Venezuela at a glance
Venezuela is a Latin country with a Caribbean
beat, and an important surviving indigenous
presence. Its jagged, snow-capped Andean
mountains shelter quaint colonial towns, while
the indian communities of the Orinoco and
Amazon basins maintain their primitive lifestyle.
Special attractions include the ‘Lost World’ of flattopped
table-lands where waterfalls plunge over
towering vertical cliffs, the extensive savannah
grassland of the llanos, with its teeming wildlife,
and some lovely Caribbean beaches.
Venezuela has a comprehensive road network,
or you can reach places of interest using frequent
short domestic flights. In addition to its
impressive and growing range of accommodation
there are now many opportunities to undertake
adventure activities such as horse-riding,
mountain-biking and canoeing.
1. The llanos prairies
Lying between the virgin jungle of the Orinoco
delta and the Andes in the west is an area of rich
grasslands, cattle-raising territory which is a haven
for wildlife. There are a series of comfortable
lodges, or hatos, where you can base yourself for
a relaxing stay.
2. The Andes
This is the most northerly outcrop of the Andean
range, with many snowy peaks. There is a variety
of scenery from rainforest on the lower slopes up
to the highland moors (páramo). Situated on a
river terrace, Mérida is a pleasant town and good
base for visits to the area.
PHOTO ON PREVIOUS PAGE BY DOMINIC HAMILTON
Climate: Over half the country enjoys a
temperate mountain climate. The coasts
are hot and humid. The northwest is
arid desert. Most rain falls in summer.
Rainy season May-November.
Festivals: Carnival (2-5 Feb 2008,
21-24 Feb 2009), Semana Santa/Easter
(16-23 Mar 2008). Dancing Devils of Yare/
Corpus Christi (22-24 May 2008).
Time difference from UK: -6hrs GMT
Travel Time from UK: 11½hrs
Map to scale
0 Miles 200
3. Caribbean coast
The heavily indented coastline
harbours a number of beautiful
palm-fringed beaches. On the
sandy coral reef archipelago of
Los Roques there are facilities
for water-based activities.
Hato El Cedral•
• Hato Piñero
• San Fernando
Orinoco Delta Lodge•
4. The tablelands of the Gran Sabana
Angel Falls is one of the most
spectacular sights in the world – viewed
from the air or from a boat at the foot.
At 979m it constitutes the world’s
longest single drop, plunging over
the lip of one of the series of tabletopped
mountains that dominate the
grasslands of the Venezuelan veldt
(the Gran Sabana).
5. The Orinoco delta
The vast network of waterways which form the Orinoco
delta is home to the Warao indians, who live a simple life
along the riverbanks. Visit this remote area from Tucupita
or one of a number of more remote lodges.
JON CRWYS WILLIAMS
Highlights of Venezuela
Tuesdays or Fridays from the UK
16 days, 14 nights
Caracas 1 night, Canaima 2n,
Orinoco Delta 3n, Caracas 1n,
Mérida 2n, Hotel on the páramo 1n,
Hato (cattle ranch) 3n, Caracas 1n.
Canaima• VENEZUELA Angel • Falls
Day 1 Morning flight from the UK to the capital Caracas. Day 2 Fly to
Canaima National Park for a 2 night stay. Day 3 The climax of a visit to
this protected area of savannah and table-lands is the view of the Angel
Falls (below right) Day 4 Fly to Puerto Ordaz and drive to a basic lodge
in the Orinoco Delta (p63), mantled in jungle and mangrove swamps.
Days 5&6 Excursions offered include river trips, visits to indian villages,
bird-watching and piranha fishing. Day 7 Return to Caracas. Day 8 Fly to
Mérida, an Andean university town and a centre for outdoor activities.
Day 9 Take the world’s highest, and at 12.5km, longest cable car offering
views of the surrounding mountains. Trekking, horse-riding, mountainbiking
and para-gliding are all available locally. Day 10 Drive to Hotel
Los Frailes, a converted 17th century monastery, or similar
accommodation in the area of high páramo plains, visiting several
Andean villages and the glacier lake of Mucubaji. Day 11 Drive south
to the llanos – the floodplains of the Orinoco, grasslands rich in bird
and animal life. Accommodation is on a working cattle ranch.
Days 12&13 Complimentary excursions by jeep or boat through the
llanos. Day 14 Drive to Barinas airport and fly to Caracas. Day 15 Fly to
the UK arriving the following day.
