History and Geography of Margarita


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Nueva Esparta State is formed of three islands, Margarita Island,Coche Island and Cubagua Island. You will more than likely see the brighter side of Margarita first. The east end of Margarita island has considerable resort development. The west end of Margarita Island is the Macanao Peninsula, an arid, undeveloped region with mountains in the interior and ringed by sandy beaches.


La Isla Margarita, known as the "Pearl of the Caribbean", is situated 38 km north east of the mainland of Venezuela and far from the track of Atlantic tropical storms. Its location as an island in the Caribbean sea offers lots of beaches to explore, some of them virgin. Margarita Island is divided into two sections tenuously linked by a 24 km. sand spit which separates the sea from the fascinating Restinga Lagoon National Park.

At its largest, Margarita Island measures 67 km from east to west ( Punta Ballena to Punta Arenas) and 32.4 kms. from north to south - 167 km. off shoreline liberally endowed with inviting beaches. The average temperature is 27 degrees Celsius and the annual rainfall averages 27 inches resulting in mostly arid landscapes with some wooded areas and fertile valleys. Over 300,000 people live on Margarita Island most of whom live in the eastern part where the capital of Asuncion and the shoppers paradise of Porlamar are located. The western part of Margarita island is called the Macanao Peninsula. It is sparsely populated and has seen little tourist development due to the limited availability of water.

A look into Isla de Margarita's past

The Guaiqueri Indians were the first settlers on the island. Columbus discovered the islands in 1498. It was an insignificant discovery at the time, but years later Cristobal de la Guerra and Pedro Alonso Niño found a hidden bed of pearls off Cubagua, and eventually went back to Spain with 80 pounds of them. This spurred the settlement of the small island, which became the first in South America.

On March 8,1525 the Crown gave Margarita to Licenciado Marcelo Villalobos and his family. They were entrusted to begin a settlement there. Marcelo Villalobos died before actually reaching the island, but his wife, Doña Isabel Manrique, governed there until 1535. The Villalobos' governed the island until 1593, when the last of the family died. It was then reinstated under the Crown.

Between 1535 and 1815 it had seventy governors. During the sixteenth and the seventeenth centuries it was constantly raided by pirates and freebooters. This forced its inhabitants to build forts and castles to defend it. Legends affirm that Lope de Aguirre was the first adventurer to attack Margarita, in 1561. When the Independence movement started in Caracas in 1810, Margarita immediately joined it, and fought heroic battles under the command of brave men like Santiago Mariño and Juan Bautista Arismendi.

Margarita is the Greek word for pearl, and pearls are the subhistory of the islands which provided Spain with shiploads of wealth.


Margarita island is 43 miles long. It is actually two islands connected by a narrow Isthmus. The second Island is called Península de Macanao which is largely unpopulated.

Peninsula de Macanao is at the western end of Margarita, and Porlamar is south-east. The international airport del Caribe is on the southern rim of the island, and is a half hour to a 35 minute taxi cab ride from Porlamar. The islands' thick section is a three quarter circle from Porlamar to Juangriego, which is center-north. On that near full circle are Margarita's finest beaches, and a ride between the two towns is spectacular; twisted, cliffhanging roads that have the sea layed out in front of them, and have the green rolling hills behind.

The most important town on the island is Porlamar. Its original name was "Puerto de la Mar" but the people shortened it to Porlamar. Its extraordinary urban and commercial growth has taken place during the last fifteen years. It changed from a quiet fishermen village into a booming town with skyscrapers, excellent hotels, night clubs, large commercial firms, and luxurious restaurants.

Porlamar has 100,000 people. Cranes and hollow, tall structures bully Porlamar - the rest of the island is still subdued and quiet; the beaches dominate. La Asunción, the capital, is the nose of the fat face formed by Margarita's east side, and Santa Ana, a historical city, is the bridge of the nose. La Asunción has 12,000 inhabitants, and is the oldest town on the island. It was founded in 1561 in the Valley of Santa Lucia. It has several important structures, among which the Parish Church, built in the XVI century is outstanding and the old Convent San Francisco, also constructed In the XVI century, which is now used for the government offices. The Santa Rosa Castle, constructed towards the end of the XVII century, is another work of art full of history.

