Angel Falls in Venezuela, 19 times higher than Niagara Falls, is the world’s highest uninterrupted waterfall at 979 meters and one of the most exciting adventure experiences that Latin America has to offer. Best visited during the wet season, June to November, the trip to Angel Falls includes light trekking, uphill climbs, a small plane journey and the chance to raft along some of Venezuela’s most beautiful rivers.
The world is no bigger than a handkerchief, or so it seems. While some Latin American destinations, including Machu Picchu, suffer from hoards of visitors on a daily basis, Angel Falls remains a largely underexplored jungle secret. Indeed, every country has its own special list of national treasures just waiting to be discovered. So, if you like the idea of traveling through the rainforest without being overrun by other eager explorers, Angel Falls is definitely a destination that should feature high up on your list of places to visit.
Considering the high level adventure nature of this trip, it’s important to take out the right kind of travel insurance. While no-one wants to think about getting sick or having an accident when traveling, you don’t want to be stranded in the middle of the Venezuelan rainforest without cover if something does go wrong. It’s also important to get vaccinated before you leave. Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, Rabies, Yellow Fever and Typhoid are the five vaccinations recommended.
How to get there?
One of the reasons why this beautiful waterfall is less visited than other Latin American landmarks is because of its remote location. Situated in Canaima National Park, 160 miles south-east of the large and busy city of Ciudad Bolivar, a trip to Angel Falls is only possible in one of two ways. The less adventurous opt to take a flight over the top of the waterfall, enjoying the graceful beauty of its stream from the air. Those who are prepped and ready for a real jungle experience tend to go for the second option… the adventure of a lifetime.
The adventurer’s choice: a flight, a boat and a hike
The first stretch of the trip is a flight on a very small plane (just three to five seats) that tends to move around a fair amount and never really gets high enough for you to lose sight of the ground below. Having departed from Ciudad Bolivar you will land at a place called Canaima, a very remote location inaccessible by road because… well… there aren’t any!
It’s common to spend one night in the village destination of Canaima. Food and accommodation resources are very basic, so don’t expect the option of buying into something a little more deluxe, and very few members of the tribes who live in Canaima actually speak Spanish, let alone English. Communicating with the locals is a real treat for anyone who thrives on cultural interaction. The next morning, you’ll raft your way upstream for about three hours until you get to the Angel Falls base camp, where you’ll spend the night. Again… picture yourself in the middle of the jungle, with nothing but a hammock and a mosquito net between you and the big, green wilderness, and you’ll get an idea of what to expect.
The following morning, you’ll get up early and enjoy a relatively short, uphill hike to get to the waterfall’s viewing point. Excitement will begin to build as you hear the incredibly roar of the waterfall way before you get the chance to take a glimpse at it and don’t be surprised if the spray of this incredible force of nature covers you in a light, watery film, despite being too far away for you to be able to touch it.
The experience is a spiritual one, just as much as it is a cultural and travel one. Be warned… just a few minutes in the presence of one of the planet’s most incredible natural wonders will be enough to make you want to stay forever.
A little bit of history
And if you like dipping into history, then you’ll love hearing about the way in which Angel Falls was first discovered. Way back in 1937, an adventurous pilot from Missouri named Jimmy Angel had to make an emergency landing on top of the Auyantepuy, the largest tepuy (a table mountain) in Canaima, Venezuela. It’s from the very top of this imposing tepuy that the Angel Falls water flow pours its way into the depths of the Canaima National Park rainforest below.
Jimmy Angel and his three companions managed to make their way down from the tepuy before then traveling through the Venezuelan jungle for eleven days and making contact with civilization once more. In memory of this incredible adventure, Angel Falls takes its name from the Missouri explorer.
Incidentally, it was another 33 years before Angel’s plane was carefully brought down from the top of the tepuy and placed in the Aviation Museum in Maracay. So… when are you going to start packing?