From the Andean highlands to the savannas of the Llanos grasslands and the 'Lost World' of the Gran Sabana, this itinerary will take you to three of the most compelling regions of Venezuela. The northern end of the Andes, the Cordillera de Mérida, is a remote section of the chain and of-the-beaten-path. From Caracas you will fly to El Vigia Airport, about an hour by car from Merida, the state capital and home to the University of the Andes. After a day to wander the city and a night at a Mérida hotel you will spend the next days traveling with your private guide to quaint mountain villages, glacial lakes, rivers and the highland parámo. Optional activities include day hikes, overnight treks, mountain biking, mountaineering, photography. You will also encounter varied wildlife including the World's only high-altitude hummingbird, the Bearded Helmetcrest. Abudant flora on the parámo includes a group of plant species called Espeletiinae, the South American flannel flowers or locally known as frailejones. Visit Eagle Pass, the highest paved road in Venezuela at 4.047 meters, and a biological research station to see the Andean Condor. Your nights will be spent at rustic, comfortable mountain inns and lodges. From the Andes you will journey by car down the eastern flanks to the Llanos grasslands, in the Orinoco River basin and one of the World's richest savannas. Within its boundaries the sanctuary contains rivers, lakes, swamps, forests and savannas. You will be based at a working ranch, or 'hato'. Some hatos such as Hato Cedral have taken a serious approach to environmental issues, introducing the full protection of wildlife within their ranches, installing research stations and contributing to ecological funds. You will embark on a variety of guided excursions in the early mornings and late afternoons to the habitats of many bird, reptile and mammal species. The grasslands offer a great opportunity to observe Venezuela's vast array of neo-tropical animals - deer, anteaters, iguanas, capybaras, howler monkeys, fox, anacondas, caimans, ocelot and maybe the elusive jaguar. The Llanos are also a bird watcher's paradise, with more than 300 species identified. Highlights include Hoatzins, Pied Lapwings, King Vultures, Storks and Ibis. Equally stunning is the flora; gallery forests are alive with orchids and dozens of flowering trees, including jasmines, acacias and araguaney. No wonder, the Llanos have been called the "Serengeti of South America." From the Llanos you will fly across the country to Canaima, deep in the Gran Sabana and home to Canaima National Park. This area is said to have inspired Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's novel, The Lost World. The location offers one of the most unusual landscapes in the world, with rivers, waterfalls and gorges, deep and vast valleys, impenetrable jungles and savannahs that host large numbers and varieties of plant species, a diverse fauna and the isolated table-top mesas locally known as tepuis. Here you will be based at a rustic, but comfortable, lodge from where you can embark on a variety of guided excursions. The foremost being a full-day or overnight trip upriver to the base of Angel Falls. (The trip upriver is dependent on adequate river levels and therefore, subject to seasonal conditions.) Other possible excursions include an exciting overflight of Angel Falls and Auyan Tepui, day trip to Kavak Canyon. Come experience the amazing biodiversity and awesome topography of Venezuela.
Arrive Caracas. Airport reception and transfer to your coast hotel.
Costa Real Suites
The Costa Real Suites is conveniently located in Caracas' Central Coast, in the Tanaguarena/Caraballeda area, just 20 min drive from the airport. There are only 15 colorful suites, with a comfortable bedroom with big windows, private bathroom (shower with hot water), a spacious living room with couches and a double hammock, a/c, fan, cable TV, hairdryer, safe, and minibar/fridge. There is a swimming pool and a restaurant/bar.
Hotel pickup and transfer to the airport for your flight to Merida (El Vigia).
Andes Scenic Adventure
The Andean region is a picturesque land of fertile soil, rich in traditional culture. This exciting adventure lets you truly experience the tranquillity and beauty of this wonderful area and its inhabitants. There will be ample time for you to mix with the locals and barter for handicrafts in provincial markets. You'll be met at the airport by your guide and enjoy a short city tour of Mérida, the capital of the Venezuelan Andes. Includes visit to Plaza Bolivar, the historic cathedral and museums.
Your journey continues on to Jají, a reconstructed colonial village and then on to Hacienda El Carmen, a 150-year-old working coffee plantation where you learn about the history and processing of coffee. You'll also visit Lagunillas, famous for its inland salt-water lake and the founding place of Mérida in 1558. Your day finishes at an overlook of the Chama River valley where paragliders soar 1000 meters above the canyon. (Optional tandem paragliding is available-weather dependent). Located in the city of La Mesa de los Indios in the state of Mérida, Papa Miguel's Inn offers the comforts of modernity in a traditional Andean setting. The original building dates back to 1750 but has been renovated to provide modern comforts. The town around the inn is noted for the high number of children, as well as adults, who play musical instruments, as they believe that they have been given a special don (gift) to play music. Overnight at the comfortable accommodations of Papa Miguel.
