|Facts about Venezuela|
Venezuela is located between 1 12 degrees longitude (N) and 60 73 degrees latitude (W), and is therefore entirely in the tropics. Occupying the far north eastern part of South America, it is bordered by Brazil to the south, Columbia to the west and Guyana to the southeast. Its coastline meets the waters of both the Caribbean sea in the north and the Atlantic Ocean in the east.
Covering an area of 912,050 km² (566,383 miles²), Venezuela extends up to 1,290 km (801 miles) east to west and 1,050 km (652 miles) north to south. Elevations range from sea level to 2,500 m (8,200 ft) in the Guyana Highlands and up to 5,007 m (16,427 ft) in the Andes mountains.
Venezuela has an incredibly diverse landscape encompassing 10 broad geographical regions. Off the north coast lie numerous Caribbean Islands, of which the biggest is Isla Margarita. The Andes in the west continue in the north with the Cordillera de la Costa, a mountain chain which runs along the Caribbean coast. The Andes also continue south to Los Llanos, a giant plain extending east as far as the Caura River, which flows through Venezuela's second largest forest reserve after Amazon and only recently became known to adventure tourism. Located south of Los Llanos is the Amazon Basin, the largest rain forest in the world. East of the Caura River forest is the beginning of the Gran Sabana, part of the Guayana Highlands which extend up to the rainforests of the Orinoco Delta in the north east and the Brazilian border in the south.
Venezuelas capital, Caracas, and the majority of developed land is situated in the Central region. Grasslands occupy half of the country, and forests cover about two-fifths, varying from true rainforest to semi-tropical evergreens. Only a small portion (less than 4 per cent) of land in Venezuela is cultivated.
Venezuela is home to an enormous variety of animals and plants, and is one of the most biodiverse regions in the world. The evolution of the countrys flora and fauna was the result of two principal factors: the diversity of the landscape, which facilitated the development of numerous, distinct habitats, and the natural history of the continent. After being geographically isolated for 70 million years, South America became linked to Central America when a landbridge (now Panama) emerged from the sea some 3.5 million years ago. Gradually, new species spread from Asia down North and Central America and filtered into South America. Although this movement of wildlife and plants enhanced the biodiversity of the continent, it brought renewed competition and some species became extinct. Moreover, in later years, South America did not encounter the ice ages that engulfed North America and parts of Europe and Asia. As a result, the species that had become established in the continent survived an era that saw the loss of many from northern parts of the world.
Today, there are about 250 species of mammal in Venezuela, including the jaguar, puma, capybara (chiguire), manatee, howler monkey, sloth and two species of fresh water dolphin. The country is also home to the giant otter or water-wolf, which is the rarest otter in the world. The bird population consists of over 1,200 species, among which are the condor, hoatzin (guacharaca), flamingo, pelican, several species of parrot, macaw (guacamayo) and toucan and a rare, nocturnal species, the oilbird (guacharo). Venezuelas reptiles include five species of cayman, the common iguana, rattlesnake, boa and the largest snake in the world: the anaconda.
The plant life of Venezuela is as diverse as its wildlife, ranging from the cacti of the desert to the epiphytes of the rainforest. Extraordinary species of flower grow on the isolated, flat-topped mountains of the Gran Sabana (tepui), some of which are endemic to a single plateau. Several thousand species of orchid bloom throughout the year, and there is a huge variety of fruiting trees. Flora of cultural significance includes the moriche palm, which grows in the swamps of the Orinoco delta. Known as the tree of life, the moriche plays an essential role in the existence of the Warao Indians, providing food and materials for their daily life.
General information about Venezuela
Official country name: Bolivarian Republic
of Venezuela (República Bolivariana de Venezuela)
In the years that followed the conquest, the Spanish colonists came to entirely shape the national culture of Venezuela. The influence of the native, pre-Hispanic communities was marginal, as they were soon assimilated by the strong cultural and political unity of the Spaniards.
