Ciudad Bolivar



This historic port town was once named Angostura ("the Narrows") because the Orinoco River is only 0.5 mi/0.8 km wide there. It's the site of the Angostura Bridge, one of the longest suspension bridges in South America and the only bridge crossing the entire river (all other crossings are made on barge-like ferries). The town is 370 mi/600 km southeast of Caracas.

Today, Ciudad Bolivar is mostly of interest to visitors for its history and handsomely restored colonial zone surrounding the Plaza Bolivar, two blocks north of the river. The four statues of women in each corner of the plaza symbolize Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru (the original states of the republic of Gran Colombia). To one side of the plaza is the city's colonial cathedral. On the opposite side is the Casa del Congreso de Angostura (now a museum), named for the Congress of 1819 at which Simon Bolivar proposed creating a centralized republic. As you explore the streets adjacent to Plaza Bolivar, note the enormous boulders used as foundations for houses and incorporated into walls.

Stop at the Museo de Ciudad Bolivar, where the government's official newspaper was printed in English and Spanish 1818-22. It contains the original press along with a large collection of art and artifacts. A little farther away (take a cab) are the Museo de Arte Moderno Jesus Soto, displaying works by the kinetic artist; the interesting Fortin Zamuro, built in 1901 atop a colonial battery; and the Quinta de San Isidro, where Bolivar wrote his famous Angostura discourse. In the late afternoon, be sure to watch the spectacular sunset from the riverfront boulevard, Paseo Orinoco. Shoppers may want to browse the city's jewelry shops to pick up gold nuggets (cochanos). The city is easy to get around: Ignore the tour guides who pounce on visitors around the hotels and cafes. Plan to stay there one night.

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