Guyana's attractions range from the 19th-century stilted wooden houses of its capital, Georgetown, to the awesome natural splendour of the towering Kaieteur Falls along the Potaro River, five times the height of Niagara. The country's mixture of rainforests, beaches, savannah and rivers draws adventure tourists hoping to camp, trek, fish or perhaps be lucky enough to spot a jaguar.
It was the Dutch who first established a European presence here in around 1616. They remained in undisputed control until the end of the 18th century. The outbreak of the Napoleonic Wars then brought a period of turmoil during which the territory changed hands several times between the Dutch, British and French.The British ultimately prevailed following the defeat of Napoleon in 1815. The territory was then declared the colony of British Guiana, a status which it retained until independence in 1966.
After the abolition of slavery in 1834, the plantation owners imported labourers from India. Indians now form the largest racial group, with most living in the agricultural areas, particularly around Demerara. Other immigrants were Americans, Europeans (Portuguese, British and Dutch) and Chinese.