Although the island's capital is very small, it is easy to get lost if you drive through this quaint little colonial town in car. Walk along the boulevard and stop off at the Concejo Municipal, the Asamblea Legislativa, the Governor's Mansion, the cathedral and some of the government's offices. Across from the plaza, near the cathedral, visit the Nueva Cadiz museum. In the near courtyard you will find the best map of the island -a 33 foot-long scale model in raised relief- surrounded by water.


Pampatar, another wonderful colonial site, is east of Porlamar. It was founded in the sixteenth century. It now has 6,000 inhabitants. Its chief monuments are the Castle of San Carlos Borromeo, the Fortin de la Caranta and the Templo del Cristo del Buen Viaje, a deeply venerated image by all fishermen.

Finally, Punta de Piedra, the dock for the ferry to Puerto La Cruz, is located in south-west part of the island, very near to Peninsula de Macanao. The infrastructure of the island is in mint condition, and no ride is longer than an hour.

The flight from Caracas is under an hour about 45 minutes long. Once your in Margarita the ride to Porlamar is another half hour. There are actually two distinct sections of Porlamar. As your cab first enters the city limits the small, crowded somewhat rusted apartment buildings of the residents are visible.

The streets are jammed with stores, houses, cars, and people. Moving east on either Calle Zamora o Calle Igualdad, you'll pass several pedestrian thoroughfares that are strictly for shopping. Then, suddenly, you come to Hotel Bella Vista, and the streets become dotted with tourists, much less crowded, the rusted apartments become glass, shiny clothes stores, and you have reached the tourist section of Porlamar.

The tourist part of the city is dominated by two streets: Avenida Santiago Mariño and Avenida 4 de Mayo. They are crowded with stores selling international goods, fast food joints and restaurants; off one of these streets will inevitably be your hotel. Stores selling Nike, Ralph Lauren, Polo, Finlandia, Lindt, line these streets and give it a real 5th Avenue texture. Avenida 4 de Mayo, east, leads to Pampatar, and the north-east rim where Margarita's best beaches are located.

Other urban centers

Santa Ana: Founded also in the sixteenth century, it has 5,000 inhabitants. Its church was built in the seventeenth century. It is near Fortin España.

Juan Griego

Juangriego: It is on a lovely bay, with clear and cool waters, it has about 9,000 Inhabitants and it is an active trading center. The Fortín de La Galera is a historically important building.

Punta de Piedras: With 6,000 inhabitants, it is a fisherman's village, and the ferry's terminal. It is also the seat of oceanographic investigations of Fundacion La Salle de Ciencias Naturales, which carries on interesting studies on the fauna and flora of the surrounding sea.

Boca del Rio: is on the Macanao peninsula, and it joins the rest of the island by means of a bridge crossing la Restinga and the Arapano isthmus.

San Juan Bautista: is an ancient agricultural and artesian town, where date palms are cultivated. With their leaves, hats and pocketbooks are made.

Around the island

The city of Porlamar is worth exploring on foot (in the cool part of the day, that is), particularly the main streets- Calles Igualdad and Guevara. Calle Igualdad runs from the Bella Vista Hotel to the Plaza Bolívar, the city's largest plaza, a 6 block stretch, which is the site of tremendous building activity. Seven story apartment buildings and ubiquitous shops are everywhere. As elsewhere in Venezuela, the Plaza Bolívar is the social center of the city. Friends meet on its benches, hard fought chess games are played and guitars are popular. At one ends stands St. Nicholas Church whose huge dome is visible throughout the city. It is as the main church here, the site of religious festivals, particularly on December 5 and 6 (The Feast of St. Nicholas) and at Christmas.

A pleasant stroll along Calle Guevara (in front of the church) will put you at Porlamar's outdoor market on the coast. Along the way are jewelry shops and stores. The market which runs for five or six short blocks offers avocados, oranges and pineapples, plus fish and soft goods. Watch the women maneuver the baskets perched atop their heads.

