Canaima: 725km (450 miles) SE of Caracas
Angel Falls is the world's tallest waterfall. It's an imposing sight, and the trip there is definitely an adventure. In addition to Angel Falls and hundreds of other tropical jungle waterfalls, Venezuela's southeastern region, or Gran Sabana, is known for its unique geological formations, or tepuis -- massive steep-walled and flat-topped mesas that inspired Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's The Lost World. A large chunk of this region, more than 3 million hectares (7 million acres), is protected within Canaima National Park, the largest national park in Venezuela and the sixth largest in the world.
The small Pemón Indian village and tourist enclave of Canaima is the gateway to Angel Falls and much of this region. Set on the edge of a black-water lagoon ringed with soft, pink-sand beaches; fed by a series of powerful waterfalls; and surrounded by miles of untouched jungle, the word "idyllic" doesn't do this spot justice.
Located south of Ciudad Bolívar, and a fair bit north of Canaima, a trip along the Río Caura to Para Falls offers many of the same sights and experiences to be had on a trip to Canaima and Angel Falls, with a more undiscovered feel to it, and fewer fellow travelers.
Jimmy Angel -- Angel Falls are named after American bush pilot and gold-seeker Jimmy Angel, who first spotted the falls in 1935. Although earlier anecdotal reports exist about them, and certainly the local Pemón people knew of them, Jimmy Angel gets most of the credit. In 1937, Angel crash-landed his plane on the top of Auyántepui. No one was injured, but the pilot, his wife, and two companions had to hike for 11 days to descend the tepui and reach safety. For decades, the silver fuselage of El Río Coroní could be seen on the top of Auyántepui. In 1970, it was salvaged by the Venezuelan Air Force. The plane was restored and is currently on display at the airport in Ciudad Bolívar.
Formed over millions and millions of years, the sandstone tepuis of the Gran Sabana are geological and biological wonders. With vertical edges that plunge for thousands of feet, most are unclimbed and unexplored. The highest, Roraima, at 2,810m (9,217 ft.), towers over the savanna below. Auyántepui, or "Devil's Mountain," is some 700 sq. km (275 sq. miles) in area -- roughly the size of Singapore. Given their age and isolation, the tepuis host an astounding number of endemic species, both flora and fauna. In some cases, as much as half of all species of flora and fauna on a given tepui will be endemic.