Venezuela - From the Andes to the Lost World
Venezuela - From the Andes to the Lost World
Venezuela has it all - a land with incredible natural sites, elegant colonial architecture, amazing wildlife and intriguing ethnic groups - but has so far been little visited by western travellers. On this two week trip we aim to uncover some of the highlights of a country that has much to offer those looking to get a little more off the beaten track in Latin America. Starting in Caracas we explore the historic centre before heading to the Andean city of Merida, overflowing with graceful buildings and set amongst gorgeous scenery. We drive through the world's longest mountain range to visit traditional villages before moving on to the Llanos, a vast wetland area home to some of the continent's most iconic species including jaguar and giant anteaters - a true paradise for wildlife enthusiasts. In Canaima National Park we take a flight over the world's highest waterfall, the mighty Angel Falls, and explore the park in dugout canoes. The Orinoco Delta gives us an opportunity to delve into Venezuela's mangrove creeks as we are accompanied by local guides to learn about the plants and animals to be found here, as well as survival techniques passed down through generations. Finally we head to the magnificent Gran Sabana a land of waterfalls, savannah and huge Tepui Mountains of which one is the spectacular Mt Roraima straddling the borders of Venezuela, Guyana, and Brazil and the inspiration of Conan Doyle’s Lost World. Venezuela is vibrant, exciting, colourful and breathtaking - it won't be long before others discover its treasures so now is the time to visit.
Day 1 – Caracas
Arrive in Caracas and transfer to your hotel. Depending on when you arrive there may be time to explore the city. Overnight Hotel Avila or similar.
Caracas lies in a series of valleys 1000 metres above sea level and surrounded by majestic tree-clad mountains. Traces of the city's colonial roots are still proudly displayed in the historic buildings and contrast dramatically with the imposing modern skyscrapers of the city. It is one of the 'greener' cities of the continent, with forests and waterfalls within easy reach of the city centre, and boasts a fine collection of museums, galleries, parks and stunning architecture. Caracas is overshadowed by the Avila, a huge mountain reaching 2765m which can be reached by the Teleferico, the cable car which goes part way up its slopes. Caracas is the birthplace of Simon Bolivar, the great 'liberator' of South America and as such is one of the most significant cities in Latin America. Museums and sites of note include the Concejo Municipal, where the Act of Venezuelan Independence was signed, La Casa Amarilla, the former Royal Prison and now the Foreign Office and Plaza Bolivar, where the history of Caracas began. Also not to be missed is the Panteon Nacional, the most sacred building in the city - the last resting place for eminent Venezuelans. The vault of the pantheon is covered by paintings depicting scenes from Bolivar's life; all painted by the important Venezuelan historical painter Tito Salas in the 1930s.
Day 2 – Merida and the Andes
This morning we discover Caracas' colonial roots, proudly displayed in its historic centre. We visit the birthplace of ‘El Libertador’ Simon Bolivar, the Panteon Nacional and the Quinto Anauco Museum among other sites. Later we fly to Merida towards the northern most extent of the Andes. Overnight La Sevillana or similar. (B)
Mérida & the Andes
The Venezuelan Andes are characterized by the páramos, or high plains, an austere landscape brightened by the flowers of low-lying plants and dwarf shrubs. This is a region with streams full of trout, deep blue lakes, and small Andean villages only accessible on foot or by mule, seemingly hanging on the mountainsides. The city of Mérida is perched on a mesa between two ranges. It has a spectacular backdrop of snowy peaks known as “The Five White Eagles” - the tallest, Pico Bolívar, reaches 5007 meters - and the famous Teleferico, the world’s highest and longest cable-car.
Day 3 – Merida - Jaji
Spend this morning exploring Merida, with its colourful ‘Mercado Principal’, its beautiful Cathedral, and the Government Palace on Plaza Bolívar. After lunch we drive along the winding roads of the Andes, through cloud forest, until arriving at the small Andean village of Jají. After exploring its beautiful colonial streets, we continue to the old coffee plantation Hacienda El Carmen, with its small museum. Overnight La Sevillana or similar. (B)
Day 4 – Merida to Altamira De Caceres
Today we journey by road for approximately 6 hours from Merida to Altamira de Caceres. The journey will see us traversing El Paramo a unique highland ecosystem found principally in the Northern Andes. There will be opportunities to stop on the journey today not least to view attractive Andean villages. Overnight Posada Casa Vieja or similar (BD)
Days 5-6 Los Llanos
Having left the Andes behind head to the Llanos, a wetland area rich in wildlife and home to an incredible variety of species. Our base is Hato El Cedral, a working cattle ranch, with the mission of protecting the spectacular wildlife of the Llanos. Morning and afternoon animal-watching excursions are done by open trucks, boat, or on foot. A true paradise for naturalists, birdwatchers and everybody who wants to discover nature from close up with the guidance of professional naturalist guides. Overnight Hato el Cedral. (BLD)
Extending from Bolivia, Peru and Colombia, through 1,000 kilometres of Venezuela to the Orinoco Delta, the vast plains of the Llanos cover an area of about 320,000 square kilometres. The Llanos are an incredible place to see wildlife. Apart from more than 300 species of birds (including scarlet ibis, hoatzin, screamers, soldier storks, spoonbills and many more) you may be lucky enough to spot jaguars, ocelots, anteaters, honeybears, capybaras and alligators, in an environment still relatively undisturbed by man.
