Official language: Spanish, English is more widely spoken
Currency: The Bolívar Fuerte
When you think of Venezuela what comes to mind? For many people the images that the name evokes include sparkling beaches, friendly locals and perhaps even a towering waterfall spraying a fine mist in the wind. There are many different attractions to be found in this fascinating country. As it has a long, lovely coastline it is no surprise to find that travellers are often drawn to the beaches dotted along the edge of the Caribbean Sea and Atlantic Ocean. Margarita Island is probably the one this is best known internationally but there are plenty of other wonderful stretches of sand to check out here. Away from the beach probably the top attraction for tourists in Venezuela is the magnificent Angel Falls. It takes a bit of effort to get here but if ever a trip was worth the effort then this is it. The sight of the water tumbling out of the sky and down from such a vast height is truly awe inspiring. The remote setting in the Canaima National Park makes it an even more special sort of place. That isn’t to say that the rest of the country is without its charms. There are lots of other opportunities to enjoy many other places that make any tourist feel glad to be alive and to be exploring this fine country. From charming historic cities to fantastic countryside, Venezuela is a country that invites travellers to head out to see as much of it as they can. When it comes to the national cuisine, the indigenous food is complemented by recipes brought here by immigrants from Europe and farther afield. The type of food on offer varies from one region of the country to another. For example, on the coast fresh seafood is the most tempting option. Potato, corn and rice are also heavily present in the local cuisine. However, it is perhaps surprising to find that Venezuelans are the second top pasta consumers in the world after Italians.
Must see places in Venezuela
The capital of Venezuela is also the country’s biggest city. Caracas isn’t somewhere that many visitors consider staying for long but it is a fascinating city. There is some excellent colonial architecture as well as the modern urban feel of a large, cosmopolitan city. The setting of Caracas in a lovely valley is stunning but closer investigation reveals a yawning chasm in the quality of life between the capital’s richest and poorest inhabitants. It makes sense to check out which neighbourhoods are safe to visit before heading out in Caracas.
Coro’s full name is Santa Ana de Coro and it was the country’s first capital city. In modern times it offers visitors a glimpse of a beautifully preserved colonial settlement. Coro sits on the Caribbean coast of Venezuela and is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Anyone looking to try their hand at windsurfing will find that this is a convenient stop for getting out to the exciting Paraguaná Peninsula. Also nearby is the Médanos de Coro national park, which is filled with enormous sand dunes.
Ciudad Bolívar sits on the Orinoco River and takes its name from the country’s liberator Simon Bolívar. This is a great base from which to head out to Angel Falls or to carry on travelling to Brazil. Casa San Isidro is arguably the highlight of the city’s decent colonial centre.
The waterfall known as Angel Falls is without doubt one of the natural wonders of the world. In fact, this is the highest uninterrupted waterfall in the world, falling a staggering distance from the Auyantepui Mountain. Angel Falls is in the Canaima National Park and it isn’t a particularly easy place to get to, with no way of getting there overland. However, it is definitely worth the effort of taking a flight out to see something so incredible with your own eyes.
The incredible natural beauty of Margarita Island includes mangrove swamps, mountains, lagoons and lots of wildlife. However, this is on just one side of the island. On the other side you will find busy resorts, clubs, hotels and some amazing beaches. In total there are more than 50 beaches on Margarita Island. Even better news comes with the fact that it receives sunshine during more than 320 days each year.
The elegant and relaxed city of San Cristobal is in the west of the country, close to the border with Colombia. It is a laid back place which comes alive with an annual bull fighting event held in January. The best bullfighters from around the world are attracted to the event, known as La Corrida de Toros, which takes places against a backdrop of fairground rides and other types of entertainment.
Puerto La Cruz
The best beaches in the country are found out by Puerto La Cruz. As well as those on the mainland, it is possible to get a boat trip out one of the area’s beautiful island beaches. Generally, speaking the island beaches have clearer, whiter sand than the mainland ones. The boats leave from Paseo Colon and this is also a popular spot in the evening.
Situated at the foot of the Andes Mountains, Mérida is a fine base for anyone looking to enjoy some outdoor action while in Venezuela. This is very close to the country’s highest point and offers some unmissable views. Also not to be missed is the chance for a trip on the city’s brilliant Teleférico. This is the longest and highest cable car ride in the world. It is possible to go up in the cable car and then make your way back down to the city on a mule, although booking tickets in advance makes sense.