Includes all meals.
Start your day with an optional ride on the world's longest and highest aerial cable car (not included in package price. Does not operate on Mondays and Tuesdays). From bottom to top, the ride takes about one hour, and is especially remarkable for the changes in scenery and vegetation along the way. From Mérida, the cable car sweeps across the valley, planted with sugar-cane and coffee and soon you are rising above the steep forested hills and cascading rivers. From the summit, you see a wonderful panorama of snowcapped mountains, as well as glaciers and lakes full of Andean trout.
In the afternoon, explore small Andean villages and the high mountain plateaus or parámos. Discover the tiny town of Mucuchies, which was founded in 1596 by the Spanish on the site of the pre-Hispanic Chama Indian tribe. Opportunity for light trekking and horseback riding to glacier lakes. You can purchase all kinds of local Andean arts & crafts at the roadside stall while here. Overnight once again at Papa Miguel.
Today you'll visit Laguna Mucubají, one of the largest of over 200 glacier lakes in the state of Mérida. Your adventure continues with the opportunity to trek or horseback ride to Laguna Negra observing the incredible variety of mountain flowers and possibly seeing the world's only high altitude hummingbird, the bearded helmetcrest. Here you will be introduced to the diversity and adaptive features of the Andean vegetation and the singularities of this tropical high-mountain climate. An outstanding feature of the paramo is a group of plant species called Espeletiinae, the South American flannel flowers or locally known as frailejones. Visit Eagle Pass, the highest paved road in Venezuela at 4.047 meters and a biological research station to see the Andean Condor, one of the world's largest birds with a wingspan of more than 3 meters. Tonight you'll sleep at Los Balcones de la Musui, a world-class mountain lodge with a spectacular view of the Sierra Nevada mountain range and nearby hot springs.
This morning your will transfer overland to Hato El Cedral, located in the Llanos grasslands.
Hato El Cedral
Most of Los Llanos is divided into large ranches known as hatos. Many of them are dedicated to cattle ranching, but some have recently turned to ecotourism and have built lodges called campamentos. Some hatos as Hato Cedral have taken a serious approach to environmental issues, introducing the full protection of wildlife within their ranches, installing research stations and contributing to ecological funds.
On arrival at Hato El Cedral, you'll be assigned to your air-conditioned guest bungalow. After a brief orientation, you'll head out to observe the abundant wildlife on this 106,000-acre working ranch.
The sanctuary contains within its boundaries rivers, lakes, swamps, forests and savannahs. Cedral offers a great abundance of wildlife and capybara can be observed close to the lodge itself. During the next few days, you will embark on a variety of excursions in the early morning and late afternoon. Your guide will point out the habitats of many bird, reptile and mammal species. This is one of the most noted wildlife areas in the llanos. You may also see the rugged Venezuelan cowboys, the llaneros, hard at work as they skillfully move great herds of cattle across the ranch.
The grasslands offer a great opportunity to observe Venezuela's vast array of neo-tropical animals - deer, anteaters, iguanas, capybaras, howler monkeys, fox, anacondas, caimans, ocelot and maybe the elusive jaguar. The llanos are also a bird watcher's paradise, with more than 300 species identified. Highlights include Hoatzins, Pied Lapwings, King Vultures, Storks and Ibis. And equally stunning is the flora; gallery forests are alive with orchids and dozens of flowering trees, including jasmines, acacias and araguaney [Venezuela's national tree]. No wonder, the Llanos have been called the "Serengeti of South America."
During the midday heat, you can read or cool off in the lodge's swimming pool.
All meals and guided excursions included - 3 nights.
Depart on a 3-hour overland drive from Hato El Cedral to the airport in Barinas for your flight to Caracas.
You will be met at the Caracas Airport upon arrival and assisted to your connecting flight to Canaima with connection in Puerto Ordaz.
Ucaima Camp "Jungle Rudy's"
Upon arrival in Canaima, pay National Park fee (about $35), before being transferred to Ucaima Camp, a small lodge located on the banks of the Carrao River, above Hacha Falls with views of three tepuis and the Auyantepui in the distance. Your transfer to the lodge involves a five-minute jeep ride, followed by a five-minute dugout canoe ride to the lodge. Ucaima Camp offers tranquility and personalized service.
Accommodations are in comfortable cabanas with private bathrooms.The grassy area in front of the lodge is a perfect place to sit back and enjoy the unique backdrop of Canaima National Park, and Canaima lagoon's cool, dark but clear water offers refreshing respite from the Gran Sabana's mid-day heat.
