In recent years, South America has become a hotspot for travelers from all over the world. Rich culture and breathtaking natural landmarks make this continent an exciting destination that will surely captivate with its beauty.
The Uncertain Political Scene in Venezuela has Kept Tourists Away
In the North of South America, where the Andes touch the Caribbean Sea, lies one country that’s seldom recommended in the tour guides. Probably more known for its eccentric president and vast oil reserves; Venezuela is often listed in most foreign affairs websites as a destination where high degree of caution must be practiced.
The country has attracted some bad publicity over the past decade due to the Bolivarian Revolution of President Hugo Chávez, which has kept mass tourism away. However, this could be good news for people looking for destinations off the beaten track. Venezuela currently is not overcrowded with tourists, as other South American countries are; which makes it easier to find natural spots that haven’t been spoiled yet by excessive commercial exploitation. If political issues are put aside, it’s then possible to uncover the hidden jewel of South America!
How and When to Get to Venezuela
Venezuela can be easily reached from North America and Europe, with direct flights from most major cities. The Simón Bolivar National Airport in Maiquetia (near the Capital Caracas) also offers connecting flights to all the major cities in the country and to other cities in the rest of South America.
The best time to visit is during the school season (September to June) and it’s recommended to avoid high seasons like Christmas and Easter because these are very busy times for the locals to travel around and have their holidays, which can make hotel availability and local airline tickets scarce due to high demand.
Four Must-See Destinations in Venezuela
Depending on the traveler; Venezuela is a country that doesn’t fall short of natural wonders; whether it’s to practice sports, hiking, diving, photography, ecotourism or simply relaxing without any agenda, Venezuela can deliver a scenery for everyone.
The following four destinations were chosen according to their proximity and the convenience to include the four of them in one single trip. They are located in the central-eastern part of Venezuela and can be accessed easily from Caracas and/or Margarita Island.
Los Roques Archipelago: White sand pristine beaches make Los Roques a favorite destination among scuba divers. Located in the Caribbean Sea, 85 miles north of Caracas, this group of 350 small islands has a population of almost 1300 habitants, which are mostly gathered in the Gran Roque Island. Most of the small islands are virtually deserted, bursting with beautiful mangroves landscapes, coral reefs and exotic marine fauna that can be enjoyed during boat tours around the archipelago.
Margarita and Coche Island: These two islands are situated to the northeast of the country in the Caribbean Sea. Margarita Island is a major shopping destination in Venezuela offering duty-free and boutique shopping centers. Coche Island is known for its shallow water beaches ideal for practicing windsurfing and kite surfing. Both Islands count on a world-class hotel infrastructure to cater for all budgets.
Balneario Aguas de Moisés: (Moses Waters Pools) Located in the Sucre State, north east of Venezuela, between the towns of Cariaco and Casanay. This destination is a must-see. A car is necessary because there’s no public transport to the remote village. It’s a complex of several natural thermal water pools with theme park-like decorations that range from Egyptian times back to the dinosaurs. The complex has also muddy pools of volcanic origin and a small zoo, worth paying a visit to.
El Salto Angel: (Angel Falls)This is the world’s tallest waterfall; it’s located in the Canaima National Park in the Bolivar State, southeast of Venezuela. It has been featured in the 3D animated film “UP” and has also been nominated as one of the seven natural wonders of the modern world. It’s perhaps the most astonishing place to visit in Venezuela when it comes to natural beauty and exotic landscapes. It can only be reached by trekking through the jungle or by flying above it by aircraft. It’s an adventure for the fittest and will satisfy even the most experienced hiker; there are guided tours available for less experienced ones.
Concerns About Safety
If the traveler prefers to be cautious and is concerned about safety then it’s recommended to travel to Venezuela with a tour operator or as part of excursions groups. It’s always a good idea to be accompanied by people who have experience in this country and know their way around. Most major attractions in Venezuela are covered by a network of tour operators and hotels that offer a whole range of tourist packages for all kind of travelers.
Some Tips when Traveling to Venezuela
Always book a taxi from the hotel or use only taxis that are part of a well-known chain.
Changing US dollars into the local currency has a better exchange rate if done in the black market but it’s only recommended to do so if accompanied by a local or someone you can trust.
Use ATM’s or money machines situated in the major banks or shopping centers and always pay with cash in small establishments to avoid the risk of having your card cloned.
When staying in remote towns, avoid drinking tap water
If not traveling with a tour operator, it’s best to buy the local and regional flights once in Venezuela. Some Venezuelan airlines run by the government do not recognize tickets bought overseas for tax purposes.
Common sense must be practiced at all times but to be able to have a true Venezuelan experience is a must to get in touch with the friendly locals. It’s advised to know some Spanish to get around, since not many Venezuelans use or know English, especially in the small towns.