Expedition to the animist priests of Maria Lionsa cult, to the dancing demons of Corpus Christi festival and photo hunt for giant anteaters and anacondas in Los Llanos


May 29 – June 7, 2024
Tour Venezuela

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Dassanech Karo tribe Bulls jumping ceremony Assale Afar
Grab the tail of the anaconda or marvel at the majestic giant anteater? Will we witness horned demons dancing in celebration during the Corpus Christi festivities? Or perhaps, embark on a pilgrimage to the revered sanctuary of Maria Lionza, a clandestine bastion of syncretic faith, rumored to have had Hugo Chavez among its devoted adherents?

All these enthralling experiences, and countless more, await you on our summer expedition to the enchanting Venezuela!

Dates: May 29 – June 7, 2024

Duration: 10 days / 9 nights

Number of participants: 6 – 12

Cost per person:
- 2,990 USD for 12 participants,
- 3,090 USD for 10–11 participants,
- 3,250 USD for 8–9 participants,
- 3,390 USD for 6–7 participants

10% early booking discount (in case you book before before January 29, 2024)

Everything is included (including full board), except for:
  • International flights to and from Caracas,
  • Venezuelan visas (not required for Russian citizens),
  • medical insurance.
Estimated cost of round-trip flight Moscow – Caracas – Moscow: starting from $1,800 USD. Single accommodation: $340 USD (provided throughout the entire itinerary).

Everything is included except for:

Estimated flight cost from Moscow to Caracas roundtrip is about 1800 USD.

Single supplement: 270 USD (provided during all itinerary)


Day 1. May 29, 2024 (Wednesday). Arrival in Venezuela

Arrival in Caracas, the capital of Venezuela. Meet with a guide at the airport, transfer to Hotel Villa Playa Grande. Briefing. Rest of the day - free time.

Meals: Dinner
Accommodation: Hotel Villa Playa Grande in Caracas

*Recommended flight:

  • Turkish Airlines, Flight TK 183, departure from Istanbul on May 29 at 2:30 AM, arrival in Caracas at 1:05 PM.
  • Another flight from any city arriving in Caracas on May 29.

Day 2. May 30, 2024 (Thursday). Caracas – Choroní – Chuao (170 km, 3 hours)

After breakfast, we head to Choroní, in Henri Pittier National Park, where we board a boat and arrive in Chuao after a 30-minute journey. There, we will witness a vibrant festival commemorating the Corpus Christi holiday, recognized by UNESCO as an intangible cultural heritage of humanity.

"The Dancing Devils of Corpus Christi" is a popular Venezuelan religious festival held during the Catholic celebration of Corpus Christi. In 2012, UNESCO acknowledged this festival as an intangible cultural heritage of humanity.

Brotherhood groups originated in the mid-17th century on farms in Aragua and Vargas. Even in 1749, during Corpus Christi, men, women, and children dressed as devils to fulfill promises made during Holy Communion.

According to legend, 400 years ago, a priest, lacking the means to carry out the Corpus Christi procession, said: "If there are neither money nor believers to carry the Holy Gifts in the procession, then let the devils come." After a storm, several devils appeared in front of the church.

Currently, there are 11 brotherhoods that form a hierarchy to annually dance and fulfill promises to worship the Holy Gift. All of them are independent organizations created in their respective communities.

Seeking organizational strength, several brotherhoods held a series of "national assemblies," each in different communities. This led to the creation of the National Association of Dancing Devils Corpus Christi, which united most existing brotherhoods.

On each Corpus Christi holiday, the "Dancing Devils" perform a ritual dance wearing colorful costumes (usually all red), layers of striped fabric, grotesque masks, and accessories such as crosses, shoulder pads, rosaries, and other types of amulets.

The celebration begins on Wednesday with commemorations, featuring fúlias (local musical style), décimas (local poetry), and prayers read on rosaries until dawn. On the following day, Brotherhood members, dressed as devils, perform dances on the main city square. They also march through the streets in red costumes and masks, dancing to the rhythm of corrios (eight-line musical poems). They hold a maraca in the shape of a devil in one hand and a whip in the other.

