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Suriname is a small republic on the northeast coast of South America. It prides itself on its thoroughly multi-etnic culture, a colourful blend of indigenous Indian traditions and those of its former Dutch colonisers and the African, Javanese and Hindustan workers they once brought with them. It's a country with a fabulous and largely untouched Amazon inland, slowly discovering its chances as an eco-tourism destination. International visitors are steadily following Dutch travellers who have long been drawn to this friendly, tropical country to explore its spectacular nature, captivating cultural heritage and meet its ever smiling people. Formerly called Dutch Guiana, Suriname is tucked in between French Guiana in the east and Guyana (formerly British Guiana) in the west. In the south the country is bordered by Brazil and in the north by the Atlantic Ocean. At just under 165,000 km², Suriname is the smallest sovereign state in South America. It has 530,000 inhabitants, half of whom live in the exuberant capital, Paramaribo. (less...) (more...)
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Dutch from the province of Zeeland in the Netherlands colonized Suriname in the 17th century. The colony was mainly used for sugar, coffee and cocoa plantations where many African slaves were worked to death. In 1863 slavery came to an end and contract workers were recruited from British India (until 1916) and Java (until 1936). Many stayed after their contract had ended. Independence from the Netherlands was granted in 1975 and to retain their Dutch nationality many Surinamese left for the Netherlands. Five years later the civilian government was replaced by a military regime that soon declared a socialist republic characterized by a high level of government corruption and the summary executions of political opponents. It continued to rule through a succession of nominally civilian administrations until 1987, when international pressure finally forced a democratic election. In 1989, the military overthrew the civilian government again, but a democratically-elected government returned to power in 1991.
Suriname has a tropical rainy climate, hot and humid. It has two rainy seasons per year. The long rainy season runs from late April to mid-August. The short rainy season runs from mid-December to mid-February. Usually it does not rain all day but there are heavy tropical showers mainly in the afternoon. The temperature is about 30 ̊C but in the dry period from mid-August to mid-December it can rise to 35-40 ̊C. Humidity is about 80% year-round and can exacerbate temperature extremes. It feels clammy and sticky.
Although most if not all visitors will probably visit Paramaribo it is well worth getting out to explore other regions that are all in great contrast with the capital.
This can be arranged by a tour operator so you do not have to worry about transportation and accommodations. For the more adventurous Suriname is challenging but certainly not with insurmountable obstacles.
- 1 January - New Year's Day
- 25 February - Revolution Day
- 1 May - Labor Day
- 5 June - Indian Arrival Day
- 1 July - Keti-koti (Sranantongo creole for "the chains are cut"). This day is also known as (Prisiri) Maspasi, meaning "Emancipation (Festival)".
- 9 August - Day of Amerindians and Javanese Arrival Day
- 10 October - Day of the Marroons
- 25 November - Independence Day
- 25 December - Christmas Day
- 26 December - Boxing Day
- Owru Jari (New Year celebration) - Three days of festival to celebrate the old and new years with lots of fireworks.
- Carnival (Feb) - Colourful carnival parades.
- Avondvierdaagse (Apr) - Walking and dancing four days long in the streets of Paramaribo. The event starts at 17:00. The route varies and holds a different surprise every day. It meanders through the various neighbourhoods, each with its own characteristics.
- Bodo (End of the Javanese fasting period) - Bodo is the Javanese name of the Eid al-Fitr (Sugar Feast) festival in Suriname.
- Divali - This Hindu festival of light is a national day in Suriname since 2010
- Jaran Kepang - Jaran Kepang is a traditional Javanese dance accompanied by gamelan music. This spectacular folk-dance is very popular in Suriname.
- Keti Koti (Sranantongo creole for "the chains are cut") is marked on 1 July. This day is also known as (Prisiri) Maspasi, meaning "Emancipation (Festival)". (Although slavery had been abolished by the British during their early 1800's re-occupation, the Netherlands re-introduced it to Suriname in 1817, only to "abolish" it 46 years later in 1863. Slaves did not become fully free until 1873, after a mandatory 10 year transition period during which time slaves were required to work on the plantations for minimal pay and without state sanctioned torture.)
