Venezuela is one of South America’s most interesting countries when it comes to natural attractions. In fact, it is included on the list of the 20 Megadiverse Countries of the Planet because almost half of its national territory are protected conservation areas. Aside from its national parks and mountains, Venezuela is known for having the longest coastline in the Caribbean sea. Adding to the roster of the country’s diverse natural attractions are tropical resort islands and white sand beaches, as well as underwater animals and other marine landscapes.
Nicknamed “The Land of Grace,” it also has colonial towns with well-preserved Spanish-inspired structures including churches , monuments, museums, and plazas. If you are interested in visiting the country, scroll down because we’ve got you covered. Here’s a list of the places you can’t miss when in Venezuela!
1. Margarita Island
Margarita Island is a popular holiday destination where it feels like summer all year round. It encompasses two peninsulas linked by the sand and mangroves, which you can explore aboard a local watercraft called catamaran or a luxury yacht—all depending on your budget. Often referred as the “Pearl of the Caribbean,” it has dozens of white sand beaches from the east to the west. Some are still isolated, meaning you can enjoy them all to yourself, while others are already occupied by private resorts. Aside from frolicking along the beaches, other things you can do in Margarita Island include dolphin swimming, fishing and even getting spa treatments!
2. Los Roques archipelago
Spanning 225,153 hectares of both sea and land, Los Roques is one of the main snorkeling and scuba diving destinations in Venezuela. It contains 40 islands, locally called “cayos,” which are home to approximately 250 different kinds of coral reefs. Declared as a national park in 1972, the islands are usually quiet and deserted, mainly because there are no commercial ferry service available in the area. If you wish to tour around the islands, you have to rent a private yacht or book a tour. The biggest island in Los Roques is called the Gran Roque. It is where most villa-style accommodations are located.
3. Morrocoy National Park
Nestled between the villages of Tucacas and Chichiriviche is the Morrocoy National Park, offering white sand beaches, excellent diving spots and birdwatching activities. Taking a dip in its waters means you have a chance to encounter beautiful underwater creatures such as dolphins and marine turtles. Meanwhile, if you are into birdwatching, you can rent a private boat to go around the park to see pelicans, flamingos and egrets thriving in the area. For those who are on a budget, you can ride in a “peñero” instead of renting a private boat. It is a small boat which is meant for sharing with other travelers.
4. La Tortuga Island
La Tortuga is the second largest marina formation Venezuela. Since it is almost deserted, the island is an oasis which provides a sense for privacy to its visitors. The beaches have turquoise waters and white sand, while its underwater landscape is also interesting with reefs and limestone corals. Thanks to the steady winds all year round, many thrill-seeking travelers come here to enjoy windsurfing, kitesurfing and other watersports. Up to this day, the island has no paved roads nor modern structures. The only way to come here is to ride a boat coming from the coast of Miranda or Puerto La Cruz.
5. Mochima National Park
With a total area of 94,935 hectares, the Mochima National Park encompasses varying landscapes including mountains, beaches and gulfs, as well as coves and cliffs. Some of the underwater creatures thriving in this protected area are sperm whales, bryde’s whales, pilot whales, and humpback whales. Several species of dolphins have also been spotted here. Camping is allowed in the park, as long as you pay an overnight fee and secure a permit from the park’s office. Most of the food options at the Mochima National Park are thatched restaurants offering fresh fishes, oysters with lime, and beer.
6. Angel Falls
Angel Falls is the “World’s Highest Uninterrupted Waterfall” with a height 979 meters (3,212 feet). Located in Canaima National Park, it was named after American aviator Jimmy Angel who was the first person who flew over the falls. Although the waterfall is hidden in the heart of the jungle, it remains as one of Venezuela’s top destinations. Most travelers who visit the Angel Falls take a flight from either Ciudad Bolivar or Puerto Ordaz to reach Canaima. Various movies shot here include 2015 film Point Break and the 1990 film Arachnophobia. It has also been an inspiration for some of the locations in animated movies such as Up by Pixar and Dinosaur by Disney.
A traditional city in eastern Venezuela, Barcelona was founded in 1671 and was one of the areas occupied by the Spanish. It has kept its colonial feel until the present, with monuments and houses inspired by Spanish architecture. There’s the Casa Fuerte for an instance, a historic monument which was originally meant to be a convent. During the Independence War, however, it was turned into a fortification by the Venezuelan leader Simon Bolivar. Another must-see is the Cathedral of San Cristóbal of Barcelona, famous for its reliquary where bones of seven saints were buried. Other colonial structures in Barcelona worth seeing are Casa de la Cultura, Plaza Boyacá, Antigua Aduana and Royal Bridge of the Spaniards.
Another Venezuelan city you should see is Merida, also called La Ciudad de los Caballeros or The City of Gentlemen. Home to prestigious universities, it is a college town with a vibrant nightlife scene. There are plenty of bars and discos in the area, but laid-back cafes and restaurants are also frequented by both locals and travelers. Merida’s main tourist highlight is Teleferico, the world’s highest cable car which is located 4,765 meters above the ground. It spans 12.5 kilometers and is divided in four stages. Meanwhile, if you are interested in mountaineering, Merida is a great starting point for those who climb Pico Bolivar and Pico Humboldt.
