Western Venezuela

The oil-rich area of western Venezuela features the oldest park in Venezuela, Parque Nacional Henri Pittier, the country’s second-largest city, Maracaibo, as well as some good beaches and many interesting indigenous cultures who live and dress traditionally.

The Parque Nacional Henri Pittier is the oldest park in Venezuela, established in 1937, and is home to 43% of Venezuela’s bird species – 580 in the park alone – as well as monkeys, jaguar, puma, ocelots, armadillos, snakes, butterflies and more.

Maracaibo (population 1.6 million), the second largest city in Venezuela, is not a huge tourist destination unless you are making your way into Venezuela from the Colombian coast. Founded in 1574, this city is known for its heat – the average temperature is among the highest in the country at 30°C (86°F); its oil – 70% of Venezuela’s oil comes from the Lago de Maracaibo area; and its modern feel with wide, clean streets and some interesting cathedrals and plazas, especially the Plaza Bolívar. This is also the only town or city in Venezuela where indigenous people like the Guajiro and Paraujano people go about their daily business in traditional costume.

Some interesting trips outside of Maracaibo are:

The Laguna de Sinamaica, a Paraujano community that still lives in the traditional stilt houses that inspired Spanish invaders to name the area ‘Little Venice’.

The Lago de Maracaibo to the south of the city is the source for most of Venezuela’s oil and features an excellent museum, the Centro de Arte de Maracaibo Lia Bermudez, and an enormous flea market.

San Carlos Island is another good side trip from Maracaibo. It’s most easily reached by boat from a town just north of Maracaibo, El Mojan. The island has a clean beach facing the Gulf of Venezuela, and a colonial fort. This is also a good jumping-off point on your way to the Colombian Coast.