Venezuela is a country of striking natural beauty and dramatic contrasts. The snow capped peaks of the Andes in the west, steamy Amazonian jungles in the south, the hauntingly beautiful Gran Sabana plateau, with its strange flat topped mountains, in the east and 3000km of white sand beaches fringed with coconut palms lining the Caribbean coast.
South Americas largest lake, Lake Maracaibo, and third longest river, the Orinoco, are also here, and the country boasts the world s highest waterfall, Angel Falls. It is also home to a wide variety of exotic plants and animals, including the jaguar, ocelot, tapir, armadillo, anteater, and the longest snake in the world, the anaconda.
Venezuela is bounded by the Caribbean, Guyana, the Atlantic Ocean, Brazil and Colombia.
Venezuela offers the tourist a great variety of landscapes tropical beaches, immense plains, enormous rivers, forests, jungle, waterfalls and great mountains.
Nestling in a long narrow valley, Caracas, the capital, is typical of the new Venezuela, despite being one of the oldest established cities in the country.
The 4000km of Caribbean coastline represents the major tourist destination in the country. The area has numerous excellent beaches and resorts ranging from the comparatively luxurious to the unashamedly opulent, which stretch along the coastline.
The coastal regions to the north of the Guyana Highlands have some fine tourist beaches and resorts. These include Higuerote and Lecheria. The Guyana Highlands lie to the south of the Orinoco River and constitute half the land area of the country.
The Gran Sabana National Reserve is the largest of the Venezuelan plateaux and has an extraordinary array of wildlife.
Some local specialities are tequenos, thin dough wrapped around a finger of local white cheese and fried crisp and arepas, the native bread.
There are many nightclubs and discotheques in the major cities.
Visual arts and handicrafts are popular, but the countries most distinctive cultural outlet is probably its music, which is an eclectic blend of European, African and indigenous rhythms.
Theatre is growing in popularity, and there is an active literary scene, especially among the younger generation.
Roman Catholicism is by far the dominant religion in Venezuela, and has been adopted by most indigenous people only those living in isolated regions still practice their ancient tribal beliefs. The Protestant church has a significant presence, and recently has been gaining some ground, attracting adherents from the Catholic Church. An unusual and obscure pantheistic sect, known as the Cult of Mari Lionza, exists in the northwest and combines pre Hispanic indigenous creeds, African voodoo and Christian religious practices. Spanish is spoken by almost all Venezuelans, though some 25 indigenous tongues are spoken by remote tribes. English is spoken by some people in urban centres.