Venezuela touring & wildlife holiday ideas:
Day 1 You are met on arrival at Caracas airport and driven to a comfortable 4* hotel in the nearby seaside town of Macuto, overlooking the Caribbean. You might go straight to bed, or have your first dinner in Venezuela at a seafront restaurant.
Mérida and the Andes
Day 2 LD Early next morning you are collected from your hotel and driven back to the airport for your flight to Mérida in the Venezuelan Andes. Here you are met by your English-speaking local guide and driven to a lodge just below the cloud forest in time for lunch. This enchanting lodge is your base for the next two nights on a full board basis. In the afternoon explore trails that lead through the cloud forest onto open páramo with wide views of the sierra, or relax and watch hummingbirds at their feeders in the garden.
Day 3 BLD You might walk among fields below the lodge, perhaps stopping by the owners’ flower farm and helping to cut armfuls of carnations and gerberas. The gardens around the lodge are well-planted and include a section devoted to orchids, bromeliads and other plants of the cloud forest. The owners are very hospitable and speak just enough English to get by.
Day 4 BL Your local guide returns to collect you and takes you to the restored Andean village of Jají, with its classic colonial layout around the main square, then to Hacienda El Carmen—an historic coffee hacienda with a quirky museum. Back in Mérida you stay at a stylish renovated town house in the historic quarter, with patio garden and decor showing the work of local contemporary artists: your base for 3 nights.
Day 5 BL Your guide collects you for a morning’s tour of Mérida, visiting the Cathedral, the Plaza Bolívar, the covered market and some of the other notable sights. After lunch, drive the short distance out of town to visit silk and textile artists Maria Devila and Eduardo Portillo. They rear silk worms fed on mulberry they grow on the slopes above their house, then spin, weave and dye their own silk and other fabrics to their own richly-coloured modern designs which are exhibited internationally.
Day 6 BL This morning your guide accompanies you on the Teléferico de Mérida—the world’s longest and highest cable car. You ride up to the penultimate station where there are twin glacial lakes, fascinating flowering mountain plants, and views across to forbidding peaks above the permanent snowline. As you ascend from the Mérida valley, you pass over montane forest, bamboo thickets, then cloud forest, to high moors and rocky screes. If the weather is fine you can buy a ticket for the final cable car section up to the snows. Return to Mérida in the mid-afternoon after a picnic lunch.
Day 7 BLD A full day visiting the picturesque villages of the páramos north of Mérida, including a visit to a stone chapel built single-handledly by sculptor Juan Féliz Sánchez, and a walk (or mule ride) to the Laguna Negra (Black Lagoon) whose waters form a perfect mirror reflecting the hillsides. Perhaps stop for a hot drink at Hotel Los Frailes, high on the moors, before continuing over a pass to sleep at a more comfortable altitude at a small lodge in the Santo Domingo valley.
Day 8 BLD It is time for the very different landscapes of the lowland plains of the Llanos. Here you stay for 3 nights at Hato El Cedral, see page 23. You stay on a full board basis with twice-daily wildlife excursions led by an experienced resident naturalist guide, usually with good English. You arrive by road in time for lunch and a siesta before an afternoon safari. You are likely to see capybara, caiman, giant river otter, anaconda, piranhas, giant anteater, scarlet ibis, roseate spoonbill, large jabiru stork, hoatzin, armadillo, several species of monkey, deer, and orinoco crocodile up to 18ft long.
Day 9-10 BLD Two full days of morning and afternoon safaris at Hato El Cedral, by vehicle or boat.
Day 11 B This morning you are driven to the town of Barinas beside the foothills of the Andes for your flight via Caracas to Puerto Ordaz in eastern Venezuela. You are met on arrival in Puerto Ordaz by your English-speaking local guide and transferred to a local 3* hotel. (You could choose to upgrade to a 4-5* hotel with views of the Caroní rapids).
