Layover: Georgetown, Guyana

On a business trip to Guyana’s capital with a few hours to spare? A free day to explore? Our quick guide to getting the most out of Georgetown when time is tight

Photo by Amanda RichardsPhoto by Nicholas LaughlinPhoto by Amanda RichardsPhoto by Nicholas LaughlinPhoto by Michael LamPhoto courtesy Night Cap

As headquarters for Caricom, Georgetown is already on regional diplomats’ travel maps, and with Guyana’s still-untapped offshore oilfields turning investors’ heads, increasing numbers of business travellers will likely soon be joining them. Once known as the Caribbean’s Garden City for its profuse flora, Dutch-engineered canals, and elegant architecture, Georgetown today has a more raffish charm, rough around the edges, but still animated by an old-time hospitality.

Georgetown’s traditional wooden architecture is a marvel, though in a hot, humid climate it demands constant restoration. For a close-up look, a tranquil retreat, and a history lesson all at once, visit St George’s Cathedral, with its soaring vaults of local wood and numerous memorials. There’s a donation box for your spare change: help keep this architectural treasure in good repair.

Shh! Don’t let a Trinidadian hear you say this, but Guyanese roti may be the best in the Caribbean. Decide for yourself: Shanta’s Roti Shop on Camp Street, a lunchtime mainstay for nearby office workers, offers handkerchief-light puris bursting with dhal, and almost every kind of curried vegetable you can imagine. Boulanger = eggplant, bora = a kind of very long string bean, what Trinis call bodi.

Beyond the heavily populated coastal strip, Guyana’s vast interior is a land of mountains and forests, savannas and vast rivers — and to explore it, you need to take your time. But at least one of these spectacles is just a day-trip away from Georgetown by plane: Kaieteur Falls. Most tour companies in the city can arrange an excursion, and most also include a stop at Orinduik on the border with Brazil.

Now and then you need to stretch your legs. Georgetown is a relatively walkable city, though the midday sun can be scorching. Try a stroll along the Sea Wall just before sunset. Parents with children, elderly couples, and joggers of all ages enjoy the Atlantic breeze and the views of ocean to the north and the city spread out to the south.

Sooner or later you grow weary of the hotel bar, however friendly the bartender. Sheriff Street is famous for its raucous nightlife, but a more laid-back option is Night Cap, an elegant restaurant in the lush grounds of the former Russian embassy, where you can sip an El Dorado on the rocks in the comfort of a thatch-roofed lounge and eavesdrop on local gossip.