Your time in Ucaima Camp is free to explore on your own or to sign up for additional excursions. All meals are included. Excursions available at an additional expense include:
Full day Excursion to Angel Falls - Rainy season only (June-November)
After early morning coffee and light snack, board a motorized dugout canoe (curiara) and set off up the Carrao River, which is lined by luxuriant vegetation.
After another short jeep trip around Mayupa rapids, continue up river, stopping to view the spectacular scenery of the "Lost World." Giant tepuis loom over the savannah and jungle below and countless waterfalls gracefully descend the face of Auyan-tepui.
The journey continues passing by Arautaima rapids, Pozo de la Felicidad and Orchid Island. Upon arrival at Orchid Island, breakfast will be served. Afterward, continue upriver, leaving the Carrao River behind, and proceeding up the Churun River. After about one hour, you will reach Ratoncito Island, from where you can observe Angel Falls.
From Ratoncito Island, a one hour hike leads to El Mirador, a lookout point offering superb views and photographic opportunities (weather permitting) to capture the massive rocky face of Auyan-tepui and "Salto Angel" in the warm morning sun. The rest of your morning will be spent exploring this "Lost World" on your own, and after a barbeque lunch return to Ucaima Camp in time for dinner.
Angel Falls Over Flight
Depart in a charter flight for a thrilling 45-minute over flight of Angel Falls and the Devil's canyon. En route you will enjoy views of the Gran Sabana and Auyan Tepui.
Half-day trip to Mayupa and Sapo Falls
Shove-off in motorized dugout canoes up the Carrao River to the Sabana (plain) de Mayupa. You'll explore Sapo and Sapito Falls and take a refreshing swim under the waterfalls before continuing up the Caño Moroco stream to see El Venado (the deer) and El Zamuro (the vulture) mesas.
Half-day excursion to Yuri Falls
Depart Ucaima by vehicle for a 20-minute drive across the savanna to Puerto Verde where you board a motorized dugout canoe and head down the Carrao River. Arriving at Puerto Yuri, a 15-minute walk through the jungle leads to the falls and beaches of Yuri where you will have plenty of time for swimming and exploring.
Full-day trip to Kavak
After breakfast, board a single or twin-engine plane for a 20-minute flight to the Pemon Indian outpost of Kavak located at the base of Auyan-Tepui. En route, you'll catch a spectacular birds-eye view of Angel Falls and Devils Canyon in the heart of Canaima National Park. Arriving in Kavak, you will be led by a native Pemon Indian on a hike across savannah and through lush rainforest to a series of spectacular waterfalls and the Kavak gorge. There is plenty of time for exploring this remarkable area, including a swim up the narrow canyon into an ancient waterfall "b
Angel Falls Full Day River Trip
This exciting excursion begins at approximately 5:00am. After a 15 minute jeep transfer, you arrive at Ucaima Port, board a wooden bongo (without roof) and navigate upstream along the Carrao River. Before departure hot cocoa, coffee and crackers are handed out. During the ride, you will enjoy exuberant scenery and landscapes. In order to cross the Mayupa rapids you will have to disembark and take a ride in an open Jeep, crossing the Mayupa plains onto the other side, while the expert native "captain" safely maneuvers the bongo across the raging currents. On board again, you will head to camp "Ahonda" at the Orchid Island there a comforting and well deserved breakfast will be served. After approx. three hours, you reach the Churun River and continue upstream another hour and a half to "Ratoncito". After disembarking, you will hike through a part of genuine rainforest for about an hour, marveling at the variety of ferns, palms and countless other plants, until finally reaching a plateau which offers a fantastic view of Angel Falls. This hike is a gradual uphill hike, and can sometimes be slippery.
After a short break to absorb the view of the world's tallest waterfall, you will return to Ratoncito and enjoy a simple but very tasty lunch. Back in the boat, your return to Canaima will be much faster as you are going downriver and you will reach your lodge at the end of a long day.
Important Note: This tour is only available during the rainy season from May to early November as the rivers need to carry enough water to allow the boats to reach their destination. Therefore, it is recommended to carry along ponchos to protect you from the rain, as well as sunscreen, mosquito repellent, a swim suit and a towel. For the hike from "Ratoncito" to the plateau, your footwear must be adequate (no sandals or similar), as the soil is usually wet and muddy and you will have to walk across slippery stones and tree roots.
*Subject to weather conditions year-round.
Transfer to the Canaima Airport for your flight to Caracas, via Puerto Ordaz.
Caracas Airport reception and transfer to your coast hotel.
Overnight Costa Real Suites, breakfast included.
Transfer to the airport. Int'l Departure
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