Georgetown, Guyana

Photo: Johnldasilva / CC BY (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)

Your South American itinerary has drastically changed in the last decade or so. For years, you stuck to the big names. Argentina. Brazil. Chile. Peru. Then you started adding Ecuador and Uruguay to the mix. A big surprise, Colombia, followed them. Now you’re focused on a place that wasn’t even on your radar when your travels began.

Guyana is a fascinating little country. The Land of Many Waters sits on the Atlantic coast. Venezuela, Brazil, and Suriname are its neighbors. Though it was first sighted by Christopher Columbus, its plateaus, flat-topped mountains, and savannas were controlled by the Dutch, the French, and the British in the centuries that followed. The Brits ultimately dominated, so it became South America’s only English-speaking country. After being ignored for so long, Guyana is finally gaining a foothold as an ecotourism and adventure destination.

Georgetown, which sits at the mouth of the Demerara River, became Guyana’s capital when the French arrived in the late-18th century. They called it Longchamps. The Dutch changed it to Stabroek. The Brits eventually renamed it in honor of King James III. The Garden City of the Caribbean is now home to one-third of the country’s diverse population. A Dutch-built seawall, grand government buildings, a Gothic cathedral, and a bustling market will keep you in the city longer than you planned.

Photo: Cara Hotels

Since you’re no longer in a rush to leave—Kaieteur Falls will wait—you settle into the colorful capital for a few days. Cummingsburg is a centrally located neighborhood that was once a 500-acre plantation. It now sits in between the Botanical Gardens, Staboek Market, St. George’s Cathedral, and a portion of the 280-mile Sea Wall. It’s also home to a historic hotel that’s hosted kings, presidents, and even rock stars.

Cara Lodge was built in the 1840s as the home of the Lord Mayor of Georgetown. Two Victorian-era homes were eventually combined to create a hotel. It had an old-fashioned ballroom, polished rooms, an elegant restaurant, and a patio surrounding a 100-year-old mango tree. Last year, the refined hotel closed to be renovated and modernized. It’s just as charming as ever.

You’re probably most excited about the hotel’s restaurant. The Bottle Restaurant has brick columns, hardwood floors, and Portuguese ceramic tiles. Evenings start with a cocktail—or, perhaps, an aged rum—on the Patio Bar. It gives you time to be tempted by the smell of an Amerindian pepper pot, Caribbean spices, Indian curries, and fresh seafood. It’s not the boring British food you expected. By the time you move into the dining room, you want to try everything. Garlic pork. Crab cakes. Metemgee with fried fish. Chicken curry. It’s a good thing you decided to settle in for a few days. You have a lot to learn about Guyana.

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