East of the Andes and north of the Amazon, Venezuela's immense grasslands roll across roughly one-third of the nation's territory. This region, known as Los Llanos, holds a special place in Venezuelan cultural folklore. It was here in 1819 and again in 1921 that local cavalry helped Simon Bolivar win critical victories against the Spanish.
Beginning each May, the region's rivers overflow their banks in unison. Huge swaths of the plains flood, creating a seasonal wetland with depths of up to three feet. This seasonal deluge adds to the soil's fertility, but makes the area unfit for traditional crops. Since the 16th century, the region's primary agricultural activity has been cattle ranching. Like the gauchos of Argentina, these local cowboys, or llaneros, are legendary for their independence, self reliance and bravery.
As in the Brazilian Pantanal and Argentina's Esteros Del Ibera, the seasonal floods of Los Llanos attract and sustain massive flocks of migratory birds. More than 350 avian species have been catalogued here, including several varieties of parrot, heron, eagle, and hummingbird. In the dry season, clouds of scarlet ibis fill the sky. Los Llanos are also rich in mammalian species; among the more than 50 native species are capybaras, monkeys, anteaters, jaguars, manatees and graceful toninas (pink freshwater dolphins). Monstrously large anacondas and Orinoco Caimans can also be observed.
Visitors to Los Llanos stay at hatos, comfortable but rustic ranch lodges. Multi-day packages include wildlife viewing trips (by boat or jeep, depending upon the season), riding, hearty traditional meals, and demonstrations of llanero riding skill. After a traditional barbeque dinner, enjoy a spontaneous joropoguitar serenade. In the evening, ply the rivers and side streams with your guide in search of caiman and jaguars, or fish for piranhas.
The best time to visit Los Llanos is during the end of the dry season (March and April) when animals congregate around ever-shrinking water sources. The climate is hot year round; midday temperatures can exceed 90°F. Downpours are common in the May to November wet season, and the sun is unrelenting during the December to April dry season.
In the west, the primary gateway to the region is the city of Barinas, which is linked to Caracas by daily flights of 50 minutes. In the east, many of the best hatos are located near San Fernando de Apure. Travel from Caracas to these eastern ranches can be accomplished by land transfer (up to six hours) or charter flights (under an hour).
Mosaico Travel Services arranges personalized travel in Venezuela and throughout South America. We organize luxury accommodation, private transportation, and tours with expert guides. Speak with a Mosaico travel planner today at 801.582.2100. We’ll take care of the details.
"Accustomed to rocks and shaded valleys, the traveler contemplates with astonishment those plains without trees, those immense tracts of land that seem to climb to the horizon."