Ciudad Bolívar

Ciudad Bolívar is on the narrows of the Orinoco, some 300 m wide, which gave the town its old name of Angostura, 'The Narrows'. It is 400 km from the Orinoco delta. It was here that Bolívar came after defeat to reorganize his forces, and the British Legionnaires joined him. At Angostura he was declared President of the Gran Colombia he had yet to build and which was to fragment before his death. With its cobbled streets, pastel buildings and setting on the Orinoco, it is one of Venezuela's most beautiful colonial towns and its status as a UNESCO World Heritage Site is under consideration.

At the Congress of Angostura, 15 February 1819, the representatives of the present day Venezuela, Colombia, Panama and Ecuador met to proclaim Gran Colombia. The building, on
Plaza Bolívar
, built 1766-76 by Manuel Centurión, the provincial governor, houses a museum, the
Casa del Congreso de Angostura
, with an ethnographic museum in the basement. Guides give tours in Spanish only. Also on this plaza is the
Cathedral
(which was completed in 1840), the
Casa de Los Gobernadores de la Colonia
(also built by Centurión in 1766), the
Real Intendencia
, and the
Casa de la Cultura
. Also here, at Bolívar 33, is the house where Gen Manuel Piar, the Liberator of Guayana from the Spanish, was held prisoner before being executed by Bolívar on 16 October 1817, for refusing to put himself under Bolívar's command. The restored
Plaza Miranda
, up C Carabobo, has an art centre. The present legislative assembly and
Consejo Municipal
are between Plaza Bolívar and Plaza Miranda. In 1824, when the town was still known as Angostura a Prussian physician to Bolívar's troops invented the bitters; the factory moved to Port of Spain in 1875.

Museum at
Casa del Correo del Orinoco
, houses modern art and some exhibits of history of the city.
Museo Casa San Isidro
, a colonial mansion where Simón Bolívar stayed for two weeks. It has antique furniture and an old garden.
Museo de Arte Moderno Jesús Soto
, is located some distance from the centre in pleasant gardens. It has works by Venezuela's celebrated Jesús Rafael Soto and other modern artists from around the world. Recommended. The best views of the city are from
Fortín El Zamuro
, dating from 1902, strategically located at one of the tallest points of the city.

Speedboats take passengers across the river to the small, picturesque town of
Soledad
 on a journey that offers great views of colonial centre, the bridge and the river itself. Security can be an issue at either end; don't cross at night. There are no other passenger boat services. The Paseo Orinoco leading west out of town goes to the
Angostura Bridge
, which can be seen from town. This is the first bridge across the Orinoco, 1,668 m long, opened in 1967, again with great views (cyclists and walkers are not allowed to cross, you must flag down a car or truck).

West of the centre is
El Zanjón
, an area of vegetation typical of the region. East is
Parque El Porvenir
, with botanical gardens (www.jborinoco.org). Outside the airport is the
Río Caroní
aeroplane, which Jimmy Angel landed on top of Auyán Tepuy .

The state tourist website is www.e-bolivar.gov.ve.

To Ciudad Bolívar from the coast and the llanos

Ciudad Bolívar can be reached easily by roads south from Caracas and Puerto La Cruz. The Caracas route, via Valle de la Pascua, and the Puerto La Cruz route, via Anaco, meet at El Tigre, which has good hotels and services. From the
llanos
, from
Chaguaramas
turn south through Las Mercedes t
o
Cabruta
. Then take a ferry from opposite the airport to
Caicara
. A new bridge across the Orinoco is being built between Cabruta and Caicara (due to open in 2011). Alternatively, from San Fernando de Apure take a bus to Calabozo and
por puesto
from there to El Sombrero, where you can catch the Ciudad Bolívar bus.

Tours can be made into the area south of the Río Orinoco from
Maripa
, travelling on the Río Caura. These include visits to indigenous villages, river bathing, jungle treks to waterfalls with explanations of wildlife and vegetation, usually starting from Ciudad Bolívar .

This is edited copy from Footprint Handbooks. For comprehensive details (incl address, tel no, directions, opening times and prices) please refer to book or individual chapter PDF
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