Last updated: 05:00 AM ET, Tue April 21 2015
Photograph of Caracas, a Venezuelan city under siege from organized crime and corruption, shot during a beautiful sunny November afternoon displaying the vibrant contrast between the inherent beauty of the city (as shown from a far wide angle shot) and th


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The highest waterfall in the world (photo via The highest waterfall in the world)
PHOTO: Venezuela's Angel Falls, the highest uninterrupted waterfall in the world. (photo via The highest waterfall in the world)

Venezuela is a country of geographic diversity, with 10 geographic regions, including plains, mountains, jungle, deserts, rivers, islands and a Caribbean coastline. Venezuela’s coast in the north sits on the Caribbean Sea, with myriad beaches, as well as the Venezuelan island of Margarita and the archipelago of Los Roques. In the southeast is the Gran Sabana with flat top mountains called “tepuy,” where Angel Falls drops from a height of 3,000 feet. To the west are the Andes Mountains, which rise to more than 16,400 feet. A cable car takes passengers to from the city of Merida to the top in about an hour. Deserts and dunes can be found in the northwestern region. Here, visitors can slide down from the top of the Coro Dunes (Medanos de Coro). In the Mesa de Guanipa region to the east are vast prairies with a variety of wildlife. And the Amazon rainforest is a tropical treasure chest of flora and fauna.

In addition, 43 national parks throughout Venezuela offer hiking trails, and Venezuela’s diverse geography provides a playground for water sports and adventure sports, including caving in any of several hundred caves.

Caracas, Venezuela’s capital, is among the world’s most modern cities. Unlike many South American cities, which feature colonial architecture, Caracas is a city of modernism, due to Venezuela’s oil wealth, much of which was realized in the last century. Visitors will also find art ranging from ancient times to modernism and the kinetic art that emerged over the past few decades in museums like the Museum of Fine Art and the Museum of Colonial Art. Caracas’ lively nightlife happens in the city’s many “centros commerciales.” There’s also plenty of shopping at department stores and shopping districts.

View of Autana mount, in Amazonas state, in southern Venezuela (photo via PCostaBaldi / iStock / Getty Images Plus)
View of Autana mount, in Amazonas state, in southern Venezuela (photo via PCostaBaldi / iStock / Getty Images Plus)

Venezuela features an international array of cuisines, which can best be sampled in Caracas. Local dishes, which are based on seafood, grilled meats and corn, are available throughout the country. Among the traditional foods are arepa, a fried corn pancake filled with everything from meat to vegetables, and pabellón criollo, Venezuela’s national dish, with shredded beef, black beans and cheese, served with fried plantains and rice.

Simón Bolívar International Airport of Maiquetía (Caracas Maiquetía International Airport) is served by 32 airlines including American, Continental and Delta. Taxis and major car rental companies are available, and UCAM buses run between the airport and Caracas, with stops near metro (subway) stations. Venezuela’s rail network covers the country’s populated areas and connects Venezuela with Colombia and Brazil. Besides the metro system, Caracas offers metrobuses, as well as minibuses (por puestos) that can be flagged down and exited almost anywhere upon request.

Venezuela is located in the tropics, with little variations in weather, although the mountains can get chilly. Average daytime highs fluctuate between 70 and 80 degrees year-round. The dry season is December through April, with most of the rain falling during summer (Venezuela is in the Northern Hemisphere).