- Winti Pré - This Creole worship is a dance ritual for gods and ghosts.
Because of the ethnic diversity there is a variety of exotic food available. Indian (specially roti with chicken), Chinese, Javanese (Indonesian), Creole.
Although Indonesian food might seem the appropriate name, the Indonesian people in Suriname are mostly if not all from the island of Java. And Java has its own cuisine, distinct from other styles of Indonesian food. Furthermore, the food has evolved to a more Surinamese culture and is thus very different from food you'd find in Java. Nevertheless it tastes great and you should try it. The most popular places where you would find such food is in 'warungs' in Lelydorp on your way from the airport to Paramaribo, or Blauwgrond in Paramaribo, and since recently near the bridge in Commewijne. Bami (noodles) and nasi (fried rice) can be ordered in every warung. It is accompanied with spicy chicken or satay with peanut sauce. Vegetarian dishes are baka bana (fried banana) and petjil (vegetables with peanut sauce). Telo is fried cassava with salt fish. Popular among Javanese people is soato, a stock with strips of chicken, bean sprouts, egg and sliced peppers.
Chinese food tastes great in Suriname. Good restaurants can be found in Paramaribo. Also, try visiting the Chinese market on Sunday and many of the dim sum restaurants.
East Indian food is less spicy compared to original Indian food, but still a well appreciated meal. Very popular is roti, pancakes filled with chicken, potato and kouseband (long beans) prepared with masala. Bara is a fried cake of beans, like a donut, dripping from fat.
This type of food can be found everywhere in Suriname, with dishes like cassava soup, pom (an oven dish with milled tajer-tuber and salt meat), pastei (an oven dish in puff pastry) and brownbeans or peanut soup with tom tom (dumplings of cooked bananas).
International menus are available in the more expensive downtown restaurant and hotels in Paramaribo.
Suriname wouldn't be the tropical paradise it is without its wide variety of great fruit juices. Even the well known orange juice is a sensational taste, but do not hesitate to try great tropical fruits like passion fruit (known locally as 'markoesa') or soursap, better known as Guanábana (locally known as 'zuurzak'). Since locals have an appetite for sweetness, sugar is added to most juices you buy in bottles. For pure juice it is best to ask for fresh made juice.
In the city it's also possible to get shaved ice in different flavours from the local vendors, which is very refreshing in the tropical climate.
The Javanese have a pink (and occasionally green) coloured drink called dawet, which consists of coconut milk.
Try to get a local 'east-Indian' to make you a glass of lassi if you have the chance.
Beer: Try the local 'Parbo-beer', which, when it comes in one litre bottles, is called a 'djogo'. In 2008, Suriname finally got Parbo beer in a can, which was somewhat of a major event in the country. Guinness is a popular import beer, and for that reason Parbo also brews a very decent own stout variant: Parbo Stout and their own rums: Borgoe and Black Cat. Of course imported beers, whiskeys and rums are also available.
Accommodation and food is relatively on the cheap side. Retail prices for clothing, gifts, etc. are similar to most of United States of America.
Things which are well worth buying are:
- Handcrafted jewelery
- handcrafted woodcarvings
- Tropical flowers
The local currency is the Suriname dollar and uses the notation SRD (which is also the ISO 4217 international currency code). The currency is freely convertible (but nearly impossible to get rid of outside Suriname except for the neighbouring countries and one exchange bureau in Amsterdam airport) and, as of October 2013, trades at approximately:
You can exchange currency at all banks as well as most cambio's. Automatic teller machines (ATM) are available in Paramaribo and in the most larger municipalities in the north. The ATMs of the RBTT bank accept most international bank cards. Paying by credit card in shops, hotels and restaurants is not very common. Expect 2-6% extra charge.
