Angel Falls

Canaima National Park, Bolivar, Venezuela

About Angel Falls


Hiking Distance: 3-4km round trip with river crossing
Suggested Time: 1.5 days; 2.5 hours hike

Date first visited: 2007-11-21
Date last visited: 2007-11-22

Waterfall Latitude: 5.96998
Waterfall Longitude: -62.68484

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Angel Falls (known as Kerepakupai-merú in the indigenous Pemón language) was the consensus tallest waterfall in the world dropping nearly a kilometer (about 979m total drop with 807m freefall).

Of all the famous waterfalls that Julie and I have been to, this one seemed to invoke a sense of mystery and adventure.

Angel_Falls_128_11222007 - Kerepakupai-merú or Angel Falls
Kerepakupai-merú or Angel Falls

This was probably due to the fact that its remote location meant we needed to endure long transits followed by a pretty strenuous and muggy hike to the overlook near the foot of the waterfall.

On top of that, the elusive falls was frequently shrouded in clouds so it remained a mysterious presence.

Indeed, only Mother Nature revealed this gem on her terms, and we were relegated to hope she would be kind to us to reveal it during the limited amount of time we were there.

That uncertainty of whether a visit would yield a satisfactory sighting despite the effort to get there was what made Angel Falls quite the adventure.

While visitors like us would regard this place with mystery and adventure, for centuries, the indigenous Pemón people knew of its existence and believed that Kerepakupai-merú came from a “Mountain of the God of Evil” (or “Devil’s Mountain”).

Angel_Falls_070_11212007 - Looking up from the mirador with a direct view of Kerepakupai-merú or Angel Falls
Looking up from the mirador with a direct view of Kerepakupai-merú or Angel Falls

After all, that was what the translation of the name Auyantepuy (or Auyantepui), which was the tabletop mountain (tepuy or tepui) from which Angel Falls made its plunge.

The waterfall’s existence seemed to us like a paradox as it didn’t appear to be fed by conventional drainage sources such as large snow field, glacier melt, lakes, nor a major river system.

Instead, the abundance of water responsible for the falls was practically all rainfall from equatorial tropical clouds condensing onto the cloud forest atop the tepuy’s plateau.

It was almost as if the clouds wrung its water onto the tepuy like a soaked rag.

Nomenclature and Recent History

Angel Falls is also called Salto Ángel or indigenously Kerepakupai-merú.

Transmandu_flight_053_11222007 - Aerial view of Kerepakupai-merú or Angel Falls
Aerial view of Kerepakupai-merú or Angel Falls

The indigenous name derived from the Pemón natives means “falls from the deepest place”.

Ironically, the more famous name of the falls had nothing to do with the connotation that its water fell from the heavens.

On the contrary, it just so happened to be the name of aviator Jimmy Angel who in 1937 landed his plane above Auyantepui near the falls during an effort to prove to the world of the existence of the falls (and apparently to search for gold).

According to the literature that we’ve been exposed to, given the soggy terrain atop the tepuy, Angel, his wife, and two friends landed the plane but couldn’t take off again.

They had no choice but to make the difficult trek down from the vertical cliffs of the tepui towards civilization (taking around 11 days).

Ciudad_Bolivar_006_11202007 - Jimmy Angel's restored plane resting at the airport in Ciudad Bolívar
Jimmy Angel’s restored plane resting at the airport in Ciudad Bolívar

Only after successfully performing that feat did the falls become known to the rest of the world, and so eventually the falls were named after Jimmy Angel himself (though more recently, the late Hugo Chavez made the official name to be Kerepakupai-merú).

His plane has since been moved, restored, and we saw it (or at least a replica of it) on display at the airport in Ciudad Bolívar.

Experiencing Angel Falls

To give you an idea of what it took for us to see the falls, we first had to endure sore bums riding a small motorized boat against the current of two different rivers (i.e. El Rio Carrao and the almost blood-colored Rio Churun) for four hours.

Once the boat ride was done, we then had to cross a stream (the same one responsible for the falls) before embarking on a steep and uphill 90-minute hike.

I recalled we brought Keens to handle both the water and the hiking.

Angel_Falls_002_11212007 - Crossing a stream before starting the hike in earnest
Crossing a stream before starting the hike in earnest

In hindsight, if we were to bring hiking boots for better footing, then we probably would’ve carried an extra pair of water shoes or sandals so as to not ruin the boots on that stream crossing.

The uphill hike involved stepping onto exposed roots (i.e. it can be slippery) plus the constant humidity meant the trail was typically muddy where there was dirt.

We were warned about the possibility of snakes prior to the trip so that did weight on our mind about whether to bring hiking boots versus just relying on Keens.

