Caracas, capital of Venezuela, hosts the country's international airport and is therefore the gateway for most visitors. This immense metropolis, home to about five million people, is situated in the north of the country, between the sea and the foot of the Avila Mountain.
Caracas began as a Spanish colonial settlement, founded by Spanish conquistador, Diego de Losada, more than 400 years ago, its growth burgeoning since the 1970s oil boom. Today the sprawling, untidy city throbs with life, the landscape dominated by high-rise office and apartment buildings, threaded through with knots of motorways and junctions, all against the impressive backdrop of the lush, green mountain.
All sorts of cultures and creeds throng the streets of this concrete jungle, which contains gourmet restaurants, bustling shopping precincts, museums, concert halls, fine art galleries and the massive Bellas Artes cultural centre. There is plenty to see, from the 19th-century Neo-Gothic Santa Capilla church, the birthplace of Simon Bolivar, to the palace of Joaquin Crespo, and the Sofia Imber Museum of Contemporary Art (with works by Matisse, Picasso and Chagall as well as Venezuelan artists).
Those who need a break from the relentless urban energy can slip away for a hike on the nearby mountain slopes, or take a day trip to the surprising Bavarian-inspired town of La Colonia Tovar.
A holiday in Caracas is a rather daunting experience as this is a chaotic and intimidating city, seething with humanity. Those who are brave enough to travel to Caracas are rewarded with a chance to get a true perspective on Venezuela by exploring its capital city, and there are more than enough sights to fill a holiday. Caracas is a thrilling destination for intrepid travellers who are not averse to putting up with rougher conditions and the threat of crime in order to discover the treasures the city holds.