Caracas, Venezuela: The City Hidden in the Valley

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Caracas, Venezuela: The City Hidden in the Valley

So, do you like a mix between nature and the world of steel and concrete? Then the city of Caracas will certainly not let you down! This city has a great history that goes back to the times of Cristóbal Colón, when the city (inhabited by locals called Caribes) was discovered by the Spanish. Caracas is hidden inside a valley and surrounded by a mountain range, now known as El Ávila. These mountains house a number of activities that I will tell you about later!

The first thing you need to know about Caracas is that there is technically no pollution here. You will always be able to breathe fresh air due to the presence of the mountains and the numerous parks spread across the capital. The second thing that you need to know is that the city is divided into two areas (at least as we Caraqueños perceive it), the West and the East. Depending on the activities you want to do, you have to go to one region or the other.

Let’s get started with a tour in the West! This region involves everything that is cultural and historical. Here you can visit all the important patrimonial places of the city. I recently took a friend of mine to the first major cultural stop, the natal house of the Liberator, Simón Bolívar. If you haven’t heard of him, he has been cited as one of the 100 people that changed the history of mankind. He not only freed my country, but also Colombia, Perú, Ecuador and Bolivia.

Then, we went to the Panteón Nacional, a beautiful mausoleum wherein lies the remains of the most important people of my country – presidents, heroes and, of course, Simón Bolívar.

Caracas - Mausoleum of Simon Bolivar PIC: KH

Caracas – Mausoleum of Simon Bolivar PIC: KH

On the other side of the West, there is also a very important religious place, the Mosque Ibrahim-Al –Ibrahim. This is the second biggest mosque in all of Latin America and truly a place you should visit, although remember to bring clothes that cover you. My friend was wearing shorts and they wouldn’t let us in!

Finally, to end our visit through the West,  there is the Paseo Los Proceres, which may be the best part of the West! This is an avenue of nearly 2km surrounded by statues of marble where all the military parades take place. If you want to stretch your legs and do some exercise, this is a place you should definitely visit.

Caracas - Paseo Los Proceres PIC: KH

Caracas – Paseo Los Proceres PIC: KH

Now, the Eastern side of the city holds the most active and high end places in Caracas. The East contains all of the important shopping malls, like El San Ignacio, Sambil, Lider, Centro Tamanaco, Tolón, Paseo El Hatillo and more. The biggest ones are the Sambil, Lider and Centro Tamanaco, where you will surely find all the clothes you would like to buy as well as fast food, cinemas, bowling, pool, stores and restaurants. You won’t have any trouble finding anything here, even if you are on a budget!

After the shopping malls, you must check out the nightlife! There is one specific spot in the city for this purpose, called Las Mercedes, which is the center for all nightlife, discos, bars, clubs and restaurants. If you are looking for a party, let me give you a little advice – Rosa Linda and Teatro Bar are the best choices! Reggaeton rules in these discos, particularly Teatro Bar, which has three separate areas: one in the open air, another at the bar and the Inferno (called so because of all the heat you feel when everyone is partying at 2:00 am)! On the other hand, Rosa Linda is the fancy disco – every high class citizen that wants to go party goes there! It’s a nice place to make some friends as well.

Caracas - El Tolon Shopping Mall PIC: KH

Caracas – El Tolon Shopping Mall PIC: KH

However, the next important activity in the city is El Avila. A trip to the mountain is totally worth it and comes in two versions – the outdoor one and the family one. The family one starts at the cableway, which will take you from the base of the valley to the top of the mountain. At the top, you will take in the comfortably cold environment and view, and there is a very nice place for children to roller-skate as well. For those who like to party on high, there is also a disco that will surely add a nice touch to your travel experience.

The other version is the outdoor one, and consists of going to the top through the forest itself. This is an amazing experience that you will relish if you are a nature lover. Going on an excursion with a group is the best! Last time I went, I had a wonderful time with my friends, not only because of the views, but also because of the fun we had together there!

I remember when we were in a passage that was way too long, but with an astonishing view. We were tired of walking (it’s an 8-10 hour walk across rocks, trees, creeks) so we stopped to take a break. A couple of friends decided to make a video as if we were in a chapter of survivor, so we started recording:

“…This is the fifth day we are spinning around on this mountain, and the travel seems unbearable. These are the only things that remain: a bottle of water, a couple of chocolate bars and my only friend, Wilson (a rubber ball with a face that I still have no idea why he brought!). Nightfall is coming so we must continue until we find people again.”

Then he grabbed his things and went running while another friend said, “Pasa en las peliculas, pasa en la vida, pasa en TNT (Happens in movies, happens in life, happens in TNT),” like the slogan of the tv channel. The video was just hilarious!

Anyway, you will surely have a good time at El Avila!

Caracas - Cableway to El Avila PIC: KH

Caracas – Cableway to El Avila PIC: KH

The best thing about Caracas is that everything (and I mean everything) is cheap compared to other places in the world! I can guarantee that you will shop, eat good quality food and party with less money than any other place. And talking about food – I haven’t said anything about restaurants and fast food! If you come here, keep in mind these names: Churromania (Venezuelan churros), Acanelados (cinnamon rolls), Restaurant La Colina Steak House, Avila Tei (Japanese), Avila Burger, La Danubio (pastry shop) and Das Pastell Haus (the best pizzas with cream in El Hatillo).

My friend was also pushing me to go to a place she calls her favorite Chinese. I was curious about it, so I asked her to tell me more about it:

“Karla, this is the best Chinese food ever. I tell you because I love Chinese food and I have tried every place in Caracas. No one cooks like they do.”

“Let’s go then,” I said.

“But Karla, you must know, the place itself will probably impress you…”

“How is that?” I said.

“The place is not, let’s say, beautiful.”

When she said that, I knew that we would have to go underground or something. It turned out to be not that bad, however. The place is called La Nueva Casa de Los Chinos and truly is not pretty at all. It looks like a bar, when we entered it was so tiny and not very clean with only four tables. I was like, where did you bring me?!

“Relax…Just wait until we order food,” she said.

I asked for rice with chicken and shrimp, fried chicken with honey and ginger, and chicken with bittersweet sauce…

And I was like, “Oh my God! This is so damn good!”

All the food was tasty, hot and just right! I just couldn’t believe it, but she was right – this was the best Chinese food ever.

Caracas - Panteón Nacional PIC: KH

Caracas – Panteón Nacional PIC: KH

But back to the touristy places: El Hatillo and La Lagunita are also among the beautiful places you should visit in Caracas. I live in El Hatillo and I can tell you that it is very peaceful and among the nicest areas to live here. An iconic visit to the town El Hatillo must be accompanied by a visit to the shopping mall and Hannsi, a local place where you can buy all the souvenirs that you might want at ridiculously low prices.

Then, if you are feeling like it, a golf game may be the best way to finish your tour through Caracas. Go to the Country Club La Lagunita to play some golf and have a nice meal as well! Don’t forget to visit El Parque del Este either!

And finally, after you are done with Caracas, check out Maracaibo.

Karla Huerta

Karla Huerta

Born and raised in Caracas, Venezuela, I have a great passion for canyoning and hiking. Currently, I’m studying to get my degree in Electrical Engineering at one of the best universities of the country, where I’ve had the chance to participate in excursions to the Alfredo Jahn caves (one of the most famous caves in Venezuela) and some expeditions in the Avila as well. My favorite parts of Caracas are El Hatillo and Las Mercedes.