Venezuela

Straddling all kinds of terrain, this spectacular country has some of the world’s most impressive scenery. Whilst admittedly politically and economically unstable, Venezuela can be extraordinarily cheap. If sensibly approached, it can be a thoroughly rewarding and unforgettable experience.

If you happen to follow global affairs even loosely, you are likely to be aware that the situation in Venezuela is not quite as harmonious as it could be. Political disenchantment, governmental incompetence, and stark economic instability have combined to engender a precarious situation where resources are scarce and opportunities limited. The government has pegged the national currency – Bolivar Fuerte – to the dollar at a rate that makes a mockery of what it is worth in the street.

Dollar is king in Venezuela and you’ll be astonished at how far it will go. As a result, businesses often demand payment in dollars. As ever, exchanging money on the black market must be done prudently, and do not be surprised if the rate in the afternoon isn’t anywhere near the morning rate.

As a tourist it is necessary to not draw attention to yourself, although the majority of the itinerary takes you to areas of the country that are less affected by the instability. We recommend that you avoid Caracas, although make use of it as a transport hub. To get a taste of Venezuelan city life, head to Merida and absorb the youthful energy that has turned this student city into a base for extreme sports.

It is recommended that you or at least one member of your party have a basic grasp of Spanish, as proficiency in English has yet to be a normalised attribute in the general population. In the tourist areas, as ever, the level of English can vary wildly but is usually reliable.

The Route

Arrive in Caracas and take a connecting flight to Isla de Margarita to kick off your trip on pristine Caribbean beaches.
Recommended time: 3 days

Returning to the mainland you will stop at the magnificent Cueva del Guácharo and see the curious oilbird.
Recommended time: 1 day

Head to the Delta del Orinoco and get your first taste of Venezuela’s wildlife.
Recommended time: 2 days

Unwind by the lagoon in Canaima before you set off to the nearby Salto Angel for one of the most breathtaking natural wonders in the world.
Recommended time: 2 days

Make your way to the corner of Venezuela where the imperious tepuis are nestled, via Santa Elena de Uairén.
Recommended time: 2 days

Take to the skies and conquer Mount Roraima, battling the elements and taking in the spectacle along the way.
Recommended time: 6 days

Explore the Gran Sabana, experiencing the abundant and varied wildlife on four wheels.
Recommended time: 3 days

Traverse the plains of central Venezuela and arrive at luscious Los Llanos for a further dose of special wildlife.
Recommended time: 3 days

Stop off in Merida, the Andean city with a large student population, and indulge in a range of extreme activities certain to get your pulse racing.
Recommended time: 4 days

Zoom over to Morrocoy National Park for an enchanting culmination to your Venezuelan trip, relax by the crystal-clear waters and soak up some Caribbean rays.
Recommended time: 3 days

Return to Caracas for your flight home.
Total recommended time: 29 days

Geography

Bordered to the west by Colombia, to the east by Guyana, and to the south by Brazil, Venezuela is situated on the Caribbean coast of the South American landmass. It contains abundant rainforest, savannah, wetland, and coastline, and has mangroves and alpine settings too to go along with pockets of urban land, mainly found in the north of the country.

Although the entire country is situated within the tropics, the climate depends heavily on the elevation and topography of the area. Seasonal variations are marked not so much by a change in temperature but rather by rainfall. The rainy season runs roughly from May to November, and is referred to as winter.

There are distinct elevation zones that generally dictate the temperature in Venezuela. The tropical zone (<800m) provides averages of around 27° throughout the year, the temperate zone (800m-2,000m), where most of Venezuela’s urban population resides, averages between 12°-25°, and the cooler zones above 2,000m generally average around 5°-12°.

The wildlife that can be found in these different climates of course varies wildly and contributes to the wonderful diversity that the nation has to offer.

The favourable climate allows Venezuela to be a travel destination year-round, although some attractions are better enjoyed at specific times of the year.

Wildlife

There is a mesmerising range of animals that inhabit Venezuela. Amongst others, manatees, river dolphins, capybaras, and anteaters are some of the more unusual creatures that contribute to such a rich diversity. With over 8,000 species endemic to Venezuela (the world’s fifth highest total), there is a fantastic offering to see.

Howler Monkey

Its booming cry is a well-known sound of the jungle, capable of travelling over three miles. The Venezuelan Red Howler monkey can be found in forests in and to the west of Los Llanos. Unusually for a primate, it builds a nest high in the canopies of the trees, and in fact spends the majority of its life there. Like all monkeys it is social and has a mainly herbivorous diet – occasionally consuming birds’ eggs.

Scarlet Ibis

This gorgeous species of wader is native to the tropics in the western hemisphere. It can be found in wetlands across Venezuela, most frequently at the Delta del Orinoco in the northeast and particularly Los Llanos in the west. A crustacean-rich diet stimulates the scarlet colouration. A highly social bird, it is often seen in huge colonies and happily coexists with other avian creatures such as storks, egrets, herons, and ducks.

Giant River Otter

Occasionally reaching 1.7m long, these otters are no pushovers. As the apex predator in its habitat, the Giant River Otter feeds mainly on fish – including piranha and catfish. A social and intelligent mammal, it is capable of hunting even caiman and small anaconda as a team. Typically diurnal and gregarious in nature, the otter can approach humans with curiosity rather than suspicion. Native to South America, it can be found in the Delta del Orinoco.

Jaguar

You’ll be lucky to see a jaguar in the wild, but it is not uncommon. A solitary and opportunistic mammal, it usually hunts at night and enjoys swimming. As an apex predator, its ecosystems rely on it to regulate the populations of the animals it hunts. It is a threatened species – numbers are going down, often due to conflicts with farmers. You are most likely to encounter one in Los Llanos, or the Sierra de Perija on the border with Colombia.

Calling adrenaline junkies

If it weren’t enough of a thrill to be visiting a nation in turmoil, we have a few suggestions that will get your pulse racing.

Mount Roraima is a spectacular plateau mountain that elicits extraterrestrial feelings and frequently takes your breath away during the week-long trek.

Salto Angel needs no introduction as the world’s highest waterfall. Sail towards and past the fearsome cascade and navigate the surrounding waters.

Merida is the adrenaline centre of Venezuela, offering activities such as mountain biking, paragliding, and whitewater rafting, as well as challenging ascents of snow-peaked Andean mountains in the surrounding area.

With the longest Caribbean coastline of all countries, Venezuela has scuba diving and snorkeling in abundance, with the best to be found in Isla de Margarita, Los Roques, and Morrocoy National Park.

 

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