Shops and shopping

4 de MayoMargarita is often called the island of pearls and the rich oyster beds yield unusually shaped pearls which are primarily pink in color, fairly small and come in unusual shapes. There are some shops here selling jewelry using Margarita's pearls. Also sold here are cultivated pearls from Japan. These come in whites, grays and blacks and are good buys too. However, don't overlook great buys in ceramic, wood carvings, woven hammocks and straw articles which often are attractive works of art. For pearls try first the Casa Avila, Calle Gomez 47 which owner Juan Avila Guerra operates from his home. He has bags of pearls and tosses them out on a green felt table as If they were grains of rice.

Shopping, of course, is dominated by the stores selling international duty free goods. The Avenues of Santiago Mariño and 4 de Mayo are stuffed with stores, and Calles Igualdad, Guevara and Macanao are also brimming with shops. Click here for more about Shopping.

Touristic sites

Santuario de la Virgen: The legend says that the sacred image was found in the Cueva del Piache, in the former Valle Charaima, now called Valle del Espíritu Santo.

Isla de Cubagua: During colonial times Cubagua had its boom due to its rich pearl fisheries, which were soon exhausted. An earthquake destroyed the town. Now it is visited because of it quiet waters.

Isla de Coche: Eleven kilometers long by 6 kilometers wide, and a population of 5,000, it is devoted to fishing, salt mining, and tourism.

Columna Matasiete: A monument raised to commemorate the triumph of patriot forces over the Spanish army commanded by General Pablo Morillo, who had defeated the Napoleonic invaders in Spain.

Laguna Las Marites: A lovely lagoon, 12 kilometers from Porlamar, ideal for water-skiing, fishing and boating.

Bahia de Pedro González: Lovely fishermen's village, with quite waters

Souvenir hunt

The tourism business on Margarita naturally caters to this need of its clients. For those who feel most comfortable when sitting on a bus with twenty other like-minded tourists and smiling guides to hold their hand, the best way to collect souvenirs is, of course, to buy a shopping tour and allow oneself to be led, as sheep to the slaughter as it were, to one of the many all-inclusive artisan supermarkets that abound in Porlamar and dot the surrounding main roads.

Indeed, many of the handicrafts from the mainland can only be found in these stores. One is José "Pepe" Garcia's artisan museum. Artist and impresario, Garcia devotes full-time to searching, selecting, creating and displaying the finest of Venezuelan artifacts, antiques and artisan wares. Both his smaller Porlamar shop (Los Makiritares on Calle Igualdad, one block west of the Hotel Bella Vista), as well as his larger mini museum, Arte Guayamurí in La Fuente (13.9 kilometers from Porlamar on the road to Manzanillo) are obligatory for visitors interested in acquainting themselves with absolutely everything in the handicraft trade.

The shops include many one-of a-kind treasures you will find nowhere else, some of which have been painstakingly unearthed and preserved in tribute to the past. Garcia's latest project, a must-see for all artistically inclined visitors, is a small artisan village he is creating in the Taguantar sector, located just a few kilometers west of Juangriego on the coastal road leading to La Guardia.

The first step on this alternative souvenir quest is to procure a suitable form of transport and a decent map of the island. Once in possession of a vehicle and a detailed map, head out towards El Valle del Espíritu Santo.

Upon arriving in El Valle, take time to look at the church of the Virgin, one of the most important pilgrimage destinations in Venezuelan Catholicism, and visit the museum. When you have breathed the atmosphere of piety to your spirit's content, take the road that leads off to the left and climb to the highest point of the sierra, the Cerro El Copey where the television antennas are located. You have not reached the top unless you are at the television towers.