Later, the group moves to the front of the church, and when the Mass ends, the Eucharist is placed at the church entrance, initiating a kind of performance depicting the battle between devils and guards. Finally, the devils surrender and kneel before the Eucharist, demonstrating submission, dancing to the rhythm of bambas, a more reverent musical style. The dancing devils wear red shirts, trousers, and stockings, a devil mask, and hessian sandals. They carry a cross made of blessed palm leaves, rosaries, and a medallion with the image of Christ (which is sometimes replaced with another Christian religious image). The entire event symbolizes the victory of Good over Evil.

Meals: Breakfast, lunch, dinner
Accommodation: Hostal Nova Colonial

Day 3. May 31, 2024 (Friday) Chuao – Choroní

After breakfast, we will have the opportunity to visit a local cocoa plantation where we can learn about the cultivation and processing of cocoa beans. These beans, which once served as international currency during the Aztec era, will provide us with insight into their historical significance. Following this visit, we return to Choroní, where we will have time to enjoy the renowned Playa Grande beach.

Meals: Breakfast, lunch, dinner
Accommodation: Hostal Nova Coloni

Day 4. June 1, 2024 (Saturday) Choroní – Sorte – Acarigua (280 km, 5 hours)

After breakfast, we head to Maracay. Here, we will visit the Venezuelan Aviation Museum. Following that, the highlight of the trip awaits us – a visit to the sacred mountain of Sorte, where we will witness various magical rituals performed by the local residents.

Sorte Mountain is not mentioned in any travel guide to Venezuela. It is not a place eagerly anticipated by tourists. Locals only speak of it amongst themselves, yet hundreds of thousands of people visit the mountain annually due to its immense significance to Venezuelans. Within the depths of 40,000 hectares of virgin forest lies the main altar of the pagan goddess Maria Lionza. Who is Maria Lionza? According to the oldest legend of Maria, locally known as Uyara, she was the green-eyed daughter of an indigenous chief born around 500 years ago. A local shaman prophesied that unless she was sacrificed to a giant anaconda residing in a nearby lake, the entire tribe would be annihilated. However, the chief couldn't bring himself to sacrifice her and instead hid the girl in a mountain cave, guarded by warriors. One night, she escaped and went to the river. The deadly anaconda emerged, intending to devour its prey, but was so captivated by her charms that it fell in love. Uyara then united with the snake, and the subsequent mixing of river waters caused a flood, fulfilling the prophecy. Following this, the girl transformed into a forest goddess who observed everything from a throne of living reptiles. Over time, the evolving stories were altered to appeal to different layers of society as the religion grew. Uyara's name was changed to Maria as the Catholic Church sought to Christianize the cult. Around 1920, the myth underwent radical changes, incorporating a white daughter of Spanish colonists (instead of an indigenous girl) who disappeared one night with a jaguar, becoming Maria de la Onza ("Maria the Jaguar"), later simplified to "Maria Lionza." At Sorte, people lie prostrate in elaborate poses, surrounded by candles and symbols drawn on the ground (swastikas, pentagrams, astrological signs, Stars of David, etc.). Men dance with machetes in an ecstatic trance, howling and singing with demonic voices. These mediums are called "banko" or spiritual mentors, and they are essential for those seeking the goddess's favor. The exact number of believers is difficult to ascertain as they mostly conceal their faith, but it is undoubtedly enormous, with hundreds of thousands visiting the mountain each year. Cult priests are called "santeros," and they can be seen throughout Venezuela, dressed entirely in white.

Meals: Breakfast, lunch, dinner
Accommodation: Hotel La Colina

Day 5. June 2, 2024 (Sunday). Acarigua - El Cedral (380 km, 6 hours)

Today, we are heading to the Llanos. It is one of the best places in South America for wildlife observation, offering the highest chances to encounter anacondas and giant anteaters in their natural habitat. In the afternoon, enjoy a wildlife observation boat tour, including a show featuring the feeding of caimans and crocodiles, as well as piranha fishing.

Meals: Breakfast, lunch, dinner
Accommodation: Hato El Cedral

Day 6. June 3, 2024 (Monday). El Cedral

Today promises a packed schedule. In the morning and evening, embark on expeditions to search for anacondas, giant anteaters, and other local fauna such as capybaras, giant armadillos, peccaries, tapirs, agoutis, and more, including the elusive puma and jaguar.

