According to dentistrymyth, Maracaibo is the second largest city in Venezuela after Caracas. More than 2 million people live here. The city is famous for its typical music, large shopping malls and beautiful parks. It is often referred to as the most important city in Venezuela, as Maracaibo is the most developed. True, despite the long history, there are not many tourist attractions here. Unless, of course, you do not consider the original local culture, formed by centuries of isolation from the rest of the country and the pride of local residents, as a landmark.
According to constructmaterials, Maracaibo was founded three times: for the first time in the middle of the 16th century by the Germans, then in the second half of the 16th century by the Spaniards. The settlements did not last long. In the 17th century, Maracaibo was attacked by the most famous pirates of the time: the Briton William Jackson, the Frenchman l’Ollone and, finally, Henry Morgan himself. In 1810, the province of Maracaibo did not join the first Venezuelan republic, remaining loyal to the Spanish crown, and then for almost 400 years Maracaibo was in a kind of isolation from the rest of the country. Firstly, communication was difficult due to the location of the city (the Maracaibo region was much more connected to Colombia). And besides, the locals have always been famous for their free-thinking and independent character.
In the 1950s it was decided to build a bridge across the lake in order to more closely “tie” Maracaibo to the rest of the country. The construction of this bridge, named after General Rafael Urdaneta, was completed in 40 months, in 1962, and its length was more than 8.5 km. In 1964, part of the bridge collapsed after a collision with a tanker, but it was, of course, restored, and so far the bridge is one of the longest in the world.
How to get to Maracaibo
Maracaibo International Airport receives flights from Caracas, other cities of the country, Miami (about 3 hours), Panama City, Cartagena, Curacao. In addition, you can get here by direct bus from Colombia, from Santa Maria, as well as from Caracas, Merida and San Cristobal.
Entertainment and attractions of Maracaibo
The city center is quite nice, although not too rich in special architectural beauties. Perhaps its most beautiful district is Santa Lucia, whose narrow streets are lined with European buildings of the colonial era, among which the small azure-blue church of St. Lucia is especially attractive. The area is full of small shops and take-away beer houses, and is usually where the largest number of tourists in Maracaibo. Another charming area in this sense is Saladillo, which is located on the very shores of the lake. This is the oldest area in the current Maracaibo. Finally, the area of Paseo de las Chiencias is interesting, where there are several churches and museums, as well as administrative buildings.
Carabobo Street is one of the brightest and most cheerful in the city: it is built up with multi-colored one-story houses of the colonial era and looks just festive.
3 things to do in Maracaibo:
- Ride around the city center on Tranvia, the tourist transport system, and learn more about the history of Maracaibo. There are also night routes with a stop at famous clubs. The main stop is at Vereda del Lago Park.
- Arrange a lightning photo hunt in Catatumbo.
- See “palafitos”.
The Basilica de Nuestra Señora de Chicuinquira, in the old town, is dedicated to the apparition of the Virgin Mary that took place during the colonial era. Its construction began in 1686 and was officially completed after a series of renovations only in 1943. The basilica features a rich and beautiful interior with stained glass windows, carved benches and Corinthian columns. However, the exterior of the cathedral is very beautiful, though not too big. And just a block away is the city’s most attractive square, Plaza del Rosario de Nuestra Señora de Chicuinquira. In general, there are a lot of sculptural images of Our Lady of Chicuinquira in Maracaibo, but the statue in this square with a semicircular colonnade is the most memorable and majestic.
To the north of the city is the area of Santa Rosa de Agua. Wooden houses “palafitos” were built here by indigenous Venezuelans right on the water.
Plaza Reina Guillermina is a park named after the Dutch Queen Wilhelmina. During the Second World War, many Dutch people ended up in Maracaibo and thanked the inhabitants of the city by creating this park. In the center is a statue of the queen.
Another large city park, Vereda del Lago, stretches along the lake, along El Milagro Avenue. This is one of the most popular meeting places for locals, especially at the end of the day. There is also Aquamania, a water amusement park.
Gaita is a style of Venezuelan folk music that developed in Maracaibo. It is performed on traditional instruments: furro, maracas, cuatro, chappasca and tambora (Venezuelan drum). Gaita became very popular throughout the country in the 1960s.
Museum of Contemporary Art “Lia Bermudez” occupies the building of the former central city market, built in the early 20th century. The museum is named after the famous local sculptor, and a significant place is given to sculpture in its expositions. In addition, all kinds of shows and events are organized here with dances, music, theatrical performances, film screenings, etc.
Of course, one of the main features of the city, shaping its character and affecting its history, is its location. Maracaibo is located on the shores of a narrow strait that connects the Venezuelan Gulf of the Caribbean Sea with the huge Lake Maracaibo. If you approach the issue pedantically, then Maracaibo is still not a lake, but a bay, but no one calls it that. This is the largest lake on the entire continent, and almost 25% of the population of Venezuela settled along the shores of Maracaibo. Maracaibo is one of the oldest lakes on the planet (according to some sources, the second in order).
For all the historical and geographical uniqueness of the lake, it would be wrong to call it a tourist attraction. Since 1914, large oil fields have been developed here. Large ports are located on the lake, and many water routes pass through it. If desired, travelers can go fishing on a boat, but, frankly, if you first look at the state of the lake shore in some areas, such a desire is unlikely to arise.
And yet there is something that lovers of natural wonders come here for: these are amazing atmospheric phenomena on the Catatumbo River, which flows into Lake Maracaibo. Night thunderstorms with lightning can last here up to 10 hours in a row for 150 nights a year. It is estimated that about 1.2 million lightning strikes this place every year: sometimes up to 280 discharges per hour.
This light show can be seen 40 km from Catatumbo, it was even used at one time for navigation, having received the name “Lighthouse of Maracaibo”.
Surroundings of Maracaibo
65 km north of Maracaibo is a small lakeside village of Sinamaika, where about 2 thousand people live. In modern times, Sinamaika has become a typical tourist destination thanks to thatched stilt houses on the water. The lagoon widens here in several places, so that the different parts of the village are quite distant from each other. In fact, although many travel agencies in Maracaibo offer organized excursions to Sinamaica, there is not much to do here: ride a boat around the bay, eat traditional Zulian dishes in a tourist restaurant on the water, buy souvenirs.