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The deluge ends as a pale sun dawns over the ageless mountains. Clouds rise up the forest-brocade mountainsides, into the grey, velvet sky. Fresh snow frocks the higher peaks. Fog hangs in the ragged valleys. This is the northern end of the Andes, near Mérida, in western Venezuela. On the world’s longest cable car line, people are already beginning the journey threading upwards to Pico Espejo. From there they may walk to quaint villages like Los Nevados or El Morro, or begin to scale glacier-blanketed Pico Bolívar (over 5,000 meters/16,400 feet altitude), or spend several days hiking and camping through the mountains.


A popular destination for Venezuelans and foreigners alike, the city of Mérida is well-developed for tourism. The municipality features over 30 parks, including a zoo and an aquarium. In Plaza Beethoven, a series of chimes announces the time on the hour: surely you can guess who composed the tune. The Universidad de los Andes is located in Mérida: it offers lectures, concerts and other cultural events. At the University is a modern art museum; the city also has an archaeological and a colonial art museum (all closed Monday). Mérida is also a popular place for foreigners to study Spanish.


The mountains immediately overlooking the city are part of Parque Nacional Sierra Nevada. The entrance to a beautiful section of this park, featuring alpine landscapes and lakes, is on the road towards Barinas. There are campsites in this part of the park, or one can make day trips. A number of agencies in Mérida offer tours to Parque Nacional Sierra Nevada, mountain climbing expeditions and excursions into the Llanos (plains).


Near Mérida are a number of charming Andean villages with colonial architecture and artisan workshops. From one of these pueblos, Tabay, one can visit the hot springs of La Mucuy.


The higher altitude and cooler climate of Mérida and the surrounding region make for a wonderful relief from the rest of the country. The tapestry that is Venezuela isn’t only composed of threads of tropical beaches and jungle. In that southeast corner is deeply woven a brocade of snow-capped mountains, wind-swept highlands and picturesque Andean villages.

Did you like this article? Then you'll like these: Rio Orinoco, Paria Peninsula, Canaima, Mount Roraima, Los Llanos, Araya Peninsula, Hiking to Lake Guanico, Venezuela's Lago de Asfalto, Los Roques, Angel Falls and Los Nevados.

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