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Venezuela Cruises

Caracas, Venezuela

About Venezuela

Venezuela is one of the most biodiverse nations on the planet, with ecosystems that span the Caribbean coast, the Orinoco River Delta in the east and vast plains that stretch to the Amazon basin and the Andes mountains. Its fertile land has long produced some of the world’s finest coffee and cocoa beans. The rural beauty here is stunning: The most dramatic geographic wonders are the northern reaches of the Amazon rainforest; Angel Falls, the highest waterfall in the world; and the colossal massifs and table mountains (tepuis) of Canaima National Park.

Europeans first landed in today’s Venezuela in 1522 and met strong resistance from indigenous tribes. The country declared independence as part of the larger region of “Gran Colombia” (which included present-day Colombia, Ecuador and Panama) as early as 1811. It took another ten years, and the liberation efforts of national heroes Simón Bolívar and José Antonio Páez, before the proclamation firmly took hold. It became a sovereign country in its own right in 1830.

Venezuela Lifestyle and Culture

Some elements of indigenous and African cultures remain in Venezuelan society. But visitors will find that Spanish culture, particularly from Andalusia and Extremadura, has had the most lasting effect. Even bull fighting has long been embraced here.

Spanish influence is perhaps most pronounced in the rich colonial architecture, from the butter-hued Capitol building and National Pantheon in Caracas to the many inviting plazas and churches in cities throughout the country.

Other traditions—such as calypso and joropo dancing and the traditional guitar-like instrument known as the cuatro—carry echoes of Caribbean culture. Two hundred years of French, Italian and Portuguese immigration have further helped Venezuela evolve into a multicultural nation.

Venezuelan food reflects this diversity. Staples of this simple and satisfying cuisine include corn, rice, beans, plantains, yams and meats. The national dish is a hearty serving of pabellón criollo (rice and black beans with beef stew). You might also find on the menu empanadas, hallacas (meat, capers, raisins and olives wrapped in maize and plantain leaves for boiling or steaming), pasticho (a Venezuelan lasagna) and, of course, seafood dishes.

Venezuela Sights and Landmarks

Venezuela’s cultural and political capital, Caracas enjoys a stunning setting surrounded by dramatically contoured mountains. Its tree-lined Plaza Bolívar was named for the nation’s celebrated liberator. In this lively gathering place for caraqueños, families stroll and neighbors gossip in the shade of African tulip trees and jacarandas. Here, explore the gleaming white Romanesque Caracas Cathedral. Nearby, a trio of cream-colored bell towers marks the National Pantheon, where national heroes are entombed. Bolívar rests in an adjacent mausoleum built solely for him, a stunning white-tiled sanctuary whose soaring height was inspired by the Andean peaks where he fought the Spanish Empire.

El Ávila National Park is a rewarding option for outdoors lovers. This dramatic mountain range stretches for 56 miles along the coast north of Caracas. Its most popular peak among visitors is Pico el Ávila, at more than 6,500 feet. Remarkably, its summit can be reached via a local teleférico, or cable car.

Another option for nature enthusiasts is Morrocoy National Park, along the Triste Gulf. This protected area of land and sea contains palm-dotted forested hills, mangroves, picture-perfect beaches and islets that host an array of marine life.