The city of Merida is located in the state of the same name in the western part of Venezuela, surrounded by the northernmost spurs of the Andes – the Cordillera de Merida. It is located in a mountain valley formed by the Chama River, at an altitude of 1500 m. From the southeast, the city is bordered by the Sierra Nevada de Merida ridge, and from the northwest by the Sierra La Culata ridge. You can get to Merida by plane through the airport of El Vigia, located about 100 km to the west along the highway. The airport of the city of Merida has recently been closed.
According to Payhelpcenter, Merida was founded by the Spaniards in 1558. Now it is known as a city of students, because one of the largest universities in Venezuela is located here. – University of the Andes, as a city of parks (there are about 30 parks in total) and as a starting point for trips through the mountains of the Cordillera de Mérida.
The old part of the city is built in the colonial style. On the central city square – Bolivar Square – rise the Baroque Cathedral, which was built over 150 years (between 1803 and 1960), the Archbishop’s Palace, which has been the residence of the archbishop since 1951, and the Government Palace. Nearby are the majestic building of the University of the Andes, which was founded in 1785, the Archaeological Museum with a collection of objects from the pre-Columbian era and Museum of Modern Art. Other attractions of Merida include the oldest church in the city – the Milla Church (18th century), the only Gothic church in the city – the Del Llano church, the Museum of Colonial Art, a bullfighting ring that can accommodate 16 thousand spectators, and numerous parks. Mérida is home to the country ‘s largest park – Albarregas Park with an area of 612 hectares, where, in addition to picturesque nature, you will see a variety of sculptures. Also of interest are the Los Chorros de Milla parks with a zoo, La Isla, equipped on the site of an old coffee plantation, the Botanical Garden and Chincos Republican Park (Park of the Five Republics), where the world’s oldest monument to Simon Bolivar (1842) is located.
Not far from Piazza Bolivar, on Heroes’ Square (Las Heroinas) , the El Teleferico de Merida cable car begins, leading to the slopes of Mount Espejo (4880 m), located within the Sierra Nevada de Merida ridge, to a height of 4765 m. This is the longest (12.5 km) and the highest mountain cable car on the planet. It was built in 1958. Unfortunately, due to heavy wear and tear, the cable car was closed for repairs in 2008. This fact significantly reduced the number of tourists visiting these lands, because the Mérida cable car leads into the heart of the Sierra Nevada National Park. (Sierra Nevada National park). Until the cable car was closed, it was used not only by tourists who want to look at the nature of the local mountains, but also by the most daring skiers. There are no ski slopes on the snow-covered slopes of Espejo Peak, however, from November to June, extreme skiers arrived here in order to ride on the virgin lands in the immediate vicinity of the equator. Now the Sierra Nevada National Park can only be reached by sightseeing jeeps. In order to travel through the park, permission must be obtained from the park office located in Mérida. Sierra Nevada National Park is one of the best places in Venezuela for hiking and mountaineering. Here, on an area of 276.5 thousand hectares, there are 6 highest peaks of the country (Bolivar (5007 m), Humboldt (4942 m), La Concha (4922 m), Bonpland (4883 m), Espejo (4880 m) and El Leon (4740 m)), whose peaks are covered with snow, deep gorges, sheer cliffs, mountain lakes and rivers, wet forests, meadows and original villages. Altitudes within the parks vary from 600 to 5000 m, so the natural world is very diverse. Tropical rainforests stretch at the foot of the mountains, and in the mountains there are high-mountain meadows – “paramo”, where giant plants are found, including espeletsia, reaching a height of 5 m. In total, there are about 750 plant species. In the Sierra Nevada National Parkrare spectacled bear, puma, jaguar, fox, mazama deer, red howler, opossum, porcupine and paca rodent (about 300 species of animals in total), as well as birds such as the Andean condor, eagle, parrot and toucan.