After the Spanish conquest, Venezuelan music evolved as a blend of Spanish, African and Indigenous rhythms. Today, an African influence is particularly apparent in the music of the northeast coast, formerly the 'slave coast'. The Gaita is the traditional music of Zulia State and consists of improvised rhyming vocals over four-string guitars and maracas. The Gaita is featured in festivals throughout the year and has now become Venezuelas traditional Christmas music. The national Venezuelan dance is the joropo, which is associated with the Llanos region and, like the Gaita is a rhythm accompanied by improvised vocals, four-string guitars, maracas and harps. However, the merengue of the Dominican Republic and the Puerto Rican salsa are the most popular dances in Venezuela.
Venezuelan literature only began to develop during the colonial period, and writings of the era were dominated by Spanish culture and thinking. Chronicles and various styles of poetry were the chief literary manifestations of the 1700s. The 1800s and independence saw the rise of political literature, including the autobiography of Franciso de Miranda. Romanticism, the first important literary genre in Venezuela, unfolded in the mid 1800s and is best illustrated by Peonia, by Manuel Romero García. After independence, Venezuelan literature began to diversify, but only began to rapidly evolve under the regimes of Guzmán Blanco, from 1870 to 1888. The early 1900s saw the rise of several significant writers, novelists and poets, among them Andrés Eloy Blanco, Rómulo Gallegos, Arturo Uslar Pietri and Miguel Otero Silva. Literary tradition became established in Venezuela in the mid 1900s.
Colonial architecture in Venezuela did not really compare to the grand buildings of Columbia, Peru and Ecuador. Churches and houses were simple, and most buildings were constructed in a Spanish style. However, Venezuela stands out for its Modernism. Modern architecture came in two phases, the first under the regime of Guzmán Blanco in the 1870s, and second and most significant in the mid 1900s, when much of the new-found oil wealth was invested in the renovation of Caracas. Today, Caracas is one of the most modern cities in the world.
Pre-Columbian art in Venezuela consisted mainly of rock carvings and cave paintings in the form of petroglyphs. The colonial era was characterised by religious painting and sculpture in Spanish style, of which notable examples include the sculpture St Peter the Apostle by Enrique Antonio Hernández Prieto, and Antonio José Landaetas painting The Immaculate Conception. In the years following independence, history took over from religion as the dominant theme of art, a genre best illustrated by the exceptional work of Martín Tovar y Tovar. 20th century art has been marked by modernism, and many changes of style occurred in the 1930s and 1940s. Kinetic art has emerged in the last few decades, and has been most successfully represented by the work of Carlos Cruz Díez and Jesús Soto.
There are many museums in Caracas, including the Museum of Fine Art, the Museum of Colonial Art, the Natural Sciences Museum and the Simon Bolívar Museum.
Venezuelas theatre tradition began in the late 1700s and has been progressively growing ever since. The national theatre became established some thirty years ago, and is now based in Caracas. Venezuela is not noted for its cinema; few films are made and foreign films are favoured.
Venezuela has a strong folk and popular culture. Many regions have well-known symbolic icons which personify their cultural roots. Most significant are the andinos, the hardy mountain folk; the guayanés, the tough frontiersman following a dream; the llanero, the cowboy of the Llanos and the maracucho, the energetic entrepreneur of the Maracaibo area.
The Venezuelan currency is the Bolívar (Bs). Locals sometimes call it the Bolo. It can be exported and imported in unlimited quantities. You can buy Bolívares before coming to Venezuela, but it can take time for them to be ordered and you will get a better exchange rate in Venezuela.
The US$ is the most commonly accepted foreign currency in Venezuela, so it is recommended to carry cash and travellers cheques in US$. At present, banks do not change cheques or foreign currency, and tourists have to go to exchange offices. As these are mostly found in larger cities and airports, it is wise to obtain sufficient Bolívares before taking a trip to the interior.
Credit cards are widely accepted, but a surcharge of up to 10% is often
applied. Most commonly accepted are MasterCard/Eurocard, American Express and
Visa in mayor cities. You can also use a credit card to withdraw money from
automatic cash machines, which usually dispense money. If you require more, you
will have to make a transaction over the counter. Venezuelan banks can get very
crowded so allow at least 2 hours for this. In remote area such as Santa Elena
the cashpoints often do not work and its bettter to have some cash with you.
Venezuela is safer than many other South American countries. However, crime is not uncommon. Many windows are barred and some shops use security guards.
