Also known as the "Garden City," Maracay has many attractions that were erected during the dictatorship (1908-35) of Gen. Juan Vicente Gomez, who lived in the city and made it the virtual capital of Venezuela during his rule. His architectural legacy is concentrated on and around Avenida Bolivar in the town center. It includes the Museo de Antropologia e Historia (his former government offices), the Plaza Bolivar (the largest and prettiest in the country), the Plaza de Toros Maestranza (a bullring with beautiful Spanish-Moorish designs) and the Teatro Ateneo de Maracay. Also within walking distance and worth checking out are the Museo Aeronautico (the country's only aeronautical museum), an adjacent cultural complex (housing a modern-art museum), the colonial cathedral and the Teatro de la Opera (outstanding performances).

Between Maracay and the Caribbean Sea is the marvelous Parque Nacional Henri Pittier, world-famous for its birds and insects. Two narrow, serpentine roads pass through the park's tropical cloud forests and end at the sea. Avenida las Delicias leads to the picturesque, colonial village of Choroni and the palm-lined beach in lively Puerto Colombia (on the way, stop at the zoo in one of Gomez's former country estates). Choroni's relaxed atmosphere and native tambores music and dancing make it an especially favored destination for foreign visitors. But it is not recommended during the main Venezuelan holidays, when the town and beaches become overcrowded. The other route (via El Limon) takes you to the beaches of El Playon, Cata (the best) and Cuyagua (a favorite of surfers). Maracay is 68 mi/110 km southwest of Caracas.

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