Tour buses do not make the climb. Try to go on a clear day. Check to see if the television towers are clouded in. You can see them from both Porlamar and Juangriego. They won't appear to be specially high to you, but you are being deceived - they are about 3,000 feet up -the height of three Empire State buildings stacked on top of one another - and on a clear day you truly can revel in a bird's eye view of the entire island, and you can even catch a glimpse of the distant mainland. In the warmer months of the year, the temperature at the summit can be pleasantly cool, at least 20 C so if you wish to prolong the panorama, take a sweater and lunch with you.

La AsuncionProceed onward to La Asunción, taking time to visit the castle of Santa Rosa which dates back to 1682. It was the scene of the imprisonment in 1816 of Luisa Caceres de Arismendi, wife of one of the leading combatants against Spanish imperialism, and a local heroine. In the cell where she was kept, her first son was born and promptly died. Continue on the Plaza Bolívar and park your car, for you can take in more by walking the narrow streets of the town.


Places to visit in La Asunción are the Cathedral, begun in 1570 and completed In 1621 (the oldest church in Venezuela and the second oldest in South America); the museum of Nueva Cadiz, which in old days served as city hall and today contains the best map of the island. (While serving as the seat of the colonial government, Margarita's Declaration of Independence was signed in the Nueva Cadiz Museum on May 4, 1810, in the process uniting Margarita with the independence movement signed on April 19, 1810.)

Other places of interest are the house in which general Juan Bautista Arismendi, one-time Commanding General of the Army of Venezuela during the struggle for independence, was born on May 15, 1775; the Convent of Saint Francis, built by Franciscan monks in the late 1500s and which later served as a prison, a hospital and a school, (which currently functions as the seat of the State's Legislative Assembly); and the Old Bridge built in 1608 which was still in service as recently as forty years ago. After La Asunción, take the northern route to Tacarigua.

Tacarigua is the setting for a cottage industry manufacturing hammocks, dolls and miniature donkeys made of corn leaves. The shops along the road offer a selection of hammocks which is always a good deal in hot, lazy climates and you will find an opportunity to use them at every beach on the island. The road from Tacarigua continues on to delightful little settlement by the name of Santa Ana. The church here is historically of importance as it hosted the inauguration of Simón Bolívar as supreme commander of the Venezuelan independence movement back in 1816.

In Santa Ana, you will also find craftsmen who specialize in the manufacture of "Chinchorros," a rougher version of the hammock designed for warmer climates, and also in carving of miniature furniture in a traditional style. From Santa Ana, follow the sign for El Cercado and El Maco (turn left after the plaza). Upon reaching El Cercado, turn left and then left again. Continue up to the final house on the right hand side of the road. This is the home workshop of Vincenta, a locally renowned artist responsible for the ceramic figure of the Virgin del Valle that stands vigil in the lobby of the Hilton Hotel. Do not let the fact that her business is situated in a private house cause you to refrain from entering. These domestic factories welcome visitors.

Vicenta offers a variety of ceramic artifacts for sale. A greater selection of ceramic and porcelain utensils are available in "downtown" El Cercado. On the main road leading in and out of town you should have little trouble finding warming plates, decorative pots of various sizes, pitchers, open face barbecue grills, cups and saucers, dishes, cooking ware, soup pots and other household items. From El Cercado, drive further along the road until you reach El Maco, a town which produces various types of inexpensive footwear. Stop anywhere you see a sign saying "Calzados".

The next stop is Los Millanes, a must for cigar fans. Here, tobacco shipped in from the mainland is hand rolled upon request. To reach Los Millanes from El Maco, continue along the main road and turn right when you spot the sign for Los Millanes. At the end of the road, turn right again and drive through the town until you reach the main plaza. Opposite the police station, there is a grass covered track that leads to the home of Geronima, a professional cigar roller. Return to the road that brought you out of El Maco and turn right into the hills. On the side of the road is a monument to commemorate the Battle of Portachuelo in which the Margariteño Generals Maneiro and Ruiz halted the advance of the Royalist commander Morillo In 1817.