Day 7 – Puerto Ordaz
Fly to Puerto Ordaz. Set on the southern bank of the Orinoco River, at its confluence with the Caroní River, the bustling city of Puerto Ordaz is the gateway to the Gran Sabana, the Orinoco Delta, and Canaima National Park. Overnight Roraima Inn or similar. (B)
Day 8 – Canaima National Park
Fly into Canaima National Park. Board dugout canoes at Canaima beach, (shared tour) and cross Canaima lagoon with impressive views of its seven waterfalls. A short walk through savannah, and we start walking behind the impressive water curtain of Sapo Falls. It is a truly exhilarating experience: a cliff to the right, the roaring falls to the left, and water spray everywhere. Overnight Waku Lodge or similar. (BLD)
Canaima National Park
Between the rainforest of the Amazon Basin and the watershed of the Orinoco River is a rugged wall of remote mountains and deep, heavily forested canyons. This is Canaima National Park. Many of the mountains have precipitous rock walls that rise thousands of meters where they end in an almost perfectly flat top. These formations are known by their Indian name: Tepuis. Originally the tops of the tepuis were joined together in a vast continuous plateau that stretched over a large part of northern South America from the Colombian Mountains into Guyana. Over the time erosion carved steep-walled valleys and crevices into the plateau leaving fragments of the plateau completely isolated. The region remains one of the most thinly settled and one of the most beautiful of all natural areas in South America. From one of these Tepuis plummets the world's highest waterfall: Angel Falls (979 meters).The fall is more than twice as high as the Empire State Building and three times higher than the Eiffel Tower.
Day 9 – Canaima National Park
Today we visit Angel Falls, the highest waterfall in the world. Travel by boat (shared tour) up the Carrao River through spectacular scenery. Then enter the Churún River through Devils Canyon and eventually the wonder of Angel Falls is visible. Take a walk through the forest to the base of the falls and become drenched in a frenzy of spray. An unforgettable experience. Later return to Canaima. Overnight Waku Lodge or similar. (BLD)
It was 1935, when a stranger offered Jimmy Angel $5000 to fly him to an uncharted mountaintop in southern Venezuela, and the Missouri-born bush pilot, down on his luck, jumped at the chance. He flew his mysterious passenger to this mountaintop and after a bumpy landing in his Flamingo monoplane, pilot and passenger set up camp by a stream. In three days, they found 75 pounds of gold. Returning to Caracas, Mr. Angel lost contact with his passenger. Trying to return, but without his treasure guide, he fruitlessly scoured the vast wilderness for the golden stream. One day he crash landed on top of a 2400 meter high mountain, the Auyan-tepuy. Two weeks later the exhausted adventurer emerged on foot, bearing with him knowledge of a secret the local Pemón Indians had guarded for centuries: Churún Merú, the world´s highest waterfall.
Days 10-11 – Orinoco Delta
Enjoy an early shared flight over Angel Falls (subject to minimum numbers and weather conditions). Fly from Canaima to Puerto Ordaz and from here transfer to Boca de Uracoa, in the Orinoco Delta. We spend our time here exploring the delta by foot or boat, through the endless mangroves and creeks of the Delta. A naturalist guide will explore with us the flora and fauna, and will show us how to survive in the jungle and fish piranhas! Overnight Orinoco Delta Lodge or similar. (BLD)
The Orinoco Delta
The Orinoco Delta is a vast, intricate labyrinth of waterways weaving through a simmering jungle to carry the waters of the Orinoco River to the Atlantic Ocean. The Delta has been forming over the course of thousands of years, as the mighty river has deposited millions of tonnes of sediment into the ocean. The Orinoco branches off into over 60 caños (waterways) and 40 rivers which diffuse through 41,000 square kilometres of forested islands, swamps and lagoons. The Warao Indians - the “Canoe People” - are the native inhabitants of the Delta. Family groups reside in palafitos (wooden houses raised on stilts) along the banks of the river, and spend most of their daily lives in canoes fishing the nearby caños and hunting and gathering in the surrounding forests.
Day 12 – Puerto Ordaz
Spend the morning relaxing on the Delta before transferring back to Puerto Ordaz in the afternoon. Overnight Roraima Inn or similar (BL)
Day 13 – 15 – Gran Sabana – Lost World
The final adventure of this spectacular journey through Venezuela will take you south-east towards the borders with Brazil and Guyana. The Gran Sabana is a truly special landscape of clear rivers, waterfalls and endless Tepui Mountains which tower above rolling savannah and forest. We will explore this unique region by 4WD vehicle. During this time visits will include gold mining towns, a Pemon Indian community and on Day 14 marvel at the view of Mt Roraima, inspiration for Conan Doyle’s Lost World. Finally on Day 15 return back to Puerto Ordaz to reflect on a quite stunning journey into an epic landscape. Overnights Day 13 and 14 in basic but comfortable posadas in the Gran Sabana. Overnight Day 15 Roraima Inn Puerto Ordaz. All meals are included on this excursion into the Gran Sabana. Please note dinner is not included on arrival back in Puerto Ordaz on Day 15.
Day 16 - Caracas
Return to Caracas by flight. End of services (B)
Tour Style: Traveller
Arrival and departure transfers
All accommodation on twin share basis
Services of English speaking guides in each place (please note that you will have different guides at each place you stop rather than one person accompanying you throughout)
Shared excursions in Canaima National Park
Meals as listed (B - Breakfast, L - Lunch, D - Dinner)
Entrance fees for sites listed as part of the itinerary
Any airport taxes
Please note that you should also read the Country Notes in association with this itinerary for practical information about your trip and the destination you will be visiting.
The itinerary and supplementary information has been compiled with care and provided in good faith. However it may be subject to change, and does not form part of a contract between the client and Undiscovered Destinations.