Venezuela Holidays – Tours & Adventure Travel Guide
"The tropical country of Venezuela has borders with Colombia, Guyana and Brazil and the lengthy north coastline sits on the Caribbean Sea. Venezuela remains largely under visited by international travellers. The Caribbean islands of Trinidad and Tobago, Grenada, Curaçao, Aruba and the Leeward Antilles all lie near the coast of Venezuela. That’s good news for those who do go, leaving more elbow room on the beaches and at breathtaking destinations such as Angel Falls, the world’s highest waterfall. The adventurous will have no trouble finding trekking, snorkelling, diving, windsurfing, and mountain biking opportunities to rival those available anywhere else in Latin America."
Venezuela Holiday Highlights
Walking & Trekking - A porter-assisted trek into remote Venezuela is one of the most interesting nature holidays in the world. The country has an astonishing 21 different ecosystems; whether you’re looking for a rainforest adventure, a mountainous ascent, or a route across the mesa, Venezuela’s got it. One of the more popular treks is a trip to the top of Mount Roraima, the inspiration for Conan Doyle’s ‘The Lost World’. The climb winds through grassland and cloud forest before reaching a secret pathway to the summit plateau. Another excellent destination is Auyantepui, a large mesa that’s home to Angel Falls. Birders revere the Humboldt Trail, one of the best birdwatching routes in the region, and flock to it in hopes of seeing such rarities as the Rusty-faced Parrot, Crimson-mantled Woodpecker and Gorgeted Woodstar.
Sierra de la Culata National Park is a perfect trek stop for mountain lovers; visitors are treated to vast windswept vistas of a treeless terrain. Condor Pass, which picks its way through La Culata, scales two peaks before dipping to the floor of a valley where a weary traveller can soak in natural hot springs. The Pass continues through grasslands known as Llanos, which flood annually from May through November. During the wet season, trekkers can spot caimans and Anaconda.
Snorkelling & Scuba Diving - Whether you’re an experienced diver looking for new challenges or a total beginner looking for instruction, Venezuela’s steep coastline offers amazing underwater spectacles for all skill levels. Top mainland destinations include Henri Pittier National Park, whose coral pools and lagoon are home to parrot fish, moray eels, sea turtles and octopi, and Morrocoy National Park, where you can paddle around palm-topped mangrove islands. The best diving in Venezuela, undoubtedly world-class, is off of the shores of its islands. Particularly recommended is Los Roques, an archipelago of small uninhabited islands set amid hundreds of square kilometres of lagoons and reefs. Venezuela’s offshore islands have been called “the other Caribbean,”
Windsurfing & Kite surfing - With reliable winds for much of the year, the islands just off the coast of Venezuela are gaining deserved renown as windsurfing and kitesurfing destinations. The best-regarded destination is the Isla de Margarita, especially El Yaque Beach, nearby Coche Island, and the Los Roques archipelago. The winds are best from November through June, with the strongest winds in January, February and March. Because the wind builds up slowly as the day goes on, the area is good for all skill levels. Beginner lessons are given in the morning, with more advanced surfers launching out later in the afternoon. Kitesurfers enjoy a separate zone from windsurfers; several centres offer rentals and courses for both sports.
Mountain Biking - Cycling has gained popularity in Venezuela recently, resulting in more available routes and tours. Expect a typical day’s ride of around 35 miles, depending upon the terrain and your own experience and fitness. Most rides begin in Mérida, one of the principal cities of the Venezuelan Andes. From there, you can traverse the Transandina, the country’s highest road pass, or make your way to La Culata National Park and watch the Andean condors circle high above you. The loop from Mérida to La Azulita and back is a particularly scenic trip, and passes through several Andean villages.
When To Go
The most popular time for a Venezuelan holiday is November through February, when the Northern Hemisphere is bleak and frozen. The tropical country is pleasant year round, though, and the best time to visit really depends on your itinerary. Wildlife viewing, trekking, and climbing are best during the dry season (November – April), while Angel Falls is most impressive when it’s at full strength towards the end of the rainy season (May – October). The rainy season doesn’t really extend to the coast, although the waters can be a bit rougher during those months.
-Inform your physician of your travel plans to determine whether you’ll need protection from malaria or yellow fever.
-American and European travellers are advised against visiting areas near the Colombian border due to security problems.
-Use a respected tour operator who follows the correct guidelines on the use of porters.
-Sturdy trekking boots and long trousers are a must for Venezuelan treks.
-Venezuela, Colombia and Ecuador were created from the collapse of Gran Colombia in 1830.
Venezuela Holidays In Focus
Walking and Trekking - With 42 national parks and about half as many nature reserves, all of which allow walking, Venezuela is a paradise for a walking holiday. A permit is required from the Inparques offices to visit the parks. Opportunities are available for all skill levels – for those who are more comfortable around well-developed tourist facilities, the Parque Nacional El Avila includes around 200km of signposted trails, most of which are not difficult. More serious trekkers can sign on for porter-assisted trips which scale the peaks and navigate the cloud forests of the great Andes. With 21 distinct ecosystems, Venezuela has whatever you’re looking for.
The go-to region for trekking and climbing is the area around Mérida, featuring high peaks such as the Pico Bolívar and the Pico Humboldt, as well as the magnificent Parque Nacional Sierra Nevada. Experienced guides are strongly recommended, and can be found in Mérida, along with any rental equipment you require. In addition to the national park, popular destinations around Mérida include Los Nevados, a small village separated from Mérida by Pico Toro but accessibly via a fairly easy mountain track, and the moors and misty forests of the Sierra de la Culata. If you’re up for crampons and ice axes, the steep ascent to Humboldt Peak is an exhilarating challenge to both your mountaineering skills and your fortitude. The view from the top of Humboldt’s broad, flat glacier is unforgettable.
