Isla Margarita Feature

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El Valle del Espíritu Santo & La Asunción

Founded as the capital of the island in 1529, El Valle del Espíritu Santo, just north of Porlamar, has a splendid pink-and-white church honoring the Virgen del Valle, patron saint of eastern Venezuela. Pilgrims journey here year-round, but especially on her feast day in early September.

Santuario de la Virgen del Valle. The stained-glass windows of the Santuario de la Virgen del Valle, a twin-towered chapel on the main plaza, are worth a visit. A small museum (open most afternoons) contains the thousands of tokens, jewelry, and holy medals left by supplicants. Every September 8th, thousands congregate in front of the chapel for the Festividad de la Virgen del Valle.

From the mountains in the center of the island there are striking views as the road slowly descends to La Asunción, the small capital of the region. The sleepy little town, ignored by the bargain-hunting throngs, is the opposite of the bustling Porlamar. A handful of pretty colonial buildings are found around La Asunción's tree-covered Plaza Bolívar.

Catedral de Nuestra Señora. Built in 1568, the Catedral de Nuestra Señora is one of the oldest churches in Venezuela. Of particular interest is its three-tiered tower—the country's only surviving example of a colonial church tower.

Castillo de Santa Rosa. Overlooking the main square, the Castillo de Santa Rosa, with its famous dungeon, is one of seven fortifications constructed by the Spanish to guard against pirate attacks.

Parque Nacional Cerro El Copey. Parque Nacional Cerro El Copey, along the road between Porlamar and La Asunción, has the highest point on the island. The mountain soars to 3,109 feet. From here you can often spot the smaller islands of Coche and Cubagua.

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