Must see attractions in Venezuela

  • Sights in Canaima

    Salto Ángel (Angel Falls)

    Thundering Angel Falls is the world's highest waterfall and Venezuela's number-one tourist attraction. Its total height is 979m (3211ft), of which the uninterrupted drop is 807m (2646ft), about 16 times the height of Niagara Falls. The cascade spills off the heart-shaped Auyantepui, one of the largest of the tepuis (sandstone-capped mesa), into Devil's Canyon.

  • Sights in Caracas

    Iglesia Santa Capilla

    This neo-Gothic church, one block north of Plaza Bolívar, is modeled on the Sainte Chapelle of Paris. It was ordered by General Antonio Guzmán Blanco in 1883 and built on the site of the first mass celebrated after the foundation of the town.

  • Sights in Caracas

    Plaza Bolívar

    This leafy square is the nucleus of the old town. It's always alive with huddled groups of caraqueños engaged in conversation and children feeding freshly popped corn to the black squirrels in the trees. Vendors hawk lemonade and cepilladas (shaved ices) on the sidelines, and the whole scene is shaded by African tulip trees and jacarandas. Golden cherubs gather round the fountains at each corner of the square.

  • Sights in Caracas

    Fundación Bigott

    If you’d like to dig a little deeper into traditional Venezuelan culture – perhaps learn to play joropo music with the bandola llanera (a string instrument) in the style of Anselmo López, or how to create your very own Festival de los Diablos Danzantes masks – you’ll want to pay a visit to Fundación Bigott. In a restored colonial home sitting prominently on richly preserved Plaza Sucre in the independent colonial town of Petare, Fundación Bigott offers extensive workshops in traditional Venezuelan culture, including traditional celebrations, music, gastronomy, popular arts and artesian crafts. Workshops generally last three months and cost a measly BsF15, but one-day classes are sometimes offered. There is also an extensive research library open to the public (2pm to 6pm Monday to Friday) and a small store where you can pick up CDs, books and other fundación -sponsored cultural items.

  • Sights in Mérida

    Parque Nacional Sierra Nevada

    The most popular high-mountain trekking area is the Sierra Nevada national park, which has all of Venezuela's highest peaks, including Pico Bolívar (5007m/16,427ft), Pico Humboldt (4942m/16,214ft) and Pico Bonpland (4883m/16,020ft). Climbing these peaks shouldn't be attempted without a guide, unless you have climbing experience. Guided trips are offered by most of Mérida's tour operators.

  • Sights in Caracas

    Iglesia de San Francisco

    Just south of the Capitolio Nacional, the Church of San Francisco was built in the 1570s, but was remodeled on several occasions during the 17th and 18th centuries. Guzmán Blanco, unable to resist his passion for modernizing, placed a neoclassical facade on the church to match the just-completed capitol building. Fortunately, the interior of the church didn’t undergo such an extensive alteration, so its colonial character and much of its old decoration have been preserved. Have a look at the richly gilded baroque altarpieces distributed along both sidewalls, and stop at the statue of San Onofre, in the right-hand aisle. He is the most venerated saint in the church due to his miraculous powers of bringing health, happiness and a good job.

  • Sights in Archipiélago Los Roques

    Gran Roque

    Gran Roque is the main island and population center, and exudes a distinct Caribbean feel. The sandy streets of the fishing village are lined with single-story, brightly painted concrete houses and the waterfront is packed with fishing boats and visiting yachts - all covered by a vast army of pelicans.

  • Sights in Puerto Cabello

    Castillo Libertador

    North of the old town, and separated from it by the entrance channel to the harbor, is colonial Fortín San Felipe, later renamed Castillo Libertador. It’s a fine-looking fort, though in a state of disrepair. It was constructed in the 1730s to protect the port and warehouses. During the War of Independence, the fort was for a time in the patriots’ hands, but it was lost to the royalists in 1812. The fort was recovered in 1823, and later served General Gómez as a jail. Upon Gómez’ death in 1935, the prison closed down and no less than 14 tons of chains and leg irons were thrown into the sea. The fort is within the naval base, and tourists need authorization to visit – only groups of 20 or more are permitted.

  • Sights in Caracas

    Catedral

    Set on the eastern side of Plaza Bolívar, Caracas' cathedral started its life in the mid-16th century as a mere mud-walled chapel. A church later replaced it, only to be flattened by the 1641 earthquake. Built from 1665 to 1713, the 'new' cathedral is packed with dazzling gilded altars and elaborate side chapels; the most famous is that of the Bolívar family, which can be easily recognized by a modern sculpture of The Liberator mourning his parents and bride.

  • Sights in Ciudad Bolívar

    Centro de las Artes

    On the southern edge of the colonial sector is the tree-shaded Plaza Miranda. Positioned at the halfway point between the cathedral and the cemetery, it was once known as the Plaza Descanso (rest), because funeral pallbearers would stop to break here along the way to burials. A sizable building on its eastern side was constructed in 1870 as a hospital, but it never served that purpose. It has had a bizarre list of tenants instead, having been used as a prefecture, theatre, army barracks and police station. Eventually it opened in 1992 as the Centro de las Artes and stages temporary exhibitions of modern art, though it was being given a renovation on our last visit and should reopen again in 2010.