The third biggest city in Venezuela is called Valencia. It is a pleasant place for exploring on foot and also has some nice attractions out of town. These include natural thermal springs, a monastery and the park known as Parque Casupo. In the city itself there are some colonial remnants as well as more modern attractions such as shopping centres.
This fantastic town sits across from Margarita Island and is arguably best known for its carnaval. Carupano also has a fantastic reputation for having friendly and welcoming people. Away from the town there is a lot to explore, with Playa Medina offering an achingly beautiful beach with coconut trees and greenery all around it. Punts Araya is another place to check out, with great sights and a low key atmosphere.
Things to do in Venezuela
Enjoy the Natural Wonders
If you are interested in seeing natural wonders then Angel Falls is sure to be at the top of your list of things to do and see. It is the world’s highest waterfall and set in a remote park which can only be accessed by air. Venezuela is a big, thrilling country with a lot of chances to see some great natural sights you won’t forget in a hurry.
Hit the Beach
Venezuela’s long coast line stretches over the Caribbean and the Atlantic. Along this coast there are some amazing beaches but perhaps the best of all are on the glorious Margarita Island. Carupano and Puerto La Cruz are other places where a trip to the beach is pretty much irresistible for most people.
Visit the Historic Sites
The history of Venezuela is waiting for any visitor to explore on their own terms. The capital city of Caracas has some nice historic sites while Santa Ana de Coro is one of the finest colonial cities in South America. Away from these cities, many of the rest of the best historic centres are small enough to walk around comfortably and safely.
Enjoy Some Action
The action comes in many forms in Venezuela. While some tourists will be happy heading out in the warm waters for some water sports, others might want to take in the excitement of the annual bull fighting event in San Cristobal. The exhilarating cable car ride in Mérida is another way of squeezing even more excitement out of your time here. Even the beautiful beaches of Margarita give way to a wilder and more thrilling type of landscape on one side of the sunny island.
Live the Good Life
From the cosmopolitan feel of Caracas to the elegance of San Cristobal, Venezuela offers many ways of living the good life. A trip here can be a wonderful experience that gives the tourist a chance to relax and forget about the worries they have left at home. The Venezuelans are friendly, welcoming people who help show visitors how easy it is to live the good life here.
Pick the time right!
Tourists visit Venuzuela from November to May
There is no bad time to visit Venezuela but there are some points to take into account when considering when it best to visit here. The country’s dry season runs from approximately November to May, while it can get very wet at other times of year. The dry season is generally seen as being the best period to travel here, especially for carrying out some outdoor activities. Life in the cities isn’t usually too heavily interrupted by the rainy season, though. One place that is best enjoyed in the rainy season is Angel Falls, with the extra water making it even more amazing to look at. In the dry season the world’s highest waterfall can be slightly lacking in water, while access by boat can also be more difficult. Finally, the locals love to travel in December and January as well as during Carnaval and in the run up to Easter. This means that transport and hotels can be heavily booked at these times. Being so close to the equator means that the temperature in Venezuela varies relatively little during the course of the year. The biggest factor here is altitude, with the temperatures dropping as the altitude climbs. The majority of the country is at an altitude that assures a pleasant temperature all year round. The rainy spell between May and November is called winter and the rest of the year is typically classed as summer.
Did you know?
Unlike in most of Latin America, the most popular sports here are baseball and basketball rather than soccer.
Despite having a high crime rate in parts and a high degree of social inequality, the Venezuelans are regularly named in the top 10 of the happiest people on the planet.
Venezuela got its name when Spanish explorers saw wooden houses on stilts over water and called it – perhaps ironically – Little Venice
The Simpsons and Family Guy are among the TV shows banned in Venezuela.
Margarita Island gets very popular in summer months and there are other classy options for spending time on the beach with fewer crowds.
Always take your ID with you when are out and about, as you will get asked for it if you get stopped by police, especially at road checkpoints.
As with most of Latin America, traffic can get pretty wild here in the big cities. Take care as not everyone respects red lights or other traffic rules.
Take special care when in Caracas, as it currently has a poor crime record and a lot of social inequality.