When you reach the intersection with the main highway that runs between San Juan and Juangriego, turn left towards San Juan Bautista and at the next turning, left again. Keep left and follow the road into the outskirts of the hills until you arrive at a white house with a red arrow standing opposite a roofed cross. At this junction, turn left and motor up into the mountains where the delightfully picturesque settlement of Fuentidueño is located. The fertility of this shaded valley will force you to reconsider if you have already classified Margarita as a desert island. Named after its founder, Rodrigo de Fuentidueño, the township is one of the oldest on the island, and boasts a small stream and waterfall. Along the banks of the stream, the municipality has erected a number of outdoor grills for visitors wishing to cook their own lunch. The path that runs along the stream offers a pleasant and relaxing walk through tropical greenery.

The specialties of Fuentidueño are hand-stitched hats made from the leaves of nearby date trees, and a delicious sweet called Pinonate. Pinonate is made from sugar cane with fruit flavoring and sold in banana leaf packages. To leave Fuentidueño, return to the intersection with the roofed cross, and turn left. At the next opportunity, turn right and park at the main plaza of San Juan Bautista.

San Juan is the nucleus for gold and silver working on the island, and there are various shops near its central plaza that sell inexpensive gold and silver articles. After San Juan, follow the main road to the airport until you see the sign for the El Espinal and drive through the town until you reach a mud hut with a thatched roof situated on the left hand side if the road. The building next door, a white house with a red pattern, is the home and factory of Señor Cruz, an elderly gentleman who produces a crude form of sandal known as "Alpargatas."

The sole consists of rubber from used tires, and the cloth straps are hand-stitched. El Espinal is the last stop on this particular tour. But if you are still feeling energetic, turn right and drive a kilometer to the west. Directly opposite the airport turnoff, take the dirt track that leads to the new highway that passes alongside the as-yet unspoiled coastline from La Guardia to Juangriego. In Juangriego you can complete your tour enjoying dinner on the beach, watching the Caribbean sun sink slowly into the sea, smoking a fine cigar with your Sambucca, and counting the spoils of your artisan crusade.

Beaching it

There are excellent beaches on each coast, some of them with fine surf, others bordered by water as tranquil as a lake. At Bella Vista and El Morro, beaches on Porlamar's Guaraguao Bay, the water is warm and calm; than at Playa Manzanillo, at the northern tip of the island, it is relatively cold.

As can be expected where the annual rainfall averages only 700 mm. (27 Inches) a year, Margarita is a xerophytic land. Cardon cactus and the pale-green-barked yabo are the most prominent trees in the dry scrub which covers most of the island. Pairs of scarlet cardinals are not an uncommon sight. There are also wooded areas and fertile valleys. You are never far from the sea on Margarita. Even from the fort in La Asunción and the church belfry in Santa Ana, the sea can be seen.

The beaches here are virtually endless as they ring this enchanting island. Your only problem will be to find enough time to explore even half of them. One general rule: the best swimming in most areas is the early part of the day.

The beaches are the reason for coming to Margarita, but what makes Margarita different from other Caribbean islands is that it is much cheaper and the majority of the beaches are quite sun-catching white lines of sand and are not riddle so many with attractions such as the food stalls, wind-surfing outlets, scuba entrepreneurs, etc.

Striking off on a northern curve from Porlamar very quickly you come to Pampatar. The beach here is nice, calm and tranquil and dominated by a cluster of fishing boats. The setting is also majestic, with the beach shaded by Pampatar's castle and fort. But, again, you are not going to want to spend your day here if your priority is tanning and swimming. Climbing north of Pampatar you will eventually arrive to Playa Guacuco. This beach is the starting line for a row of beaches that are Margarita's best, and are fit dueling partners for any in the Caribbean.

Playa Guacuco is the longest stretch of beach on the island; it is almost perfect, with the surf rough enough for playing but not overpowering, and the sand as soft as a mattress. There is not much shade on the beach, so a healthy dose of sun protector is necessary. There is a restaurant-bar on the beach, as well as showers and restrooms. This beach never fails to impress newcomers.

Playa Guacuco ends at the little town of El Tirano. Also right past El Tirano and a rocky dyke is Playa El Agua, Margarita's finest beach. The beach is matchless, with great waves, palm trees and soft sand. El Agua has a beach house with showers and bathrooms. Clothes and souvenir stalls are on the road behind the restaurants.

