If you haven’t heard of Venezuela’s Angel Falls, just picture a real-life Indiana Jones adventure deep in the jungles of South America, and you’ll be off to a good start. Buried deep in the heart of the southeastern jungles of Venezuela is a natural marvel so phenomenal that it has to be seen to be believed. Angel Falls, the highest waterfall in the world, explodes from the top of a pink-hued mesa thousands of feet above an emerald-colored jungle and plummets dramatically into a churning pool of water below. The waterfall, located within Canaima National Park, is impressive in its own right, but what makes it even more special is that it takes passion and determination to get there.
Named not for the celestial being, but for Jimmy Angel, an American bush pilot who crashed his airplane atop the sandstone-capped mesa in the 1930s, Angel Falls has always been a mysterious and mesmerizing place. The mesa, Auyantepui, is buried in lush wilderness with no road access. The only way to see the Falls today is from the air, by boat trip up the river through Devil’s Canyon, or by short hike to the viewpoint of the Falls.
It is the trip of a lifetime. But as with most things that are once-in-a-lifetime, it requires a bit of extra legwork to make happen. Still, for those with the drive to see this natural marvel, the experience is absolutely worth the work.
TRAVEL ADVISORY - As of April 2019, the U.S. State Department has Venezuela listed as Level 4: Do Not Travel. We strongly advise that you read their report before considering a trip to Venezuela at this time.
Where Is Angel Falls?
The Falls are located within Canaima National Park. Spanning more than 11,500 square miles in the wilderness of southern Venezuela, the park is a UNESCO World Heritage site and one of the most impressive places in the world. The majority of Canaima is covered with table mountain formations with breathtaking cliffs and beautiful, arching waterfalls, including Angel Falls, which, at 3,000 feet, is the world’s highest waterfall.
Canaima National Park sits on the southeastern border of Venezuela near Guyana (another destination that is definitely worth a Google search!) and Brazil. It is difficult to reach, but its remoteness is part of what makes it so attractive.
How Do You Get To Angel Falls?
First, it’s important to note that it is not possible to reach Angel Falls by car, since there are no roads in the area. The most popular way to visit the Falls is by flying to the town of Canaima, Venezuela. There are no direct flights to Canaima from Caracas, Venezuela -- you must first fly to Ciudad Bolívar, Venezuela, or Puerto Ordaz, Venezuela.
Purchasing a package tour that includes the trek to the Falls, as well as accommodations, flights, and meals, is the easiest and most cost-effective way to see the natural marvel. Most visitors who come to Canaima do so through these package tours, and the tours that include airfare are the most convenient for travelers, since flights tend to sell out far in advance.
Booking your tour in advance is key, and there are many tour companies to choose from. One that consistently receives good reviews is Angel-Eco Tours, which offers a three-day, two-night Canaima National Park experience. The tour includes assistance getting to and from Canaima from Caracas. On the first two days, visitors tour other sights in the area, and on the third day, they depart for the Falls in a motorized canoe from Ucaima Port. The tour features moderate hikes to nearby lookout points. If you’re looking for something more adventurous and challenging, Angel-Eco Tours also offers a nine-day trek that includes Angel Falls and a visit to Roraima, Brazil.
Osprey Expeditions is another highly rated tour operator that offers treks to Angel Falls and other popular vantage points along the way. The company also assists with airport transfers to and from Canaima.
Another way to visit the Falls is to go through a lodge. Waku Lodge is one of the better boutique lodges in the region and offers customized packages for visiting Angel Falls. Many of these packages include airfare to and from Puerto Ordaz.
You can also book a flyover tour of the Falls if the boat ride is too much of a time commitment.
When Is The Best Time To Visit?
Again, we advise you to read the U.S. State Department's advisory on traveling to Venezuela at this time.
The busiest months of the year to visit Angel Falls are July, August, November, December, and January. This is when prices go up considerably, and you'll be competing for the picturesque views with other visitors. Visitors who want to make a flyover tour can schedule them year-round, but if you’d like to visit on foot, you must arrive during the rainy season, from June through November. This is because the park has to ensure that the river level is high enough for the water to make it all the way to the Falls. There aren't any organized trips to the area between January and May, but the park is still accessible.
What Will You See At Angel Falls?
The height of the Falls is reason enough to add them to your bucket list. Picture a plummet that is 16 times higher than Niagara Falls! Already you’re starting with something incredible. Beyond that, the waterfall sits in the heart of the wilderness, with no road access, making the adventure to get to it the trip of a lifetime. Buried in the misty, jade-hued jungle, Angel Falls explodes onto the scene, plunging from the mountain above. Most of the visitors to the Falls get their first glimpse of them on the short trek from the river that brings all the boat tours in. You’ll emerge from the bush to see bright blue skies; majestic, rose-colored cliffs; and the impressive cascade gushing down the sheer rock face into the verdant valley below.
Where Should You Stay?
Waku Lodge is one of the most popular places to stay near Canaima National Park; it’s located near the lagoon offering views of the area’s seven waterfalls. There are 19 rooms and one suite, and each room has its own balcony. Waku Lodge’s tour packages include flights to and from Canaima, lodging, sightseeing, expeditions, and all meals. Visitors can choose a full-day expedition to Angel Falls or an overnight option.
Campamento Canaima is another option for visitors to the park, with 120 rooms in stand-alone cottages overlooking the lagoon. The cottages come in doubles, triples, and quads, all with daily room service, hot water, private bathrooms, and spectacular views. A bar and lounge round out the facilities. The hotel offers day trips to the Falls as well as flyover tours.
Jungle Rudy's Ucaima Camp is yet another lodge with packages for visiting the Falls. There are five cabins with balconies, hammocks, private bathrooms, and more. A dining room and salon with a view round out the amenities. Ucaima also has two cabins near the Falls for visitors who are making the overnight trip to see them. Both cabins offer outdoor grills and spectacular views of the Falls. The lodge’s packages include various amenities, tour services, and extras like a welcome cocktail, insurance, and more.
What Else Is There To Do Near Angel Falls?
There are so many impressive sites on the way to Angel Falls that a trip to the Falls is really the cherry on top. This part of Venezuela is home to undulating savannas, palm forests, rivers, towering cliffs, and flat-topped table mountains called tepuis.
Canaima itself is a remote village -- its biggest claim to fame is that it is the jumping-off point for exploring Angel Falls. But the rest of Canaima National Park is beautiful and well worth exploring. At the center, the Laguna de Canaima, a reddish-colored reflective lagoon, features palm trees and pink sandy banks. The red and pink hues are due to tannins from decomposing plants over the decades. Seven stunning waterfalls tumble from the lagoon, and most tours to Angel Falls include a short boat trip and hike that allow tour goers to explore these other falls as well.
The park is also home to Uruyen Canyon and the sacred Kavak Caves, which are thought to have been the site of mystic shaman ceremonies. Angel-Eco Tours offers hikes from Uruyen to Kavak or vice versa. The trip to the waterfalls of Kavak includes hiking, wading, and swimming in the canyons before reaching the powerful waterfalls that tumble in the distance. The hike from Uruyen to Kavak is about 5 miles and takes roughly 3 hours to complete at a leisurely pace. To access the caves requires an additional 1.5-mile walk on slightly steeper terrain.