Category Archives: Tourist Recommendations

Recommendations for tourists in Venezuela.

Weather in Venezuela

Venezuela Temperatures

Venezuela is near the earth’s equator, so average temperatures remain the same all year round. Changes in temperature come only with changes in altitude, dropping about 5.4°F with every 1000ft increase (6.5°C per 1000m).

Since over 90% of Venezuela lies below 1000m, you’ll experience temperatures between 70°F and 85°F in most places. Still, since humidity is very high, 90°F can be oppressive, while 70°F is much more comfortable.

The Andean and coastal mountain ranges have more moderate temperatures.

Caracas Venezuela weather

Weather chart for Caracas, Venezuela

Weather in Caracas

Caracas, the capital of Venezuela, follows the contours of the narrow Caracas Valley on the Venezuelan coastal mountain range that borders the Atlantic Ocean. Caracas sits at elevations between 760 and 910 meters above sea level. So the weather is quite a bit cooler and more pleasant than it would be at sea level (I think it’s no accident that many tropical cities are built at elevation, though it’s also true that the elevation historically offered protection from invaders).

The annual average temperature is approximately 23.1 °C (74 °F), with the average of the coldest month (January) 21.1 °C (70 °F) and the average of the warmest month (May) 25.0 °C (77 °F). In the months of December and January heavy fog may appear, in addition to a sudden nightly drop in temperature, at times reaching 7 °C (45 °F) or less. This odd weather is known by the natives of Caracas as the Pacheco. In addition, nightly temperatures at any time of the year are much lower than daytime highs and usually do not remain above 20 °C (68 °F), resulting in very pleasant evening temperatures.

Caracas actually gets hailstorms on rare occasions. Lightning storms are common between June and October (the wet season).

Venezuela Seasons

Venezuela does not have the typical “four seasons” found in northern climates. Instead there are only two seasons, dry and wet. Dry season runs approximately December to May, and wet season the rest of the year.

The tourist industry likes to refer to wet season as the “green season”, while the term “dry season” is to some extent a misnomer, since even dry season gets more rain that many non-tropical countries get in winter.

When to Visit Venezuela

Most visitors to Venezuela find the dry season from December to May to be more pleasant, especially for outdoor activities like hiking, camping and climbing. In the cities it may not matter that much.

Venezuela is of course famous for its waterfalls, particular Angel Falls, so travelers should be aware that the waterfalls are much more impressive during the wet season. Furthermore, it can be difficult to reach the falls by boat during the dry season, and while the falls can also be reached by car, getting there by boat can be fun and exciting.

In Merida, the weather is best October-June. The Orinoco River area can be more humid and a bit warmer, and the mountain areas will generally be at least 10 degrees F/5 C cooler (and much colder at high elevations). No matter when you go, be sure to take a sweater – the evenings are cool most of the year.

Visiting Venezuela During Holidays

Venezuelans love to travel during the holidays, especially the Christmas season (from early December all the way to mid-January), Carnaval and Semana Santa (Holy Week, the week before Easter Sunday). During these times all modes of transportation can be booked solid, and hotel rooms can be impossible to find. So if you plan to visit at these times you must book well in advance. Some tourists prefer to stay away during these times to avoid the crowds and noise.

On the other hand, witnessing the festivals and parades that go on during holiday times can be fun. So it’s really a matter of personality and preference.

Beautiful Photos of Venezuela’s Páramo Highlands

The páramo are the Andean highlands of Venezuela. This ecosystem is found in the high elevations, between the upper forest line  at 3,000 meters elevation and the permanent snow line at 5,000 meters. The páramo is cold, with animals uniquely adapted to the temperatures, such as the woolly donkey pictured below. These areas consist mostly of valleys, grasslands, lakes, and occasional patches of forest. It is a harsh environment: wet, windy, and receiving a high degree of ultraviolet radiation due to the elevation.

These photos are by a California-born agroecologist named Mason London. He provides us with a look at the paramos of the Venezuelan state of Merida.

Squid Fishing in Venezuela

Venezuela fishing town

The Venezuelan fisherman's home town

Geraldine is a young British woman who has done a lot of travelling in Latin America and written about it in her great blog, Mole’s Eye View. She traveled through Venezuela as well, and wrote some interesting posts about it. In one, she wrote about her experience squid fishing in Santa Fe, Venezuela.