A little north from El Agua is Playa Manzanillo, which is only slightly less wonderful than El Agua. Stop periodically along the route to peer down the slopes to the fishing villages and secluded beaches far below. Camera buffs should find that the route will yield the best postcard perfect land and seascapes. Playa Manzanillo is a departure point for fishermen, and the back of the beach is lined with huts, boats, nets, and other fishermen's tools. In the morning, Manzanillo's activity is great, and is a sight worth watching. In all likelihood, they will quote you a price to take a group of up twenty people on a round- trip excursion to the off-shore islands of Los Frailes. If you prefer to simply travel along the northern coast, in other words, to wade up onto the beaches, the trip will be to the beaches of Caracare, Bahia Constanza or Puerto La Cruz.

Puerto Príncipe is the beach which most of the fishermen recommended due to the clarity and tranquility of its waters. The price will vary depending upon the amount of time that travelers want to remain on the beaches before the fishermen return to take them back. The twist around Margarita's northern spur, Cabo Negro, and the ride south to Juangriego is inexpressibly spectacular. The mountains sway and nap behind you and the water engulfs you.

Below is a litany of beaches that look abandoned. Fixing your eyes south from the beach opposite Manzanillo, you can see Los Morros de Constanza, Puerto Viejo, Puerto Cruz, Bahia Pedro González, Playa Caribe, and Bahia La Galería, the most modernly built up beach of the bunch. All of the beaches are quiet and somewhat isolated. Finally, at Juangriego, which is on the bay, with stiller and cooler water, the sunset will glaze your eyes. From downtown Juangriego the adventurous tourist is within walking distance of several splendid beaches. By foot or car, a mere two kilometers separates the traveler from the cool and peaceful waters of Playa Galera. The passage of another two will take him to the more insistent surf of Playa Caribe. And just around the next bend, less than one-half kilometer from Playa Caribe, a marvelous stretch of white, isolated sand known as Playa Boquita is his alone for the taking. It is perhaps the most accessible of all the deserted beaches.

To reach these beaches, travel east along the bay of Juangriego, and then veer to the right around the that holds the Galera Fort at its summit. Continue east along the waterfront before situating yourself in the vicinity of one of the kiosks along Playa Galera. Here you can stop briefly to recline on the sand, bathe in the gentle waters, rent some water sports equipment, or venture inside to the air-conditioned comfort of the dinning room and bar.

Further to the north and east on the same road, just over the hill and down the ridge, lies Playa Caribe. Long a favorite of nomadic tourists who scour the island in search of the secluded, the setting at Playa Caribe is highlighted by smooth, fine sand, and cool breeze. The western border of the first of two horseshoe shaped beaches is defined by a hill of sparse vegetation that descends to the water. A row of palms blend among several kiosks that sell food and refreshments in addition to renting chairs and umbrellas to beach patrons.

Of all the beaches on the northern shore, Playa Caribe offers the best view of the island's long, mountainous northern coastline. At the far southwestern end of Playa Caribe lies Playa Piel, the favorite place for those seeking that all-over-body tan. At low tide, you can maneuver around the rocks at the far end to a sheltered cove. If the mood strikes you, it's a good place to skinny dip.

The only surprise intrusion would come by sea in the form of fishing skiff suddenly rounding the rocky point. Playa Puerto Cruz is perhaps the most spectacular of all of Margarita's beaches. This long, gently curving bay offers the visitor the whitest, widest stretch of sand on the island. Until early 1986, there were no food or beverage services available at Playa Puerto Cruz. On weekdays, it was often possible to find yourself completely alone in this tropical paradise climbing the top of the sand dunes, baring your hidden flesh to the sun and viewing the placid blue waters far below.

During the past few years, several refreshment shacks have been added and the crowds have grown. It has been a particular favorite of what in other words would be denominated the "college crowd." Among travelers who have scoured many Caribbean islands in search of beaches, it is generally regarded as Margarita's finest. The surf is beautiful, tempting and extremely treacherous. When swimming stay very close to shore, because the pounding water carries with it an even deadlier undertow.