  • Sights in Clarines & Píritu

    Iglesia de San Antonio

    The Iglesia de San Antonio is at the upper end of the historic town of Clarines. Built in the 1750s, the church is a massive, squat construction laid out in a Latin-cross floor plan, and is one of only a few examples of its kind in Venezuela. Twin square towers border the austere facade. The most unusual features of the structure are the two external arcades running between the towers and the transepts on both sides of the church. The single-nave interior is topped with a wooden cupola and is refreshingly well balanced in proportion. Over the high altar is a three-tier main retable dating from around 1760. It is placed against the wall, which still bears its original painting depicting a curtain.

  • Sights in Maracay

    Teatro de la Opera

    Commissioned by Gómez in 1934, this Soviet-esque theater was intended to be the best in the country, to match the capital status of the city. An immense budget of two million bolívares was allotted for the structure alone. The theater was constructed swiftly, and by December 1935 (the month Gómez died) it was almost ready, missing only the imported ceiling and interior furnishings. Nonetheless, the new government halted work, and its decorations were moved to theaters in Caracas. It wasn’t until 1973 that the theater finally opened. It can seat 860 people and stages a variety of visiting productions, from opera to folkloric dance. There is a tiny but smart cafe attached to the right of the entrance.

  • Sights in Trujillo

    Statue of the Virgin Mary

    This gigantic, 47m-high monument is said to be the world’s tallest statue of the Virgin Mary. Frankly, it bears an eerie, uncanny resemblance to Darth Vader. Inaugurated in 1983, the massive, concrete statue stands on a 1700m-high mountaintop overlooking Trujillo, 11km southwest of the town. The internal elevator and staircase smell rather bad, yet provide access to five miradores (lookout points), the highest of which peeks out through the Virgin’s eyes. You can enjoy views over much of Trujillo state, and on a clear day you can even see the peaks of the Sierra Nevada de Mérida and a part of Lago de Maracaibo.

  • Sights in Canaima

    Kamarata

    Kamarata is an old Pemón village on the Río Akanán, at the southeastern foot of Auyantepui. Since being discovered as an alternative access point for Angel Falls, it has been attracting adventurous travelers. There are a few simple places to stay and eat in town, and an airstrip. However, most of the overnight tourist traffic has shifted to Kavac, a hot two-hour walk from Kamarata, or a short drive on a dirt road.

  • Sights in Mérida

    Centro de Investigaciones de Astronomía

    North of San Rafael, at an altitude of about 3600m, is the Centro de Investigaciones de Astronomía, an astronomical observatory with four telescopes and a museum of astronomy. It’s normally open to the public only on weekends, but during peak holiday seasons (Christmas, Carnaval, Easter, August) it’s open daily. CIDA is off the main road, and there is no public transportation on the access road to the observatory, but visits can be organized from Mérida by any tour company. Tours (BsF120 per person) depart on Saturday at 2pm (daily in high season) from Parque Las Heroínas and return around midnight.

  • Sights in Puerto la Cruz

    Santa Fe

    This fishing town is popular with international backpackers for its proximity to the islands of Parque Nacional Mochima. Travelers spend their days island-hopping and their nights drinking beer or merengadas (fruity milkshakes) on the beach - all without breaking the budget.

  • Sights in Mérida

    Jardín Botánico

    Not far from the zoo is the Jardín Botánico. Inaugurated in 2000, the botanical garden is still young, and only a portion of the total 44 hectares is open to the public. Featuring a miniature cloud forest and more than 600 bromeliad species, it’s worth visiting, particularly on Saturday or Sunday, when an unusual ‘aerial path’ is open for visitors (www.senderosaereos.com, in Spanish). You ‘walk, ’ rappel and skim using ropes between platforms built atop four tall trees. The ‘trip’ takes between 45 minutes and 1½ hours and costs BsF40 to BsF50.

  • Sights in Coro

    Parque Nacional Médanos de Coro

    Mesmerizing zebra stripes of sand shimmer in the breeze at the Parque Nacional Médanos de Coro, a spectacular desert landscape with sand dunes of 30m in height. Late afternoon is the best time to visit, when the sun is not so fierce. To get here, take the Carabobo bus from Calle 35 Falcón and get off 300m past the large Monumento a la Federación. From here it’s a 10-minute walk north along a wide avenue to the dunes.

  • Sights in Caracas

    Simón Bolívar Mausoleum

    After a 2010 exhumation to confirm cause of Bolívar's death, Chávez built his hero this grand new mausoleum, which opened in 2013. The US$140 million price tag and bold architecture – a gleaming white wave that mirrors the Ávila range or a gnarly 17-story skate ramp, depending on your opinion – set tongues wagging even before Chávez' death, with some cheeky pundits opining that he had plans to join Bolívar here in perpetuity.

  • Sights in Canaima

    Cueva de Kavac

    Near the purpose-built tourist village of Kavac, Cueva de Kavac is not a cave but a deep gorge with a waterfall plunging into it. There's a safe, natural pool at the foot of the waterfall, which you can reach by swimming upstream inside the canyon. It's a pretty straightforward half-hour walk from Kavac to the gorge.