She had a great time, though she only caught one small squid, while the fishing guide was pulling them up hand over fist. It sounds so messy with the ink spraying everywhere.

Here’s Gerlandine’s story:

Squid Fishing in Santa Fe, Venezuela

Out of the six people who the evening before had wanted to come squid fishing, only two of us made it. It was worth every bit of the early morning. Speeding across the water as the sun rose made me wonder why I didn’t get up early more often. But then it’s not everywhere that you can share the sunrise with schools of sardines and a dozen dolphins.

The three of us sat for two and a half hours with fishing lines poised for a bite. The art (or lack of it in my case) of catching squid is not all that different to other types of fishing, but there is no bait. I’m a big fan of that as it means you never know how many times you got a bite but were too skill less to snap the line quick enough to claim the fish.

Squid in a bucketWith squid fishing you cast out the line, wait for it to reach the sea bed and then keep pulling the line to attract the attention of any squid who may think that the hook is a sardine. When the squid engulfs the hook, that’s when you snap the line and bring in the catch.

Our fisherman deftly handled his two lines and kept bring up squids that squirted ink all over the boat as they hit air.

It took me two long hours to get my first and only calamari. Luckily, our fisherman gave us all the squid he’d caught as well as some mackerel from another boat we passed on the way back in, otherwise our evening barbecue wouldn’t have fed more than a small child.

I don’t think I’ll be quiting city life to live off the land…

Coromoto, the Venezuelan Ice Cream Parlor with 860 Flavors

Venezuelan ice cream parlor with 860 flavors

"I chose a scoop of avocado and a scoop of sweetcorn... it's amazing." Customer Marjorie Castillo

Reprinted from the BBC Online, with some photos added from various sources

You might imagine that the shop selling the largest number of ice-cream flavours in the world would be in Italy or perhaps the US, but in fact it is in the Venezuelan city of Merida, as Will Grant discovered.

After looking in the windows of a couple of ice-cream parlours but finding nothing more exciting inside than strawberry and vanilla, we eventually find Coromoto, opposite a church.

The neon sign outside, with the words “Guinness Book of Records” written in pink, is an instant give-away but, once through the doors, it becomes even clearer that this is the place.

At first glance, the counters of brightly coloured ice cream look perfectly ordinary.

Close up, the flavours are anything but.

The selection includes chilli, tomato, gherkin, onion, mushrooms in wine, garlic, and cream of crab.

Coromoto was set up in 1980 by a Portuguese immigrant, Manuel da Silva Oliveira.

The owner does not come in much any more and has left the running of the place to Jose Ramirez.

Seasonal changes

Jose is exactly what an ice-cream parlour manager should look like.

A friendly man in his 40s, his white and purple shirt is spotlessly clean, and his black moustache is perfectly groomed.

“Mr Oliveira was tired of working for the big ice-cream companies,” Jose says, “and decided that he could make more interesting flavours on his own.”

The first attempt was avocado.

Heladeria Coromoto in Merida Venezuela

Heladeria Coromoto is mentioned in the Guiness Book of World Records for being the ice-cream parlour in the world with most flavours.

“It’s a tough one to get right because avocados are so rich,” says Jose. “Mr Oliveira wasted around 50kg of ice cream trying to perfect it.”

Coromoto sells about 60 flavours on any given day, but changes the flavours according to the seasons.

On one wall, a list of its specialities is made out of engraved wooden slats.

Besides the standard options like chocolate and rum-and-raisin, there are plenty of exotic fruits: guava, papaya, mango and passion fruit.

There are several vile-sounding flavours among the 860 as well: eggs, macaroni cheese and sardines-in-brandy being a few of the more bizarre examples.

And there are a lot of oddly named ones too like British Airways, Andean Kisses and I’m Sorry, Darling.

One of them, Viagra Hope, is bright blue like the pills.

I have to ask what is in it, and am relieved to hear it is all natural: honey and pollen.

“Different people like different things,” said the shop’s manager.

Jose, manager of Coromoto ice cream parlor in Venezuela

"Of course, being Venezuela, there are plenty flavours made with rum." Jose Ramirez, manager of Coromoto

“Personally I’m a fan of the fruit flavours but many customers prefer the alcoholic choices like Cointreau, cognac or vodka-and-pineapple.

