Venezuela ... inspiration for Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's mysterious "Lost World;" home to the tallest waterfall in the world the majestic Angel Falls; home to 40 percent of South America's bird species; home to 43 protected National Parks and home to 31 indigenous tribes.

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South America

The northernmost country in South America, Venezuela is also one of the wealthiest. Since the discovery of vast Venezuelan oil deposits in 1917, the country has been transformed. The related income has helped protect the country’s other treasure: its glorious landscape; Venezuela now has over 40 national parks.

Venezuela’s Caribbean coastline is the longest in South America—1,700 miles of brilliant white sand, ancient coral formations and turquoise water. Here you can experience some of the finest snorkeling and scuba in the Caribbean. Sport fishermen come to this region seeking dorado, sailfish, tuna, white marlin and blue marlin.

The coast is also the location of Cumaná, the first Spanish city in the Americas. This historic city of red-tiled roofs and cobblestone streets is watched over by the 300-year old San Antonio Castle, complete with cannons and dungeons. Margarita Island, located near Cumana, a chic beach destination frequented by sun-seeking European tourists and duty-free shoppers.

The capital city, Caracas, lies on the central coast. Founded in 1567, Caracas is characterized by modern infrastructure, colonial charm and excellent museums. One hundred miles off this shore is the Los Roques National Park, an archipelago of 340 coral inlets. The park is a paradise for bird watchers and divers.

In western Venezuela, the northern Andes cradle Mérida, a picturesque city of 17th Century churches and monastaries. Here, the world’s longest and highest cable car transports visitors to snow capped Pico Bolivar. The surrounding streams, lakes and rivers nurture record-sized trout.

Venezuela is also a land of great waters. South America’s largest lake, Maracaibo, is found near the western coast. In the east, the mighty Orinoco spreads into a fertile river delta. Christopher Columbus first touched South America here in 1498. In the southeast, Angel Falls, the tallest waterfall in the world (2,650 feet), lies hidden deep within the lush Gran Sabana. The falls are reached from Canaima, a remote lagoon-side town that also serves as a base for river fishing expeditions and treks to native villages.