Day 12 BLD After breakfast, set out with your guide and 4WD vehicle to drive south on the Transamazonica highway to the gold and diamond mining region south of El Dorado in lowland tropical rainforest. Stop on the way to see the mining and its effects on the forest, and take a walk in unspoilt forest by way of contrast. You might also visit a local family who make traditional casabe bread. Overnight at a tourist lodge by the forest in a small trading settlement.
Day 13 BLD Today you drive up ‘La Escalera’, the road that ascends the steep escarpment that defends the Gran Sabana. Until this road was built in the 1950s the only way up was by ladders and jungle vines. As late as 1800, maps of Venezuela showed the fabled lake of Pacarima, where El Dorado washed gold dust from his body, in the barely-explored area beyond the escarpment. Pause at the top for magnificent views back across the rainforest, at a spot where in season you may see black and yellow poison arrow frogs. Travel off-road to visit Chinak-merú, a very impressive waterfall 105m tall and 76m wide, with broad views across the savannah below. If there is time you could walk to the foot of the falls before continuing to the Pemón mission village of Kavanayén. Kavanayén is set in one of the Gran Sabana’s most evocative locations, on the edge of a mesa overlooking the rainforest with views of tepuis (table mountains) in every direction. Stay at a simple tourist lodge here for 2 nights.
Day 14 BLD A short drive then stroll through the grasslands, with handsome views of Ptari-tepui, to Hueso Falls. Stop for a dip in the pool below at the falls then hop into a dug-out boat for a short journey up river to join your waiting vehicle for the return to Kavanayén.
Day 15 BLD Continue exploring south through the Gran Sabana, returning to the paved road and visiting hefty Kamá Falls and little Jaspé Falls, where a shallow stream runs over a bed of semi-precious stone in shimmering reds and oranges. Overnight at a comfortable lodge in the frontier town of Santa Elena de Uairén.
Canaima and Angel Falls
Day 16 BLD A short transfer to the local airstrip where you board a light plane bound for Canaima. On a clear day there are breathtaking views of the table mountains spread beneath you as you cross the heart of the Gran Sabana. If conditions are favourable and the pilot has time, he may make an unscheduled detour over Angel Falls, at extra cost. On arrival at Canaima you will be met and transferred to an attractive lodge where you stay for one night full board. Your afternoon is free for optional local excursions, or just relaxing at the lodge or by the lagoon.
Day 17 BD Morning free at Canaima. You might visit Sapo Falls, where you can walk behind the waterfall, or perhaps buy a seat on the regular sightseeing flight over Angel Falls if you were unlucky on your flight from Santa Elena. Catch a late morning flight to Ciudad Bolívar where you are met on arrival, and taken to a stylish posada in a renovated town house in the historic quarter.
Day 18 BD Today is free for you to explore Ciudad Bolívar. You might stroll around the historic quarter, take a taxi to some of the other sights, such as the Jesus Soto museum, go on a river excursion on the Orinoco, where river dolphin can often be seen, or just relax by the posada’s small swimming pool.
Day 19 BLD Your driver collects you from your hotel and takes you to a river landing stage for your trip by boat into the Orinoco Delta to stay at a lodge.
Day 20 BLD The lodge takes you on excursions by boat to explore the world of the Delta, its environment and the way of life of the Warao people who live there.
Day 21 B Journey by river out of the Delta this morning and by road to Maturín for your flight to Caracas, in time for your international flight home overnight.
Guide price Ł3,295
21 days / 20 nights, starts and ends in Caracas.
The guide price is per person based on 2 people travelling together and sharing twin/double accommodation.
Guide price includes: all travel in Venezuela, all accommodation (4 nights hotels and 16 nights lodges), most meals (except 1 breakfast, 4 lunches and 5 dinners - allow Ł70 for these), private services of experienced English-speaking guide in Andes and Gran Sabana, shared guides while in Llanos and Orinoco Delta).
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