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Los Roques archipelago, Venezuela

GPS: 11.852278876473, -66.719645179155

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Los Roques is an archipelago also known by the evocative name of the Maldives of Venezuela. This paradise land welcomes a marine national park founded in 1972. It extends over 2,000 km² in the Caribbean Sea, 150 kilometres north of the Venezuelan coast. A wetland of international importance and a Ramsar site, Los Roques Archipelago National Park contains an exceptional reservoir of marine biodiversity.

Its atoll includes some 50 islands and just under 300 cays (small sandy islands), which are among the most beautiful anchorage sites in the world. Its transparent beaches and sandbanks are untouched by any permanent human activity, except for the village of Gran Roque, which is inhabited year-round by some 1,500 people. Formerly home to fishermen from the nearby island of Margarita at the beginning of the 20th century, Los Roques Archipelago National Park is an ecological heaven that now delights divers for the extent of its underwater fauna and flora. The archipelago’s coral reef protects many species of sea urchins, starfish, sponges, turtles, dolphins, whales and manta rays. Los Roques is also popular with sport fishing enthusiasts for its 280 species of fish or sailing sports enthusiasts for its permanent trade winds (regular wind blowing in the intertropical regions). Fly-fishing and casting are the most popular techniques used to track all kinds of small and large fish: bonefish, tarpon, barracuda, permits, jacks, mackerel, tuna, molluscs and crustaceans.

Rich in lagoons, coves, mangroves, coral reefs and majestic bays, Los Roques Archipelago National Park is the largest marine park in the entire Caribbean Sea. Its string of islands remains one of the few places in the Caribbean where it is still possible to be completely alone on a white sandy beach. Los Roques Archipelago National Park is a privileged destination for the wealthy people of Caracas and international visitors. It is the oldest and one of the most beautiful underwater reserves in the Caribbean region. This place of indescribable beauty attracts around 70,000 visitors a year. Considered as the new oil by the Venezuelan government, the archipelago could help make tourism the country’s main source of income.

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  • The idyllic and paradisical setting of the archipelago nestled in the middle of the Caribbean Sea
  • Some of the most beautiful coral reefs in the Caribbean; the shades of blue and green of this marine environment
  • The islands of Francisqui, Nordisqui, Madrisqui, Esparqui, Rabusqui, Crasqui, Sabastopol and Noronqui; the small lower islands Cayo de Agua, Cayo Fabian and Cayo Pirata
  • The countless deserted beaches; the turquoise and crystalline waters; the spectacular view of the archipelago as seen from the clouds
  • Swimming, snorkelling, scuba diving, sailing, windsurfing and kite surfing, as well as sea kayaking, deep-sea fishing and fly-fishing
  • The diversity of birds and migratory birds of North America whose total population includes about a hundred species (pelican, gull, tern, great egret, flamingo, scarlet ibis…)
  • The wide variety of marine species (multicoloured fish, sea turtles, dolphins, whales, crustaceans, molluscs…); the marine biology station at Dos Mosquises to the south of Cayo de Agua (marine turtle research and conservation centre); the tropical flora (mangroves, underwater plants, sea purslane, cactus…)
  • The numerous ecosystems (lagoons, rocky beaches, reefs, salt marshes, mangroves…); the pre-Hispanic archaeological remains in Los Roques; the colourful houses and the church of Gran Roque
  • The Virgen del Valle festival (second week of September); the annual Lobster Festival (in November)
  • Los Roques archipelago supplies 90% of Venezuela’s national consumption of lobsters and crayfish.
  • Ceramic figurines and ancient traces of molluscs (botutos or lambis) bear witness to a very ancient human presence on the archipelago, long before the arrival of the first conquistadors at the beginning of the 16th century.
  • Many of the islands in Los Roques Archipelago National Park were named in the 18th century by the Guipuscoan Company of Caracas. This colonial company was created in 1728 by Basque merchants under the aegis of King Philip V of Spain to export raw materials from this region of the New World to Europe. In exchange for a monopoly on the trade of goods, the Basque navigators were given the task of protecting the Venezuelan coast against pirate attacks.
  • Together with the ABC islands (made up of Aruba, Bonaire and Curaçao) and other small islands attached to the Federal Dependencies of Venezuela, Los Roques Archipelago is part of the Leeward Antilles. Its highest point is Cerro El Cabezón (120 metres above sea level).
  • The atoll of Los Roques is reportedly regularly used as a staging point for gold and drug trafficking to the Caribbean islands.
  • Land ownership in Los Roques does not exist as the archipelago is a national park. Residents therefore only have a temporary permit, granted by the Venezuelan authorities. However, the process of making large-scale investments is made easier by a law passed in 2017 which aims to “Promote productive foreign investment to foster the integral development of the Nation, the supreme happiness of the people and the strengthening of the productive and diversified economy”.
  • Despite the ecological and heritage damage threatening the ecosystem of Los Roques Archipelago National Park, the Venezuelan authorities are considering issuing new concessions for the development of luxury hotels and restaurants in previously protected areas. This would already be the case for the islands of Noronqui, Francisqui, Crasqui and Prestonqui, which will see new foreign investors arrive to develop luxury tourism.
  • You can easily reach the archipelago by plane from the Venezuelan cities of Caracas, Maracaibo or Porlamar (Margarita Island). A new airport serves Gran Roque since the end of 2019. It is also possible to cross the archipelago by boat from the port of La Guaira (170 km away).
  • In high season (June to September), it is advisable to book your accommodation in advance in the 60 or so posadas (old fishermen’s huts transformed into brightly coloured inns) in the village of Grand Roque. Accommodation on board a sailing boat is also possible.
  • Taxi boats, known locally as peñeros, allow you to reach the beaches of your dreams (getting there early in the morning will make you the only visitor of the place).

Where to eat

  • La Chuchera
    (friendly pizzeria)
  • Restaurant Juanita
    (lobster is delicious)
  • Aquarena Los Roques
    (cocktails on the beach)

Where to go out

  • Museo Marino de Margarita
    (discovering marine life)
  • La Tortuga Island
    (virgin and uninhabited island)
  • Bonaire
    (the Caribbean paradise)

Where to sleep

  • Posada Guaripete
    (impeccable hostel)
  • Posada Movida
    (like at home)
  • Posada La Cigala
    (refined and attentive)

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