Latin America specialist James travelled around Venezuela in June. Below he talks about his six favourite reasons to visit this fascinating country.
Venezuela benefits from huge natural diversity, boasting jungles, snow-capped mountains, a vast Caribbean coastline, as well as South America’s largest lake and the world’s highest waterfall.
Here are six reasons why I love it there!
The Catatumbo lightning phenomenon is a common electrical storm with the highest frequency of bolts recorded anywhere in the world. Taking place over Lake Maracaibo, the most intense lightning happens in the middle of the night, but the spectacle is well worth staying up for.
Los Llanos (the wetlands) is practically an open zoo with countless capybara and crocodiles, as well as iguanas, anacondas, anteaters and an abundance of birdlife to spot. Eagles, parrots and toucans, as well as capuchin and howler monkeys, dolphins and piranha can also be found in the Orinoco Delta and the Amazon.
3. Spectacular Scenery
Venezuela has the most incredible tropical landscapes I have seen in Latin America. Canaima National Park and the surrounding Gran Sabana, with its endless waterfalls and table top mountains, is like another planet. The trek to Mount Roraima is one of the world’s best hikes, and trekking opportunities are also plentiful in the Andes.
Magnificent coastal national parks such as Choroni and Mochima are perfect for a mix of walking and relaxation, and the archipelago of Los Roques is a blissful paradise with unspoilt white sand beaches and turquoise waters.
5. Indigenous Culture
Although only representing about 1% of the Venezuelan population, there is the chance to meet native communities along the shores of Lake Maracaibo, in the Orinoco Delta, at Canaima National Park and in the Amazon region.
Despite all of these wonderful reasons to visit Venezuela, it is the politics that comes to most people’s minds when the country is mentioned. Pretty much everywhere you go you will see images of Chavez and his successor Maduro and it's fascinating to experience this political propaganda. On one hand it is a shame that the media perception of the country has hit visitor numbers hard, although on the other it means that visitors are rewarded with a truly adventurous experience away from other tourists.