Angel Falls: How Do I Get There?
In our minds, getting to Angel Falls
was not easy by any stretch of the imagination.
Even though there was sufficient tourist infrastructure to make the falls accessible to nature lovers without breaking the bank or unreasonably risking our lives, we still had to spend a bit of effort, money, and time to finally lay our eyes on this most mysterious and mystical waterfall.
To make a long story short, we first had to fly to Canaima, Venezuela, which involved a connecting flight from Caracas to Ciudad Bolívar or Puerto Ordaz and from Ciudad Bolívar or Puerto Ordaz to Canaima. I'm sure there might be other alternatives, but I'd imagine the way we did was probably the most popular or likely approach for most people. By the way, don't forget the international flight to get to Caracas in the first place!
Once in Canaima, we then had to take a river trip (4 hours upstream) to the Angel Falls trail (Sendero Salto Angel) where we hiked an additional 60-90 minutes in a soggy, rooty, slippery, and steeply uphill jungle trail that began with a long stream crossing. Needless to say, we had to earn our Angel Falls experience, but this also made us intimately immersed in nature and provided us with plenty of opportunities to bond with tour mates as well as the some of the indigenous people we encountered.
As a lucky bonus, our flight from Canaima to Ciudad Bolívar also made an overflight of Angel Falls.
To give you an idea of the travel logistics involved, we've broken down our experience below...
- Red-eye Flight from Los Angeles to Miami (5 hours)
- Wait for connecting flight at airport (allowed 3 hours to buffer for unforseen delays or other logistical issues)
- Flight from Miami to Caracas (3 hours)
- Wait for connecting flight at airport (allowed 3-4 hours to buffer for unforseen delays, passport control [ugh!], finding the tour operator [we booked a reputable tour from home to minimize the likelihood of fraud even though this isn't the cheapest way], changing money, etc.)
- Flight from Caracas to Puerto Ordaz to Ciudad Bolívar (around 2 hours total)
- Spent night in Ciudad Bolívar
- Flight from Ciudad Bolívar to Canaima (around 75 minutes in a tiny little Cessna plane)
- Got settled at a campamento we pre-booked with
- Spent night at campamento
- Started river trip from Puerto Ucaima (requires car shuttle [included with tour] through Canaima Village to the put-in point upstream from Salto Ucaima)
- Not-so-comfortable river boat ride on Río Carrao then Río Churún to start of hike (4 hours)
- Hike to Angel Falls Lookout (1.5 hours)
- Sleep at remote campamento
Just to complete the picture, here's how things went on the way home...
- River boat downstream back to campamento in Canaima (2 hours not including stops)
- Return to Canaima airport (15-30 minutes)
- Fly back to Ciudad Bolívar, including Angel Falls overflight (about 1.5-2 hours)
- Spend night in Ciudad Bolívar
- Flight from Ciudad Bolívar to Caracas (1-1.5 hour)
- Wait at airport (allowed 3-4 hours for check-in, passport control [ugh!], security, etc.)
- Flight from Caracas to Miami (3 hours)
- Spend night in Miami
- Fly home from Miami to Los Angeles (5 hours)
For the record, we were able to pull off our trip in a span of about 6 days. I'd say this is the minimum required for Angel Falls.
We flew with American Airlines for flights connecting to and from Miami (though they're not the only airlines that do this). In Venezuela, for our 2007 trip, we flew with a variety of companies from Con Viasa, Rutaca, and Transmandu. We booked with a tour company so we didn't necessarily have to worry about making the air arrangements (at least as far as flights within Venezuela were concerned). As for the US and international legs of the transit between Los Angeles and Caracas, we were familiar enough with domestic routes so we were able to make these bookings on our own.
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