Spectacular Venezuela, home to some of South America's most incredible landscapes, rightly has a terrible image problem at the moment. Hyperinflation has led to a dramatic drop in living standards and issues with the supply of basic goods, while personal safety, particularly in Caracas, is worse than anywhere else on the continent. And yet, visiting Venezuela is both possible and remarkably cheap, with dollars instantly making even backpackers feel wealthy. Safety is a serious concern, of course, but sensibly managed it should be no deterrent to a trip.
The rewards if you do go are frankly immense. Few countries in the world have this degree of natural beauty: Andean peaks, Caribbean coastline, idyllic islands, grasslands teeming with wildlife, the steamy Orinoco Delta and the world's highest waterfall, Angel Falls. This is true trip-of-a-lifetime stuff, and right now you’ll have it pretty much all to yourself.
- Budget lodging US$5
- Dinner mains US$2
- Salto Ángel three-day tour US$200
- Marveling at Salto Ángel (Angel Falls), the world’s highest waterfall, dropping over 300 stories in Parque Nacional Canaima.
- Feeling the adrenaline rush while playing outside in the adventure-sports capital of Mérida.
- Hiking to the lost world of the Roraima table mountain for moonscape scenery and unique plant life.
- Stretching out on white-sand beaches or snorkeling and diving the day away at the tiny, undeveloped islands of Archipiélago Los Roques.
- Being on the lookout for capybaras, anacondas, caimans and other wildlife in Los Llanos, the grassy flatlands of Venezuela’s cowboy country.
- Encountering dolphins, howler monkeys and parrots in the wildlife-rich Delta del Orinoco.
- Kicking back and watching the world-famous lightning show over Lake Maracaibo in Catatumbo.
- Getting truly off the grid and exploring the pristine beaches of Península de Paria.
- Venezuela www.venezuelaturismo.gob.ve
- Rumba Venezuela www.rumbavenezuela.com
- Venezuelan Politics & Human Rights www.venezuelablog.tumblr.com
When to Go
May–Nov Salto Ángel and the Gran Sabana waterfalls gush, swollen with rainy-season flow.
Oct–Nov Low-season travel means empty beaches before the Christmas holidays.
Feb/Mar The whole country vacations during Carnaval, with special festivals in some cities.