The average opening times of shops in Suriname are Mon-Thu from 8:00-16:30. On Friday until 19:00 and on Saturday most close at 14:00. Chinese supermarkets pop up throughout the country and even in the smallest hamlets. They are opened till late in the evening.
Banks and post offices are opened from Mon-Fri 07:30-14:00.
Government services are available from Mon-Fri 07:00-14:00.
This article is based on Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike 3.0 Licensed text from the article Suriname on Wikivoyage.
Cities in Suriname
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Paramaribo, often called Par'bo, is the lively capital and only city of the sparsely inhabited country of Suriname. Home to about 250,000 people, or over half of the country's population, this laid-back South American gem lies just 15km from the Atlantic Ocean. It's the country's main harbour, governmental ... (read more)
- Presidential Palace
- Independence Square
- Fort Zeelandia
- St. Peter and St. Paul Cathedral
- Palmentuin Park
Points of Interest in Suriname
With almost a third of the country being declared national reserves, Suriname's main tourist attraction are its vast natural lands and the diversity of flora and fauna in them. Head to the beaches of Galibi and Albina to witness the impressive breeding process of large Leatherback sea turtles, or book a helicopter ride to one of the more remote beaches to see the same, with fewer people around. Spot river dolphins on the way and see the typical mangrove forests between the ocean and the rain forests. The Amazon rain forests cover most of the Surinam surface and is home to thousands of birds, reptiles, monkeys and even a handful of jaguars. As tourism develops, guided tours and resorts in the heart of the jungle are popping up and make a comfortable option if you want to spend a few days spotting wildlife or plants, including the rubber tree, spike-footed palms, plenty of orchids and cactusses. Daytrips are an option too. The Central Suriname Nature Reserve is the most popular of the reserves and is home to the Raleigh waterfalls and mount Voltzberg. Brownsberg Nature Park is home to one of the largest man-made lakes in the world: the Brokopondo Reservoir. Visit Tonka Island to see the eco-tourism project that Saramaccaner Maroons have set up there.
Maroon and Amerindian villages are found deep in the forests, but many of them also lie on the riverbanks. A boat trip down the Marowijne river, with French Guyana just on the other side, is a great way to see the best of the forest, visit some villages and do some border hopping on the go. For a less adventurous day, try swimming in Cola Creek, a black water (Blaka Watra) recreational park some 50 km from Paramaribo and popular with Suriname families. On the way back, make sure to stop at the Jodensavanne (Jews savanna), where the Jews were allowed to settle in the 17th century. Now, only the ruins at this important historic place remind of those days.
Paramaribo itself is a pleasant place and its historic inner centre is a Unesco World Heritage Site. The capital has many characteristics of a large village community and although there are few real landmarks and sights, is a nice place to spend some time. Linger on the Waterkant, the water side street with its old wooden, colonial houses and grab a bite from one of the food stands there. Go shopping at the Central Market and gaze at the Jules Wijdenboschbrug. Stroll to Fort Zeelandia, through the Palm tree garden and the Independence square. Make sure to include the Roman Catholic Saint Peter and Paul Cathedral in your walk, since it is the largest wooden building in South America.
Former plantations will take you back to colonial times, when coffee and sugar where produced here. Some of the plantation houses have been renovated, and a few are even in use to make coffee and dry shrimp. Bike through the quiet and green area, between the banana plants, to visit former plantations with names like Einde Rust (End of Rest), Worsteling Jacobs (Struggle Jacobs), Zorgvliet and Zeldenrust (Rarely Rest).
Presidential Palace - Paramaribo
Brownsberg Park - Brownsweg
Independence Square - Paramaribo
Fort Zeelandia - Paramaribo
St. Peter and St. Paul Cathedral - Paramaribo
Palmentuin Park - Paramaribo
Andre Kamperveen Stadium - Paramaribo
Anton de Kom University - Paramaribo