Merida in Venezuela

The emergence of Los Roques

The city of Merida is located in the north west of Venezuela. Merida is the most populous urban centre in the Venezuelan Andean region. Before the arrival of the Spaniards in the 16th century, Merida was inhabited by several Incaic indigenous groups, who probably settled there after travelling from the Peruvian highlands. The city of Merida was founded in 1561 by Spanish explorers, who named the settlement after a historic city in western Spain. During the 18th and 19th centuries, Merida gained importance as a Catholic religious centre. The San Buenaventura seminary (built in 1785) played an important role in the development and growth of Merida as one of the most important cities in the country. In 1811, the seminary became what today is known as the University of the Andes, one of the most prestigious educational institutions in Venezuela.

The weather in Merida

Merida sits on a valley surrounded by the Andean mountain range. This means that the city is located at a relatively high altitude, at more than 5,300 feet above the sea level. The mountain winds cause frequent changes in the weather, and it is common to experience temperature changes of up to 20°C between day and night temperatures. The average daily temperature is 24°C (substantially lower than in other parts of tropical Venezuela). During the rainy season (which runs between May and October), it usually rains in the early morning or late evening. While January and February are the coldest months, Merida enjoys more than 230 hours of sunshine per month even during the winter season.

Nature and animals in Merida

The frequent rains and high humidity have created dense layers of vegetation around Merida. The valleys that surround the city are dotted with cedar and ceiba forests, as well as with other local evergreens like the jabillo or the mijao. The valleys are very fertile, so coffee, strawberries, citrus fruits, and sugar cane are grown in large quantities. Several types of eagles and condors can be seen in the area, and the forests are home to bears, coatis, and guaches. Other animals, such as Old World coral snakes, salamanders, and foxes inhabit the paramo (or highland areas). The rivers that flow through the valleys near Merida carry large amounts of trouts.

Sightseeing in Merida

Being an old colonial town, Merida has a large number of buildings that are well worth a visit, especially around the city centre. A recommended itinerary would include the Archbishop's Palace, Merida's Cathedral, the main building at the University of the Andes (the Rectorate building), the House of Former Governors, and the Government Palace. These buildings have been beautifully preserved for over four centuries and are as impressive on the inside as they are on the outside. Next, take some time to visit the municipal market, where local produce and specialties are sold. In addition to food and drinks, visitors can find handicrafts, artwork, and clothing at this market. As in other Latin American colonial towns, Merida's plazas (public squares) and parks are great places for relaxing and people-watching. Plaza Bolivar, plaza Belen, and parque Beethoven should be included in every itinerary. Merida's most famous attraction is its cable car, which rises 15,000 feet above sea level. The cable car is currently undergoing maintenance, so visitors should check the opening times before visiting.

Tours around Merida

Due to Merida's location near the mountains, hiking and trekking tours are common in the area. The natural park known as Chorros de Milla makes for a great day out, as it has several waterfalls, cloud forests, lakes, and a zoo. A trip to Merida's Botanical Gardens is a small adventure in itself, as visitors can go tree climbing and admire the beauty of the local flora from a zipline. Merida is also a great base from which visitors can explore the neighbouring Andean villages, learn more about their traditional architecture, and sample local culinary specialties, like pineapple soup or arepas andinas (the local version of a burger). Tours to Jaji, Mucuchies, and Tabay come highly recommended. Horseback tours are available at Mucubaji lake.