Suriname Political Map

In many ways, Suriname is unlike any other South American country. It is the smallest independent nation on the continent, its official language is Dutch, and it has Christian, Hindu, and Islamic national holidays. Despite its uniqueness among other South American countries, or maybe because of it, many people haven’t even heard of Suriname.

In this post, we’ll take a look at a Suriname map to learn more about the country’s location and explore some of the features of this country.

Where is Suriname?

Suriname is located in South America on its northeastern Atlantic coast. Guyana borders it to the west, French Guiana to the east, and Brazil to the south. Below is a political map of Suriname that shows the country’s international borders, major rivers, cities, and its capital city of Paramaribo.

A political map of Suriname illustrating the country's international borders, major cities and rivers, and its capital city.
Suriname Political Map

Region and Bordering Countries

Suriname lies in a geographic region called the Guiana Shield. The geological formation is about 1.7 billion years old and makes up the foundation on which Guyana, Suriname, French Guiana, and parts of Venezuela, Colombia, and Brazil sit. The region has one of the highest levels of biodiversity in the world and is covered by an extensive tropical forest.

All three of the countries that are located completely on the Guiana Shield — Guyana, Suriname, and French Guiana — have a history of colonization by European countries. Before 1996, Guyana was called British Guiana and Suriname was sometimes referred to as Dutch Guiana in the past. French Guiana is still a department of France.

Each of these countries is populated by diverse ethnic groups consisting of varying levels of indigenous peoples and descendants of slaves or indentured workers.

Brazil also borders Suriname, but it has less in common with the country than its two other neighbors. This is mostly because of Brazil’s enormous size and the fact that the shared border between the two countries is relatively small.

Major Cities

The majority of Suriname’s population lives along the country’s northern coast. The largest city, by far, is Paramaribo. This is where more than a third of the country lives, and the next most populous city is home to less than 20,000 people.

Paramaribo

Street in Paramaribo in Suriname
Paramaribo, Suriname

Paramaribo is Surname’s largest, most populous, and capital city. It has a population of approximately 223,757 people in 2022, which accounts for more than 35% of the country’s total population of about 618,040.

Founded in 1613, Paramaribo was the first Dutch settlement in the area. Control of the settlement passed to Britain after the founding of the British Colony of Surinam in 1950 but was passed back to the Dutch when it was captured in 1667. Paramaribo was the capital of the Dutch Colony of Suriname from this time until Suriname gained independence in 1975, after which Paramibo remained the capital of the newly independent nation.

As with the majority of Suriname’s major population centers, Paramaribo is located near the northern Atlantic coast of the country. It sits on the banks of the Suriname River in the country’s Paramaribo District. The city has an equatorial climate and experiences significant rainfall throughout the entire year, but the heaviest rainfall happens between April and July.

Paramaribo is home to Suriname’s only university, and its historic inner city is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The inner city is a well preserved Dutch colonial town that was established in the 17th and 18th centuries.

Lelydorp

A woman walks along a roadside in Lelydorp.

Lelydorp is the second-largest city in Suriname after Paramaribo. Its population is around 19,000, and it is the capital of Suriname’s Wanika District, located just south of Paramaribo. The name Lelydorp comes from Cornelius Lely, a Dutch politician and civil engineer who served as the governor of Suriname from 1902 to 1905.

The district lies along the oldest road leading from Paramaribo to the inland section of the country. Agriculture, especially the production of cassava and asparagus beans, was central to Lelydorp’s economy, and the construction of the Lawa Railway lent itself to the further development of the village.

Today, Lelydorp is the main stopping point between Suriname’s international airport in Zanderij and Paramaribo. The small city is home to a number of small businesses, shops, and offices and is surrounded by various agricultural areas and residential neighborhoods.

Brokopondo

View of Lake Brokopondo in Surinam
Lake Brokopondo

Brokopondo is the capital of the district of the same name and is the third-largest city in Suriname. Brokopondo is located on the west bank of the Suriname River, just north of the Afobaka Dam. Located in a naturally beautiful area along the Suriname River, Brokopondo is one of two cities highlighted by the Brokopondo Development Plan, which has the intention of increasing tourism in the city.

One of the attractions in Brokopondo is Anani Beach, a large beach next to the river near Brokopondo’s city center. There are plans to develop the city by constructing a large-capacity hotel, a bus station, and a center for cultural studies.

The largest ethnic group inhabiting Brokopondo is the Maroons. These are descendants of Africans in the Americas who formed their own settlements away from slavery. The groups often mixed with indigenous peoples, creating separate creole cultures.

Nieuw Nickerie

The fourth-largest city in Suriname and the last to have a population greater than 10,000 is Nieuw Nickerie. It is the capital of the Nickerie District and is found at the mouth of the Nickerie River on the Atlantic coast. It’s protected by a large seawall, constructed after Nieuw Rotterdam was destroyed by floods in the same area.

Nickerie is the largest rice producer in Suriname, and banana production is the other main industry in the district. The city features a market, several hotels, and a harbor, though the harbor isn’t very deep and plans are in place to upgrade. Nieuw Nickerie is also home to the first Surinamese hospital outside of Paramaribo. Tourism is an emerging market in Nickerie because of the city’s various hotels and access to the Bigi Pan Nature Reserve.

