Travel in Guyana requires a truly adventurous spirit: the weather is hot and muggy year-round, 93% of the country’s roads are unpaved, and crime is a serious problem, especially in the waterfront capital of Georgetown. However, for those willing to sacrifice a few comforts for spectacular natural attractions, Guyana is well-worth the effort.

The best way to enjoy Guyana’s inland beauty is to travel by river, where you will find traditional Amerindian villages, a rich variety of wildlife and dozens of waterfalls. There are no beaches for swimming on the coast, but some of the rivers have lovely beaches. If river travel isn’t your thing though, plane travel is also possible, especially to Kaeteur Falls in the heart of the rainforest.

Some highlights not to miss in Guyana:

Georgetown, the capital of Guyana, is tucked in between the Atlantic Ocean and the mouth of the Demerara River. Wide, palm tree-lined boulevards, elegant buildings raised on stilts, and steamy weather tempered by cool sea breezes are all part of the charm. The sea wall, which protects this sub-sea level area from floods, fills with people out for a stroll every evening. Don’t miss St. George’s Cathedral, one of the world’s largest Gothic cathedrals with a spectacular interior. Crime is a problem in Georgetown, so be wise: travel in groups and check with hotel staff or local authorities before visiting areas after dark.

Kaieteur Falls, with a drop of 228 m (748 ft) and a width of almost 100 m (330 ft), are among the highest waterfalls in the world and are considered by some to be the only reason to visit Guyana. Located in the Kaieteur National Park near the border with Venezuela, the falls can be reached by plane from Georgetown or by riverboat.

Rupunami Savanna is the southern grassland that stretches down to the Brazilian border. Many of the cattle ranches here have opened their doors to tourism. Book a tour in Georgetown to explore this fauna-rich area. Bird watchers will enjoy spotting macaws, toucan, parrots, parakeets, osprey, hawks and jabiru storks. Avoid the wet season, mid-May to August when the savanna floods and malaria mosquitoes are a serious problem.

Shell Beach, on the coast north of Georgetown, is a protected area for the nesting grounds of marine turtles. Consisting of coastal mangrove swamps and beaches formed entirely of shell particles, bird watching is good here, especially for scarlet ibis. Other birds that can be spotted are Amazon parrots, macaws, toucans, woodpeckers, crab hawks and more. Turtle watching runs from late March to mid-August.

The Iwokrama Rain Forest Programme is a tropical forest preservation project that includes studies on the sustainable use of the rainforest and ecotourism. Fishing for peacock bass is great. Bilingual rangers escort visitors on trails through the forest.