The city of Maracaibo is the largest port city of Lake Maracaibo (Lago Maracaibo), located in the northwestern part of the country in the state of Zulia. Lake Maracaibo is the largest lake in South America, its area is 13210 square meters. km. In the north, it is connected by the narrow Strait of Tablazo to the Gulf of Venezuela. On the shores of the lake are some of the largest oil and gas fields in the Western Hemisphere. In connection with the ongoing development of oil and gas fields, the lake is heavily polluted.
According to ENINGBO, the city of Maracaibo was founded in 1529. In the 17th century, the city was repeatedly attacked by pirates, including the most famous pirate – Henry Morgan. With the discovery of oil and gas fields here at the beginning of the 20th century Maracaibo became the oil and gas capital of the country. It is now the second largest city in Venezuela.
Of the old colonial buildings in Maracaibo, the church of Nuestra Señora de Chiquinquira (17th century), the neo-Gothic church of Iglesia de Santa Barbara, and the Cathedral of the 19th century have been preserved. Also of interest are the Palacio de Gobierno, known as the Palace of the Eagles because of the figures of two condors hoisted on the roof, the Urdaneta Museum dedicated to the national hero, the fighter for independence, General Rafael Urdaneta, the city’s bullfighting arena, accommodating 15 thousand spectators, and the street Carabobo with houses painted in different colors, souvenir shops, restaurants and cafes.
From the city of Maracaibo through the Strait of Tablazo connecting the lake Maracaibo with the Gulf of Venezuela, spanned by one of the longest concrete bridges in the world – the bridge of General Rafael Urdaneta with a length of 8.7 km. You can go north of the city of Maracaibo, where traditional “palafitos” houses stand on stilts along the shores of the lake. “Palafitos” were built in these places by the Guajiro Indians even before the arrival of the Spaniards. It was here in the Laguna Sinamaica that in 1499 Amerigo Vespucci, seeing piled villages, exclaimed: “Look, little Venice !”, which in Spanish sounded like “Venezuela”. Hence the name of the country. Sinamaika Lagoon is located 60 km north of the city of Maracaibo. Boat tours are organized around the lagoon. In addition to the houses of “palafitos”, in these places you can see the last representatives of the Guajiro Indians, of which there are very few left. Indians are easily distinguished by their traditional costumes. Also from Maracaibo you can go to the island of San Carlos (Isla de San Carlos), located in the Strait of Tablazo. The island has a massive fort from the late 17th century, which protected the entrance to the lake from pirate attacks. On the opposite side of the Tablazo Strait from Maracaibo is the Chienago de los Olivitos Nature Reserve. (Cienaga de los Olivitos) with an area of 260 sq. km. The local mangroves are the only place in the country where pink flamingos nest. In addition to flamingos, about 110 species of birds live in the park.
However, most often tourists go to lake Maracaibo to visit the Cienagas del Catatumbo National Park, located off the southwestern coast of the lake. The Catatumbo River flows through the park, flowing into the lake, above the mouth of which a unique atmospheric phenomenon is observed – Catatumbo lightning. About 150 days a year at night (about two hours after sunset) over the confluence of the Catatumbo River into Lake Maracaibo silent flashes of lightning are observed. It is believed that lightning occurs as a result of the saturation of the atmosphere in these wetlands with methane. The natural phenomenon of Catatumbo Lightning is also known as the “Catatumbo Lighthouse”, because for many years lightning was a natural landmark for ships sailing on Lake Maracaibo. Basically, they get to the Chienagas del Catatumbo National Park from the city of Merida, buying sightseeing tours from local travel agencies. To accommodate tourists on the lake there are guest houses. At night, tourists are invited to lie down in hammocks in the open air and admire the flashes of lightning. Boat excursions are also held in the swampy areas of the park, during which you can see a variety of animals and birds.