Anyways, once we were at the overlook (mirador), there was limited space so at first there was a crowd, but it did eventually lighten up as we lingered there waiting for the clouds to part and reveal the falls itself.

Our arrival was pretty late in the day so we didn’t continue hiking towards the pool by the base of the cascades below the base of the main falls.

Angel_Falls_004_jx_11222007 - Hammocks under a tin-roofed shelter at our camp close to Kerepakupai-merú or Angel Falls
Hammocks under a tin-roofed shelter at our camp close to Kerepakupai-merú or Angel Falls

When the day was done, we slept on hammocks with mosquito nets in an open-air camp covered with a corrugated tin roof.

Given the adventure it took to get here, you could argue that this type of excursion was more about the journey than the destination.

Yet it was probably because of the uncertainties surrounding our excursion that the reward and exhilaration factor was amplified when the falls was finally revealed to us.

Anyways, we were very fortunate to have good enough weather to fly by the falls on the way back to Ciudad Bolivar from Canaima.

That allowed us to experience the grandeur of the falls from an aerial perspective.

Canaima_Campamento_Bernal_052_11202007 - Salto Hacha near our camp at the Canaima Lagoon
Salto Hacha near our camp at the Canaima Lagoon

As if Angel Falls itself wasn’t enough, we also got to experience other waterfalls as part of this excursion.

These waterfalls included Salto Ucaima, Salto Golondrina, Salto Wadaima, Salto Hacha, and Sapo Falls as well as a few other lesser known or unnamed ones plunging straight off the tepuys.

Different States of Angel Falls

During the short time we were able to witness Angel Falls, we saw it take on many forms.

In addition to seeing it as a thick multi-segmented horsetail plumes, we also saw it as a thinner horsetail that disappeared into mist on its way down before reappearing as lower cascades for the remainder of its drop.

We tried to time our trip to ensure the highest likelihood of seeing the falls flow while trading that with the likelihood of clouds obscuring our view of the falls (as well as trying to take advantage of holidays).

Angel_Falls_200_11222007 - Clouds constantly swirled about Kerepakupai-merú or Angel Falls so it really was a roll of the dice whether we'd see it or not during our time there
Clouds constantly swirled about Kerepakupai-merú or Angel Falls so it really was a roll of the dice whether we’d see it or not during our time there

For more details about our thought process and how we made our decision to time a visit to Angel Falls, we did a more detailed write-up about it.

I could probably keep going on about our experience here, but I’ll let the pictures and videos do the rest of the talking.

So check out the rest of this page below to learn more about the graceful Angel Falls…

Authorities

Angel Falls resides in Canaima National Park in the Bolivar state. To my knowledge, there doesn’t appear to be an official governmental authority directly managing Canaima National Park. For information or inquiries about the general area as well as current conditions, the closest authoritative source of information that I could find was the UNESCO World Heritage Centre website.

