Amazonas

Much of Amazonas is stunningly beautiful and untouched, but access is only by river. The more easily accessible places lie on the course of the Orinoco and its tributaries. The best time to visit is October to December after the rains, but at any season, this is a remote part of the country.

San Fernando to Puerto Ayacucho

Due south of San Fernando de Apure is
Puerto Páez
 at the confluence of the Meta and Orinoco rivers; here there is a crossing to El Burro west of the
Caicara-Puerto Ayacucho road. Route 2 runs south from San Fernando to Puerto Páez, crossing several major rivers. Between the Capanaparo and Cinaruco rivers is the
Parque Nacional Cinaruco
-Capanaparo
(also called
Santos Luzardo
), reached only from this road. If this road is closed, to get to Puerto Ayacucho from San Fernando involves a minimum 15-hour detour via the Caicara ferry.

From Caicara a new paved road runs 370 km southwest to Puerto Ayacucho. The turn off to
El Burro
, where the boat crosses the Orinoco to Puerto Páez, is 88 km north of Puerto Ayacucho.

Puerto Ayacucho

The capital of the State of Amazonas is 800 km via the Orinoco from Ciudad Bolívar. At the end of the dry season (April), it is very hot and sticky. It is deep in the wild, but no direct boats do the five day journey up river.
Museo Etnológico Monseñor Enzo Ceccarelli
,
has a library and collection of regional exhibits, recommended. In front of the museum is a market, open every day, where
indígenas
sell handicrafts. One block away is the cathedral. The Salesian Mission House and boys' school on Plaza Bolívar may also be visited. Prices in Puerto Ayacucho are generally higher than north of the Orinoco.

Excursions

October to December is the best time, when rivers are high but the worst of the rains has passed. In the low season, May-June, it may be difficult to organize tours for only a few days.

You can walk up
Cerro Perico
for good views of the town, or go to the Mirador, 1 km from centre, for good views of the Ature rapids. A recommended trip is to the village of Pintado (12 km south), where petroglyphs described by Humboldt can be seen on the huge rock
Cerro Pintado
. This is the most accessible petroglyph site of the hundreds scattered throughout Amazonas.

Some 35 km south on the road to Samariapo is the
Parque Tobogán de la Selva
, a pleasant picnic area based around a steeply inclined, smooth rock over which the Río Maripures cascades. This waterslide is great fun in the wet season; crowded on Sunday, take swimsuit and food and drink (stick to the right to avoid crashing into the barrier, few locals slide right from the top; also beware of broken glass). A small trail leads up from the slide to a natural jacuzzi after about 20 minutes. Taxi to Cerro Pintado and Parque Tobogán, US$20 return (organize your return, otherwise you may face a lengthy hike). Agencies in town arrange tours; easier but more expensive.

The well-paved road from Puerto Ayacucho to Samariapo (63 km) was built to bypass the rapids which here interrupt the Orinoco, dividing it into 'Upper' and 'Lower'; the powerful Maripures Rapids are very impressive.

Tours in Amazonas

The best base is Puerto Ayacucho. Do not travel alone. By ascending the Autana or Sipapo rivers, you can see
Autana-tepuy
, a 1,200 m-high mass of rock no-one has climbed from the base. Other
tepuis
in the region include the great mass of the Sierra de la Neblina on the Brazilian border.

San Juan de Manapiare
 is the regional centre for the middle Ventuari. A beautiful track winds around the Cerro Guanay to get there. The road starts at Caicara and goes through Guaniamo and Sabana de Cardona.

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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