Maracaibo is the second largest metropolis in Venezuela and, despite its picturesque location on the lake, is considered the hottest city in the country. The strongly represented Maracucho people make the Indian culture in the city of millions within reach.
Like Valencia and the capital Caracas, Maracaibo is located on the north coast of Venezuela and is the third of Venezuela's three megacities. With average annual temperatures of 30 °C, Venezuela's second-largest city is also considered the hottest city in the country. Even in the rainier months from September to November, the heat hardly abates.
Apart from the tropical Indian flair of the city and the colonial buildings, the most colorful of which can be found on Carabobo Street, Maracaibo also delights its visitors with magnificent architecture and its idyllic location on Lake Maracaibo.
Tip: If the city looks familiar, you may have seen the movie "Two Missionaries" with Bud Spencer and Terence Hill, in which Maracaibo made an appearance as a movie location.
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Experience Indian culture live
In Maracaibo, the Maracuchos, indigenous South American Indians, are strongly represented. To this day, the proud people make sure that their cultural heritage is not lost among all the immigrants from Germany, Spain and Italy. And so, in Maracaibo, one encounters Indian culture at every turn, which decisively shapes the atmosphere of the Venezuelan metropolis.
Sanctuary La Chinita
The Catholic church La Chinita, with full name Basilica de Nuestra Señora del Rosario de Chiquinquirá, has become an important place of pilgrimage. It is here that the Blessed Virgin Mary is said to have appeared to a woman on her washboard. With its location on Calle 95, the sunny yellow basilica is a perfect starting point for a tour of Maracaibo.
Plaza del Rosario de Nuestra Senora de Chiquinquira
Right next to the sanctuary is the square of the same name, which is probably the most beautiful square in Maracaibo with its elaborate figural decoration. Around the 18m high monument to the Virgin of Chiquinquira are grouped nymphs and fountains, which together with a columned archway form a wonderful work of art.
The theater of Maracaibo was founded in 1883, destroyed in 1928 and rebuilt four years later. After a further closure of twelve years, Maracaibo's Art Deco jewel was reopened in 1998 with the financial help of the University of Zulia and is now one of the most important theaters in Venezuela. It has also been listed as a National Monument since 1981. On weekday mornings, guided tours of about 30 minutes are offered.
Plaza Bolivar with government building and cathedral
Just a block away on Calle 95 is the snow-white, columned building of the Palacio de los Cóndores, which houses the city government. Across the street is Plaza Bolivar, its eastern side flanked by Maracaibo Cathedral. The 17th-century neoclassical church is dedicated to Saints Peter and Paul and is the center of Easter celebrations each year.
Passing the Santa Ana Chapel, we continue north along Avenida El Milagro along the harbor to the first green space, the Vereda del Lago with Aquamania. Maracaibo's water park is popular in Venezuela's tropical heat, and not just with families with children. Nearly 20 water slides for all ages, a river that can be navigated on giant floaties, and a sandy beach by the pool ensure fun in the cool water for young and old alike.
Parque La Marina
Even further north is the city's Marine Park, which offers magnificent views over Lake Maracaibo and the city skyline thanks to the 46m-high "Mirador del Lago" tower. From the idyllic green space in the midst of the sea of houses, a leisurely stroll along the harbor promenade leads to the Plaza del Buen Maestro, which is well worth seeing.
Lake Maracaibo is the largest lake in South America and one of the oldest lakes in the world, with an age of over 30 million years. Along its shores you will find nice picnic areas and a wide variety of recreational and water sports activities. Especially in La Vereda del Lago Maracaibo, a village like a theme park, tourists and locals meet to hike, climb mountains, jog, bike, roller skate or play paintball.
Incidentally, the mouth of the Catatumbo River into Lake Maracaibo is known for its high occurrence of lightning, the so-called Catatumbo phenomenon. Unfortunately, due to the often heavy pollution of the water and the shores and a dense occurrence of duckweed, the lake is not suitable for swimming.
General Rafael Urdaneta Bridge
Maracaibo is located on the northern shore of the lake of the same name at the mouth of the strait that leads to the Caribbean Sea. In order to cross this strait and not always have to go around the enormous lake to reach the rest of Venezuela, the enormous General Rafael Urdaneta Bridge was opened on August 24, 1962.
The 8.7km long colossus, named after a hero in the Venezuelan War of Independence, is the largest concrete bridge in the world and a crossing is an absolute must for any visitor to Maracaibo.
Castillo de San Carlos de Barra
North of the city, on one of the islands that separate Lake Maracaibo from the Caribbean Sea, lies the Castillo de San Carlos de Barra. The fortress of Maracaibo was built in the 17th century to protect the city from pirate attacks. 200 years later, the Venezuelan military established a base within the historic walls. Before it was declared a national monument in 1965, it functioned as a prison for his political opponents under the dictatorship of Juan Vicenre Gomez.