Los llanos are the floodplains of one of Latin America’s great river systems, the Orinoco. Like the Pantanal in Brazil, this area of sweeping grasslands and marshes cut through by rivers and punctuated by stands of tropical trees is shared between a vibrant wildlife (capybaras, anacondas, toucans, Scarlet ibis, Hyacinth macaws, parakeets all abound) and the livestock of the cattle ranches, or hatos, which colonise the region. Sparsely populated (cattle outnumber people) it’s the heart of the llanero cowboy culture, where rural human society lives harmoniously alongside one of Latin America's most extraordinary wildlife habitats.
When to go
This is a tropical region. The wet season extends from May-Nov, when it is extremely hot and humid. The dry season, Dec-Apr, has clear skies and breezes mitigate the heat. Travel through the llanos
is very difficult in the wet season as much of the lowland is submerged. The best period is probably at the end of the rains, when it is less humid, the water levels have dropped but you can explore by boat.
Getting local currency
Bolívar Fuerte. Banks will offer advances on a credit card. Money exchange offices and many hotels will happily buy US dollars cash (very few accept euros or sterling and the rate will be poor). Obtain your local currency before heading to the llanos. There are banks and ATMs at Barinas and San Fernando de Apuré but you are unlikely to spend much time, if any, in the towns.
GMT -5.5 hours (yes, really).
A visit to the Andean town of Mérida and the surrounding countryside, 4hrs by road from Barinas; a beach wind-down on the islands of Los Roques, accessible by air from Barinas via Caracas.
There are regular short domestic flights between Caracas and Barinas, from where you travel by road to the hato
where you will be staying.