Where to go

Caribbean coast

Venezuela has the longest coastline in the Caribbean with numerous palm- fringed beaches of white sand.
Caracas
is hidden from the Caribbean by Monte Avila, one of Venezuela's national parks, but you don't have to go too far beyond the mountain to find good beaches. Only a few hours west of the capital are some lovely little beaches. Further west is the Parque Nacional Morrocoy, with many islands close to the shore. North of Morrocoy is the historic town of Coro, surrounded by sand dunes, and the Paranaguá Peninsula. Parque Nacional Mochima, east of Caracas, has some excellent beaches and a multitude of islets to explore. Further east are unrivalled beaches on the Paria Peninsula, but they are harder to reach. Besides those islands already mentioned, there is Isla de Margarita, one of the country's principal destinations for local and foreign tourists. The Islas Los Roques, 166 km due north of the central coast, is a beautiful archipelago, still unspoilt despite the growth in tourist interest.


The Andes

Venezuela's Andes have some gorgeous scenery, with snow-capped peaks and remote, historic villages. The main centre is Mérida, in the Sierra Nevada of the same name. It has accommodation, other services and tour companies, which can arrange treks, climbing and other excursions. Two of its claims to fame are the highest cable car in the world, ascending the 4,776-m Pico Espejo, and the shop selling the largest number of ice cream flavours in the world.


The Llanos

Life in the
llanos
revolves around the cycle of wet and dry seasons; the movement of cattle, the mainstay of the region's economy, depends on it. In the flat grasslands are slow running rivers which flood in the rainy season, creating a huge inland sea. When the rains cease, the whole area dries out completely. South of the cattle lands are forests and the tributaries of the Río Orinoco. Just after the May-November wet season, this is a paradise for nature lovers, with a spectacular variety of birds, monkeys, big cats, anaconda, river dolphins, caiman and capybara. Tours to the
llanos
are run from Mérida and there are ecotourism ranches which offer you the chance to get to know the lifestyle of the plains.


Guayana and the Orinoco

Above the grasslands of the Gran Sabana rise
tepuis
, flat-topped mountains from which spring magnificent waterfalls and rivers. The Angel Falls, the highest in the world, are one such wonder, usually seen from a plane, but also reachable by a two- to three-day trip upriver. There are many other falls in the Gran Sabana and a few places to stay, the most popular being Canaima camp on a lagoon on the Río Carrao. Where Venezuela meets Brazil and Guyana is Mount Roraima; to reach its summit is one of the country's most adventurous excursions. The Orinoco delta is remote, but trips can be made from the small town of Tucupita. Amazonas is well off the beaten track, but accessible from Puerto Ayacucho. Much of the rainforest is protected and you need permission from the authorities to visit areas beyond the reach of a tour company.
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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