Venezuela is a land of beautiful landscapes and surprising sights, from the beaches to the mountain peaks. Beautiful waterfalls from table mountains, coastal towns and offshore islands offer pleasant escapes and soft sandy beaches, the Andes mountains provide a beautiful backdrop to some of the colorful and vibrant cities, and the Orinoco Delta teems with nature. There is much to discover in all parts of this country. Caracas, the country’s capital and largest city, offers its own brand of adventure, with a number of cultural and surrounding points of interest.
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1 Angel falls
At the heart of the country, where table mountains rise like gigantic monoliths from the surrounding landscape, are the beautiful Angel Falls. It is 979 meters long and is the highest waterfall in the world and one of the highlights of South America. This beautiful campground in Canaima National Park is remote and difficult to access, but flights over the falls are easy to arrange. The best time to see the falls is during the rainy season, between May and November, when the water is abundant and the falls do not disappear in a mist before reaching the bottom as they do in the dry season. During the dry season, the falls can be little more than a trickle, and visitors may want to check ahead of time to make sure there is enough water to make the trip worthwhile.
The falls are usually visited by a scenic flight or a three-day boat trip that begins in the town of Canaima. The boat trip, which also includes a hike through the jungle to the base of the falls, is not a one-piece luxury tour, with basic accommodation along the way. The boat trip may not be possible during the dry season due to low water levels in the river. Flights over the falls depart from many cities and can be arranged from several places, including Caracas, Ciudad Bolívar, Santa Elena, or Isla Margarita, as well as other major cities, although usually with a connecting flight.
2 Los Roques-archipelago (Los Roques Archipelago)
Sun-kissed beaches, turquoise waters, coral reefs and modest development without high rises draw travelers to this beautiful chain of islands 100 miles north of Venezuela’s central coast. The archipelago is Los Roques National Park, but most people simply refer to the area as Los Roques. This is where people escape busy streets, mega-resorts and tourist groups. The small coastal fishing village of Gran Roque, on the island of the same name, is the main settlement, with single-storey houses painted in the typical bright colors seen throughout Venezuela. The buildings stretch along the beach and seem to go on forever. One of the highlights for many visitors is the small island of Cayo de Agua. Reached by boat
The islands are usually reached by air from Caracas, as there is no ferry service from the mainland. The airport is located in Gran Roque. Boats can be rented from the town’s waterfront for those interested in visiting some of the surrounding islands, diving or taking a snorkelling trip.
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Los Roques
3 Margarita Island (Margarita Island)
Isla de Margarita is one of the more developed beach destinations in Venezuela. Located about 40 kilometers north of the mainland, this is one of Venezuela’s top tourist destinations for sun worshippers. The main attractions of the island are its beautiful soft sand beaches, which are popular with both foreigners and Venezuelans. Many charter flights fly directly to Margarita Island from a variety of international destinations, but it is also possible to take a ferry to the island from Puerto La Cruz on the mainland.
The main town on the island is Porlamar, but the many beaches are scattered around the island, with some of the best on the north and east sides. Many of these are developed, with hotels or restaurants. Some of the most popular beaches are La Playa El Agua, Playa Puerto Cruz, Playa Guacuco and Playa Manzanillo.
4 Parque Nacional Morrocoy (Morrocoy National Park)
Located along the coast about two hours west of Caracas, Morrocoy National Park is known for its white-sand beaches and coral reefs, which stretch along the mainland and ring the islands and cays offshore. Scuba diving is one of the main activities for those who want more than just spend a day at the beach. The park is also home to a large number of birds, from ospreys and parrots to flamingos and scarlet ibis. Some of the most popular islands include Cayo Sombrero, Cayo Borracho, Cayo Sal, and Cayo Peraza, just to name a few.
There are two main access points, one at Tucacas and the other at Chichiriviche, with boat services to the islands available from both towns. The park is easily accessible and therefore very popular with Venezuelans. It can be extremely busy, especially around holidays.
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Morrocoy National Park
5 Canaima National Park in Gran Sabana
Canaima National Park covers three million hectares and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is most commonly associated with Angel Falls and the area around the city of Canaima, but this is really only a small part of the hugely diverse park. The park also includes the high plateau of La Gran Sabana and includes more than 100 tepuis (tabletop mountains), which rise more than 1000 meters above the savannas. A trip through the Gran Sabana and Canaima National Park is a unique experience and should not necessarily be combined with a trip to Angel Falls, especially during the dry season.
Highlights in this area are the numerous waterfalls scattered throughout the area, particularly in the Gran Sabana near the Brazilian border. Swimming at the base of the falls is one of the highlights and can provide a refreshing escape from the heat of the midday sun during the dry season.
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Canaima National Park
The mountaintop of Roraima has an alluring appeal for nature lovers and adventure seekers, with an almost mystical Jack and the Beanstalk kind of wonders attached to it. Rising from the surrounding lowlands, Roraima is an island in the sky that has intrigued people for centuries, with bizarre rock formations, waterfalls and carnivorous plants. This tepui (table mountain) was even the inspiration for the famous novel The Lost World by Arthur Conan Doyle.
Roraima is one of the highest tepuis in Canaima National Park. It is also one of the most easily accessible and popular hiking destinations, although it is a demanding multi-day hike. Temperatures drop as altitude increases and Roraima is often overcast, foggy or raining, so hikers should be prepared to face the elements.
7 Orinoco Delta
The Orinoco Delta, in northeastern Venezuela, offers a very different landscape and experience than other parts of the country. The river delta is home to all sorts of interesting wildlife, from monkeys and macaws to piranhas. Riverside lodges offer multi-day packages that take guests in boats for wildlife viewing and visiting local Warao people. Some camps also offer night safaris. The quality of lodges varies, so it’s best to do some research beforehand. Tours can be arranged from Ciudad Bolivar, Ciudad Guayana (Puerto Ordaz) or from other cities and can be combined with a larger tour of other areas.
8 Caracas: Galipan en het nationale pantheon
While few people plan to spend much time in Caracas, the city has a number of attractions worth seeing. One of the highlights is a trip by cable car to the small town of Galipan on Mount Avila in northern Caracas. It is also possible to drive, but this is a winding road that is not suitable for looking around. The view from the top of the hill is spectacular, especially on clear days when you can see Caracas and the coast. At the top are stalls with vendors selling a variety of goods, and some decent restaurants serving some tasty treats.
Back in Caracas, the National Pantheon is a very important site. The building was built after the 1812 earthquake when the original church on this site was destroyed. Today it is the holiest shrine in the country and houses the remains of prominent Venezuelans, including that of Simon Bolívar.
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Caracas
9 Los Medanos de Coro National Park (National Park Medanos de Coro)
Medanos de Coro National Park offers surprising sights with rolling sand dunes typical of a desert landscape. The sand dunes, known locally as medanos, roll across the landscape, with twisting and curving lines, and some dunes reach up to 40 meters in height. Scattered in the hills are a number of lagoons, formed by decades of flooding. This park is a fun place to wander, slide through the dunes, take photos, and appreciate the diversity of landscapes that make Venezuela so unique.
10 Mochima National Park
This park covers part of the coast and a chain of offshore islands east of Puerto La Cruz to Cumaná. The main attractions here are the beaches and the diving. The islands are accessible by boat from Puerto La Cruz, Santa Fé and Mochima. It’s also possible to explore the park’s mainland by car or bus, stopping at small villages and beach-lined coves along Highway 9, but this is primarily a place for boating. The area around the park is very quiet and it hardly sees the amount of traffic as Morrocoy. This is a good option for people who happen to be in this area or are heading to the Paria Peninsula.