Exploring Guyana’s Lesser-known Historical Sites
Guyana is rich in a diverse history that captures its colonial past, traditional and spiritual beliefs and its people’s cultural practices. These elements are embedded in historical sites and landmarks across its varied landscapes. While there are quite a few popular destinations, there are also a number of lesser known sites that reward those who seek them out. So, after exploring the well-known historical sites, satisfy your curiosity and visit some of these other points of interests. After all, a true Guyanese travel experience is not complete without some exploration of the unknown.
1. Fort Nassau
By the end of the first quarter of the seventeenth century, the Dutch established colonies in Berbice and Essequibo. Of these, Fort Nassau, originally a Dutch trading post located at the mouth of the Berbice River, still has intriguing stories to tell despite being largely destroyed in 1763 during the slave revolt to prevent the rebels from capturing it. This is of significant importance to Guyanese history as it is often referred to as the “cradle of the revolution”. What little remains includes grave plots, the brick stairs of the Policy Halls and the Armoury, the ruins of the bridge and the Lutheran Church.
With the flora and fauna that surround the area, this site is a prime spot for birding and wildlife spotting. If you’re lucky you might even spot a labba or agouti. The “Talking Tree” is an especially curious point of interest. Legend suggests that during the rebellion, the slaves used it to send messages through the spirits of the ancestors. The serene beauty of Fort Nassau will leave you breathless.
2. St. Peter’s Anglican Church and Statue of Lord Hanuman (Murti)
Leguan, located at the mouth of the Essequibo River, is named after the once abundant iguana population that inhabited the island. Sandy beaches, vast rice and sugar fields and fruit trees now populate the landscape. Its true gems, however, are its religious sites. The St. Peter’s Anglican Church is steeped in a rich history that reflects the deep religious faith of its original Dutch inhabitants. Dedicated to the Patron Saint Peter, this sanctuary features elaborate brickwork and ornate windows. A few steps away stands the leaning bell tower, which is regarded as one of the finest brick structures in Guyana.
Further exploration of the island leads to the towering 52-foot statue of Lord Hanuman. Hanuman, the Hindu Monkey God and ardent devotee of Lord Rama, is one of the most popular idols in the Hindu pantheon. This commanding piece is a symbol of the vibrant, almost domineering Hindu culture that engulfs this sparsely populated island. It inspires love, peace and unity.
3. Hog Island Windmill
Not surprisingly named after the numerous wild hogs that inhabit the island, Hog Island is another site that is known to many Guyanese for its rich history. Constructed from the signature orange toned “Dutch Bricks” from Kyk-over-al, the Hog Island Windmill stands 34 feet high and is a site to marvel. Its history is embedded in the slavery period when windmills were of paramount importance for sugar production. The use of slave labour to cut the cane, then transport it to the mill to extract the juices through wind power was the norm. Due to inconsistent wind power, the windmill did not function adequately on a consistent basis and was eventually abandoned. What’s left is a serene site surrounded by flora and bird life.
4. Aishalton Petroglyphs
Situated amid stunning mountains and vast savannah, the petroglyphs of Aishalton are extensive and exhibit a mysterious aura. Located deep within the Rupununi, the distinctive figurative style has been fascinating historians and archaeologists from the time of their discovery. Predated 3000–5000 BC, the petroglyphs embody both simple and intricate carvings that portray the relationship between the first people of the land and their surroundings. Symbolic sketches of animals, humans, plants and geometric arrangements are featured on 33 rock formations comprising a total of 693 elements. So, whenever you’re in the South Rupununi area, make an effort to stop by the petroglyphs and meet the Wapishana peoples and hear their interpretations of the petroglyphs, which predate them.
5. Christianburg Waterwheel
Christianburg, a small village located in Linden – Guyana’s bauxite mining town, is home to a magnificent industrial monument. The Christianburg Waterwheel, located on Burnham Drive, was installed as part of a hydro-powered sawmill system shortly after the English invasion in the 1800s. Built by Mirrlees, Tai & Watson from Glasgow, this waterwheel is regarded is part of one of the earliest engineering structures in Guyana. In 1855, the towering red waterwheel was installed to allow by Scottish engineer John Patterson to saw the logs before transporting them to Georgetown. As social engineering spawned by new technologies became rampant, this technology reduced manual labour, time and production costs. Despite the sawmill ceasing operations in the 1950s, the waterwheel still remains as a palpable reminder of a once thriving logging operation in Christianburg and by extension, Linden’s industrial heritage.
6. The Mabaruma Stone Monument
The Indigenous Peoples are the very first inhabitants of Guyana. Their rich and diverse heritage is just one of the many attributes that have contributed to Guyanese culture. The Mabaruma Stone Monument is exemplary of this. Located in the heart of Mabaruma Village, in Northwest Guyana, this structure signifies over 100 years of progress. Its layout is a symbol of Guyanese unity – the six heads surrounding a circular peak represent the six ethnic groups. The symbolic representation of an Indigenous person carved into the middle of the monument signifies their unspoiled way of life and preservation of their culture. Undisturbed, sustainable livelihoods embody what differentiates Guyana. So, if you’re ever in Region 1, the people of Mabaruma would love to have you visit and share the stories of their heritage.
Guyana’s rich history and diverse culture is embedded in wondrous sites throughout the country. These are just a few of numerous lesser known, off-the-beaten-path historical sites worth exploring. For more ideas, visit www.guyanatourism.com.
Travel Better in Guyana: Guyana is working hard to conserve its vibrant wildlife and ecosystems and protect its culture and heritage. We realize that it is often difficult to understand how you can support these aims and make a difference when you travel. That’s why we’ve set out to help you by creating Visitor Guidelines for Sustainable Travel. All passionate globetrotters, curious culture seekers, and bold adventurers are encouraged to do all you can to leave a positive impact on the people and places you visit in Guyana.