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Signature Venezuela: Highlights of the Lost World

13 days from £3,541pp

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Signature Venezuela: Highlights of the Lost World

 

Private Journey

 

Day 1

Arrive in Caracas. Transfer along the coast to your hotel.
 

You’ll be met at the airport and escorted to your hotel which is situated in a hilly suburb 16km from the airport. The capital, Caracas is a huge, hectic mostly modern city with a complicated traffic situation so we do not take you too far in towards the centre.

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Day 2

Fly to Canaima and embark on canoe expedition.
 
Fly via a change of plane in Puerto Ordaz to Canaima National Park in the savannah grasslands of the Gran Sabana, which are punctuated with monstrous tableland plateaux. Upon arrival you’ll leave most of your belongings in a lodge at the village before embarking on your canoe expedition.

The boatmen manoeuvre the canoe past rocks, boulders, rapids, submerged logs and sandbanks. The terrain and scenery changes gradually as you head up the Churún river which is fed directly by waterfalls. The tepuys (tablelands) are no longer monoliths on the open grasslands and near horizon. The jungle foliage closes in; the rock walls rise higher, and the canoe seems to go faster still, round tighter river bends. And finally, Angel Falls.

Discovered by American pilot Jimmie Angel in 1921, the falls tumble almost 1km from the Gran Sabana region's largest tepui, Auyan-tepui. It's a challenging uphill trek through the forest to a rocky ledge, Laime's Lookout, with a magnificent view of the falls 500m away. It takes another hour to retrace your steps back to the river and jungle camp.

There's an overnight stay in a hammock camp, a long low open-thatched barn about 50m from the shore. There are toilets, running water, showers, mosquito nets and electricity.

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La Gran Sabana

Day 3

Arrive at the foot of Angel Falls.
 

Canoe downstream back to Canaima (about 4 hours), enjoying the magnificent jungle views. After dinner, overnight at simple lodgings.

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The Angel Falls, Venezuela

Day 4

Fly to Puerto Ordaz and on to the Orinoco delta.
 
Fly back to Puerto Ordaz and transfer to Boca de Uracoa jetty for your boat trip to your jungle lodge in the Orinoco delta.

The River Orinoco is one of the world’s great river systems, though it is much less well known than its counterpart to the south, the Amazon. The waterway, in places 20km wide, splits into a labyrinth of 40 caños (channels), creating hundreds of mangrove-fringed islands in an immense delta (now a Unesco World Biosphere Reserve). Here indigenous tribes live simply on the banks of the spider’s web of dark, sluggish waterways.

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Toco toucan, Iguazu National Park

Day 5

Rainforest excursions from jungle lodge.
 
Day at leisure for you to choose from a menu of guided expeditions from the lodge. The lodgings themselves are rather basic: you really feel you have become part of the surrounding exuberant rainforest, which you share with a plethora of birds and - yes - insects. The guided adventures take you out into the mangroves by boat and on foot.

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Orinoco

Day 6

Fly back to Caracas.
 
Transfer back to Boca de Uracoa and thence to Puerto Ordaz and fly back to Caracas. Overnight in Hotel Ole Caribe.
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Day 7

Fly to Mérida; guided excursion to village of Jaji.
 

Fly to Mérida, a pleasant and relaxed highland city with a backdrop of lofty Andean peaks smothered in snow and ice including Pico Bolívar, Venezuela's highest peak. It has an attractive main square, a lively university social scene, and is a major base for adventure sports including mountain-biking, white-water rafting and hiking. 

Later, you’ll be driven along winding mountain roads and through cloud forest to the small, charming Andean village of Jají, set steeply on a hillside. Explore this quaint place with its cobbled streets, main square and whitewashed colonial buildings. The village is also a great place to purchase art and crafts. Continue to coffee farm Hacienda El Carmen, learn about the whole process from cultivation through to preparing the coffee bean, and visit its small museum. Return to Mérida.

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Mérida and the Andes

Day 8

Guided excursion in Andean countryside, overnight.
 
Lying to the northeast of Mérida is the Parque Nacional Sierra Nevada, a terrain known above 3,500m as the páramo, or high moors. The area has a barren beauty, and is scattered with small, red-roofed Andean villages. There are around 20 species of bird in the area including buzzard eagle and speckled teal, and in the rainy season from May to October, tall yellow frailejon flowers bloom attracting large numbers of hummingbirds.

Take a guided trip to the villages of Mucuraba, and Mucuchíes. The latter is the namesake of a breed of large fluffy mountain dog that are bred locally, and a descendent of the great Pyrenees sheep dog imported from Spain. Continue to Kettle Mucubají, the largest of over 200 glacier lakes in the area. There are several villages to discover, such as Apartaderos, San Rafael de Mucuchies, and Los Aleros. From here there's a 2-3-hour walk (or mule ride) to the 3,000m Laguna Negra - views can be clouded by mist later in the day.

Alternatively, you can decide to visit the warm springs at Tabay. Overnight in Altamira de Caceres, halfway between Mérida and Hato Cedral. 

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Village near Merida

Day 9

By road to ranch in the llanos plains.
 
Travel by road down to the low lying llanos wetland plains. A vast tablecloth of tropical grassland which is transformed into a glittering wetland  between May and October, the llanos - part of the River Orinoco's floodplain - is one of the best and most exciting places in Latin America to observe wildlife.

There are more than 70 species of water birds, including herons, giant storks, and the vivid scarlet ibis, which congregate in a kaleidoscope of colour in the huge fields of the cattle ranches which populate the region; fruit-eating macaws and  parakeets flit between ringlets of trees, giant capybara (guinea pigs) laze across dusty farm tracks, caiman keep a watchful eye from among the water lilies, anacondas and iguana swell the ranks of indigenous reptiles and capuchin and howler monkeys swing in the branches.

You spend a couple of days based at a hato, or working cattle ranch welcoming visitors.

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Los llanos

Days 10-11

Wildlife safaris in the wetlands.
 
Safari expeditions from the lodge. A day's schedule is typically composed of a couple of 3-hour excursions by boat, jeep or open-sided truck - one in the morning after breakfast and one in the late afternoon. The guides speak limited English. There is nothing more spectacular than the sight of scarlet ibis feeding against the emerald grasslands and then taking flight.
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Scarlet ibis

Day 12

Fly to Caracas.
 

Transfer to Barinas airport (3 hours) and fly to Caracas.

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Day 13

Transfer to Caracas international airport.

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