You probably haven't heard much positive about Venezuela recently, which makes the sheer beauty and welcoming stance of locals often something of a surprise. What the news channels fail to feature are Venezuela’s lengthy Andean peaks and extensive piece of Caribbean coastline (the longest, in fact, found in any individual nation). It’s a country of colorful cities and impressive natural sites, which combine to make off-the-beaten-track Venezuela a surprisingly appetizing travel option.
If there’s one site you have to see, it is Angel Falls. At 979 meters (16 times the height of Niagara), the huge waterfall is still relatively unaltered by tourism, and occupies an impressive natural spot that makes it all the more special to visit. If you’re into your natural sites, Roraima, a huge, lunar-like flat-topped mountain with a bizarre selection of plant life and pink sand beaches to be found at its peak, is another must-make trip. The short drive from Maracay to Puerto Colombia takes you through lush, dramatic scenery, while dropping in on the piranhas and anacondas of Los Llanos will have horror movie lovers’ hearts in their mouths.
The Caribbean, of course, is a huge draw, too. You can do it in style on the Isla de Margarita, where resorts and shopping are as ever-present as the clear blue seas, or head for the less crowded corners in destinations like Parque Nacional Mochima, where you can dive amongst deep bays or sip sugar cane cocktails and dark rum on the astonishing beaches. The seaside town of Coro is probably the best place to see the urban side of Venezuela (though capital Caracas is also intriguing, if far from pretty), as a town crammed full of low-level, pastel-shaded colonial architecture that gives an alluring small-but-special vibe.
Then, of course, there are the lush, steamy depths of the Venezuelan Amazon, covered boats out to ramshackle offshore stilted houses, and even advanced climbing up to the snow capped Andean peaks. Venezuela’s not a typical South American traveler resort, but put aside your preconceptions about the local political climate, and it does have as much to offer as most.