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Signature Venezuela: Highlights of the Lost World

13 days from £3,038pp

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Signature Venezuela: Highlights of the Lost World:
Trip Dossier

It is not on most people’s radar as a holiday destination but you will fall in love with Venezuela, a Latin republic with a Caribbean beat and a strong indigenous presence. On this varied holiday you’ll start off with an adventurous canoe expedition to the foot of Angel Falls, the longest drop in the world, where the stream of water breaks down into a veil of misty spray. Then move on to the spidery network of waterways in the Orinoco delta where the indian Warao communities practice their simple lifestyle.   

Travel on to the country’s portion of jagged, snow-capped Andean mountains, where the upland plains shelter quaint Spanish colonial towns and offer active adventure sports. Finally descend to the extensive savannah grasslands and on to the marshy llanos where capybaras, caiman and anteaters jostle for space and the skies are full of parakeets, toucans and macaws. If you have time after all this exploration, we suggest you spend some time on Venezuela’s glorious Caribbean coastline, where there are laid back barefoot and family resorts, nature reserves and a sprinkling of coral islands with beaches of dazzling whiteness.

Short itinerary

Holiday itinerary

Day 1

Arrive in Caracas. Transfer to hotel on the edge of the capital.

Day 2

Fly to Canaima and embark on canoe expedition.

Day 3

Arrive at the foot of Angel Falls.

Day 4

Fly to Puerto Ordaz and on to the Orinoco delta.

Day 5

Rainforest excursions from jungle lodge.

Day 6

Fly to Mérida in the Andes via Caracas.

Day 7

Guided excursion to village of Jaji.

Day 8

Guided excursion in Andean countryside, overnight.

Day 9

By road to ranch in the llanos plains.

Days 10-11

Wildlife safaris in the wetlands.

Day 12

Fly to Caracas.

Day 13

Transfer to Caracas international airport.

Detailed itinerary

Day 1

Arrive in Caracas. Transfer to hotel on the edge of the capital.
 

You’ll be met at the airport and escorted to your hotel which is situated in a hilly suburb between the airport and the teeming 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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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 to Mérida in the Andes via Caracas.
 
Transfer back to Boca de Uracoa and thence to Maturin airport and fly to El Vigia via a change of plane in Caracas. Drive 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. 
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Merida Venezuelan Andes

Day 7

Guided excursion to village of Jaji.
 
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 Hacienda La Victoria, the oldest coffee plantation in Venezuela. 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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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.

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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.

Essential information

Transport

6 domestic flights; 1 canoe trip; 2 river boat journeys; 2 road journeys. 

Accommodation

Here you will stay at small, mid-range, friendly hotels, colonial or modern in style with well-equipped rooms, private bathroom. In the coffee country you stay on a traditional coffee farm (finca).

Meals

Breakfast daily, full board day 2-5, 8-11

Guides

We carefully select our local partners, some of whom we have worked with for over 25 years. Their English-speaking guides understand the expectations of our clients very well, and are consistently singled out for praise by the latter on their return.

Included excursions

• Angel Falls: canoe expedition
• Orinoco delta: jungle lodge expeditions
• Mérida: Andean excursion to Jají
• Mérida: Expedition across the Andean páramo grasslands
• Los Llanos: wildlife safaris from wetlands lodge

Summary of nights

13 days, 12 nights: Caracas 1; Angel Falls 2; Orinoco delta 2; Mérida 2; Páramo 1; Los Llanos 3; Caracas 1.

Included in the journey price

• Services of our team of experts in our London office base
• Services of Journey Latin America local representatives and guides
• All land and air transport
• Accommodation as specified
• Meals as specified
• Excursions as specified, including entrance fees

Not included in the journey price

• Tips and gratuities.
• Meals other than specified.
• International flights to Latin America.
• Airport taxes, when not included in the ticket.
• Optional excursions.

Currency

The unit of currency in Venezuela is the Bolívar.

