Called "Land of Grace," the South American country of Venezuela doesn't fit into just one category of travel destinations. Because of the wide array of options available to travelers to this region, you're sure to find something to satisfy your all travel needs. Whether you're looking for a backpacking adventure or a relaxing beach sojourn, you're likely to find many reasons to visit Venezuela. Here are just 11 of them:
1. Angel Falls
Venezuela's gorgeous Canaima National Park inspired Sir Arthur Conan Doyle to write "The Lost World," and it's also home to Angel Falls, the world's largest waterfall. This spectacular 3,212-foot waterfall is one and a half times higher than New York's Empire State Building and a whopping 15 times higher than Niagara Falls. Angel Falls is accessible by plane or boat, with local agencies offering tour packages to the falls that often include an overnight stay in a nearby location.
The beaches on Venezuela's Caribbean coast enjoy a hot, dry and tropical climate, and there are plenty of spots in the sand to choose from. Venezuela has approximately 1,860 miles of coastline as well as hundreds of small coastal islands. Isla de Margarita is the top destination for beach lovers, with 151 miles of coastline featuring everything from pristine secluded beaches to bustling water sport destinations. The archipelagos that make up Los Roques, another top beach spot, is the Caribbean's biggest nature reserve and boasts coral reefs, lagoons and mangrove islands.
The Andes mountain range runs through Venezuela, giving hikers and other adventurers a chance to see the spectacular spines of the Sierra Nevada, Sierra de Santo Domingo and the Sierra de La Culata, which rise over 16,400 feet. When traveling to the Andes, stay a spell in the nearby town of Merida, a progressive and picturesque college town cradled in a valley in the shadow of the mountains. Further off the beaten track you'll also find indigenous villages that may give you a glimpse into a wholly different way of life.
4. Los Roques Islands
Chill out, lay back and laze on some of the most fantastic beaches. Enjoy the water sports or go island hopping in a small boat. Or plunge beneath the surface of the waves and explore an untouched marine paradise full of interesting fish and strange creatures.
Roraima inspired Conan Doyle’s fictional ‘Lost World’ adventure. Today you won’t be accosted by pterodactyls and dinosaurs though; you’ll discover some of the world’s oldest geological formations and a unique diversity of flora and fauna that is only found on this spectacular plateau. Worth the climb.
6. National Parks
Venezuela boasts 40 national parks, where people can go to relax, hike, bird-watch and try their hand at amateur wildlife photography. Canaima National Park is Venezuela’s largest park, offering the photographer or wanderer over 6,000 different varieties of plants to look at. The area is also host to hundreds of animal species. Canaima National Park features the world’s highest waterfall, Angel Falls.
7. Tourism and the Locals
The Venezuelan government doesn’t encourage mass tourism because it wants to preserve the country’s natural resources, but small groups of tourists are welcome. Some of the country’s indigenous people even host visitors in their villages. Those that welcome tourists often sell handmade pottery, musical instruments, baskets and woven fabrics. Others act as guides through the region, helping outsiders to spot native wildlife and flora they otherwise wouldn’t notice. Many locals still hunt and fish to make a living.
8. Table Top Mountains
Cerro Autana is a tabletop mountain — a quartzite-sandstone tepuy — located in western Venezuela. The local Piaroa Indians worship it as the stump of the tree of life. Another tabletop mountain, Mount Roraima, is on the border of Brazil, Guyana and Venezuela. You can easily reach the top via natural staircases on the Venezuelan side. Reaching the summit from the other countries is more difficult.
9. Margarita Island (La Isla Margarita)
This is one of the most popular things to do during your Venezuela travel. It is an island that sits just north of the Venezuelan coastline that is a popular getaway for locals as well as tourists. The crisp blue waters will remind you of the Bahamas and the breathtaking scenery will make you want to come back every year. The endless nightlife will punish your inhibitions as well as your plastic with duty free shopping. There are at least 50 magnificent beaches to explore with the most popular being Playa Puerto Cruz. Windsurfing is world reknown as well as great opportunities to dive and snorkel. Don’t forget to see sightsee the Castle of la Asuncion and Juen Griego.
10. Cuare Wildlife Refuge
Admire large colonies of pink flamingos and scarlet ibis at the Cuare Wildlife Refuge, a coastal reserve adjoining the Parque Nacional Morrocoy, about four hours north of Caracas. Best glimpsed in September, the flamboyant fowl are among many water birds that congregate in the lagoons near Chichiriviche and along the mangrove canals.
11. Joropo dancing in Los Llanos
Catch a display of joropo, Venezuela's national dance, in Los Llanos, the vast plains region where it originated. The flamenco-influenced step is accompanied by ensembles playing harp, guitar and maracas and singing in a high-pitched nasal style. Local joropo groups perform at family parties and street concerts throughout the country, but the best places to see it in Los Llanos are in Guanare and San Fernando de Apure.