Venezuela is located North of the Equator and it is one of the most tropical and exotic countries on the South American continent. Here you’ll find irresistible bounty beaches on the Caribbean Coast, fantasy-like and almost unreal areas with waterfalls (among others the highest in the world) and strange mountain formations, perfect trekking- and diving opportunities, wild animals in the swamps of Los Llanos, Amazon magic and much more.
For the adventurous backpacker who is locking for something wild, exotic and different, there’s not many places on Earth which can match Venezuela. This tropical country close to the Equator offers some truly special and fantastic landscapes unlike anywhere else on the planet, and furthermore it gives you plenty of opportunities to dive, trek, climb, spot wildlife and much more.
If you’re flying into Venezuela, you’ll probably land in the capital Caracas. This is a hectic and quite crazy place with a lot of crime and poverty. The city definitively has its charm, but if you don’t have oceans of time we suggest that you look for other adventures out of the city as soon as you’ve seen the most important things. When leaving the city, you’ll probably do it by bus – Venezuela is lacking train systems, so most public transport is by bus. These are plentiful, though, and they exist in all ranges of quality and price.
The first stop after Caracas could very well be the seaside town of Choroni, a beautiful place at the Caribbean Coast three hours drive from Caracas. Though you won’t get this place for yourself, it’s still a great place to relax on it’s beautiful beaches before setting out for a real adventure in this fascinating country.
A certain part of Venezuela once inspired the English writer Arthur Conan Doyle to write his great work ‘The Lost World’. And it’s not hard to understand why, when you see La Gran Sabana in the southwestern part of the country. The jewel of this magnificent area is Mt. Roraima, a surreal and, literally speaking, fantastic mountain rising 2.810 meters and is more or less flat on the top! Actually there are a whole bunch of these so-called table mountains (or tepuis in the local language) here on the borders of Guyana and Brazil, and it is this whole weird and wonderful area that inspired Conan Doyle to write ‘The Lost World’.
There is something incredibly inspiring and adventurous about the place, and it is not to be missed by any traveler to Venezuela. If you go here, there is a good chance you will feel like many others before you: this place will end on your list of your all times favorite places! If not earlier, then most likely when you’ve seen Mt. Roraima on the top, where you’ll discover a unique flora, fauna and geological world of its own. Due to the isolation of the place, the flora and fauna here on the top has developed on its own and is like no other place on Earth, like something from a different world – or, yes exactly, a ‘lost world’! You’ll see flesh-eating plants and many other strange plants and flowers, plus a lot of strange insects and other small animals (no, you won’t find dinosaurs here, after all!).
To get to the top you’ll obviously have to do some trekking, which is part of the adventure here and isn’t hard to find. This area has developed into a popular place for adventurous backpackers, and for the same reason there’s lots of guides and organized treks and trips here. Take your time to find the right one for you – there’s different routes with different degrees of difficulty, so it’s all about finding the right one.
Mt. Roraima lies in Canaima National Park, which in general is a fantastic place. Not least because of the enormous Salto Angel, Angel Falls, which is the world’s highest waterfall. This extraordinary waterfall falls no less than 979 meters from the top of a tepui. It’s an impressive sight, which can either be seen from the ground or from the air. But perhaps the most amazing thing about this fall is, that the water evaporates before it hits the river below – this is how high it is!
Unless you pay a lot to get to fly past and above this wonder, there’s no easy way here. And this is definitively one of the reasons, why this place oozes of mystery and adventure – there is always something special about places that are hard to reach. To get to the foot of Angel Falls you’ll normally need two days, starting from the simple airport in Canaima, from where you will trek and canoe your way to the waterfall.
Also the rest of Canaima National Park is worth exploring. Here are lots of idyllic spots with waterfalls, rivers where you can take a canoe trip and beautiful dunes to bask and relax on and enjoy the scenery from. The water in the rivers and lakes here has a strange reddish-brown color, which adds a special touch to this exotic place.
When done with Canaima there’s lots of other options and things to do and see in Venezuela. You can take a bus to Mérida in the western part of the country, where the northern part of the Andes begins in order to stretch all the way down through the South American continent. Mérida is a beautiful city in a lush valley between the mountains, and a vivid and popular university city with good restaurants, nightlife and entertainment. From here you can try the world’s longest and highest cable car system to get to the top of Pico de Espejo at 4.765 meters and enjoy the grandeur of the Andes. Or you can go trekking in the mountains – or perhaps even mountaineering, if you’re into that. Here in Sierra Nevada de Mérida, as this part of the Andes is called, you will experience some really wonderful scenery - among other things glaciers with lagoons in crystal clear, turquoise colors.
After the challenges in the mountains why not relax on the country’s beautiful Caribbean Coast? Here is one irresistible beach after another, many of them surrounded by swaying palms and full of white, fine sand that crunches underfoot the very right and tropical way! Try Playa Medina on the Paria Peninsula for example, which might be the best beach of all the country’s great beaches! This beach is only a few hundred meters long, surrounded by vegetated cliffs and long rows of palms. You can stay here as long as you like, as there are a bunch of simple bungalows complete with hammocks in the shade of the palms. Welcome to paradise!
A little further west and a short flight (or long boat trip) from the coast one reaches the remote group of islands Los Roques, which is the best diving spot in Venezuela. Los Roques consist of more than 300 small (or very small) islands, and it’s true for almost all of them that they consist of pure white sand and are surrounded by irresistible, crystal clear water full of colorful corals and large schools of tropical fish. The marine life here is fascinating, and the whole area is protected as national park. One easily understands why, the beauty is overwhelming and ohh…If you could just stay here forever!
There are other nice beach resorts along the coast of the mainland. The oddly named Chichiriviche (don’t worry if you can’t pronounce it neither!) lies not far from Caracas and has wonderful bays and beaches. I the nearby Morocoy National Park you can snorkelling and go looking for flamingos and the beautiful ibis.
Los Llanos, Orinoco and Amazonas Though it’s very tempting to stay on the coast forever we warmly recommend to put on the backpack and head south to Los Llanos. Llano means prairie or plain, but Los Llanos is also a swampy place with a lot of vegetation and rivers and a great place to see many of the inhabitants of the Amazon, which are much harder to spot in the dense forest. That’s why it’s recommended to give it a try here in Los Llanos, which is rich on anacondas in the mud (why not go trekking to spot some??), monkeys, armadillos, giant anteaters, caymans, parrots and much more. It’s the best wildlife spotting area in the country, and we advise you to stay at one of the cattle ranches, which abounds here and which is the only right way to savor this wild place with a true cowboy touch.
Further south you can go on a river journey on the famous Orinoco River, the largest in Venezuela, with the possibility to stop in one of the small Indian communities on the way. And why not continue even further south, into the mystic and mythic Amazon jungle and in the direction of the Brazilian border …
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