Barquisimeto: charm, culture and breathtaking sunsets
by Daniela Ruiz
Thursday, March 2, 2017
A place for high class traveling on a budget
One of the reasons you might be interested in Venezuela is because of how cheap it is. Barquisimeto is a small city in the heart of this Latin American country, where you can have a five-star experience that suits your budget. There are comfortable hotel rooms for $20 a night, and you can have dinner at a fancy restaurant for less than 10$. But it’s the colorful cultural life, warm-hearted people and the beautiful sunsets that will make you fall in love with this destination.
What to expect
Old-fashioned town charm
With a population of roughly 2 million people, there’s a modest -yet substantial hustle around business, arts, and culture. It’s not a cosmopolitan environment and that’s exactly what makes it so charming, almost as if time has frozen. In places like Santa Rosa Square, you can find kids feeding the pigeons and lovely old people reading the newspaper. Not to mention street musicians, and couples holding hands -because this place is truly romantic.
Cultural richness and diversity
The city is known for hosting one of the largest spiritual manifestations in the world and barquisimetans love telling the story. People in this city take pride in the traditions, myths, legends and even quirks that make it unique. You’ll find that demonstrations of culture go from drop-dead, sublime fine arts display to experimental productions. Public and private events fusion the old with the new, the local talent with the global influence, the honorable elders with the innovative youth. Even the most introverted next-door barquisimetan delivers street wisdom in a funny, yet soulful way.
Inspiring landscapes and exotic getaways
The sunsets are legendary, but there’s more to it. The beautiful nostalgia of the valley has been a motive for visual artists, and it’s just a mesmerizing experience to contemplate the sky when the day is coming to an end. Just 10 min from the city you have El Manzano, a mystical mountain with a jungle-like exuberant atmosphere. With the proper guidance, you can find all sorts of micro destinations: clubs, spas, rivers, temples, sacred spots and healing cultural practices to experience.
Get ready for some royal treatment
As much as these people take pride in their local identity, they absolutely love tourists. If you don’t speak Spanish, it’s not difficult to find English-speakers. People will probably enjoy just spending time with you, communicating in English and showing you around. And not only that. Because of the currency exchange rate, the money you’d spend backpacking elsewhere here is more than enough to stay at very nice hotels, go to a spa, get a massage, have a bottle of the local champagne. Even if you’re not interested in luxury, you can have a pleasurable experience at places with an interesting concept and comfortable facilities.
You must try
There’s regular “yellow” cheese, but white cheese is utterly delicious. You can find many versions of this dairy product -soft, hard, fibrous, creamy. The goat cheese is yummy and comes with basil, dried tomatoes or almonds. Barquisimetans have it in arepas, with sweet bread, and in an organic biscuit, they call catalinas.
There are private galleries and concerts, but you can enjoy events in public spaces such as the Museum or open spaces like La Justicia Square or Santa Rosa’s amphitheater. These are usually hosted by non-profits and artists themselves. Whatever you choose, there are good chances you’ll find compelling aesthetics, interesting combinations, and unique characters.
In Aguaviva you’ll find a whole community devoted to pottery. It’s an important part of the culture of this city. You can find masterpieces made with artisan expertise and cute souvenirs crafted by kids in their spare time.
There are many nightclubs with nice facilities, live music, sometimes DJ’s and even whimsical artists performance. It all comes down to what you prefer. People like to party a lot, and you’ll usually find them -especially girls- dressed to impress. However, the streets can be dangerous, so it’s not safe to spend the night going from one club to another. Fortunately, some hotels have nightclubs right there, so you can party without compromising your safety.
The downsides you need to know
Venezuela has one of the highest crime rates in the region. People who live here are used to it. They know how to identify danger and avoid it. So it is possible to come to Barquisimeto and have a great time, but you’ll probably need guidance. It’s not a place to wander around looking like a foreign lost person, and you shouldn’t come uninformed.
Shortages and scarcity
As a tourist, the chances are you’ll be in a chaos-free environment. But there are some things that are not easy to find. Personal hygiene products, medicine, and foods such as bread are scarce. You can eat well and find imported goods in boutiques and stores, but going to a supermarket is not a great idea.
How to make the most of it
If you’re an adventurous human being and don’t mind the downsides, these are the things you need to remember when planning your trip.
- I cannot stress enough the importance of being properly informed. Hire an online guide if necessary, you can post a job offer on freelancer and it’s not expensive.
- Bring everything you need, and some additional medication or personal hygiene products, just in case.
- Ask your guide to book the hotel reservations and transportation, don’t do it yourself. There’s a good chance people will try to charge you way more than the fee if they notice you’re a tourist.
- Don’t trust too much on people you meet on the street. Look for references.
If you follow these instructions, there’s no reason you cannot have a wonderful experience in Barquisimeto. This is a place that offers the freshness of a small town and the beauty of nature with the comfort of high-class facilities and commodities. But the most endearing thing about the city is the people. A warm-hearted, joyful community of creative and hard-working people who’ll make you feel undoubtedly welcome and happy.