Gran Sabana and the Orinoco
Romance and adventure:
Venezuela’s wild south
South of the River Orinoco, half of the territory of
Venezuela consists of barely populated wilderness: the
river’s immense delta where indigenous tribes live
simply on the banks of the spider’s web of dark, sluggish
waterways; the blanket of grassland prairies (llanos), with
vast cattle ranches patrolled by cowboys on horseback;
and, most evocative of all, the ancient sheer-walled
tepuys of the Gran Sabana, known as the ‘Lost World’ with
a nod to Arthur Conan Doyle’s adventure story. Here, the
Angel Falls, discovered by the aviator explorer Jimmy
Angel over 70 years ago are the centre of attraction. Even
some of the towns have a frontier feel: prospectors gather
in hope of riches from the vast mineral-rich veins of rock
– the search for mythical El Dorado in colonial times was
JON CRWYS WILLIAMS
*Please note: The order of the itinerary is subject to domestic flight schedules.
Prices from £2,091pp based on two sharing, excluding transatlantic flights.
›› Relaxing on the beach in Aruba in the Dutch Caribbean on the way
home (p58). ›› A laid-back Caribbean stopover in Tobago (p57).
›› A beach wind-down on the Paria Peninsula or at Coro (p64).
Below: Hotel Los Frailes, near Mérida in the western Andes.
Above: Excursions by canoe on the lagoon at Canaima to the foot of the Yuri falls (shown here)
are included as part of the Canaima extension.
Daily from Canaima
4 days, 3 nights (by river) from £296pp,
or 3 days 2 nights (by air) from
£123pp. Based on two sharing
The base for visiting the Angel Falls is
in the National Park at Canaima.
Here, a huddle of chalets faces a
pink sand beach and tannin black
lagoon; but the Falls, which cascade
from the top of Auyan Tepuy, are not
visible from the encampment.
Upon arrival at Canaima by air,
overnight in a simple lodge and then
travel upstream by dugout motorised
canoe to the foot of the Angel Falls
where crystal water and veils of
agitated spray plunge over a precipice
with an unimpeded drop of almost a
kilometre. It is an hour’s tough walk
through rainforest to the point on
a rocky ledge where there is a
magnifi cent view of the falls.
After a night spent in hammocks,
return to Canaima. There is the
opportunity to take a light aircraft fl ight
over the cataract. Overnight in a
simple hotel and return to Canaima
The rivers are at their highest, and the
falls at their most spectacular, in July
and August. At other times it may
be necessary to disembark to allow
canoes to be portaged over rapids.
By light aircraft:
Upon arrival at Canaima by air,
overnight in a simple lodge
overlooking the lagoon. The lightaircraft
fl ight over the Angel Falls
offers stupendous views: a veil of
misty spray in the dry seasons,
while three separate cataracts are
visible in the wet.
Flights are subject to demand and
weather conditions and will not
operate in poor visibility. Other
extra excursions can be arranged
locally, including a trip to Yuri Falls,
or upstream to Isla Orquídia with
views of the Tepuys.
Lost world plateau trek
Regular departures from Santa Elena
8 days, 7 nights
From £366pp based on two sharing
Daily from Puerto Ordaz
4 days, 3 nights
From £453pp based on two sharing
The hike up Roraima is
considered one of the most
compelling on the continent.
You have to be fit, and there
are plenty of bugs, but the
rewards at the top make the
effort well worthwhile.
Following a night in the Venezuela-
Brazil border town of Santa Elena,
drive by jeep northwards into the
savannah, over dirt roads to reach
Paraitepuy, the Pemon indian village
from which you set out for the base
camp. Start the trek the next day:
it is a 5-hour hike across rolling
grasslands, fording streams, with
ropes if necessary. The savannah
rises steadily towards the base of
Roraima. After a night under canvas,
climb a diagonal trail through the
rainforest, picking your way through
broken rocks and luxuriant flora,
sheltering from waterfalls above, to
reach the top (5 hours). Explore the
surface of the plateau, an otherworldly
land of huge rocks, water and bogs.
Descend to the campsite at the Río
Tek. On arrival in Paraitepuy, return
by jeep to Santa Elena. Depart from
Santa Elena airport.
Below: Several places in Latin America
claim to be the inspiration for Conan Doyle’s
Lost World – Roraima Tepuy is probably the
The banks of the Orinoco and its
tributaries are sparsely-inhabited by
the Warao indians or ‘canoe people’
and the only means of transport is by
river. The Orinoco Delta Lodge is
located 4 hours from Puerto Ordaz
by a combination of ferry, car and
motorised canoe and accommodation
is in simple cabins with bathroom.
