Kourou is a town in French Guiana. Together with the Îles de salut (Salvation's Islands) outside the coast it used to be part of a penal colony for the worst criminals in France, but in 1946 the prisons were closed. Since the 1960s Kourou has been best known for the Guiana Space Centre.
By bus or taxi
The town is on the road between Cayenne and the Surinamese border. You can get in by car (rental car or a rather expensive taxi) or by bus. TIG's [dead link] bus line 5 takes you from Cayenne to Kourou in little over an hour and the fare is €10. Also bus line 9 from Cayenne to Iracoubo stops further west in Cayenne.
A shared taxi (minivan) from Saint-Laurent is €25.
By foot. There is no public transportation in Kourou itself, however the town is just about 2 km across.
- 1 Guiana Space Centre (Centre Spatial Guyanais) (west of the town). Kourou is primarily known for the European Space Agency's launch site. Take a guided tour of the area or watch a rocket launch (you have to apply for an invitation for the latter online - or you watch from a beach nearby).
- 2 Dreyfus tower. A tower on a small peninsula that formerly was used for Morse communication between the mainland and the islands outside the coast. Named for the French officer of Jewish descent who was deported to the area on trumped up espionage charges, exposing widespread antisemitism and convincing Theodor Herzl of the necessity of Zionism.
- Penal colony buildings. From the mid-19th century.
- There are great beaches in and around Kourou. In July and August there's a free open air cinema on the beach.
- Carnival is celebrated in February; this means street parades every Sunday and a more intensive nightlife.
- Pôle Culturel de Kourou, Avenue Thomas Guidiglo, ☏ , , [email protected]. The cultural centre of Kourou with regular events, a movie theater and an art gallery
- Cinéma Urania, rue des Tamanoirs. Yet another place to go and see a movie.
- Restaurant du Petit Théâtre, Avenue de l'Anse. Some interesting local flavors.
- Chez Samia, Rue Ernest Prudent, ☏ . Brazilian food.
- Kong Long. Good food and good prices at Kong Longs and they speak English, French and Chinese.
- Glacier des Deux Lacs, 68 Avenue des Deux Lacs, ☏ . Ice cream and pizza. Not bad. €15 for a pizza and an aperitif.
There are several food markets in the town:
- Tuesdays and Fridays on the morning until about 13:00 on Place de la République.
- Every morning except Sunday you can buy fish in the fish hall in the old part of the town. Also worth a visit if you aren't going to buy.
- Saturday mornings there's a vegetable market next to the road (Avenue du Général De Gaulle) to the fish hall
- The old part of the town has some nice bars including l'Yguana café and Vieux Montmartre
- Bar des Sports opposite the post house is popular among French Foreign Legion servicemen.
- Bar le 13 has a large terrace, good ambience seems to be the hangout for many of the people working in central Kourou. Belgian beers on the tap.
Good hotels exist, but they can be relatively expensive.
- 1 Hotel Le Ballahou, 1-3, Rue A. Martial, ☏ . Check-in: 12:00, check-out: 12:00. from €56.
- 2 Hotel des Roches, Ave des Roches, ☏ . $150-$170 USD.
- 3 Hotel Atlantis, Lieu dit Bois Diable, ☏ . Stylish, pool, bar that also serves some snacks. Lots of mosquitoes in the outdoor lounge area, free repellent at the bar. Free, very fast WiFi. from €115.
- 4 Hôtel Mercure Ariatel, Avenue de St Exupéry, ☏ . The Ariatel is a bit upscale compared to the Atlantis.
- [dead link] Webcom, in the quartier Simaroba (next to Ecomax and Musique music). Computers with Internet access, WiFi around the clock, phone booths, fax; everything you need to get connected. French, English and Spanish spoken.
- [dead link] Cyber-K, in the quartier Simaroba (next to Air France office and Restaurant Saramaca), ☏ . You can get online both with their computers and your own, however their fees are steep. Service in French, English, Spanish, Catalan, Portuguese and Italian.
- You can also get connected at the mediatheque next to the lake, however fares are high. For Kourou residents Internet access is free for one hour.
Îles du salut
The Îles du salut can be visited from Kourou. The islands used to be part of a penal colony. A one way ticket with a catamaran cost around €21. On weekends or holidays it can be crowded. So you should book in advance. There are three islands:
- Île Royale (Royal Island) is the main island where you arrive with the boat. On this island there's a hotel/restaurant with the opportunity to hang your hammock for €10. There is also a camping side where you can put your tent or your hammock for free. But there are no showers. Just toilets without a sink. But the sea is really close if you need to have a bath. On this island you will find a lot of monkeys, iguanas, sea turtles and some macaws.
- Île du Diable (Devil's Island) is closed to the public. This is where Captain Alfred Dreyfus was incarcerated for four years in the 1890s.
- Île Saint-Joseph. (St. Joseph's Island) You can get there with a boat from Île Royale which cost €5.