Keep money well hidden. A money belt that sits under clothes is a probably the best way to carry cash, passport etc.
Split your money. Deposit large sums in a hotel safe.
Take travellers cheques as these carry insurance.
Expensive items (cameras etc.) should be carried and used inconspicuously
Don't leave luggage unattended.
Don't leave possessions in a car, particularly a hire car.
Avoid walking alone late at night.
These safety tips are precautionary; many areas are safe and most travellers in Venezuela experience no trouble. The most important thing to remember is to use common sense!
1st January - New Year's Day
Monday and Tuesday before Ash Wednesday - Carnival
Monday, Thursday and Good Friday - Easter
19th April - Declaration of Independence
1st May - Labor Day
24th June - Battle of Carabobo
5th July - Independence Day
24th July - Bolívar's Birthday
12th October - Discovery of America
25th December - Christmas Day
Local Events and Festivals
Paradura del Niño (Mérida, 1st – 2nd)
Feria Internacional de San Sebastián (San Cristóbal, 7th – 30th) La Divina Pastora (Barquisimeto)
Fiesta de la Voz de Oro (Barquisimeto)
Santa Inés (Cumana, 22nd)
Feria del Sol (Mérida)
Danceros de la Candelaria (Mérida)
Pre-Lenten Carnival (Carúpano)
San José (Paraguachí, Margarita and Maracay, 16th - 26th)
Fiesta del Joropo (Elorza, Apure State, 19th)
Velorio de la Cruz de Mayo (Caracas and Carúpano, 3rd)
San Antonio del Táchira (San Antonio del Táchira, 13th - 20th)
San Isidro (Maracaibo and Mérida, 15th)
Los Diablos Danzantes (San Francisco de Yare)
Fiesta de San Juan (Curiepe, Miranda State, 23rd)
Fiestas de La Virgen (La Asunción, Margarita)
Batalla de Matasiete (La Asunción, Margarita, 31st)
Fiesta del Orinoco (Cuidad Bolívar)
Feria de las Flores (Caripe, 2nd – 12th)
Asunción de la Virgen (Carúpano 15th and La Asunción, Margarita, 14th - 15th)
Fiesta de La Virgen de Coromoto (Guanare, 8th)
Fiesta de Nuestra Señora del Valle (Margarita, 8th –15th)
Virgen del Rosario (Maracaibo, 5th)
Nuestra Señora del Pilar (Caripe, 10th –12th)
Santos y Fideles Difuntos (Cumana, 2nd)
Feria de Valencia (Valencia, 15th – 22nd)
Feria de la Chinita (Maracaibo, 18th)
Fiesta de la Zaragoza (Barquisimeto, 28th)
Why would I go to Venezuela?
Sadly, in North America, Venezuela is known only for its beaches: Margarita and Puerto La Cruz. But did you know that, according to the United Nations, Venezuela is ranked amongst the first 10 countries (on a total of 255!), for its bio-diversity.
We can find about any kind of environment in Venezuela, from idyllic beaches and mangroves on the Caribbean coast to dense jungle in the Amazonas and the Coastal Range, sand dunes in the Coro Peninsula, mystic tepuys in the Gran Sabana, plains and permanent glaciers in Merida state.
More than 40% of the territory is protected under some kind of legal form: there are 39 National Parks, 17 National Monuments, 9 important Wildlife Refuges and Reserves and Forest Reserves, which makes it the nation with the highest proportion of its territory devoted to environmental conservation.
More than 22 ethnic groups of Native Indians, of which the Yanomamis, the last ones on earth that have maintained their original customs and idiosyncrasy until now, are represented in Venezuela.
And last but not least, Venezuela is only 3 hours from Miami, 5 from New York, served by American Airlines, United, Continental, and Delta, as well as the Venezuelan airlines Servivensa (direct flights from New York and Miami), and Aeropostal (direct flights from Orlando).
During the cold North American winter exists charter flights from Montreal and Toronto in Canada, flying directly to Margarita island for incredibly low prices (from November to April).
From Europe, Venezuela is served by all major airlines, Air France, Alitalia, British, Iberia, KLM, as well as regular charter flights form Belgium, Germany and Spain.
Calle Urdaneta, Santa Elena de Uairen 8011-001, Estado