Daily spend

It is very difficult to give a guideline for essential expenses but a budget of around US$45 per day should cover the cost of meals not included in the holiday price, drinks and the odd souvenir. Eat at the best restaurants and you will pay considerably more.

How to take it

Cash machines are available in all major cities and towns, and so taking a debit or credit card with a PIN number is the most convenient way of withdrawing money while on your trip, and in most shops and restaurants you can also pay by card. However, since cards can get lost, damaged, withheld or blocked, you should not rely exclusively on a card to access funds. 

We recommend that additionally you take a reasonable quantity of US dollars cash (no more than is covered by your insurance), which you can exchange into local currency, and possibly some travellers’ cheques, though these are gradually falling out of use (American Express are the most widely accepted). Dollar bills should be in good condition, soiled or torn bills may be refused. You can take sterling, but the exchange rate is not always competitive or even available, restricting the number of places where you can change money. 

There is a black market for US dollars in Venezuela. Never change money on your own on the street or from shady fellows at the airport, but follow the advice of our local representatives.

Tipping

Tips are welcomed and local guides often rely on their tip as a significant proportion of their income. 

Most service industry workers will expect a tip of some kind and so it is useful to have spare change for hotel porters, taxi drivers and the like. It is common to leave 10 - 12% in restaurants.

Tipping guidelines can be found in our Briefing Dossier.

Insurance

Travel insurance is essential. 

Details of our recommended policy can be found on our Travel Insurance page. 


The Venezuelan Government has stated that visitors to the country must have travel insurance. Make sure you have a paper copy of your policy to hand for inspection when you check in for your flight in the UK or at Immigration in Venezuela.

Airport taxes

If you have purchased your flights through Journey Latin America, the international departure tax is usually included in the ticket.

Journey grade

Generally this holiday is suitable for most visitors, including families with children. Should you have a disability, please contact us.

Climate

The country is an all-year destination. The highlands have a permanent spring-like climate.  In the Gran Sábana grasslands the dry season is May-Nov, the best time for doing the canoe trip to Angel Falls. For wildlife watching in the llanos, the prime months are Dec-Jan after the rains, when rivers are full and it’s not so humid. The Orinoco jungle is hot and humid all year. If you decide to go to the beach as part of your holiday itinerary, the Caribbean coast is mostly dry and hot with plenty of sun – hottest in July-September when there may be rain showers.

Clothing and special equipment

Bring plenty of light cotton clothing and good, comfortable walking shoes. Some warm items (for the Andes) and a good waterproof jacket or umbrella are also useful. We suggest that you plan to 'layer' your clothing; it is easier and more efficient to put on a couple of light layers than one thick jumper. Sandals are a good informal option for evenings. Protection against the sun (sunblock, sun hat) and mosquito repellent are essential and you should bring swimwear. 

Please get in touch with the office before departure if you have any doubts. Good equipment is very important and can be hard to come by in Latin America.

Vaccinations

Preventative vaccinations are recommended against the following: typhoid; polio; tetanus; hepatitis A. You should consult your GP for specific requirements, including advice on yellow fever and malaria tablets.

You can also find helpful information on the Masta Travel Health website. 

Visas

Holders of a full British passport do not require a visa, although passports must be valid for at least 6 months after the trip begins.  Anyone with a different nationality should enquire with us or check with the relevant consulate.
APIS and ESTA - important flight information:

ESTA - if flying to the US, or via the US you will need to fill in your application to ESTA online.
This costs $14 per person. This must be done by you personally.
Passports must also be machine-readable (MRP). Avoid locking suitcases if transiting the USA, as their customs authorities retain the right to break into them.

APIS - Many countries now oblige airlines to provide additional information about passengers prior to the flight departure. This Advance Passenger Information (APIS) must be supplied to us promptly in order to issue tickets and avoid fare increases. We will provide the airlines with the relevant details if we are booking your international flights. If the information is not provided you may be denied boarding.

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