Canaima National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1994, is one of the most unspoilt places on earth. At over 3 million ha, it is the second largest national park in Venezuela and the 6th largest on the planet. It is a unique and beautiful region characterized by around 100 tabletop mountains (tepuys), which rise straight out of the surrounding savannah with vertical walls up to 1,000 metres high, and countless waterfalls, including Angel Falls, the highest waterfall in the world. There are also caves, deep forests, indigenous cultures and the silence of one of the oldest plateaus on earth.
The most popular destination in Canaima National Park is Canaima, a beautiful tannin-stained lagoon with soft beige beaches. The Río Carrao tumbles spectacularly over seven waterfalls into the lagoon below and the surrounding countryside complements the scene perfectly. It’s a lovely spot, but it also has the air strip and is the centre of operations for river trips to indigenous areas and to Angel Falls.
The UNESCO World Heritage Site of Ciudad Bolívar is a good starting place for the superb landscapes further south. Ciudad Bolívar is on the narrows of the Orinoco, some 300 m wide, which gave the town its old name of Angostura, ‘The Narrows’. It is 400 km from the Orinoco delta. It was here that Bolívar came after defeat to reorganize his forces, and the British Legionnaires joined him. At Angostura he was declared President of the Gran Colombia he had yet to build and which was to fragment before his death. With its cobbled streets, pastel buildings and setting on the Orinoco, it is one of Venezuela’s most beautiful colonial towns.
The vast region of Guayana, south of the Orinoco River, constitutes half of Venezuela but is sparsely populated. So far, communications have been the main difficulty, but a road that leads to Manaus has now been opened to Santa Elena de Uairén on the Brazilian border. The area is Venezuela’s largest gold and diamond source, but its immense reserves of iron ore, manganese and bauxite are of far greater economic importance.