“Of course, being Venezuela, there are plenty made with rum.”

In the back room

Ushered behind the front desk, I get the chance to glimpse what most visitors to Coromoto never see: the ice cream being made.

As we walk behind the scenes, I imagine scenes of an ice-cream version of Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory, complete with a mad inventor pouring strange solutions into test tubes.

However, a bit disappointingly, I am led into an airless room where two vast ice-cream mixers are whirring away. On one of the machines, a big tub of raisins is waiting to be added to the concoction inside.

In the other, a vanilla-coloured mixture is being turned but – as I suspected – it is not vanilla.

“Es cafe,” says the girl keeping an eye on the machines – coffee flavour.

Now it is my time to try a few.

‘Muy picante’

“What is the house special?” I ask Jose.

He chuckles and says “pabellon criollo” – a traditional Venezuelan meal of beef, rice, plantain, cheese and black beans, which Coromoto has replicated in ice cream.

Jose fixes me a small scoop of each flavour – and yes, they do beef-flavoured ice cream in Coromoto – topping it off with a half-scoop of chilli flavour.

Ice cream flavors at Coromoto ice cream parlor in Venezuela

The house special is made with several flavours including beef and cheese.

“Muy picante,” he warns me, but I foolishly nod… I’m sure it’s not that hot… and gulp it down in one.

Once my eyes have stopped watering and I have got my breath back, I manage a smile at Jose, who is laughing and saying, “I told you so!”

Clearly Coromoto’s flavours live up to their names.

To put out the fire on my tongue, I go for the plantain flavour which is incredibly realistic. As is the cheese, which I would not at all recommend.

Perhaps some things, like cheddar, should not be made into ice cream.

Finally the beef. Despite my misgivings, it is rich, sweet and meaty. I can’t quite believe it, but I seem to actually like beef-flavoured ice cream.

Back on the shop floor, the customers are enjoying their choices on what is a stiflingly hot day.

“I chose a scoop of avocado and a scoop of sweetcorn,” says Marjorie Castillo, who lives in Caracas.

“It’s amazing. The avocado tastes just like avocado and the sweetcorn like sweetcorn.”

Her 14-year-old niece, Marvery, concurs. “It’s exotic, divine,” she says.

“You’ve only got 858 flavours still to go,” I tell her.

“I know,” she says, giggling into her ice-cold treat. “But I’m sure I can do it. One flavour at a time!”

Lonely Planet guide out of date on Venezuela

News crew at Catia La Mar beach, Venezuela

News crew at Catia La Mar beach, Venezuela

In a blog post titled “Lonely Planet or off the planet?”, Cowboy in Caracas complains that the 2007 edition of Lonely Planet’s Venezuela guide is woefully out of date, whether as a result of poor research, or political bias. He writes:

From Caracas the nearest beaches are west of the airport in Catia La Mar or east of the airport in the direction of La Guaira.

A horrible tragedy hit this coastal area in December, 1999. Some estimates of the dead were as high as 50,000 inhabitants. The massive landslides wiped out not only humble dwellings but even multiple-story apartment buildings. Ship containers were washed into the ocean and survivors had to be evacuated in helicopters and military landing craft. Hardest hit was the area east of the airport.

A drive from Caracas along this eastern area today reveals a completely different picture. Some beaches are larger than before as the landslides pushed the coast maybe a hundred yards further into the ocean. A six-lane road covers a part of the coast where before one had to take a slow drive through a coastal town. Flowers, bushes and trees fill the brilliant yellow curbing that divides much of the way. In other places the cement dividers are painted in pastel colors. Long walls are covered with colorful mosaics. Hanging from the lampposts are decorative and bright drums and maracas, seahorses and crabs—illuminated at night.

The beaches have new restaurants and stands for vendors. And, the beaches are packed this week with visitors.

Catia La Mar from the air. Clearly there is quite a lot of development.

Catia La Mar from the air. Clearly there is quite a lot of development.

Now read what the 2004 edition of LONELY PLANET had to say about this area:

After the 1999 events, “The whole area from La Guaira to Naiguatá became a sea of ruins,…. Macuto, Caraballeda and Naiguatá, once thrilling seaside resorts for ‘caraqueños,’ were turned into ruined ghost towns, and remain much the same. It will take decades before the urban fabric is fully rebuilt, if ever.”