Rio_Carrao_003_jx_11212007 - Some riverside village on the way upstream from Canaima Lagoon towards Angel Falls
Rio_Carrao_007_jx_11212007 - Looking in the distance towards some intriguing formations rising up from the Rio Carrao river basin that we were traversing
Rio_Carrao_015_jx_11212007 - Docking the boat as we were about to do a little walking through a local village before continuing further upstream by boat again
Rio_Carrao_002_11212007 - Clouds reluctantly revealing tepuys near the start of our upstream journey to Angel Falls the wide open basin along the Rio Carrao
Rio_Carrao_008_11212007 - Spotting some ephemeral waterfalls plunging off the tepuys lining the Rio Carrao
Rio_Carrao_010_11212007 - On the boat ride heading up Rio Carrao
Rio_Carrao_014_11212007 - A few more waterfalls tumbling down the tepuys as seen from the Rio Carrao
Rio_Carrao_022_11212007 - Spotting even more ephemeral waterfalls spilling over tepuys as seen from the Rio Carrao
Rio_Carrao_028_11212007 - A couple of hours into the boat ride and the clouds were shrouding the tepuys now towering over us
Rio_Carrao_032_11212007 - Continuing further upstream along the Rio Carrao
Rio_Carrao_033_11212007 - Context of more ephemeral waterfalls tumbling beneath the edges of tepuys along the Rio Carrao
Rio_Carrao_039_jx_11212007 - I recalled we shifted ourselves while seated on the wooden beams in the boat at this time
Rio_Carrao_041_11212007 - Still more tepuys and waterfalls along the Rio Carrao
Rio_Carrao_055_11212007 - With so many ephemeral waterfalls beneath the tepuys, it was easy to get waterfall saturated by this point
Rio_Carrao_072_11212007 - Context of even more ephemeral waterfalls tumbling beneath tepuys deep along Rio Carrao
Rio_Churun_002_11212007 - Well into the boat ride, we went into a different river called Rio Churun, and the water here looked blood red
Rio_Churun_010_11212007 - Now continuing upstream on the Rio Churun with still more impressive tepuys towering over us
Rio_Churun_013_11212007 - The weather briefly lightened up as we could see more shapely tepuys in the distance
Rio_Churun_016_11212007 - A segmented ephemeral waterfall tumbling down one of the tepuys along Rio Churun
Rio_Churun_019_11212007 - Traversing some low rapids in the presence of more waterfalls and tepuys on the Rio Churun
Rio_Churun_022_11212007 - It was becoming quite the long river ride at this point and our bums were getting sore and seeking relief
Rio_Churun_024_11212007 - Another look at one of the tepuys seen from our upstream journey along the Rio Churun
Angel_Falls_004_11212007 - Long 4-hour river ride was over and now the 90-minute uphill hike began
Angel_Falls_005_11212007 - Signage marking the Angel Falls Trail (Sendero Salto Angel)
Angel_Falls_007_11212007 - It was definitely NOT an easy hike. As you can see, there were lots of roots, we had to watch for the steep climb, and we also had to accept the sticky and muggy conditions
Angel_Falls_008_11212007 - Finally, we made it to el mirador! Unfortunately, clouds still concealed much of the falls when we first showed up
Angel_Falls_001_jx_11212007 - View of Angel Falls from Mirador Laime in light to average flow
Angel_Falls_016_11212007 - ...and when the clouds finally parted, the mirador (overlook) was still a bit crowded, especially given the limited real estate
Angel_Falls_037_11212007 - We turned around and saw this waterfall way in the distance
Angel_Falls_036_11212007 - Context of the waterfall way in the distance as seen from near the base of Angel Falls
Angel_Falls_081_11212007 - That's me checking out Angel Falls from the mirador when we briefly had the overlook to ourselves
Angel_Falls_004_jx_11222007 - Yep, we had to sleep in hammocks with mosquito nets
Angel_Falls_093_11222007 - After a nonstop thunderstorm last night, it looked like we weren't going to see any of the now-swollen falls that morning
Angel_Falls_098_11222007 - Context of the banks of the Rio Churun as seen from our camp near Angel Falls
Angel_Falls_108_11222007 - Some time after having breakfast, the skies finally cleared up enough to reveal the entirety of Angel Falls in full flow
Angel_Falls_114_11222007 - Closeup of Angel Falls in high flow.
Angel_Falls_131_11222007 - Context of the falls across the river
Angel_Falls_178_11222007 - As suddenly as the clouds parted, the clouds then started to shroud the Angel Falls again
Rio_Churun_041_11222007 - The downstream boat ride took half as long as on the way up.  This shot was taken from the Rio Churun leg
Rio_Carrao_107_11222007 - Back on the Rio Carrao on the return journey from Angel Falls
Rio_Carrao_137_11222007 - Another opportunity to appreciate the tepuys while cruising downstream on the Rio Carrao
Rio_Carrao_162_11222007 - Looking at tepuys in the distance as we walked towards the Canaima Lagoon after we nearly completed the downstream journey along the Rio Carrao
Transmandu_flight_046_11222007 - Aerial profile view of Angel Falls
Transmandu_flight_058_11222007 - Nearly direct aerial look at Angel Falls
Transmandu_flight_079_11222007 - More angled aerial look at Angel Falls

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As mentioned earlier, we had to earn our access to Angel Falls with a bit of an adventure as it sat in a remote area deep in the equatorial rainforest of Canaima National Park in Venezuela’s southeast.

Given that this was an international attraction that required a good deal of logistics and preparation, we can’t treat this section like a driving directions how-to like we would normally do on all our other write-ups.

Rio_Carrao_091_11222007 - Our long upstream four-hour river transit to get from our Canaima Lagoon camp to the Angel Falls
Our long upstream four-hour river transit to get from our Canaima Lagoon camp to the Angel Falls

Instead, we discussed the logistics of how we managed to enable ourselves to access the falls in a separate write-up.

We also did a writeup about some of the less glamorous things we did to realize this trip.

Such things included the paperwork required for us to enter the country, our experience with the local currency, and some of the hazards we had to be cognizant of.

For geographical context, Canaima (the base of our camp and starting/end of our tour) was roughly a 75- to 90-minute flight from Ciudad Bolívar or Puerto Ordaz. Both of these intermediate cities are roughly 2 hours flight from Caracas.