For a very different climb, make your way up Mount Roraima, which straddles the border between Venezuela, Brazil and Guyana. Roraima is the highest of Venezuela’s distinctive table mountains, called tepuis. The steep sides of the plateau would make the summit difficult to access, if not for a hidden ramp which spirals up the side. Roraima is so steep-sided and flat-topped, in fact, that the indigenous people see the mountain as the stump of a mighty tree which once held all of the world’s fruits. The top of Roraima is its own ecosystem, with a harsh, nutrient-deficient environment which has spawned a number of endemic, carnivorous plants. In fact, early expeditions to Roraima’s top were the inspiration for Conan Doyle’s “The Lost World.” Trekkers won’t find any dinosaurs, but the unique, endemic species found only in this high, flat place will indeed make it feel like an undiscovered land. Once on top, be sure to visit the Valle de los Cristales, a little canyon that sparkles with colored quartz crystals.
As amazing as Roraima can be, the most visited tepui in Venezuela is Auyantepui, home to Angel Falls. The falls account for most of Auyantepui’s fame, dropping an astonishing 979 meters to clinch the title of world’s highest waterfall. Ironically, one of Venezuela’s most visited tourist attractions was traditionally avoided by the local indigenous people, the Pemon Indians. The Pemon called Auyantepui the “House of the Devil”, and feared to venture near it. On a trek through Auyantepui, you’ll encounter every kind of footing from dry, hard mesa to the slippery roots of cloud forests. After a good trek to Angel Falls, you can swim in the pool at the falls’ base, calm enough to be suitable for bathing. Be on the lookout for others who make Auyantepui their home – a diverse fauna including pumas, jaguars, armadillos and poison-dart frogs.
Snorkelling and Scuba Diving - If you choose the right dive sites, Venezuela’s steep coastline can be a comfortable place to learn the ropes of scuba diving, or a challenge for a seasoned veteran. Beginners looking to get the hang of things and meet sea creatures should head for the country’s coastal national parks, where lagoons and reefs shelter the coastline and harbour an amazing diversity of life. Henri Pittier National Park, Venezuela’s first national park, is a great place to start out, particularly the unique coral lagoon called La Cienaga. Its hidden, mangrove-lined bay is home to parrot fish, moray eels, sea turtles and octopi, along with hundreds of other marine animals. The birding at Henri Pittier is also incredible – the park’s official bird list is some 580 species long.
If you’ve already been in flippers a few times, definitely head for Venezuela’s offshore islands. Particularly recommended is Los Roques, an archipelago of small uninhabited islands set amid hundreds of square kilometres of lagoons and reefs. Venezuela’s offshore islands, known among travellers as “the other Caribbean,” are less expensive and crowded than their better-known counterparts and offer spectacular caves, sponge forests, and one of the best-preserved barrier reefs in the region. Trips can be organized through one of the three dive centres on Gran Roque, the only inhabited island. Ecobuzos offers affordable daily trips to popular sites such as the coral pinnacles called La Guaza.
Windsurfing and Kite Surfing - The same islands around Isla Margarita that are so well known for their underwater treasures are also great places to ride the waves. Travellers can make Margarita their base and choose any of several destinations in the area. An airstream generated between nearby Coche Island and El Yaque Beach, on Margarita itself, makes both locations very attractive for wind and kite surfing. Los Roques Archipelago National Park is only a slight detour from Margarita, and the islands’ park status has helped to protect this windsurfing mecca and the clear waters around it. All of the surfing destinations around Isla Margarita benefit from unusually stable wind patterns, which blow predictably from November through June, with the strongest winds January through March. Because the winds reliably begin mildly in the morning and pick up steam as the day wears on, the Venezuelan Caribbean is perfect for all skill levels – beginner lessons are generally given in the morning, with more experienced surfers setting sail later in the day. Several centres offer rentals and instruction for both sports.
If you’d rather stick to the shoreline, the tiny town of Adicora sits just at the tip of the Paraguana Peninsula, the perfect spot to line up with the prevailing east winds. It’s not yet so well known as the islands, allowing you to have the surf nearly to yourself.
Mountain Biking - Maybe not all cycling trips begin in Mérida, but when you’re there, it certainly seems that way. A number of outfitters offer rentals and organized tours leaving every day, and the concentration of tour operators and businesses make it easy to find the right trip for you or to buy a needed replacement part. The charm of Mérida, however, lies not in its convenience but in the array of destinations which are possible from that classic starting point. One popular route is the Transandina, the country’s highest-elevation road pass, which winds among coffee fields and tile-roofed hamlets on its way east from Mérida to the arid páramo above the timberline. Alternatively, plan a multi-day loop from Mérida to a small Andean town such as Los Nevados or La Azulita and back again, scenic trips which pass through several distinct climatic regions and tiny, remote pueblitos. Whatever your itinerary, be sure to plan for a stop in Musui for a soak in the hot springs. Las Aguas Termales del Musui are also a good camping spot.
-Scale Mount Roraima and explore a true “lost world”.
-Stroll the Humboldt Trail with binoculars in hand for a look at some of the living jewels of the Andes.
-Dive the barrier reef at Los Roques.
-Surf along the beach at El Yaque.
-Bike the Transandina to the top of the world.