The English-speaking guides offer a
flexible itinerary that includes canoe
trips, bird-watching, piranha-fishing
and a visit to various local indian
settlements. The delta has a diverse
biosphere with an abundance of flora
and fauna, particularly bird-life. There
is the option of spending one of the
following nights in a more remote and
›› Going overland via Guacharo
Caves to Hacienda Bukaré (p64).
Rooms are large and open – no
walls, only mosquito screens,
and basic – with beds, one small
table and electricity from 6am
until 11pm – but overall you will
have the full experience of being
in the midst of the jungle without
being necessarily exposed.
Above: They say that caimans don’t attack
humans. But you wouldn’t want to get too
Right: Hoatzin. This unusual bird, with a
call somewhere between a peacock and a
clapped out gearbox, is considered to be
the closest thing to living proof that birds
evolved from dinosaurs.
Daily from Caracas
4 days, 3 nights
From £427pp based on two sharing
This working ranch is a de facto nature
reserve, the owners having prohibited
hunting. The land lies in the north
central Llanos, 6hrs from Caracas.
In the rainy season (May-Sep) 80% of
the land is flooded. The open
savannahs are used for cattle pasture.
The ranch has many different types of
habitat, and the list of mammals and
reptiles spotted includes a few rarities
– jaguars, giant otters, and tapirs –
and others, such as capybaras,
caimans and howler monkeys, which
are more common. Some 300
species of birds have been identified.
The only planned activities are
observation of the flora and fauna,
by boat, horse-back, truck or on foot.
The ranch-house itself is charming,
with polished stone floors, furniture
and beams made from local wood
and a wide verandah.
Simple but good. Food is fresh
local produce, served
communally. Bird watchers
especially will be entranced.
Winding down on the Caribbean coast
“Paradise on Earth”
This was Columbus’s ecstatic assessment of Venezuela’s
Caribbean coast when he first set foot here, and it
certainly does have some exquisite scenery. West of the
capital there are pretty colonial towns and sparkling
beaches lapped by deep turquoise waters. The little town
of Coro, founded in 1527, retains much of its colonial and
19th-century charm; with cobbled streets, ochre
doorways and terracotta frescoes. East of Caracas, the
outstandingly beautiful Paria peninsula is one of those
unsung and almost unvisited areas of the coast which
evokes an era before tourism reached the Caribbean.
Los Roques consists of 42 sun-bleached cayes and over
300 islets situated 160km off the coast.
JON CRWYS WILLIAMS
Daily from Caracas
4 days, 3 nights
From £398pp based on two sharing
Granja el Ojito
The islands can be reached by air
from Caracas. The electric blue
crystal-clear water, aquamarine
lagoons and beaches of pristine,
dazzling white coral sand make this
archipelago a popular destination
for winding down. Surrounding the
islands are 20km of coral reef with
excellent snorkelling and diving:
organised diving excursions and PADI
courses are available. There are a
number of small and charming barefoot
posadas and guesthouses here
for you to choose from, each with a
homely and relaxed style, where
you can hang out in a hammock or
dabble in water-sports.
This simple, German-owned
establishment is located on a coconut
palm plantation overlooking the
Caribbean Sea. Accommodation is
in a row of white-washed, one-storey
rooms with hammocks on individual
terraces. There is a small pool, tennis
court and a broad fudgy beach close
by, and on the tiny isthmus to the
north of the town and beyond, a
wilderness area of sand dunes.
This is a good base from which to
explore the area – you can visit
nearby coffee plantations and
Coro, as well as the quiet beach
100m from the hotel.
Top: The beaches in the far east of
Venezuela have the advantage that they
are not easily accessible by road from
the metropolitan areas of Caracas. This
is Playa Medina on the Paria Peninsula.
Above: Distance from Caracas has
meant that Coro hasn’t fallen prey to
new development at the same rate as
other parts of Venezuela.
The Hacienda Bukaré is a small
family-run farmhouse on a cocoa
plantation. There are just 4
whitewashed rooms in a one-storey
building with a wide verandah. The
rooms overlook a neat garden and a
small swimming pool, surrounded by
trees. The hacienda is also engaged
in small scale chocolate production.
It is located 15 minutes’ drive away
from beautiful palm-fringed beaches.
The Bukaré has that warm,
personal touch: more like a home
from home. The unspoilt beaches
and remote fishing villages make
a stay more of an ‘experience’
than a conventional beach
JON CRWYS WILLIAMS
Above: Fresh from the cacao pod to your
plate; home-made chocolate is a delicious
complement to Hacienda Bukaré’s menu.
Above: Los Roques. There’s almost no natural shade, so 4 days here is strictly for sun-worshippers and snorkellers.