At the base of a valley, cradled in a gentle sea breeze, the Venezuelan capital does not lack charm, even if it is a little lacking in character. Following the petrol boom, this former farming town saw incredible and somewhat chaotic growth. Skyscrapers and the chic areas of the city centre are in direct contrast with the shanty towns (ranchitos) that run up the surrounding mountains. The old colonial quarter was levelled to make way for modern buildings, meaning that Caracas is somewhat lacking in heritage. The city centre, always full of traffic and very polluted, does still have some historic sites. The lively Plaza Bolivar area, containing the equestrian statue of Libertador, brings together the main colonial monuments: the Cathedral, the Archbishop's palace, San Francisco church, Parliament, Governor's palace, National Library and the Acadamy palace. Caracas does have some splendid museums, particularly the Museum of Colonial Art located in an ancient Arab-Andalouz hacienda within the San Bernardino area, the Museo Criollo Raul Santana and the museums within the Parque Central: Museo de los Ninos, Museo de Arte Contemporaneo, Museo de Bellas Artes and Galeria de Arte Nacional. It is a pleasure to stroll down the huge pedestrianised avenue of Sabana Grande, between the terraced cafes, fashion boutiques, book shops and merchants, and then to stop for a drink on the terraces of the Gran Cafe - ever trendy. Perhaps you would prefer a bit of bargain hunting in the boutiques on Paseo Las Mercedes - this is the poshest area of the capital - or perhaps a visit to the botanic gardens at Parque Los Caobos and the zoo at Parque Zoologico Caricuaco, and then finally rent a pedalo on the lakes of the Parque del Este. For a good panoramic view of Caracas, climb to the top of the Teleferico (when it's working) on Mount Avila and make the most of the wooded paths. At the weekend, Caracas residents go out to the numerous nightclubs and concert venues full of mariachis and salsa and latin jazz orchestras. Guaranteed entertainment ! In the Caracas area, 56 miles to the South-West, it is great fun to go and visit the Bavarian enclave of Colonia Tovar, a small mountainous village populated by farmers originally from the Black Forest. In hostels, drink beer and eat apple strudel whilst listening to cuckoo clocks.