufficient cooperation and trust between the Customs Anti-Narcotics Unit (CANU) and the police. In addition, money is laundered on a large scale from drug trafficking, arms and human trafficking and corruption and fraud. Political instability, inefficient government, an internal security crisis and a lack of resources make it difficult for Guyana to control this situation. Many Indo-Guyanese object to the ethnic composition of the police and military and consider reforms necessary.

The current political situation is described in the chapter on history.


In 1989, the then President, together with the World Bank and the IMF, launched an economic recovery program, which has significantly diminished the government's role in the economy, attracted foreign investment, cleared the government of arrears and 15 out of 41 state institutions have been sold. As a result, the economy grew strongly in the 1990s with the mining sector as the main driver of growth. Since 1998, the economy has stagnated due to continued political uncertainty, declining private sector investment, disappointing growth in the mining and agricultural sectors, and Guyana's lack of success in developing new industries. In 2003 the economy contracted by 0.6%. Although rice and bauxite production increased, sugar and gold production fell. The financial services sector is a growth sector. Guyana Telephone and Telegraph, the only telecommunications provider, is also continuing to grow.

Although debt obligations are eased in the context of Guyana's qualification for E-HIPC (World Bank / IMF's initiative for Enhanced Heavily Indebted Poor Countries), external debt remains high. With the released funds of the recently agreed debt relief, the government wants to stimulate investments in infrastructure and increase social expenditure for poverty alleviation.

Export GuyanaPhoto:R. Haussmann, Cesar Hidalgo, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported no changes made

The IMF, together with the World Bank, supports strategies developed by Guyana in a so-called 'Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper' (PRSP). This is developed by the government in consultation with citizens (including the poor) and other development partners. The PRSP describes the macroeconomic, structural and social policy over a three-year period. Structural reforms and fiscal improvements are expected in Guyana for the coming period. Development assistance programs are being continued, mainly with support from the EU and the Inter-American Development Bank.

Trade with the EU is currently supported through special tariffs. Guyana and other Caribbean countries fear that with the opening of the EU market for rice they will no longer be able to compete with Asian countries. The same applies to the production of rum, which suffers greatly from the supply of high-quality alcohol from Asia.

Guyana has been doing very well economically in recent years, with growth rates of around 5% in 2010, 2011 and 2013. Guyana benefits from the good price of gold, which has become the main export product. Nevertheless, a large part of the population lives below the poverty line. GDP per capita is $ 8,100 per year (2017).

Guyana has rainforests, beaches, savannas and rivers. The country attracts adventurous tourists who want to camp, fish or hike to even spot a jaguar with a bit of luck.

Kaieteur WaterfallsPhoto:Bill Cameron Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported no changes made

A visit to Kaieteur waterfalls in Kaieteur National Park is a highlight of any visit to Guyana. The falls are located on the Potaro River and belong to the list of Iguazú, Niagara and Victoria. The national park is located on a plateau and is one of the oldest and most remote areas in the world. You will find geological formations in a bio-diverse rainforest. There are plenty of beaches in Guyana including Almond Beach, Shell Beach and Saxacalli Beach. There are rainforests in Iwokrama and the Pakaraima mountains.

Market Georgetown GuyanaPhoto:MM Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic no changes made

19th century wooden houses on stilts and charming green boulevards laid along lines of old Dutch canals give the capital Georgetown a unique character. Some of the more impressive wooden buildings from the colonial past include City Hall, St George's Cathedral and the Palace of Justice. The 49-hectare botanical gardens and zoo have a fine collection of palms, orchids and lotus lilies. Also worth a visit are the Museum of Natural History, which contains all aspects of life and culture, and the Walter Roth Anthropological Museum.

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Elmar Landeninformatie
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Last updated October 2021
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