Waterfalls, tepuys, and our guide as we motor our way upstream to Salto Angel


Sweep from its base to its top high up amongst the clouds

Tagged with: kerepakupai meru, salto angel, canaima, bolivar, ciudad bolivar, puerto ordaz, boat, churun, carrao, pemon, venezuela, waterfall, top 10



Visitor Comments:

Gene and Jody Primoff in Canaima, 1978 January 11, 2015 7:25 pm by Gene Primoff - In 1978 we visited Canaima and stayed near the lagoon. On the way there,our airplane routed us past Angel Falls and we got a good look at the incredible sight. Soon after,we landed near the camp site. We ate our good meals outside under some trees. We spent a lot of time walking on trails… ...Read More
Hiked there in 2004 – December June 12, 2013 3:23 am by Katie Owen - 4.5 hr flight from LAX to ATL; ATL to Caracas, Was going to get taxi from airport (about 45 minutes outside Caracas proper) to hotel but friendly seatmate from the airplane gave me a ride to my hotel. Overnight in Caracas (Hilton, had pre booked prior to arrival). Met 4 other traveling companions next day,… ...Read More
I’ve seen Angel Falls from the base and the top. Breathtaking! November 1, 2012 10:50 pm by Marilyn Wing - My husband was a bush pilot in Venezuela during the 1950s.Our planes were based in Ciudad Bolivar. We often saw Angel Falls from the cockpit of one of our single-engine Cessnas. The most exhilarating flights, however, were those we made in a helicopter in 2004 and 2007. Our pilot hovered so close to the falls,… ...Read More
Angel Falls as amazing as imagined January 12, 2012 4:11 pm by Pam Orisek - My husband and I visited Angel Falls years ago and I will never forget that trip. We flew in commercial on a 737. It was in early summer and CLEAR and the falls were full, which is rare, so he flew us by the falls at 1200 ft and at slow speed, then turned around… ...Read More
Visiting Venezuela 2008 October 21, 2011 1:35 pm by Sakari Piipponen - I spent a short holiday on February 2008 in Isla de Margarita. Travel agency had some day trips to offer and I chose excursion to Canaima. First we stopped in Puerto Ordaz where Orinoco and Caroni meet. And followed to Canaima not seeing Angel Falls. They told us that because of the weather we'll be… ...Read More
Wonderful experience June 3, 2011 11:55 pm by Alex - I went to see Angel Falls as a sole traveler and it was a marvelous experience. While I did not like Venezuela much, the waterfalls were astonishing. Their view ... breathtaking and the sound they made was incredible. I choose to go with a small plane, but seeing the jungle from above, I wish I… ...Read More
Amazing waterfall November 1, 2010 5:52 am by Jenny Lenavena - Angel Falls is one of the most extreme places which is worth to seeing. Having been there with my friends, we were mesmerized with its beauty! It was like dreaming. My friends & I were so much involved in the beauty that we didn't speak for hours. It was an unforgettable and breathtaking experience. ...Read More
Angel Falls June 2, 2010 2:02 am by Hein - I was there in July 2009 - definitely one of the highlights of my life. If I may say something controversial, I have been at the Tugela Falls in South Africa a couple of times, and I think they might be higher than Angel Falls ... ...Read More
Over, Around, and Beside Angel Falls January 30, 2010 12:36 am by Pat Monteith - My husband and I visited my parents in Venezuela in 1965. Dad was on loan to a Venezuelan steel company and as he and my step-mother lived in Caracas and the plant was in Puerto Ordaz, they had access to a small plane. I don't remember the make (think it was a Cessna) but there… ...Read More
Frequent Guest (Angel Falls) April 28, 2009 10:08 pm by _Anonymous4 - Although I have never been to Angel Falls I do have a connection to them. My father and our family lived in British Guiana during the 40's and 50's. My dad was a government negotiator for part of that time and we lived on Atkinson Field, a former American air base. It was during that… ...Read More
Memorable Angel Falls April 28, 2009 2:09 pm by David Mckie - Back in 1994 I took a flight out of Barcelona (Puerto La Cruz) Venezuela to Canaima. It was a 3 or 4 hour flight (one way) in an old DC3 aircraft. After landing at Canaima we were taken on a 3 hour long trip through the surrounding area ending up having lunch near the falls… ...Read More
Jungle Rudy’s August 3, 2008 6:33 pm by Elaine Corum - I am 88 yrs old now, but when I was 50 (about?) my husband flew us in our Bonanza to Jungle Rudy's where we landed in the fields and stayed with him for a few days. He showed us his maps so we could try to fly into the canyon by Angel Falls. It was… ...Read More

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Visitor Reviews of this Waterfall:

angeles falls July 12, 2014 4:21 am by Ninaparri - last year i visit it with my friends in a tour as us west coast tours. it is very beautiful to see. we enjoy there a lot and take some pictures also. It is more than 19 times higher than Niagara Falls. ...Read More

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