Although Venezuela is commonly known for its natural attractions, the country’s urban side is also worth a visit. Caracas, the capital city of Venezuela, is the best place to go if you want to explore Venezuelan history, art, food and even the local nightlife. For a dose of history and the arts, you can visit La Plaza Bolivar, named after the Venezuelan political leader Simon Bolivar, and Museo de Arte Colonial which is considered as one of the best museums in Latin America. Meanwhile, if you would like to taste the local fare, the neighborhoods of Las Mercedes and La Castellana are teeming with cafes and restaurants serving local specialties. High-end clubs in Caracas are usually located in high-rise malls due to security concerns.
Located on the coast of a lake, Maracaibo is the second largest Venezuelan city next to Caracas. It has big shopping malls and tall buildings creating a modern vibe, but it is also worth noting that the city still has colonial structures that tells a lot about its past. For a glimpse of Maracaibo’s colonial past, visit the Santa Lucía area and marvel at the European-style structures dotted along the narrow streets. There’s also Plaza Reina Guillermina, a small public park named after a Dutch queen. The main highlight of Maracaibo, however, is the concrete bridge that goes over the lake. Built in 1957, it is considered as one of the most impressive structures in the city.
11. San Cristobal
San Cristobal, a city located 825 meters above sea level, has a mild climate that offers many tourists an escape from the usually hot and humid Venezuela. It is considered as a religious center since it is home to a variety of beautiful churches with well-preserved colonial structures. There’s the Cathedral of San Cristobal for an instance, where stained glass art shows the story of how the city was founded. Another must-see is the Church of San Jose, featuring a remarkable Gothic design. Other attractions to see in San Cristobal include Plaza de los Mangos, which is teeming with music shops, and San Pedro del Río where various Christmas-themed displays are seen every December.
Santa Ana de Coro, often referred by locals as Coro, is Venezuela’s first capital. It was founded in 1527 and was declared as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1993. There are over 602 historic buildings in the city which are a part of this recognition. There’s Minor Basilica of Coro for an instance, the oldest Catholic church in the province of Tierra Firma. Another must-see is the Casa de las Ventanas de Hierro, which is a 17th century mansion characterized by its large windows protected by iron. Other notable structures in Coro are Casa del Tesoro, Balcón de los Arcaya and Balcón de Bolívar.
13. Ciudad Bolívar
There are lots of attractions and places in Venezuela named after their independence hero Simon Bolivar. One of them is Ciudad Bolivar, a city nestled along the Orinoco River. It has a well-preserved historic center, as well as colonial buildings and other ancient structures. There’s Casa San Isidro for an instance, where Simon Bolivar actually stayed during his time at Congress of Angostura. For art lovers, you can visit the Jesús Soto Modern Art Museum, where the masterpieces of world-renowned Venezuelan artists are displayed. The ideal time to visit Ciudad Bolivar is during the early morning. The city, including the shops and attractions, shuts down as early as 7 pm.
14. La Colonia Tovar
Nestled in the mountains of Aragua, the La Colonia Tovar is a small town popular for its German-inspired structures. It is mostly referred as the “Germany of the Caribbean,” a suitable title for the community founded in 1843 by a group of German immigrants. To learn more about the history of how Germans found home in Venezuela, you can go to the City Museum established by Dr. Nestor Rojas. Meanwhile, for shops with German products, there’s the Breikanz Mall located at Codazzi street. The commercial center also hosts an array of restaurants offering steaks and cold cuts. For drinks, head over to the Tovar Brewery, where the first Venezuelan beer was made in 1843.
Higuerote is a coastal city in the region of Barlovento, located one and a half hour away from Caracas. A statue of their patron saint Virgen del Carmen is placed at the city’s entrance, as if sending a warm welcome to its visitors. Weekends are when the city is jampacked with tourists who are usually on a day trip from nearby cities. Some of Higuerote’s best attractions are Plaza Bolivar and Francisco de Miranda square. There’s also the Church of Our Lady of Carmen, where festivities and religious ceremonies are held every year during the third week of July. Higuerote also has its fair share of beaches like Playa Caracolito and natural attractions such as Alfredo Jahn Cave.
Stay safe in Venezuela
There’s no doubt that Venezuela is filled with must-see tourist gems. However, it is also important to consider your safety when visiting the country. As much as possible, do not walk in the streets alone especially at night. Avoid wearing expensive clothes and accessories. Even taking out cameras and opening maps in public places should be avoided. Keep it low key to steer clear from attracting pickpockets. To get around safely, you may download an Easytaxi app and use it to book a taxi instead of hailing one on the streets. Meanwhile, when choosing an accommodation, it is advisable to stay in a populated area than on the outskirts of the cities.
Above everything, it helps to be alert and cautious at all times. The best way to get rid of the risks is to travel with a buddy or with someone who is familiar with the culture and the streets of Venezuela.
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