From Merida, from Las Heroinas Square, jeeps leave in the morning for the Sierra Nevada National Park. They deliver tourists to the mountain village of Los Nevados, located in the southern part of the park at an altitude of 2711 m. Various hiking trails start from here. In addition, you can also get into the park from its northern side, from cities located on the highway connecting Merida with Barinas. Tabay is located 10 km northeast of Merida.(Tabay). The city is famous for its hot springs, the waters from which are fed into two small pools. From Tabay, excursions by jeeps to the so-called “foggy” forest of La Mucuy (La Mucuy) depart. Climbing to the peaks of Bolivar and Humboldt starts from here, taking from 4 to 6 days. 7 km east of Tabay is the Los Aleros theme park, which is a copy of the traditional Andean city of the 30s of the 20th century. Further along the Merida-Barinas highway is the city of Mucuches (Mucuchies). It was in Mukuches that the Mukuchi breed of dogs was bred, which to this day guard the flocks of sheep grazing in the meadows. In the central city square, Plaza Bolívar, there is a monument to the boy Tinayak and his dog “mukuchi” nicknamed Nevado. According to legend, a boy with a dog joined the troops of Simon Bolivar in 1813 in these places and fought for independence until his death in the famous battle of Boyaca, when the Spanish troops were defeated. Not far from Mucuches at an altitude of 3140 m is the village of San Rafael del Mucuches (San Rafael del Mucuchies). Here is a small chapel built at the end of the 20th century from thousands of stones by Juan Felix Sanchez, who after his death was canonized. Next to the chapel is a museum of peasant life of the last century and a small souvenir market.
Even further north in the mountains at an altitude of 3500 m is the highest city in the country – Apartaderos, surrounded by endless meadows “paramo”. There are many hotels here, guest houses and souvenir shops. In the vicinity of Apartaderos, the remains of the settlements of the ancient Indians of the Timotokuika tribe have been preserved. Also near the city are the biological station “Estacion Biologica-Juan Manuel Paz”, which was created to protect rare Andean condors, and the National Astronomical Observatory – one of the highest mountain observatories in the world (3600 m). A little north on the road to Santo Domingo is the entrance to the northern part of the Sierra Nevada National Park. Near the entrance at an altitude of 3500 m is Lake Mukubahi (Laguna Mucubaji) – the largest of the glacial lakes in the state of Merida. A variety of birds have chosen the shores of the lake, and trout is found in the lake itself, however, it is forbidden to catch it. There are campsites on the shore, a restaurant and a souvenir shop. It offers horseback riding tours in the surrounding meadows. It is worth remembering that it is quite cool here: during the day the air barely warms up to +15 degrees, and at night the temperatures often approach 0 degrees.
From the northwest, the city of Merida is bounded by the Sierra La Culata ridge, the slopes of which are protected by the national park of the same name, covering an area of 200 thousand hectares. Sierra La Culata Park is less popular among tourists, but interesting excursions are still organized here. Behind the Sierra La Culata ridge is located the largest lake in South America – Maracaibo . AT Merida tourists are offered tours to this lake.
There are also many attractions south of Merida: the La Venezuela de Antier theme park, which tells about the history of the country; the city of Ejido, where there are 5 thermal springs with water temperatures up to +60 degrees, used to treat skin diseases; theme park La Montana de Los Suenos (Montana de Los Suenos), dedicated to the history of Venezuelan cinema; picturesque waterfalls Chorrera de Las Gonzalez (La Chorrera de Las Gonzalez); the village of Hahi (Jaji), built in a traditional colonial style with souvenir shops and cafes; and ranch Hacienda El Carmen (before the oil “boom” was the main coffee producer in Venezuela) with a coffee museum.
In addition, it is worth noting that Merida is considered one of the best places for paragliding in the world. The city is located in a mountain valley: from the west, north and east it is surrounded by mountains, and from the south it is open to air currents. Streams throughout the day “glide” up the mountain slopes, creating ideal conditions for paragliding. In the vicinity of Merida there are several “launch sites”, the best is considered to be the “platform” Tierra Negra, located at an altitude of 900 m, about an hour south of Merida. You can do paragliding here, both alone and with an instructor.