French Guiana boasts one of the highest standards of living of any country in South America but no everyone would think so. The country is composed mainly of tropical rainforest. The ruins of 17th-century Fort Cépérou overlook the capital, Cayenne, with its colourful Creole houses and street markets. Shops and cafes surround the palm-filled main square, Place des Palmistes. The Rémire-Montjoly suburb is lined with Atlantic coast beaches.

Guyana has been influenced by its Dutch and British history. English-speaking, with cricket and calypso music, it’s culturally connected to the Caribbean region. Its capital, Georgetown, is known for British colonial architecture, including tall, painted-timber St. George’s Anglican Cathedral. The countries natural attractions are impressive, unspoilt and on a scale that dwarfs imagination. Guyana has immense falls, vast tropical rainforest and grasslands teeming with wildlife.

Surinam or Suriname is a small country on the northeastern coast of South America. It’s defined by vast swaths of tropical rainforest, Dutch colonial architecture and a melting-pot culture. On its Atlantic coast is the capital, Paramaribo, where palm gardens grow near Fort Zeelandia, a 17th-century trading post. Paramaribo is also home to Saint Peter and Paul Basilica, a towering wood cathedral consecrated in 1885. The country’s greatest attractions are the extraordinary nature parks and reserves, especially the enormous Central Suriname Nature Reserve.

Venezuela has epic proportions. It has South America’s largest lake and the longest river, the highest waterfall in the world and the longest of all snakes. It also has jaguars, armadillos and some of the most spectacular landscapes on earth. There are snow-capped peaks in the Andes to the west, steamy Amazonian jungles in the south, the hauntingly beautiful Gran Sabana plateau with its strange flat-topped mountains, and the miles of white-sand beaches fringed with coconut palms on the Caribbean coast.

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