It is the summer of 2000. I just turned 15 year and up until this summer the furthest I’ve ever been from home is the south of France. But that was all about to change this summer. Because this would be the summer that I would go to Isla Margarita, Venezuela.
At the moment of writing it’s almost 20 years later. I have to search for old fashion printed photos (Ouch that makes me feel old already). And yes, printed photos was still a thing in the early 2000’s. Since it’s already 20 years ago the memories of Isla Margarita have become somewhat vague. But what I still clearly remember is the resort we stayed at. It was a bungalow style all-in resort near the beach. The bungalows where orange colored and in the middle there was a big swimming pool. At first I didn’t remember the name of the resort. But with a quick search online helped. Margarita Village in Porlamar, Isla Margarita, Venezuela.
I searched a bit further online and it turns out the place still exists. And guess what… It is like a time machine. It still looks the same as 2 decades ago. You enter the village through a large open lobby with a lot of seating. Only to get to the pools edge on the other side. The pool which is at the center of the village. With on the backside of the pool the bar and restaurant. To both sides of the pool are the bungalows. From what I remember where the bungalows quite basic, just how I like it. As I don’t see the point of expensive luxury hotels. They only make you want to stay in, while I’m there to explore the surroundings.
Isla Margarita consists of 2 island who are connected in the middle by a lagune of mangrove trees. The island lays about 40km of the mainland of Venezuela. And is reachable by either boat or airplane. The majority of the population live on the more developed eastern part of the island. Here you can also find its 2 biggest cities Porlamar and Pampatar. Up until the economic downfall in Venezuela, Isla Margarita used to be a popular tourist destination. With its nickname as Pearl of the Caribbean, its many white beaches and its tax-free status many tourists visited the island. Only after 2010 tourism on the island has been on a decline and organized crime has taken its place.
Laguna de la Restinga
If you visit Isla Margarita you should definitely also pay a visit to Laguna de la Restinga National Park. The park forms a connection between the 2 islands that make up Isla Margarita. The majority of the park consists of a salt water lagune with mangrove trees. Besides the mangrove forest the park is also rich of fish and birds.
If you want to visit the park you can go to the Terminal de Lanchas Laguna de la Restinga. Here you can get onto a 5-person motorboot that will take you through the mangrove channels. These motorboats will bring you to a shell beach on the northern side of the park. Here you can eat fresh captured fish.
Basilica of Our Lady of El Valle
Another must see on Isla Margarita is the Basilica of Our Lady of El Valle. The Basilica is located in the town of El Valle del Espíritu Santo and is named in honor of the patron saint of the town, “La Virgen del Valle”. The church was originally called the church of St Nicholas of Bari, but was declare a Minor Basilica on the 8th of september 1955. Every year there are festivities held in the Basilica. It starts on the 8th of september with the descent of the Virgin, where its places so that the public can see it up close. And it ends on the 8th of december with the rise of the Virgin when its placed on the altar at the top.
It’s been 2 decades since I’ve been to Isla Margarita. Because of that a lot of memories have faded away. Also the situation on Isla Margarita has changed a lot since and I wouldn’t recommend anyone on going there at the moment. Yet I still decided to write about it. Because for me Isla Margarita is still a memorable place. I truly hope the situation in Venezuela will improve soon so that more people can enjoy this beautiful place.
Featured image: Vénézuela // Isla Margarita flickr photo by Julie Navarro1 shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license
Laguna de la Restinga: flickr photo by Konstantin Zamkov shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license