Francisco Narvaez Art Museum

Located in the heart of downtown Porlamar on Calle Igualdad, this contemporary art museum was opened in 1979 to honor the work of artist Francisco Narvaez, born in Porlamar in 1905. The main floor of the museum contains a collection of oil paintings and wood, stone and bronze sculptures created by the artist during his sojourns in Caracas, Paris and Italy. An upper room houses contemporary works by other Venezuelan painters.Current expositions by regional artists are displayed in a basement showroom. Admission to the museum is free.

Narvaez, who died in Caracas in 1983, continues to be held in great esteem by his countrymen. At a recent Caracas auction of 86 works created by artists such as Henry Moore, Max Ernst, Pierre Alechinsky and Marc Chagall, a piece by Narvaez brought the highest sales figure. The auction price of 3.2 million bolivars for his "Reclined Figure" more than tripled the amount paid for any other work in the auction.

La Restinga Lagoon

A marvelous natural park with channels and luxuriant mangroves, on whose aerial roots oysters live. It can be toured by outboard motor boats, or rowing crafts. Here, the emphasis should be on the boat ride. Plan on staying no more than a half hour at the beach, unless you know beforehand that it's clam season. If the clams are in, you can wade into the water and feel around for guacuco shells. At those times when they are in abundance, you merely have to sit or kneel in the water and scoop them up like a baseball infielder picking grounders, as the tide rolls them back to you from the shore. A half-hour's picking should net you a bucketful or more of clams. On the boat ride, ask your captain to take you through more of the channels and then out toward the sea near Boca del Rio. Click here for a photo tour of La Restinga.

Macanao Peninsula

Ideal for photographers for its quaint atmosphere and lovely landscapes, because of the time this activity consumes, it is probably best reserved for those who plan to be in Margarita island at least two weeks. Try to spend at least one morning driving around this desert wilderness. Link it up with a trip to La Restinga.


Here, the attractions are the sailboats from around the world that are anchored in the harbor, the town's colonial history, and the village architecture best represented by the seventeenth century San Carlos de Borromeo, an interesting colonial construction built in 1662, situated along the shore and, the Concejo Municipal, and the headquarters of Fondene across the street from the castle. Spend an hour or two relaxing at the beach, particularly in the early morning hours. At this time, the sand wears a new face for its wrinkles have been pressed by the overnight tides. Order a fish breakfast from one of the kiosks and later rent a pedal boat at the beach if you want to venture out to get a closer look at the sailboats.

Conejeros Market

From La Asunción to Tacarigua here, the attraction is the view of two different valleys as you traverse the road. The valley of Salamanca is best viewed when descending towards La Asuncion while the valley that extends to Juan Griego and the sea is best observed while proceeding in the other direction toward Tacarigua. If possible, find a place to pull over to view in the panorama. It is amazing how much more beautiful Margarita looks from a vintage point peering down over the vegetation.

Situated on the northwestern rim of Porlamar, approximately four kilometers from the corner of Avenida 4 de Mayo and Avenida Santiago Mariño, this market features both food and apparel. The prices for clothing are cheaper here than in the stores. The southern half of the market, with its fruit, vegetable and fish vendors offers plenty of local color and characters. This market as we speak (2005) is under going a complete renovation. Los Conejeros is still open but lots of construction is going on all around. We'll keep you posted as the renovations continue and are completed.

Las Tetas de Maria GuevaraNatural Monuments

Laguna Las Maritas, which is a beautiful lagoon; Las Tetas de Maria Guevara, two peaks resembling two woman's breasts, is to the north of the village of Punta de Piedras; and the hills called Matasiete and Guayamurí, with altitudes of 560 and 470 meters respectively, are famous for some important battles which were fought there during the war of independence.

The other Margarita

Visiting Margarita does not have to be synonymous with shopping or sunbathing. The island also offers some interesting places to explore. The itinerary described below was completed at a leisurely pace during a single day and required only inexpensive public transportation.

