Luis Pantoja won the End of Year Contest with two great posts. Below is one of them. Feel free to post questions or feedback in the comments!

Having being born and raised in Venezuela, I decided to write about it and show why it is considered ??the best kept secret of the Caribbean??.

The name Venezuela originates from the word venezuola which translates to ??little Venice??. The name was given by cartographer Americo Vespucci and explorer Alonso de Ojeda as they entered the Gulf of Venezuela and remarked that the stilt-houses (palafitos) built by the natives resembled Venice.

Venezuela is located on the north of South America, bordering Colombia to the west, Guyana to the east and Brazil to the south. It is home to a high diversity and quantity of fauna and flora and in spite of the country??s small size, it has very diverse climates ranging from deserts to rain forests to snowy peaks. It is also home of the highest waterfall in the world, the Angel Falls located in Canaima National Park in the rain forest.

If you decide to stay in the capital, Caracas offers quite a few attractions, like nightlife and shopping, but none of them stands out like the Avila Mountain (pictured above) at 2765 meters of elevation. The Avila is an extraordinary site for hiking, camping and tourism that should not be overlooked by any outdoorsman. I personally used to hike there every week and it??s a lot of fun because there are many trails and waterfalls and if you are adventurous enough, you can climb to the top and watch the city on one side and the ocean in the other. It??s awesome.

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[photo by: ZaCky]

Venezuela is one of the best places to travel to on a weak dollar. Thanks for the great post Luis!