Inside an abandoned theme park that was left to rot and the sinister reason why

A sad tree at Parque Grano de Oro.
A sad-looking tree in the middle of the crumbling theme park (Picture: AP)

It’s been a long time since someone at Parque Grano de Oro screamed with delight.

But the rides that once daunted and thrilled the people of Maracaibo in north-western Venezuela remain on the site of the old theme park, slowly falling apart.

They include the Tornado, a large rollercoaster which now stands in a sea of cracked concrete and weeds.

A fake tree with a doleful face is surrounded by shattered cinderblocks and rotting wood.

It’s a sad, drawn-out demise for a park that was once the most popular in Zulia, the most populous of Venezuela’s 23 states.

For more than 15 years, Parque Grano de Oro attracted families and thrill-seekers from far and wide – as well as travelling circuses and national celebrities who wanted a piece of the action.

But, like so much else in the South American country, it eventually fell victim to something the owners were unable to control.

In 2014, the price of oil collapsed globally and the economy of Venezuela – which heavily relies on the commodity – fell with it.

The Tornado rollercoaster hasn’t run in at least five years (Picture: AP)

Maracaibo, where the park was located, sits on the banks of a large body of water which covers one of the world’s largest known oil and gas reserves. Industry workers used to drive the streets in expensive cars as executives took private jets.

When the price plunged, the city was devastated as a result. In the ten years since the crash, there have been days-long power cuts and widespread looting of supermarkets.

Understandably, these were not the kinds of conditions that allowed a theme park to thrive. Even if there were enough people with the disposable income for a fun day out, the threat of electricity supply loss would bring about a swift end to the excitement.

Parque Grano de Oro still managed to struggle on until 2018, though it was clear its best days were long gone by that point.

The rides are surrounded by brown weeds and grass (Picture: Youtube/Impacto Mundo)

In Maracaibo that year, there were reports that thieves had broken into gravesites to steal ornaments and gold teeth from the dead.

The following March, according to German newspaper Der Spiegel, the city’s residents plundered more than 500 shops in a matter of days after a lengthy power cut left food rotting in fridges.

An estimated third of Venezuelans was ‘food insecure’ in 2020, according to a UN report.

The site appears to have been left to rot (Picture: Youtube/Impacto Mundo)

There may have been a sign of the theme park’s dire future in the unfortunate past of the site where it was located.

It had once been home to Aeropuerto Grano de Oro, which is most famous for one of the worst air tragedies in Venezuelan history.

Shortly after takeoff on March 16 1969, Viasa Flight 742 hit a power pole and crashed into a park in Maracaibo’s La Trinidad neighbourhood.

All 84 passengers and crew on board were killed, along with 71 people on the ground.

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