Suriname

Essentials

Capital: Paramaribo

Size: 163,270 km²

Population: 430,000

Currency: Suriname dollar

Language: Dutch

Visas: Visas can be obtained from the Suriname Consulate in Amsterdam or the Honorary Consul in London.

Food: Surinamese cuisine is as rich and varied as the country’s ethnic makeup. Try oker soep met tayerblad (gumbo and cassava soup).

Drink: Try orgeade, (a refreshing drink made with almonds).

Festivals: Avond Vierdaagse starts on the first Wednesday after Easter, a carnival parade of young and old dressed in traditional costume.

For such a miniscule country, there’s an awful lot going on in Suriname – an intriguing combination of Dutch, Asian and African roots which influences the culture, festivals, food and street life.

In Paramaribo, the capital and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, you could almost be in Amsterdam as you stroll along the waterfront past beautiful wooden buildings built in the 18th and 19th centuries by the Dutch. The 19th century Roman Catholic St Peter and Paul Cathedral is one of the largest wooden buildings in the Americas, and you can also pass one of the Caribbean’s greatest mosques – head to Keizerstraat at sunset for the best photo opportunities.

Inland, you enter a different world of untouched Amazon rainforest, and Amerindian and Maroon villages.

Raleighvallen, with its dramatic geological formations, is a rainforest park south-west of Paramaribo on the Coppename River and part of the Central Suriname Nature Reserve, also recognised by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. Here, several types of primeval rainforest, rivers and steep granite rocks are home to jaguar, giant armadillo, giant river otter, tapir, sloth, eight species of primates and 400 bird species such as harpy eagle, Guianan cock-of-the-rock and scarlet macaw.

In the far south of the country, a serious-looking row of granite mountains rises out of a green duvet of forest. Notable among these is Mount Kasikasima, near the Trio and Wajana Amerindian village of Palumeu – a good base for trekking and exploring the nooks and crannies of the area.

Two enticing nature reserves hug the north-east coast of Suriname, both famous in turtle circles as primary nesting sites – Wia Wia and Galibi. Five species, including the huge leatherback turtle, come ashore to lay eggs at these spots – head there between April and July to see top-notch nesting activity. July is the best month – you can see adults coming ashore to lay eggs and hatchlings rushing out to the sea at high tide.


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Getting there