Nieuw Nickerie is located just across the river from Guyana, across which a ferry operates and an international bridge is being planned.

Geography and Climate

A close-up view of a Venus flytrap in the Paramaribo District of Suriname.
Venus flytrap in Paramaribo District, Suriname

Suriname has one of the most pristine landscapes of any nation in the world. Over 90% of its territory is occupied by undeveloped rainforests — the highest percentage of any country — and the region has a very high level of biodiversity. There are many species that are endemic to the area, and new species are still being discovered in Suriname. In 2013, a team of international scientists cataloged 60 different species that may have been previously unknown to science.

There are two main geographic areas in Suriname: the northern coastal area and the southern tropical rainforests and savannah. The northern region of Suriname along the coast has a low elevation, has been cultivated for agriculture, and is where the majority of the nation’s population lives. The southern region of the country is mostly uninhabited and covered with tropical rainforests and savannah close to its border with Brazil.

There are two main mountain ranges in Suriname: the Bakhuys Mountains and the Van Asch Van Wijck Mountains. The highest mountain in the country is Julianatop with an elevation of 1,286 meters (4,219 feet) above sea level. Julianatop was named after Juliana of the Netherlands.

One of the many national parks that are in Suriname, the Central Suriname Nature Reserve is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. 16% of the country’s land is made of national parks. In the north, Galibi National Reserve is located along the coast. In central Suriname, Brownsburg Nature Park and Eilerts de Haan Nature Park. Along Suriname’s border with Brazil is the Sipaliwani Nature Reserve.

Economy

After Suriname’s independence, Bauxite mining was the most important economic activity in the country. This remained true for many years, as it accounted for 70% of export revenue up to 2017. Other valuable resources in the country include gold and oil, the discovery of which has significantly improved Suriname’s economic independence.

Agriculture is another key element of the economy in Suriname, and the most profitable crops are rice and bananas. Other agricultural products that are produced in Suriname are coconuts, palm kernels, timber, and citrus fruits. About 25% of the country’s population works in the agricultural sector.

International trade is also an important part of Suriname’s economy. Its primary trade partners are the Netherlands, the United States, and the Caribbean countries. The latest data from the World Bank in 2021 has the GDP per capita in Suriname at $4,836.

Ecotourism is a growing industry in Suriname with the potential to continue to develop into the future. This is in part because over 90% of the country is made up of unspoiled rainforests.

Demographics and Culture

Musicians walk down the street in Paramaribo during the Keti Koti celebration.
Keti Koti celebration in Paramaribo, Suriname

One of the things Suriname is most famous for is its diverse people and cultures. It’s a Dutch-speaking country in South America with multiple ethnic groups and many other languages. Of these ethnic groups, none constitutes an overwhelming majority. The ethnic makeup of Suriname is so diverse because of its history in the past 400 years of colonization by European countries, most significantly by the Netherlands.

Under Dutch rule, great amounts of migration from several overseas nations took place. Some of this migration was voluntary or contractual, and other times it was forced. The descendants of slaves and indentured workers from Africa, India, China, and Java constitute the majority of the country’s population today. This makes for a diverse mix of language and culture in Suriname.

A wide variety of national holidays are celebrated in Suriname thanks to the country’s diverse makeup. One of the country’s own holidays is called Keti Koti. In the Sranantongo creole, the name of the celebration means “the chain is broken.” This is the celebration of the abolishment of slavery in Suriname in 1863. Although this is the official date of emancipation, slaves were required to work for ten “transition” years for minimal pay, so most slaves were not free until 1873. The celebration takes place every year on July 1.

By a small margin, Surinamese with Indian ancestry comprise the largest portion of the population at just over 27%. The next largest population group is Maroon, the descendants of Africans in the Americas who formed settlements away from slavery.

In the years leading up to Suriname’s independence in 1975, the population had the option to choose between citizenship in Suriname or in the Netherlands. Many people chose to move to the Netherlands as a result, and the Surinamese community numbered around 350,000 in the Netherlands in 2013. This is around half of Suriname’s total domestic population.

Suriname FAQs

What country does Suriname belong to?

Suriname has been an independent nation since 1975. It was once a Dutch colony called Dutch Guiana and then became one of the countries that constitute the Kingdom of the Netherlands in 1954.

What language do they speak in Suriname?

The official language in Suriname is Dutch due to the country’s history of Dutch colonization. There are also eight officially recognized indigenous languages, and Sranan Tongo, an English-cased creole, is the most widely used vernacular across the country.

Is it safe to travel to Suriname?

It is generally safe to travel to Suriname. It’s always wise to practice normal safety precautions when traveling abroad such as remaining aware of your surroundings and avoiding unlit, unfamiliar areas at night, but Suriname is generally very safe. The US Department of State keeps a regularly updated travel advisory for Suriname with additional information.

What currency do they use in Suriname?

The official currency in Suriname is the Surinamese Dollar, which has been in circulation since 2004. In the country, the currency is most often referred to as “SRD,” while “dollar” is understood to mean US dollars.

Is Suriname expensive?

Suriname is considered an upper-middle-income country. Although the cost of living in Suriname will vary greatly depending on lifestyle, the average monthly expenses are around $679.

Overall expenses are roughly 30% less expensive in Suriname than they are in the United States, and average rent costs are about 65% less expensive.