French Guiana

French overseas department and region in South America

French Guiana (French: Guyane) is an overseas department and region of France, on the north Atlantic coast of South America. By land area, it is the second largest region of France (after Nouvelle-Aquitaine) and the largest overseas department of France and of the European Union.

French Guiana
Guyane  (French)
Territorial Collectivity of French Guiana
Collectivité territoriale de Guyane  (French)
Flag of French Guiana
Coat of arms of French Guiana
Fert Aurum Industria
Anthem: La Marseillaise
("The Marseillaise")
Coordinates: 4°N 53°W / 4°N 53°W / 4; -53
Country France
Departments1 (every overseas region consists of a department in itself)
 • PrefectThierry Queffelec[1]
 • President of the AssemblyGabriel Serville (Guyane Kontré pour avancer)
 • LegislatureAssembly of French Guiana
 • Total83,846 km2 (32,373 sq mi)
 • Land83,534 km2 (32,253 sq mi)
 • Rank2nd region and 1st department
 (January 2022)[4]
 • Total294,436
 • Density3.5/km2 (9.1/sq mi)
Demonym(s)French Guianan
French Guianese
Time zoneUTC-3:00 (BRT)
ISO 3166 code
GDP (2019)[5]Ranked 17th
Total€4.41 billion (US$4.93 billion)
Per capita€15,521 (US$17,375)
WebsiteTerritorial Collectivity

Its prefecture and largest city is Cayenne.

Guiana comes from an Amerindian language (Arawak) that means "land of many waters".[6] The addition of the word "French" in most languages other than French comes from colonial times when there were five in the region; they were, from west to east:

  1. Spanish Guiana (now Guayana Region in Venezuela)
  2. British Guiana (now Guyana)
  3. Dutch Guiana, (now Suriname)
  4. French Guiana (now Guyane)
  5. Portuguese Guiana (now Amapá in Brazil).

French Guiana and the two larger countries to the north and west, Guyana and Suriname, are still often collectively referred to as the Guianas and form the Guiana Shield.


Geographic map of French Guiana

French Guiana borders two countries: Surinam to the west, and Brazil to the east and south. To the north is the Atlantic Ocean. There are two main geographical regions: a coastal strip where the majority of the people live, and a dense rainforest which gradually rises to the modest peaks of the Tumuc-Humac mountains along the Brazilian frontier.

The highest point in the department is Bellevue de l'Inini Bellevue de l'Inini in the Maripasoula commune; it is (851 metres (2,792 feet)) high.[7] Other mountains are Mont Machalou (782 metres [2,566 feet]), Pic Coudreau (711 metres [2,333 feet]) and Mont St Marcel (635 metres [2,083 feet]).

Several small islands are found off the coast, the three Îles du Salut which include Devil's Island, and the isolated Îles du Connétable further along the coast towards Brazil.

The Petit-Saut Dam in the north of the department forms an artificial lake and provides hydroelectricity. There are many rivers in French Guiana.

It is the French department with more forests, 98% of the department is covered with an equatorial forest.[8]

As of 2007, the Amazon rainforest in the most southern part of the department, is protected as the Guiana Amazonian Park, one of the ten national parks of France. The territory of the park covers some 33,900 square kilometres (13,100 sq mi) in the communes of Camopi, Maripasoula, Papaïchton, Saint-Élie and Saül.



The climate in Cayenne, at an altitude of 9 metres (30 feet) above sea level, is of the subtype Af (Tropical Rainforest Climate also known as Equatorial Climate) in the Köppen climate classification.

The average temperature for the year in Cayenne is 26.7 °C (80.1 °F). The warmest month, on average, is September with an average temperature of 27.2 °C (81.0 °F). The coolest month on average is January, with an average temperature of 26.1 °C (79.0 °F).

