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Here, in Venezuela's remote southeast, is a surreal landscape of pink beaches and black lagoons, where giant waterfalls plunge from the summits of prehistoric table-top mountains called tepuis, formations that harbor some of the most unusual life on earth. A trip to Venezuela is not complete without a visit to these mist-enshrouded plateaus that inspired Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's The Lost World.
This unique region is protected by Parque Nacional Canaima, which covers an area the size of Belgium. Most of the park is extremely remote, so the only way to see it is by boat or plane. The eastern half of Parque Nacional Canaima is crossed by a road, and this region is referred to as the Gran Sabana. Three- to four-day excursions to the Gran Sabana are made in four-wheel-drive vehicles and will carry you to waterfalls, indigenous villages, and vantage points that provide breathtaking views of the tepuis. These round-trip excursions generally begin in Ciudad Bolívar or Ciudad
Guayana, working slowly south toward Santa Elena de Uairén. The especially adventurous can hire a Pemón guide and scale a large tepui called Roraima, an undertaking that requires a minimum of five days. At the top, you find yourself in an unearthly lunarlike landscape.
Most people head to Canaima to see Angel Falls, the world's tallest waterfall. This spectacular torrent of water plummets 2,647 feet—more than twice the height of the Empire State Building, and 15 times higher than Niagara Falls—from atop the giant Auyantepuy mesa. Indigenous people knew the falls as "Kerapa kupai merú,"(the fall to the deepest place). But this natural phenomenon acquired its English-language moniker after its sighting by barnstorming U.S. pilot Jimmy Angel, who crash-landed on Auyantepuy's vast surface in 1937 while in search of gold. Angel, his wife, and two companions spent 11 days descending on foot from the tepui back to civilization and told the world of his "discovery." Angel's ashes were scattered over the falls after his 1956 death.