Angel Falls and Canaima National Park: The Complete Guide

Venezuela's Angel Falls in Canaima National Park
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Parque Nacional Canaima

Bolívar, Venezuela
Phone +58 212-2732811

Arriving at Canaima National Park in south-eastern Venezuela feels like being transported back millions of years to a prehistoric era. Fittingly, the area inspired Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's dinosaur-filled novel, "The Lost World," which was later an inspiration to the author Michael Crichton while writing "Jurassic Park." Here, rolling savannas, moriche palm groves, mountainous forests, and dense river woodlands join sheer cliffs that drop from astounding flat-topped table mountains called tepuis. Waterfalls cascade down many of the steep faces of the tepuis, but one in particular is the biggest draw to Canaima: Angel Falls, the tallest waterfall in the world and considered one of the seven natural wonders of all South America.

Things to Do

Canaima is a massive national park that stretches on for over 12,000 square miles, but because there are no roads and most parts are inaccessible, most visitors are limited to the western region around the town of Canaima, which serves as the gateway to the park. In the town of Canaima, there's a lagoon that's a popular swimming spot for cooling off during the day, although an even better place to take a dip is at the Sapo Waterfall. The hike to Sapo takes about two hours roundtrip, but hikers can swim at the base and even hike behind the waterfall for a different perspective.

The most popular thing to do in Canaima is, without a doubt, going to visit Angel Falls, or Salto Ángel. At 3,212 feet, it's the tallest waterfall in the world and an awe-inspiring sight (that's about 15 times higher than Niagara Falls, to put it in perspective). Angel Falls drops from the park's most popular tepui to visit, which is Auyantepui, although it's not the tallest. That distinction goes to the tepui known as Mount Roraima, which sits at the triple border of Venezuela, Brazil, and Guyana. Serious trekkers can climb to the top of Roraima, although the roundtrip journey takes about five to six days.

An off-the-beaten-path excursion is to travel deeper into the park and camp out in one of the villages of the Indigenous Pemon community. The Pemon people are the longtime stewards of the land and they originally named Angel Falls Kerepakupai Merú, meaning "waterfall of the deepest place" (the name Angel comes from American explorer Jimmie Angel who "discovered" the falls when he crashed his plane into them). The most popular place to visit is Kavac Village at the south end of Auyantepui, which is a recreated traditional village and visitors can spend the night in a palm hut while learning about local customs. To reach Kavac, you'll need to take a single-engine plane from Canaima since there are no roads that lead there.

Angel Falls

Many flights entering Canaima will fly over Angel Falls for an aerial view, but the only way to actually reach the falls is to book a river excursion from the town of Canaima via curiara, which is a motorized canoe. You can reserve a tour from abroad before arriving in Venezuela, but you'll find the best deals by booking once you're there. The most competitive rates can typically be found in Ciudad Bolivar, which is where most visitors fly from to reach Canaima, although you'll find tour organizers in Caracas, as well.

Tour groups generally include your flight to Canaima and then a two or three-day excursion to Angel Falls, including your room and board during the expedition. Curiaras leave from Canaima and takes about four to six hours to reach Angel Falls depending on the water level in the river and the current, followed by an hour-long hike. Once you're there, your tour leader will take you to explore caves, go hiking, check out wildlife, and swim in the park's rivers. Keep in mind that boats can only reach Angel Falls in the rainy season from June to December.

Where to Stay Nearby

Camping is not allowed in the national park to maintain its natural beauty, but there are many campamentos around the park that offer camp-like lodgings. You can't pitch your own tent, but the rustic cabins and huts are reminiscent of camping. Most accommodation options are in the town of Canaima, but there are also some options along the highway that runs along the east side of the park.

  • Campamento Ucaima Jungle Rudy: One of the most well-known places to spend the night in Canaima is this eco-lodge. It's located about two miles outside of the town of Canaima so you'll feel like you're deep in the jungle without being too far away from civilization. The lodge can also organize tours to Angel Falls for guests that leave right from the property.
  • Wakü Lodge: Located in the town of Canaima along the shore of the lagoon, Wakü is on the luxury end of options in the national park. The bungalows are fully equipped with everything you need for a comfortable stay and all of your meals are provided while you're there.
  • Campamento Parakaupa: This lodge option in Canaima is close to the airport and more basic than Ucaima or Wakü, but also much more affordable making it a favorite for budget travelers. All of the rooms have private bathrooms with hot water and your meals are also provided, so all of the basic necessities are covered at Parakaupa.

How to Get There

The remoteness of Canaima National Park is part of its allure and getting there is half the adventure. To get to Angel Falls you have to start in Canaima town, which is the hub for the entire western region of the park and only accessible by air. When you book an Angel Falls tour in Caracas or Ciudad Bolivar, almost all of them include your air transit to Canaima.

The eastern side is less visited but if you're hiking Mount Roirama, there's a highway that runs along the eastern edge of the park all the way to the border with Brazil.

Tips for Your Visit

  • The park is open all year long but you can only take a boat to the Angel Falls in the wet season when the rivers are full, which is roughly from June to December. August and September are the rainiest months and although the falls are at their peak, cloudy weather often obstructs the views. October and November are the best months to visit since the falls are still impressive but the skies are clearer.
  • There are perks to visiting in the dry season, too. Not only is the park much less crowded and rates are lower, but consistently clear skies mean the tepui peaks are easily visible and you can fly over them in a plane.
  • The park is nearly on the equator and—apart from the rains—the weather doesn't fluctuate much throughout the year. However, if you're spending the night on one of the tepui summits, temperatures can drop to freezing, so make sure to pack right.
  • There is a fee to enter the park, which all visitors must pay when arriving at Canaima Airport. Your admission is good for your entire stay in the park.
  • Proof of yellow fever vaccination is required to enter Canaima National Park. If you don't have a document showing you've been vaccinated, you'll be vaccinated for free at the airport.
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Angel Falls and Canaima National Park: The Complete Guide