Why go backpacking in Venezuela?
Located at the northern coast of South America, Venezuela is a noteworthy natural attraction. Home to Angel Falls, the world’s highest waterfall, beautiful beaches like Cayo de Agua, and exciting cities like Mérida, Venezuela has all the potential to be the perfect place for backpacking during your gap year! Bordering Colombia, Brazil, and Guyana, backpacking in Venezuela is also a useful stop on a wider South American trip.
Unfortunately, at the moment, Venezuela is enduring a period of tumult, so travellers have been advised to follow government advice regarding safety precautions.
If you choose to go, Venezuela has endless options for gap year backpackers to explore, including the capital, Caracas, and Ciudad Bolívar. If you’re looking for picturesque views, backpacking in Venezuela will give you the opportunity to climb Roraima, which stands an incredible 2180m high, as well as visit Los Llanos, a savanna plain that’s teeming with diverse wildlife.
Cities in Venezuela
Despite its incredibly busy streets, Caracas is, in many ways, a cultural hub for Venezuela. It’s set in the shadow of the beautiful mountains in Parque Nacional El Åvila, and contains some of Venezuela’s national treasures—including some of the best eats in the country, such as traditional apreas (corn cakes) or pabellon (the national dish of Venezuela, which has beef, beans, rice and banana)! If you’re not hungry, feel free to pay a visit to the Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Caracas, which displays work from many of Venezuela’s most famous artists, or head to Fundación Biggott, a restored colonial home that offers workshops in Venezuelan cultural activities, such as Festival de los Diablos Danzantes mask decoration.
Coro, located northeast of Caracas, serves as the entry point to the Parque Nacional Médanos de Coro, and is also a major historical center of Venezuela. It hosts many of the country’s great architecture in the form of colonial mansions, but also has, in most ways, embraced modern technology and transportation. Its sizable student population and affordable accommodations make it an ideal starting point for explorers. On the other hand, Puerto Ayacucho, the main urban center of Venezuela’s Amazon, offers a taste of indigenous culture through locations such as Mercado Indígena, a market known for its sales in catara sauce (a hot sauce made from ants) and Catedral de María Auxiliadora, a church noted for its grand, colourful interior.
Countryside in Venezuela
Archipiélago Los Roques is a series of close to 300 small islands off the northern coast of Venezuela, which provide an ideal opportunity for vacationers to island hop. The individual islands can be visited on day trips from Gran Roque. The waters of Los Roques are known for their incredible wildlife, accessible through snorkeling and diving. If you’re looking for a scenic sunset, then the site of the remains of the 1870s lighthouse Faro Holandés offers a great view.
If you’re looking for a true jungle, look no further than Delta del Orinoco. A combination of islands, channels, and mangrove swamps, the delta is home to a lively mix of wildlife, including piranhas and parrots. This area is also home to the Warao people, who have been able to utilise the native moriche palm for various purposes, such as toolmaking, housing construction, and winemaking.
Top Experiences in Venezuela
Iglesia de San Francisco
Iglesia de San Francisco was built in the 1570s, and has been remodelled throughout the last few centuries. However, its interior still stands relatively untouched as a reminder of colonial architecture and culture. Its elaborate decoration, along with its statue of San Onofre (the patron saint of health, happiness, and a good job), continues to draw tourists and inspire awe.
Laguna de Mucubaji
This lake in Mérida is often acknowledged for its scenic beauty. The weather in the area can get chilly, but the view—and an iconic picture with the “frailejon,” a native flower—is most definitely worth it. If you’re feeling extra adventurous, you can take a horseback ride through the area. If you’re planning on going, make sure you have a permit!
If you’re not a fan of wildlife, the marine museum in Isla de Margarita is a fun, interactive, safe setting in which to view some of Venezuela’s marine life. It even has a shallow touch tank, if you decide that you’re ready for the next step. And even if you’re not, the museum boasts a completely harmless blue whale skeleton at the entrance!
Basilica Nuestra Senora de Chiquinquira
Located in Maracaibo, this iconic, classic church speaks to the richness of Venezuela’s culture and history. Whether you consider yourself Catholic or not, the attention to detail and the ornate architecture are sure to blow you away. In order to enter, you’re going to need to cover your shoulders and remove your hat, but the art-covered inside of the church is more than worth it.
No trip to Venezuela is complete without a visit to Angel Falls, the highest waterfall on Earth. There are tours available, if you’d like a guide, but otherwise, the most popular route involves a flight to Canaima, boat ride, and then final hike to the falls. The trip as a whole generally takes two to three days, and can be physically taxing, so make sure you’re ready and well-prepared for the trek. Nonetheless, it’s a priceless experience that definitely belongs on your itinerary for your trip to Venezuela!