In 2004, the authors of LONELY PLANET’s Venezuelan guide saw no hope—possibly forever—for the region. But it didn’t take decades to restore the area. It didn’t even take half a decade…

A few days ago, a visitor showed me his 2007 edition of the book. LONELY PLANET doesn’t seem to be aware of what has happened here. The same words of the 2004 edition are basically repeated, although now the book at least gives the names of a few hotels in the region, something they didn’t do in 2004.

I suppose one can forgive the authors for not being able to foretell the future in 2004 (although progress was already happening), but to repeat their mistaken forecast in 2007 was a case of blindness.

Weather in Venezuela

 

Venezuela temperature and humidity chart

Venezuela temperature and humidity chart

Visitors often want to know what the weather will be like in Venezuela, so they know what to pack and what to expect as far as comfort.

Venezuela is tropical and equatorial, so it is warm and humid, and there are really only two seasons, wet (or “green” as the tourist industry likes to call it) and dry. Venezuelans refer to the wet season as winter, and the dry season as summer, but these terms could be misleading for a North American or European as temperatures do not change much. Because Venezuela is equatorial, the temperature stays within the same range year-round and changs only with elevation. The real difference between wet and dry seasons is, as the names imply, the amount of rainfall and the humidity level.

“Summer” (the dry season) runs from December to May. This is when the weather is at its driest and humidity is lower, and may be the most comfortable time for most people to visit Venezuela. December and January are especially cool and pleasant.

April-September is very warm, and it’s usually rainy May-December.

Of course Venezuela is a vast country with many types of terrain and geographies, so the weather varies dramatically from place to place.

In Merida, the weather is best October-June. The Orinoco River area can be more humid and a bit warmer, and the mountain areas will generally be at least 10 degrees F/5 C cooler (and much colder at high elevations). No matter when you go, be sure to take a sweater – the evenings are cool most of the year.

Regional Variations in Depth

The following information comes from the BBC weather center:

In Venezuela the main chain of the Andes mountains runs from west to east, thus leaving a narrow coastal plain on the Caribbean shore. In the west there is a more extensive marshy lowland around Lake Maracaibo. To the south of the Andes there is a large lowland area in the valley of the river Orinoco, known as the Llanos; this has a typical tropical climate with a single rainy season. In the southeast of the country the land rises to a plateau, extending into Guyana, with an average height of some 600 m/2,000 ft; from this plateau numerous hills rise to more than 1,800 m/6,000 ft.

Venezuela is unusual among South American countries in that almost everywhere the main rainy season is from April to October at the time of high sun. Towards the west of the country there is a tendency for a double rainy season, as in Colombia. The northern lowland, particularly in the west, has a surprisingly dry climate for a tropical coast. This is thought to be a consequence of the direction of the coastline in relation to the frequent northeast trade winds.

The Andes in Venezuela are lower and narrower than in Colombia, Peru, andBolivia, but there are a number of individual peaks rising above 4,600m/15,000ft which carry snow throughout the year. There are many local variations of weather and climate as a result of altitude; the threefold division into tierra calientetierra templada, and tierra fria, described for Bolivia, applies to this region.

The northern slopes of the Andes tend to have less rainfall than the southern side. Caracas, at an altitude of 1,040m/3,400 ft, has a climate typical of thetierra templada, but shows traces of the relative dryness that affects the whole north coast.

Over most of this area sunshine amounts are moderately high as a consequence of the lack of cloud and rain; ranging from six hours a day in the wetter months to as much as eight hours in the drier months. Annual rainfall in the mountains is usually over 1,000mm/40in but is less in some sheltered valleys and on the northern slopes. On the coast the rainfall increases from the very low annual totals around Lake Maracaibo to as much as 1,000 mm/40 in in the east. The lowlands around Lake Maracaibo are particularly hot in all months.

In the Llanos region of the Orinoco valley there is a typical hot, tropical climate with a single wetter season between April and October. Over most of this region annual rainfall is 1,000-1,500 mm/40-60 in. Temperature varies little from month to month and there is never any really cool weather. The wet months are the most uncomfortable because of the combination of heat and high humidity.

In the southeast on the Guyana plateau rainfall is rather heavier, generally above 1,500mm/60in per year, but with a definite dry season at the time of low sun. Temperatures are moderated by the higher altitude and humidity is rather lower than in the Llanos.