For a taste of rural life in Venezuela, a visit to the sleepy mountain village of Galipán offers a stark contrast to bustling Caracas, despite being just 15km north of the city. Perched on the mountainside at 1870 meters, Galipán is best reached by 4WD, either direct from the city or in combination with a ride on the Caracas cable car, and it’s a jaw-droppingly scenic drive, serving up magnificent views of the city below.
Established by the first settlers from the Canary Islands, the village is now home to a small community of around 2,500 inhabitants and welcomes a steady stream of tourists from Caracas. Visitors can stroll the village streets and admire the church, school and central plaza, all built into the mountainside; tuck into regional specialties at a local restaurant; or browse the many roadside stalls, selling traditional handicrafts, fresh strawberries and cream, and homemade jams, juices and sweets.
Galipán is located in the Avila Mountains of the El Ávila national park, 20km north of downtown Caracas, and can only be reached by 4WD.
Address: El Ávila National Park, Caracas, Venezuela
Housed in an elegant 17th-century colonial house hidden away in Caracas’ historic quarter, the Simón Bolívar Birthplace House is a worthy tribute to one of South America’s most iconic revolutionaries. The striking building has a dual claim to fame, firstly for being among the few remaining colonial-era houses in Caracas and secondly as the birthplace and childhood home of Venezuela's second president and ‘El Libertador’, Simón Bolívar.
Opening its doors to the public in 1921 and listed as a National Monument in 2002, the Simón Bolívar Birthplace House now houses two of Venezuela's most fascinating museums – the
Casa Natal (Birth House) and the Museo Bolivar (Bolívar Museum). The Casa Natal is reconstructed in period style and features an impressive display of Venezuelan artworks, depicting Bolivar and the Venezuelan War of Independence. The adjoining Museo Bolivar is equally interesting, containing a large collection of memorabilia, personal items and documents, plus military uniforms and weapons, and even the baptismal font in which Bolivar was baptized.
The Simón Bolívar Birthplace House is located on the corner of San Jacinto and Traposos in central Caracas and is open Tuesday to Sunday from 9am to 12pm and 2.30-5.30pm.
Address: Avenida Universidad and Norte 1, Caracas, Venezuela
Hours: Open Tuesday to Sunday from 9am to 12pm and 2.30-5.30pm.
Venezuela's Angel Falls isn't just any waterfall—it's the world's highest uninterrupted waterfall. For scale, imagine Niagara Falls...now multiply that by 15. Angel Falls measures 3,212 feet (979 meters), with the longest single plunge coming in at a lengthy 2,648 feet (807 meters). Set in Venezuela's Guayana Highlands, the massive natural wonder drops over the edge of Auyantepui mountain in the Canaima National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site. The mountain's mesa (called a Tepui by the natives) is one of more than 100 of its kind in the highlands. The massive table mountains are formed from sandstone and are being continually eroded and changed by the area’s heavy rainfall.
The falls weren’t actually named for any celestial messengers but for a James ('Jimmie') Crawford Angel, an adventurous pilot from Missouri who saw the waterfall while searching for gold in 1933. A few years later, he tried to land his plane there and failed, making an 11-day trek to civilization and drawing plenty of scientific and tourism interest to the region in the aftermath of his adventure.
Canaima National Park is located in southeastern Venezuela, south of the Orinoco River. The park is made up of 7.5 million acres (3 million hectares), making it the second largest protected area in Venezuela (and the sixth largest in the world).
Stretching along the Caribbean coast north of Caracas, El Ávila National Park serves as a natural playground for city dwellers and has been preserved as a national park since 1958. Dominated by the Cordillera de la Costa mountain range, the park's rugged mountains, dense forests and cloud forests harbor a huge variety of plant and animal species. Over 100 butterfly species and 500 bird species can be found in the park, including several endemic to Venezuela, as well as over 180 orchid varieties, among them Venezuela's national flower, Cattleya Mossiae.
The easiest way to visit El Ávila is by riding the Caracas cable car, which links the city with the villages atop El Ávila mountain and reaches a height of 2,135 meters (7,005 ft). From there, the best way to get around is to take a 4WD to villages like Galipán, or make the most of the vast network of hiking trails.
El Ávila National Park is located northwest of Caracas, along Venezuela's north coast.