La Colonia Tovar, the Germany of the Caribbean
January 1, 1970
by Betsabeth Sanchez
La Colonia Tovar is a little town in the Caribbean, located in Venezuela, which was founded in 1843 by a group of german immigrants, mostly from the Grand Duchy of Baden, for a long time the town was isolated from its nearby cities, so it grew to be a piece of Germany in America, specifically in Venezuela. It’s located 42 km from Caracas, the capital city of Venezuela.
All those years of isolation forced its people, the colonieros as they’re called, to work in the place in order to survive, that’s the reason why people can find non caribbean fruits in Venezuela, since they figured a way to grow strawberries, peaches and others under the merciless caribbean sun.
How to get there?
To get there you can take a bus from Caracas to a town called El Junquito and there head over to La Colonia Tovar, or you can also take a bus from La Victoria, which is another cool city in Venezuela. The bus from La Victoria takes the old road the first inhabitants from the town took to register their births, deaths, marriages and any other civil matter en La Victoria, it goes way up through mountains and wasn’t paved until more than one hundred years after the germans arrived to the town. In fact, you can practice paragliding on your way to La Colonia Tovar.
Another way is using a rental car, but to do that you should make sure it has a GPS incorporated and drive carefully, because the roads go through high mountains and sometimes there aren’t road defenses on the way, it’s a new road for new travelers.
Last but not least, you could always take a cab, either at Maiquetía Airport (the most important airport in Venezuela) of from a hotel you’re staying. Taxi drivers usually know their way around, but always take into consideration not to use a taxi from the street but always from a company or a hotel, they’re responsible and safe.
What to do there?
Once you’re there, there are several activities to choose from, different tours which combine the traditional activities and works colonieros do, they vary from handcraft wine to farming and artisanal brewing, just to get to know the town, its people and their work.
Although all of the tours companies offer the same destinations at similar prices, sometimes the combinations are a bit different from each other, you can ask for the offers and one of the companies might be offering hydrangeas gardens, wine handcrafting and beer brewing, while the one across the street offers hydrangea gardens, strawberries and peaches farming. It’s important to know they have more than just one tour offer: the destinations for the tours are a wine factory, a brewery, a chocolate factory, strawberries, peaches and sometimes figs farms, hydrangeas gardens, a town called El Jarillo, nearby beaches and archeological sites. There used to be a tour to the mountains to visit one of the biggest and oldest trees in Agustin Codazzi National Park, but in order to preserve it for future generations, that tour is closed.
Some of the tours require previous reservations, specifically the ones where they left town, because they spend half a day or the whole day out and require a number of people to do it. Beaches tours include food a beverages in the prices and consist on a whole day at the beach just to later return to the cool weather of La Colonia Tovar. In the ones to El Jarillo they visit an artisanal ice cream factory, which isn’t really a factory, but a family making ice creams with milk milked from their own cows. They’re really good ice creams.
The archeological tours take you to see hieroglyphs made by the original inhabitants of Venezuela, their indians, who lived across the country for several centuries and from who some tribes remain. This one takes about two hours and goes through dirt roads, so dress appropriately.
Other tour combinations include the other destinations arrange according to people’s demand.
Beside the tours, this little town offer activities suitable for every age, from horseback riding to bow & arrow practice. At the entrance of the town from Caracas direction, there’s a nice hotel and restaurant called La Ballesta, where people go to practice with flobert guns and bow & arrow, while having a great time at the bar; they also have a pool table you can rent for hours. Safety measures are great, little kids can have a nice day in the inflatable castle bouncer while their parents have fun at the bar.
Food is a really important issue here and you can find from traditional german sausages to fancy five star dishes. One that’s really great and can’t be found in many places is the roasted pig’s knee with mustard, a traditional german dish, usually for two or three people, with a flavor so good you’ll never forget about it. The few restaurants that make this are experts on it. German dishes are all over the place, but they’re not the only to find, venezuelan, italian, even hungarian food is to be found in La Colonia Tovar and everything there is delicious.
Desserts can never be passed by, because of their german heritage, colonieros are the bests at making desserts, a traditional Apple Strudel or a Black Forest cake are to be found all over the town in various presentations, but there are two places not many know about; one of them is getting bigger, a swiss old couple who prepare desserts to die for! They work from home and are located in the area of Matapalo, to get there take a taxi or ask around, most colonieros know about them by now. The other one is a german lady who doesn’t speak spanish, only German, she and her daughter sell homemade pretzels, pastry bombes and other desserts at their front gate, it’s an old house and her name is Gaby Baumgartner, her desserts are the best!
One more thing, depending to the time of the year, some german festivals might be occurring, such as the Jokily festival, where during 4 to 5 days, residents have different activities celebrating Carnival, or the traditional Oktoberfest, Venezuela has the largest Oktoberfest in the world outside of Germany.
This little town lives out of tourism, so accommodation is easy to find, some of the residents rent rooms in their houses for tourists to spend the night, there are several inns and hotels, most of the inns have rooms with and without kitchens for guests to choose from, the biggests hotels don’t have kitchens, but they do have restaurants for their guests (and outsiders) and usually include one meal in their prices.
La Colonia Tovar is the perfect place to feel you’re in Europe but with the possibility to escape to the Caribbean in a short drive, surrounded by warm people who are always willing to make you feel like home.