Meals: Breakfast, lunch, dinner
Accommodation: Hato El Cedral

Day 7. June 4, 2024 (Tuesday). El Cedral Barinas (200 km, 4 hours)

Start the day with a morning tour in search of anacondas and giant anteaters before transferring to Barinas.

Meals: Breakfast, lunch, dinner
Accommodation: Hotel Cacique

Day 8. June 5, 2024 (Wednesday). Barinas Caracas – National Park Waraira Repano (500 km, 6 hours)

After breakfast, we start on a lengthy journey to Caracas. In the evening, explore the Waraira Repano National Park, often referred to as the "green lungs of Caracas." Spanning 81,800 hectares on the slopes surrounding Caracas, the park features mountainous forests, canyons, rivers, and streams. Rich in birdlife, we will visit the quaint village of Galipan, settled by Canarian immigrants two centuries ago, and enjoy a breathtaking viewpoint overlooking Caracas and the Caribbean Sea. Conclude the day with a visit to the picturesque abandoned cable car station.

Meals: Breakfast, lunch, dinner
Accommodation: Hotel Villa Playa Grande in Caracas

Day 9. June 6, 2024 (Thursday). Caracas

We will explore the city center, Simon Bolivar's house, as well as Plaza de Venezuela (San Jacinto) and Plaza Bolivar. We will acquaint ourselves with the street art of Caracas, which is quite fascinating and prevalent throughout the city. Additionally, we will visit a "secret" ara parrot hostel right in Caracas, where we will observe them from a very close distance.

Meals: breakfast, lunch, dinner
Accommodation: Hotel Villa Playa Grande in Caracas

Day 10. June 7, 2024 (Friday). Return flight

Breakfast. Transfer to the airport.

Meals: breakfast
Accommodation: no

**Recommended flights:

  • Turkish Airlines, Flight TK 224, departing from Caracas on June 7 at 10:10 AM, or
  • any other flight from Caracas to any city departing on June 7 at any time.

Cost includes:

• All ground transportation as per the program in all cities
• All boats with drivers
• Accommodation in hotels and lodges based on double occupancy (TWIN / DBL)
• Three meals a day throughout the itinerary
• Drinking water everywhere
• Local guides and helpers throughout the route
• All entrance tickets as per the program
• All activities and excursions as per the program
• Local professional specialized English- and Spanish-speaking guide
• English-speaking team leader, translation into Russian.

Cost excludes (to be additionally paid) :

• International airfare to and from Caracas
• International medical insurance
• Venezuela visa (not required for Russian citizens)
• Single accommodation
• Soft and alcoholic drinks and personal expenses
• Tips/gifts to the local population.

To take with:

• 3 sets of clothing (pants, long-sleeved shirt, T-shirt, underwear, socks, sun hat; synthetic materials preferred)
• comfortable trekking shoes, lightweight shoes (sneakers)
• lightweight jacket
• raincoat
• swimwear
• sunglasses and sunscreen
• personal first aid kit (analgesics, antiseptics, antibiotics, antivirals, multivitamins, rehydration solution, gastrointestinal medications, any medications specifically required for you
• personal hygiene items (including a towel, wet wipes, soap)
• headlamp
• warm-weather sleeping bag
• mosquito net
• various repellents for skin and clothing
• antimalarial medication (decision is yours, but recommended for Plasmodium falciparum and Plasmodium vivax strains)
• yellow fever certificate
• waterproof document pouch
• photo and video equipment
• for photo and video equipment, an extra set of batteries and a power bank
• waterproof cover for photographic equipment (preferable)
• backpack for luggage
• small backpack for personal items.
  • 1
    We find the most astonishing places on Earth and speed up to reach them. Our motto is to go ahead of road roller, touch the unique and unknown, before it disappears.
  • 2
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  • 3
    In our trips we pay special attention to safety. All our travels are based on personal experience, equipped with the best gear, involving proved providers and experienced local guides who perfectly know local features.
  • 4
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  • 5
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