The average amount of precipitation for the year in Cayenne is 3,205.5 millimetres (126.2 inches). The month with the most precipitation on average is May with 513.1 millimetres (20.2 inches) of precipitation. The month with the least precipitation on average is September with an average of 43.2 millimetres (1.7 inches). There is an average of 201.0 days of precipitation, with the most precipitation occurring in May with 27.0 days and the least precipitation occurring in September with 5.0 days.[9]



The department of French Guiana is managed by the Collectivité territorial de la Guyane in Cayenne.

Administrative divisions


There are 2 arrondissements (districts) and 22 communes (municipalities) in French Guiana.[10] The cantons of the department were eliminated on 31 December 2015 by the Law 2011-884 of 27 July 2011.[11]

Arrondissement Capital Population[12]
9731 Cayenne Cayenne 164,489 42,588.9 3.9 14
9732 Saint-Laurent-du-Maroni Saint-Laurent-du-Maroni 87,849 40,945.0 2.1 8

The 22 communes in the department are:

Commune Population[12]
Area Density
Arrondissement of Cayenne
97302 Cayenne 55,817 23.60 2,365.13 Le Centre Littoral
97307 Matoury 31,934 137.20 232.76 Le Centre Littoral
97304 Kourou 25,868 2,160.00 11.98 Les Savanes
97309 Remire-Montjoly 21,787 46.11 472.50 Le Centre Littoral
97305 Macouria 11,209 378.00 29.61 Le Centre Littoral
97308 Saint-Georges 3,960 2,320.00 1.71 L'Est Guyanais
97310 Roura 3,537 3,902.50 0.91 Le Centre Littoral
97312 Sinnamary 2,984 1,340.00 2.23 Les Savanes
97313 Montsinéry-Tonnegrande 2,477 737.20 3.36 Le Centre Littoral
97303 Iracoubo 1,931 2,762.00 0.70 Les Savanes
97356 Camopi 1,751 10030.00 0.17 L'Est Guyanais
97301 Régina 968 12130.00 0.08 L'Est Guyanais
97314 Ouanary 147 1,080.00 0.14 L'Est Guyanais
97358 Saint-Élie 119 5,680.00 0.02 Les Savanes
Arrondissement of Saint-Laurent-du-Maroni
97311 Saint-Laurent-du-Maroni 44,169 4,830.00 9.14 L'Ouest Guyanais
97353 Maripasoula 10,984 18,360.00 0.60 L'Ouest Guyanais
97306 Mana 9,916 6,332.60 1.57 L'Ouest Guyanais
97360 Apatou 8,040 2,020.00 3.98 L'Ouest Guyanais
97357 Grand-Santi 6,656 2,123.00 3.14 L'Ouest Guyanais
97362 Papaichton 6,572 2628.00 2.50 L'Ouest Guyanais
97361 Awala-Yalimapo 1,364 187.40 7.28 L'Ouest Guyanais
97322 Saül 148 4,475.00 0.03 L'Ouest Guyanais



The inhabitants of French Guiana are known, in French, as Guyanais (women: Guyanaises).[14]

French Guiana has a population, in 2014, of 252,338,[15] for a population density of 3.0 inhabitants/km2. The city with more people living in it is the capital, Cayenne (55,817 inhabitants). The subprefecture of Saint-Laurent-du-Maroni has 44,169 inhabitants.[12]

Evolution of the population in French Guiana



The main traditional industries are fishing, gold mining and timber. The Guiana Space Centre of the European Space Agency has played a significant role in the local economy since it was established in Kourou in 1964.

Devils Island Prison


Three Islands off the coast were used by the French Government from 1852 to 1953 as Prison Islands. They were:

  • Royale Island
  • Saint-Joseph Island used for solitary confinement in silence and darkness for escape attempts
  • Devils Island for political prisoners [Dreyfus was kept here]

Convicts who were sentenced to more than 8 years and survived and served their terms could not return to France but were required to stay on as involunatary settlers for the rest of their lives.
Famous Inmates:

