Devil's Island, Cayenne

4.4
#2 of 39 in Things to do in French Guiana
Island Nature / Park
The penal colony of Cayenne, commonly known as Devil's Island, was a famous prison of the 19th and 20th century. It operated at several locations in French Guiana. Opened in 1852, it was notorious for being used for internal exile of French political prisoners during that period, the most famous of whom was Captain Alfred Dreyfus. It is also known for its harsh treatment of criminals, who were deported there from all parts of the French empire. The system was closed down in 1953.OrganizationThe prison system stretched over several locations, on the mainland and in the off-shore Îles du Salut group. Île Royale was the reception centre for the general population of the penal colony; they were housed in moderate freedom due to the difficulty of escape from the island. Île Saint-Joseph was the Reclusion, where inmates were sent to be punished by solitary confinement in silence and darkness for escapes or offences committed in the penal colony. Île du Diable was for political prisoners. In the 19th century, the most famous such prisoner was Captain Alfred Dreyfus. In addition to the prisons on each of the three islands in the Salut island group, the French constructed three related prison facilities on the South American mainland, just across the straits at Kourou; 30 miles east in Cayenne, which later became the capital of French Guiana; and a hundred miles west at St. Laurent.
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22 days in Cayenne BY A USER FROM ROMANIA November, popular PREFERENCES: November ATTRACTION STYLE: Popular PACE: Medium 12 days in Cayenne BY A USER FROM NETHERLANDS July, popular PREFERENCES: July ATTRACTION STYLE: Popular PACE: Medium 33 days in South America BY A USER FROM UNITED KINGDOM July, popular & hidden gems PREFERENCES: July ATTRACTION STYLE: Popular & hidden gems PACE: Medium 60 days in French Guiana, Suriname & Guyana BY A USER FROM UNITED KINGDOM July, popular & hidden gems PREFERENCES: July ATTRACTION STYLE: Popular & hidden gems PACE: Medium 23 days in Guyana, French Guiana & Suriname BY A USER FROM SOUTH KOREA August, fast-paced, popular PREFERENCES: August ATTRACTION STYLE: Popular PACE: Fast-paced 8 days in French Guiana BY A USER FROM CANADA June, culture, outdoors, beaches, historic sites, museums, shopping, popular PREFERENCES: June, culture, outdoors, beaches, historic sites, museums, shopping ATTRACTION STYLE: Popular PACE: Medium 11 days in French Guiana BY A USER FROM SINGAPORE November, popular PREFERENCES: November ATTRACTION STYLE: Popular PACE: Medium 60 days in South America BY A USER FROM CANADA October, outdoors, beaches, historic sites, museums, hidden gems PREFERENCES: October, outdoors, beaches, historic sites, museums ATTRACTION STYLE: Hidden gems PACE: Medium 5 days in Cayenne BY A USER FROM UNITED STATES September, kids, popular PREFERENCES: September, kids ATTRACTION STYLE: Popular PACE: Medium 9 days in French Guiana BY A USER FROM NETHERLANDS July, popular PREFERENCES: July ATTRACTION STYLE: Popular PACE: Medium 9 days in French Guiana BY A USER FROM BANGLADESH July, popular PREFERENCES: July ATTRACTION STYLE: Popular PACE: Medium 1 day in Cayenne BY A USER FROM AUSTRALIA October, culture, outdoors, historic sites, shopping, slow & easy, hidden gems PREFERENCES: October, culture, outdoors, historic sites, shopping ATTRACTION STYLE: Hidden gems PACE: Slow & easy
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Where to stay in Cayenne

Appealing to a rather exclusive set of travelers, chain hotels and resorts in the west of town offer a great range of luxury services, modern facilities, and rooms overlooking the river. Step back from the water to find humbler lodgings at basic hotels, guesthouses, and rental properties catering to budget-conscious travelers.
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  • You get to this island by ship's tender, weather permitting. Besides the prison site, there is a guest hotel and resort facilities available. This historic site is not terribly well kept and the signa...  more »
  • Lots of french dark history, but the place is beautiful. We made the reservation online with Promaritime (shuttle) in Kourou. Everything went really well. There is one good restaurant on Ile Royale, t...  more »
  • Tropical island charm. Lovely palm trees and ocean views. There are three or four trail options for exploring the island from short walks to a long walk around the whole island. Lots of old buildings ...  more »