IntroductionMost visitors reach Puerto Ayacucho by air and use it as a jumping-off point for exploring the Amazon. However, the 10- to 12-hour drive from Caracas takes you along either of two scenic routes: through the heart of the plains of Apure state or across northwestern Bolivar state to see Panare Indians and interesting rock formations. Once in town, be sure to see the excellent ethnological museum, but pass on the mass-produced souvenirs sold in the plaza out front. The surrounding area offers quite a lot, including Parque Tobogan de la Selva with its natural-rock slide into the river; Cerro Pintado, with its ancient indigenous paintings; jungle walks; and visits to nearby Guahibo and Piaroa Amerindian communities. If you have time, consider taking a tour to Autana (an impressive tepui, or mesa, that is sacred to the Piaroa) or a rafting trip in the Orinoco River. Many adventure-tour companies offer excursions into the interior of the Amazon. But don't be tempted by the piratas (unregistered freelance guides) who hawk cheap Amazon trips at the airport. We recommend sticking with reputable agencies who are prepared to handle the possible dangers of travel into the more primitive parts of the Amazon region
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