Venezuela has countless beautiful beaches because it has a Caribbean coastline of 2,800 km (1,740 miles) – the longest of any nation. However this country is not just a beach bum’s paradise. Inland there are areas of astounding biodiversity and awe-inspiring landscapes. Here is my top ten list of traveller destinations in Venezuela.
1. Angel Falls and tepuis of Canaima National Park
Angel Falls, or Kerepakupai-Meru as it was officially renamed in 2009, is one of the natural wonders of the world; a waterfall which drops from a table top mountain of over 1000 meters. The park has many other table top mountains or tepuis and is located in the jungle and savanna region of Gran Sabana in the south west of the country. The park, which can only be accessed by air, is home to diverse fauna – such as the giant anteater and the giant otter – and the Pemon indigenous people.
2. Los Roques Archipelago National Park
With clear blue waters and white sands this archipelago of 350 islands is a hidden gem of a destination for scuba-divers and snorkelers. The string of coral islands is home to a wide variety of bird and sea life and is located 170km (106 miles) north of Caracas.
3. Coro and the Sand Dunes
Coro is one of Venezuela’s first colonies and here colonial earthen construction buildings can still be seen to this day. The town houses over 600 building which demonstrate a fusion of Spanish and Dutch architectural techniques. Close by are the sand dunes which are located between Coro and the Paraguana Peninsula. The dunes, which can reach 40 meters (130 feet) in height, are the habitat of cactus and a small number of animals such as lizards and foxes.
4. The Orinoco Delta
The longest river in Venezuela reaches the Atlantic Ocean at the eastern tip of the country and split into numerous smaller rivers or distributaries at the Orinoco Delta. On a boat trip you can see piranha catfish and small crocodiles, and the Warao people who live in houses built on stilts.
5. Margarita Island
With Margarita Island, visitors get two destinations in one place. The eastern part of the island is famous for its clubs, duty free shopping, big hotels, colonial towns, and beaches to suit everyone from surfers to sunbathers. The western side however offers travellers a paradise of arid mountains as well as mangrove swamps and lagoons abundant in wildlife like seahorses and turtles.
6. Mochima National Park
The little village of Mochima and the big city of Puerto la Cruz are the jumping off points for boat trips around the countless islands of Mochima National Park. The activities on offer in Mochima include dolphin-spotting, swimming, snorkeling and scuba diving.
7. Henri Pittier National Park
The country’s first national park – created in 1937 – is a favourite weekend getaway for capital-city dwellers or Caraqueños. Choroni, a coastal village, is a popular starting point for treks into the park which stretches from the coast to Lago Valencia. The highest point in the park is 2430 meters (80,000 feet) and there are many bathing pools throughout the park if you get tired from climbing all those hills.
8. The Plains – Los Llanos
The grassland and woodland plains, which stretch from Colombia into Venezuela, act as a geographical buffer between the Andes and the Amazon. Los llanos are home to the hardy llanero cattle herders, as well as anteaters, capybara, caiman or small crocodiles, river dolphins, monkeys, anacondas, and numerous birds. It is worth visiting in the wet season (May-October) which is the best time for bird-watchers and again in the dry season (November-April) when the animals huddle around the few remaining drinking holes.
9. Sierra Nevada National Park and Merida
Merida, is the main city of the Venezuelan Andes and the most tourist-friendly metropolis in the country. It is also where visitors set off to ride the world’s highest cable car which ascends 4,776 meters (15,700 feet) to Pico Espejo. Throughout the Sierra Nevada National Park there are treks to various peaks ranging from a few hours to a few days. During these hikes visitors can enjoy the stunning scenery of lakes and snow-capped peaks including Pico Bolivar, the county’s highest at 4981 meters (16,300 feet).
10. Caracas and El Avila
Some might say that Caracas is best appreciated from a distance which is where Monte Avila, which borders the city to the north, comes in handy. Visitors can either hike up one of the three trails, take the cable car, or a 4WD to the sealed up Hotel Humboldt at the summit. There you get an amazing view of the city and the air is refreshingly cooler than it is in the capital.
Leave a comment if you think any destinations are missing.