Before heading north out of Porlamar, the island's main city, one can wander through an interesting historical area that has been in the works for restoration and remodeling for several years. It is found in the section known as El Poblado or Caserio Fajardo, along what is variously called Avenida Miranda or Avenida Fajardo.

Most of the homes in the old district date from the colonial era and have a very distinct yet simple architectural style typified by a high, flat face and tile-topped shed roof. Since many sit singley, one can easily compare the front of a building with the sides: though the facades are always finished over with a smooth surface interrupted only by several tall doors, usually with separate half doors over them to give privacy yet allow ventilation when the full doors are opened. Ones that were modernized, during the Gómez era in particular (1908-1935) sport a molded decorative band along the top edge of the facade. A few others have added porches but without changing the roofline.

Near the plaza at the south end of El Poblado, one can catch a bus out to La Asuncíon, the capital of the state of Nueva Esparta that compromises the Island.

La Asunción

For diversity, this town is great, with everything from modern sculpture to a colonial fort and church. Starting at the main plaza, one can visit the Museo Nueva Cadiz which was opened in 1954. Among the variety of things found inside are a beautiful wooden scale model of the sailing ship H.M.S Nuestra Señora de Coro which was used by the Guipuzcoana Company in 1740, examples of early deep-sea diving gear, wooden religious images dating from the 14th century, hundreds of types of sea shells from the area, and artifacts from the island of Cubagua excavated by Cruxent.

The church dedicated to Nuestra Señora de La Asunción stands alone facing another side of the plaza. Begun in 1570, it is one of the few remaining buildings (along with the cathedral of Coro) in Venezuela initiated in the 16th century. If approaching the church from the rear along the sloping street leading into the center of town, one is afforded a rather interesting streetcape which frames the temple's bell tower, the only such tower in the country completed in the 16th century.

Along the pedestrian boulevard between the church and the state government buildings to the east, one is presented an interesting contrast between the colonial architecture of the church and other traditional styles of surrounding buildings - and the modern sculpture by native son Francisco Narvaez.

A former Franciscan convent, now seat of the Legislative Assembly, sits among the governmental structures. A simple sun dial still stands in front, placed there in 1612 by the governor at the time, Bernardo de Vargas.

A short but steep climb from the plaza will lead visitors to the colonial fort, Castillo de Santa Rosa, overlooking the capital city. Construction of the fort was begun in 1681 and it has been fully restored. Visitors can view its interesting architectural details and can see a number of artifacts from the colonial era displayed inside. From the top, you can also enjoy a great view.

Hopping on another bus to Santa Ana, one can make a quick stop to examine the colonial church gracing its main plaza. The church's most interesting feature is its bell tower with an extremely broad, flat facade and open stairway leading to it from the back.

Juan Griego

The last stop of the day was at the sea is the village of Juangriego. We had been there before and thus knew that in the early morning hours, the shoreline is a beehive of activity as fishermen come in form the sea to deliver their daily catches to the dozens of people manning the shacks set up along the waterfront to prepare the fish for market.

But by afternoon, the fishermen have disappeared. Boats stand idle, some pulled up on the sandy beach, others anchored a short distance out in the water. Most have a pair of painted eyes peering forward intently, to guide the fishermen home." (With this in mind, one undertaking a tour like that described here might do better to go from Porlamar straight to Juangriego early in the morning, then stop at the other place on the way back to the city.)

With the fishing over, many children use the docks and moored boats as diving platforms as they frolic in the protected bay. For those who'd rather watch the swimmers rather than participate, numerous seaside restaurants are situated along the shore where you can enjoy the cool breeze while sampling fresh seafood or downing a cold beer. Overlooking the town of Juangriego is another colonial fort, the Fortín de la Galera. The view from there over the town and bay is quite nice. Is there more to Margarita than shopping? You bet.

Article from the publication El Dorado, from the Embassy of Venezuela.

Contact: svchama@yahoo.com
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