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Puerto Ayacucho (Spanish pronunciation: [ˈpweɾto aʝaˈkutʃo]) is the capital and largest city of Amazonas State in Venezuela. Puerto Ayacucho is located across the Orinoco River from the Colombian village of Casuarito.
The city was founded to facilitate the transport of goods past the Atures Rapids on the Orinoco River in the late 19th century (mostly rubber). Now the economy is supported by both national and international tourism. Also based here is the Venezuelan army and navy, conducting a continuous low level campaign against incursions and drug-runners from nearby Colombia. The climate is equatorial and the surrounding rainforests are some of the world's least explored and most untouched. The nearby forested mountains (tepuis) contain some of the world's least investigated microsystems.
200 km to the south is one of the natural world's great wonders, the Casiquiare canal, a waterway that links South America's two greatest river systems, the Amazon and the Orinoco. This was first reported in the 17th century and explored in 1800 by naturalist Alexander von Humboldt, who commented on the recent extinction of the Aturès Indians for whom the Atures Rapids had been named. The water in the Casiquiare flows from the Orinoco River into the Rio Negro, tributary of the Amazon, though much more is gathered en route from numerous tributaries. Nowadays tourists can organise a trip along it from Puerto Ayacucho.
90 km to the east is the second highest waterfall in Venezuela, the 2,200 ft (670 m) Yutaje Falls. Nearby is the Yutaje Tourist Lodge with its own airstrip in the jungle. Walks and river trips can be undertaken from here in the nearby selva. Of note is the large population of greenwing macaws, Ara chloroptera. There are also jaguars, pink river dolphins, numerous monkeys and other bird life.
The inhabitants are mostly mestizo – of mixed indigenous and Spanish descent. There are a number of local indigenous tribes including the Yanomami, the Panare, the Bari, Piaroa, and Guajibo (also known as Jibis). There is little traffic on the river these days. There is a range of medium and low cost hotels. While the city itself is not generally considered attractive, most visitors agree that the surrounding country is magnificent.
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