Canaima National Park
Canaima National Park is the sixth largest national park in the world, covering some three million hectares. The landscape of the park is dramatic and contrasting. Massive geological and altitudinal variation has produced a huge range of habitats within which flourishes an exuberant diversity of flora. The savanna varies from dry grasslands to wetlands interspersed with moriche palms. The moist air of the rainforest canopy is home to bromeliads, tree ferns and over 500 species of orchid, and cloud forests are rich in epiphytes, including mosses and lichens. The landscape is drained by a series of rivers, most of which are edged by gallery forests. The park is characterized by its numerous waterfalls and is famous for its tepui (table top mountains rising out of the flatlands), which are concentrated in the Gran Sabana and create an absolutely stunning setting at sunrise and sunset. The park is home to massive variety of exotic fauna. Jaguar, puma, ocelot, bush-dog, spectacled bear, giant otter, tapir, armadillo, capybara, brocket deer, agouti, giant anteater, raccoon, peccary, tree porcupine, sloth and capuchin, red-howler and stripy-faced monkeys are just a few of the countless mammals found within the various habitats. The world’s highest waterfall, Angel Falls, is found here, as well as small communities of Pemon Indians. There are flights from Caracas, Margarita and Ciudad Bolivar.
The Llanos or Savannah cover nearly a third of the country’s territory. It is the country’s largest repository of wildlife containing over 300 bird species and animals unique to this area. Here we find the world’s largest rodent, the Chiguirre, the Caribe - the fierce fish capable of eating a man in seconds, the colorful five-foot catfish, the fanged Payara, wild boars, crocodiles, monkeys, pumas, jaguars, ocelots, tapirs, ant-eaters, and many more. This area is populated by Llaneros (Venezuelan cowboys) who live in ranches. Some of the nicest and largest cattle ranches, known as Hatos, have turned to eco-tourism providing comfortable lodges and offering safaris on boat and four-wheel drive vehicles. The area can be reached after a three-hour car ride from the Barinas airport or a six-hour drive from the city of Merida.
Los Roques Archipelago
Located in the Caribbean Sea, 110 miles north of Caracas, this is one of the largest marine national parks of the Caribbean, with gorgeous white sand tropical beaches and crystalline waters. Encompassing 50 islands, 340 coral keys, and 221,122 hectares of land, Los Roques also offers a lagoon occupied by mangroves and coral formations. It contains an important biological station, which grows sea turtles, lobsters, and giant snails.
Located in the Southern Caribbean Sea, and only 45 minutes from Caracas, and 15 minutes from Puerto La Cruz, Margarita is the second island with more beaches in the Caribbean, with 95 miles of seacoast. El Yake Beach ranks among the three top places in the world for wind surfing. Five fortresses remind us of its colonial importance and pirate allure. Aside from the endless options of water sports and aquatic activities, Margarita is a great place for nature and solitude lovers offering two National Parks, and three Nature Reserves, and uninhabited beaches with colonies of scarlet-Ibis, flamingoes, several species of parrots and natural pearl-oysters. If nightlife and shopping is what you are looking for, Margarita offers 20 casinos, a free port with more than 3,000 shops, and several restaurants, discos, and nightclubs.
Rare in a Caribbean country, Merida has mountains covered with snow all year round. Located one hour by air from Caracas (400 miles), in the Andes, it is the highest city in Venezuela. Merida’s varied temperature and terrain create a great diversity of flora and fauna. Tropical forests, eight national parks, three national natural monuments, and the Andean highlands offer 400 species of plants, the unique Frontino bear, Guariri ducks, partridges, hummingbirds, macaws, and wild rabbits. Founded in 1558, the city also boasts a rich colonial heritage and the longest and highest cable car in the world, connecting two mountain peaks. Hiking, trekking, and horseback riding are popular activities in the area.