The Northeast portion of Venezuela consists of coastal beaches, reefs, islands, mountains, cacao plantations, forests and caves, which allow for a wealth of sightseeing and recreational opportunities. Most of the attractions in this region are located near the coast, including the cities of Barcelona, Puerto La Cruz, Cumaná, and Carupano.The Peninsula de Paria, jutting out towards Trinidad in the far northeast, offers something a little different from the rest of the coast. This is the area where Christopher Columbus landed in 1498, and the only place in South America where he came ashore. The landscape here is more lush and is a sharp contrast to the dry coastal stretch between Barcelona and Carupano.
Isla de Margarita
Lying approximately 40 km north of the mainland, Isla de Margarita is one of Venezuela's major tourist destinations. It was once two separate islands which are now joined by a sandbank.The islands main attractions are the beaches, which are popular with both foreigners and Venezuelans. Many charter flights fly directly to the island from a variety of international destinations. It is also possible to take a ferry to the island from Puerto La Cruz on the mainland.
Porlamar (pop. 210,000) is the main city on Isla de Margarita. Trendy shops and a variety of restaurants and tourist facilities attract tourists, although there is little by way of sightseeing. The Museo de Arte Contemporáneo Francisco Narváez displays the art of this late artist from the island.
Cueva Del Guacharo, Caripe, Venezuela
Cueva Del Guácharo, located 12 km outside of Caripe, is the largest cave in Venezuela. It is 10.2 km in length, although 1200 m is the usual distance of most tours into the cave.It is named after the guácharo, a nocturnal fruit eating bird which inhabits the cave. Other wild life such as mice, rats, crabs, fish and spiders can also be seen. A river runs through the cave and during the wet season high water levels can limit the length of the tours.
Barcelona (pop. 300,000), capital of Anzoátegui, is slowly merging with neighboring Puerto La Cruz. Although Puerto La Cruz seems to be the developing tourist destination in this area, Barcelona is a much older city and offers a number of historical attractions. Founded in 1671, the city's historic district maintains some impressive colonial architecture and pleasant plazas.
Mochima National Park
The park covers a portion of the coast and a chain of offshore islands east of Puerto La Cruz to Cumaná. The main attractions here are the beaches and the diving. The islands can be accessed by boast from Puerto La Cruz, Santa Fé, and Mochima. It is also possible to explore the mainland portion of the park by car or bus, stopping off at small villages and beach lined bays off highway 9.
Puerto La Cruz, Venezuela
Puerto La Cruz has been a growing community since the 1930s, when it was little more than a fishing village. Today it is becoming a popular tourist destination for Venezuelans. Ferries run regularly from here to Isla de Margarita. It is also a good base from which to explore nearby Mochima National Park or arrange tours to other parts of the country.
Although this is the oldest town in South America, established in 1521, earthquakes have destroyed much of the old architecture. Of particular interest in the city are the Castillo de San Antoniode la Eminencia, Iglesia de Santa Inés, and the Cathedral.
Castillo de San Antonio de la Eminencia
This 17th century fort offers great views over the city, coast, and Araya Peninsula. Although it was able to withstand pirate attacks, it has been rebuilt and restored twice due to major earthquakes. The outer coral-rock walls are still the originals.
Iglesia de Santa Inés
The original church was built in 1637 but due to earthquakes has been rebuilt several times since then. The current church was rebuilt following the 1929 earthquake.