  • Alfred Dreyfus
  • Henri Charrière [b.16 November 1906-d.19 July 1973] aka Papillion (Butterfly). A Burglar and safe cracker he was convicted 26 October 1931 of the Murder of a pimp named Roland Le Petit [ He admitted being a criminal but denied the murder charge]. He was sentenced to life in prison and ten years of hard labour. He married Georgette Fourel, mayor of the 1st arrondissement of Paris, on December 22, 1931. [They divorced on 8 July 1970 by decision of the Paris High Court]. After a brief imprisonment at the transit prison of Beaulieu in Caen, France, he was transported in 1933 to the prison of St-Laurent-du-Maroni on the Maroni River, in the penal settlement of mainland French Guiana. He claimed to have engaged several escapes from 1933 to 1941 when he finally succeeded in escaping. In 1942 he was arrested and sent to a brutal penal settlement in El Dorado, Bolivar State, Venezuela. After a year of imprisonment, Charrière was released with identity papers on 3 July 1944. Five years later he was given Venezuelan citizenship; he became a businessman and married again. His 1969 autobiography became a best selling book and later made into a movie with Steve McQueen and Dustin Hoffman. French records of his life from 1933 to 1944 present a different account: He left the citadel of Saint-Martin-de-Ré on 29 September 1933 aboard the Martinière and landed on 14 October with the status of "transported" to Saint-Laurent-du-Maroni. There is little time left in the transportation camp as he is assigned as a nursing assistant to the André-Bouron Colonial Hospital, where he sees many inmates returning from the run and tell him their escape stories from which he will draw inspiration. This place prevents him from the work of logging sites or agricultural concessions that annihilate convicts in a few months. He escaped for the first time on September 5, 1934, but failed in Colombia, a country that returned escaped convicts to France. Judging by the Special Maritime Court, he spent two years in the cells of the St. Joseph's Island Seclusion. Several times transferred, he ended up as a nurse-chief in an Indochinese camp on the Guyanese mainland, the Cascades forest camp from which he escaped on the night of March 18-19, 1944, along with four other companions.]


  1. "Un nouveau préfet pour Wallis et Futuna". Wallis-et-Futuna la 1ère (in French). Retrieved 11 February 2021.
  2. Christiane Taubira (28 April 2009). "FICHE QUESTION". Questions National Assembly of France (in French). Retrieved 27 November 2021.
  3. "Population by sex, annual rate of population increase, surface area and density" (PDF). United Nations. 2013. p. 5. Retrieved 27 November 2021.
  4. INSEE. "Estimation de population par région, sexe et grande classe d'âge – Années 1975 à 2022" (in French). Retrieved 21 January 2022.
  5. "Produits intérieurs bruts régionaux et valeurs ajoutées régionales de 2000 à 2020". INSEE. Retrieved 2022-03-25.
  6. "Guyana". Oxford Dictionaries. Archived from the original on 7 July 2015. Retrieved 12 February 2017.
  7. "Bellevue de L'Inini, French Guiana". Retrieved 12 February 2017.
  8. "Global Forest Resources Assessment 2010 - Main report" (PDF). FAO. 2010. p. 48. Retrieved 12 February 2017.
  9. "Avignon, France - Köppen Climate Classification". Weatherbase. Retrieved 12 February 2017.
  10. "Département de la Guyane (973)". Géographie administrative et d'étude (in French). Institut national de la statistique et des études économiques - INSEE. Retrieved 12 February 2017.
  11. "LOI n° 2011-884 du 27 juillet 2011 relative aux collectivités territoriales de Guyane et de Martinique (1)" (in French). Lé Retrieved 12 February 2017.
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 "Régions, départements, arrondissements, cantons et communes" (PDF). Populations légales 2014 (in French). Institut national de la statistique et des études économiques - INSEE. Retrieved 12 February 2017.
  13. "Département de la Guyane (973)". Comparateur de territoire (in French). Institut national de la statistique et des études économiques - INSEE. Retrieved 12 February 2017.
  14. "Guyane" (in French). Retrieved 12 February 2017.
  15. "Populations légales 2014: Recensement de la population - Population des régions" (in French). Institut national de la statistique et des études économiques - INSEE. Retrieved 12 February 2017.

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