There are many beautiful and varied regions of Venezuela to explore. It has the Andean mountain range, the Caribbean coast, inland dunes, and the anaconda filled wetlands. It’s a tropical country with incredible biodiversity that you’re sure to fall in love with. Famous as the birthplace of Simon Bolivar, the liberator of many countries in South America from Spanish rule, you’ll find tributes to him in almost every city and town. Though the country has been struggling in recent years with inflation and rising crime, Venezuela remains a destination spot and the rewards of travelling here are amazing – it’s full of “trip of a lifetime” places you can’t afford to miss.
1. Angel Falls
Venezuela is home to the world’s highest waterfall. Needless to say, this is the most popular destination in the country. With nearly a 1 kilometre drop, spectacular is really the only word to describe it. Located in a rather isolated jungle in the Canaima National Park, the falls are on the Orinoco River. Hikers will love the trek out to this UNESCO World Heritage Site. To cool off you have the option of taking a dip in the white sand beaches around the lagoon or the natural pools at the base of the falls.
Calling all adventure sports lovers! You’ll want to spend time in the progressive town of Mérida. This rather affluent city has both fantastic mountain vistas and an unhurried and cultured vibe. The energy is youthful and friendly, thanks in large part to the university here. Mérida has a gorgeous climate which attracts the outdoor enthusiasts looking for top quality activities to choose from. Try rafting, canyoning, mountain biking, hiking, and paragliding – the city’s specialty. Stay here if you’re looking to take lightening-viewing trips to Catatumbo or wildlife trips to Los Llanos. After you’ve indulged your sense of fun, enjoy a rather fast-paced nightlife.
This small and somewhat deteriorating town on Venezuela’s coast is a UNESCO World Heritage Site due to the colonial architecture. Coro also boasts wonderful museums and a lovely cathedral. This is a city for walking and you’ll really enjoy Zamora, where the historic mansions are. Coro is the starting point for the fabulous sand dunes found in Parque Nacional Médanos de Coro and it’s also a nice base camp for exploring areas like the Sierra de San Luis Mountains or the Península de Paraguaná.
4. Los Roques, Venezuela
After your visit to the Archipelago of Los Roques National Park you’ll always think of it as one of the most beautiful places on Earth. Incredible shades of blue in the surrounding waters, white sand beaches, the vibrant green of the mangrove swamps, and the otherworldly shapes and shades of the coral reefs all combine to make the park truly breathtaking. You’ll quickly see that it’s an area of bright and gorgeous contrasts. There are over 1,000 keys here and you can find a landscape to suit your preferences – everything from sand beach, good surf, rock beach, still water bays, coastal barrier, lagoons, salt mines, and more. Don’t leave without trying the fishing, sailing, diving, lobster catching, and windsurfing on offer.
5. Ciudad Bolívar
Ciudad Bolívar has a proud history as the centre of the struggle for independence in Venezuela. Simon Boliver set up his military base here as he began the final campaign in the War for Independence. It’s the capital of the country’s largest state and the historic centre, known as Casco Historico, is without doubt the countries best. There’s a staggering array of colourful colonial buildings, the Paseo Orinoco, and tons of shaded squares to loiter in. Most travellers find a reason to stop here on their way to Angel Falls. Be sure to check out the Plaza Miranda, the cathedral and historic cemetery there.
6. Henri Pittier
This is Venezuela’s oldest national park. Its claim to fame is birdlife, and with over 500 bird species, it’s little wonder. Named for Henri Pittier, who came to the country in the early 20th century and worked to classify over 30,000 plants. He is also one of the founders of the national park system in Venezuela. The park has fantastic coastline, beaches, bays, mountains, and a few resorts. There’s great opportunity for diving, swimming, and sunbathing.
7. Isla Margarita
One of the best places for beach bums in Venezuela is Isla Margarita, the largest island off the coast. You’ve got more than 50 beaches to choose from and each will suit various personalities – for instance, Playa el Yaque is great for water sports, Juangriego is a large laid back beach town, and Península de Macanao is largely untouched and deserted. Venezuelans love to come to Isla Margarita thanks to the duty free shopping at the port. The capital is La Asuncion, a large and surprisingly urban city. You’ll find great shopping, restaurants and nightlife here and in Porlamar. Be sure to head inland and do some trekking in the mountains before you go.
8. Mount Roraima
Sitting at an elevation of almost 3,000 metres, Mount Roraima has a flat tabletop that feels otherworldly. Lying mostly in Venezuela but partly in Guyana and Brazil, it is the main attraction of Canaima National Park. The hike to the top is usually done in two days. These geological formations are as old as two billion years. Home to rare animals and birds, Mount Roraima was the inspiration for Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Lost World. Because of its uniqueness, the mountain figures prominently in many of Venezuela’s folklores.
Most people come to Maracaibo because they’re in the oil business, but there’s a lively historic centre that history buffs will want to see. Most people stay in the new centre where you’ll find nice shopping and upscale hotels. This is Venezuela’s second largest city and a nice day excursion.
The capital of the state of Lara, Barquisimeto is simply lovely, charming, and timeless. Situated on the Turbio River and nicknamed “City of the Twilight,” this is a place you’ll want to linger. Known as the musical centre of Venezuela, there’s an energetic cultural vibe that has a definite global influence. While you’re there, stop by the Museo de Barquisimeto. This museum is housed in a large historic building with a central courtyard and chapel inside. There’s a so the Iglesia de la Concepción, the town’s first cathedral originally built in the 19th century.
11. Los Llanos
Also known as The Plains, the grassland region of Los Llanos is located on the border between Columbia and Venezuela. During the summer months the plain tends to flood making this the perfect destination for bird lovers. When it’s dry season Los Llanos is ideal for wildlife sighting when the animals gather in the few areas with water – giving it the nickname of the Serengeti of South America. You’ll find anacondas, jaguars, caimans, capybaras, and the Orinoc Crocodile – now found in no other place.
Not to be mistaken for the country of Guyana, the southeast region of Guayana is Venezuela at its exotic best. This is the region of Angel Falls and Parque Nacional Canaima as well as the Orinoco Delta, a phenomenal wildlife area. You’ll find the Venezuelan Amazon, Rio Caura, and The Great Savanna (La Gran Sabana) where the Tepui Mountains loom large and distinctive. Several large communities of indigenous groups call Guayana home, including the Pemón, the Yanomami, and the Warao. Some travellers come to Venezuela just for this region and spend their entire holiday discovering its many delights.
Choroni is a quiet and charming beach town where those looking to relax and do a lot of “nothing” should plan to spend some time. The town has a colonial feel and a quiet plaza perfect for relaxing. If you want to spend time in Henri Pittier National Park, Choroni makes a good base camp. This is the perfect place for those who want to slow down and unwind.
14. Medanos de Coro National Park
Medanos de Coro National Park is famous for its sand dunes – considering that they’re located in a tropical country. Some of the dunes reach 40 metres and are shaded yellow and orange. The high winds here mean the dune constantly and delightfully change shape. Visitors love to come and sand board on the dunes or explore the larger area on camel.
15. The Andes
Most people think of sun and sand when they think of Venezuela so it’s worth noting that it’s also home to a 400km stretch of snow capped Andes Mountains. Pico Bolivar, the country’s highest peak, stands at just over 5,000 metres. If trekking through the high passes isn’t for you, don’t discount the area. You’ll find cascading waterfalls, green valleys of cloud forest, quaint mountain villages that are only accessible by winding roads. Start in Mérida state, which has some of the best tourist infrastructure right now for exploring the mountains. For those big into adventure, try Táchira and Trujillo.