Venezuela is famous for its primeval, vast natural areas with numerous impressive natural monuments: such as the plateaus with abrupt walls (tepui) and numerous very impressive waterfalls, including the world's highest one - Angel Falls. Extremely high biodiversity is characteristic for the entire country.
A unique feature of Venezuela and its neighbouring regions of Guyana and Brazil are tepuis - high table-mountains with abrupt, sometimes more than 1 kilometre high sides. Nearly all of them hold numerous unique biotopes, endemic species of plants and animals and lots of breathtaking and unique geological features. There are more than 100 tepuis: among the most outstanding ones should be mentioned:
The forested Sarisariñama (Bolivar) with its unusual sinkholes
The enormous Auyantepui (Bolivar) - source of Angel Falls
Up to 2.8 kilometres high Mount Roraima (Bolivar state, shared with Brazil and Guyana)
Autana (Amazonas) - spectacular tepui with up to 1400 metre high walls, with a cave running from one side to the another.
Most will agree that the most outstanding single natural monument in Venezuela is the highest waterfall in the world - Angel Falls (Bolivar), falling from the vertical wall of Auyantepui. The waterfall is 979 metres high, highest plunge - 807 metres.
Kukenan Falls (Bolivar) in many respects resembles Angel Falls and has the second highest single plunge in the world. It falls from Kukenan tepui and is 674 metres high and 61 metres wide. Roraima Falls (Bolivar) is 610 metres in height. There are numerous other very high permanent and seasonal waterfalls falling from tepuis, such as the 600 metre high Iguapo Falls (Amazonas).
Pará Falls (Bolivar) is 5,608 metres wide, with an approximately 64 metres high fall on Caura River and is one of the most powerful waterfalls in world. Also very impressive are the powerful Aponguao Falls (Bolivar); while the powerful Canaima Lagoon Falls and Sapo Falls (both in Bolivar) are very picturesque.
Some unusual monuments are the small Quebrada de Jaspe and Kawi Falls (both in Bolivar) - waterfalls over bright red jasper - a semi-precious stone.
Venezuela is the place where the first caves in quartzite were discovered and the mechanism of their formation studied. These caves are located on tepuis and have formed over very long time periods - up to 300 million years - and possibly are the oldest in world. The first discovered quartzite cave was Autana cave (Amazonas), a 395 metre long cave, explored in 1971. It is made even more unusual by the fact that it runs from one side of the tepui to another and is up to 40 metres high.
The longest known quartzite cave is Sistema Roraima Sur (Bolivar), often called also Cueva Ojos de Cristal - it has been explored up to its length of 16,140 metres.
Many other quartzite caves are very unusual as well. No superlatives are able to describe a sinkhole named Sima Aonda - (Bolivar) giant 383 metre deep hole with a waterfall. This cave opens at one side of the steep wall of Auyantepui and here, in the open air, the waterfall makes its next plunge. Cueva del Fantasma (Bolivar) is a collapsed gorge on the slope of Aprada tepui, with an extremely impressive, enormous entrance hall. Dense jungle makes the two enormous sinkholes - Sima Humboldt and Sima Martel on the top of Sarisariñama tepui (Bolivar) unusual - even the bottom of both sinkholes is covered with a patch of forest, living its life in isolation for millions of years.
Another highly unusual monument of nature outside the area of the tepuis, in northern part of Venezuela is the 10.5 kilometres long Guácharo Cave (Monagas), where one can find the largest known colony of guácharos, consisting of circa 15,000 large birds with the unique ability to orientate with the help of echo-location.
Other natural monuments
Deposits with fossils in Urumaco (Falcón) is the most fossil-rich area in the northern part of South America. The arid climate has helped to preserve the remains of the world's largest known freshwater turtle, a 3 metre long rodent, a 12 metre long crocodile and 15,000 years old human remains.
One interesting site is the only desert (rather enormous dune complex) in Venezuela, Los Médanos de Coro (Falcón); 5 by 30 kilometres in size and consisting of sand dunes up to 40 metres high.
Guanoco Lake (Sucre) is the largest natural asphalt lake in world - its surface area is 4 km2. It contains more than 4 million cubic metres of asphalt.
Pedernales - Capure mud volcanoes in Orinoco delta (Delta Amacuro) are a group of spectacular 10 - 20 metre tall, active mud volcanoes.
A unique monument is Catatumbo lightning (Zulia), also called the "Lighthouse of Maracaibo". Here in the marshy delta of Catatumbo River, during 140 - 160 days and nights (10 hours mainly in the afternoons) a year there is almost continuous powerful lightning without the sound of thunder. This location is the world's most powerful generator of tropospheric ozone.
Man made landmarks
Venezuela got its name (little Venice) from its unusual settlements - palafitos - houses on stilts on the banks of Lake Maracaibo. There still exist some palafito villages, e.g. such as the villages of Lagunetas as Congo, La Paloma at the south-western bank (Zulia), and the numerous Warao villages in Orinoco Delta (Delta Amacuro).
The most authentic colonial town today is Coro (Falcón). It was established in 1527 and to a large extent has preserved its unique adobe houses and old cobbled streets. Although the town was built with a heavy old European influence, it shows the results of indigenous planning and building methods, creating a large impact on the development of the whole region.
University City of Caracas (Capital District) is a unique, harmonious part of the city which was developed in the 1940s - 1960s under the supervision of Venezuelan architect Carlos Raúl Villanueva in the Modernist style.
One impressive and elegant structure is the 8.7 kilometres long General Rafael Urdaneta Bridge (Zulia) built in 1958 - 1962.
A untypical monument of culture and to a lesser extent, architecture, is Mountain of Sorte (Yaracuy), a central pilgrimage place for the María Lionza religious cult.
One important archaeological site is Vigirima (Carabobo). Here there are diverse archaeological monuments: such as 165 rocks with approximately 445 petroglyphs (circa 0 - 7th century AD) and megalithic alignments. The only geoglyph (large scale drawing on soil) in Venezuela is the unusual La Rueda del Indio near Valencia (Carabobo). A very important petroglyph site is Piedra Pintada Natural Monument (Amazonas), where there are also ancient Indian cemeteries, paintings and drawings on the walls of cliffs and caves.
Only in 1961 famous jungle pilot Harry Gibson happened to fly over this mysterious mountain and spotted something unusual – the carpet of the beautiful green forest was perforated by two enormous and apparently very deep holes – each having a patch of forest at their bottoms.