Mérida the capital of Mérida State, is located in Venezuela, at the foot of the Andes, 15 kilometers from Venezuela's highest point. It is the centre for outdoor activities in Venezuela.
- 1 Alberto Carnevalli Airport (MRD IATA). Conviasa airlines provides commercial service to and from the airport. Private flights are also available.
Alternatively, the 2 Juan Pablo Pérez Alfonzo Airport (VIG IATA) in El Vigía is not too far away, and you can take a long taxi ride from there in case of emergency.
The road from Valera will take you over the highest asphalted road in Venezuela. The Pico Aquila is 4118m high. The roads are of reasonable quality and can easily be driven with a small car. On the way, you will have great views over the mountains and valleys. Try to drive this route in the morning, in the afternoon is usually gets clouded and foggy.
The bus terminal is a few kilometers out of the center.
There are daily connections to Barinas, Maracay, Caracas and several other destinations in Venezuela. If you want to go across to Ciudad Bolivar and avoid going north to Caracas or Valencia, then take the bus to Barinas (about 3.5 hours) and then the overnight bus, leaving at 10PM, to Ciudad Bolivar (11 hours).
On departure a departure tax is collected.
You can catch a bus to the center across the street from the bus terminal.
The city has a straight-forward street grid with numbered Calles crossed by numbered Avenidas. The streets do not always have signs, but the city center is easily navigable. Plaza Bolívar, between Avenidas 3/4 and Calles 22/23, is a focal point for the center.
There are busetas going just about everywhere. In the center, many of them stop on Avenida 25 between Calles 2/3.
There are several small Andean towns in the region which are quite scenic and easy to visit, such as Jají, Mucuchies, Apartaderos, and Santo Domingo.
- [dead link] Cinex Alto Prado, Alto Prado Mall (Cross bridge on calle 26, turn left at the second light past the bridge, right side of the street.). Movie theater near the center. Sometimes shows Venezuelan movies. Half price on Mondays.
- 1 Teleférico. The city's main attraction. It's the world's highest cablecar. For US$25, it will lead you to Pico Espejo (4765m) with two stops on the way. It's best to pick a clear day and go in the morning as early as possible to avoid queues. Many travellers go up on the teleférico, and then descent via mules, hiking and SUVs. This means that during the busy season, upward tickets may be sold out days in advance, but this can be circumvented by reversing the trip. Typically, locals in SUVs will wait in the morning near the base of the teleférico to drive tourists up to Los Nevados for US$15, where mules can be hired for the final ascent. The top is usually covered in clouds later in the day. Take warm clothes. The cable car is frequently closed for maintenance. It stops running in early afternoons.
- Pico Bolivar or Pico Humboldt. Climbing these mountains can be organised via through tour agents (see below) for serious mountaineers. A local guide who speaks a little bit of French is José Betancourt . Remember too that the altitude differential between Mérida and the top of the teleferico is huge and that an attempt to climb Pico Bolivar or Pico Humboldt should wait for the next day, least you experience mountain sickness.
- Adventure activities are offered by several tour agents. Mountain-biking, paragliding, white-water rafting, bungee jumping, and canyoning are all available in Mérida. Four tour agents are Arassari Trek, Calle 24 No 8-301, 0274-252-5879, Jakera, Calle 24 no 8-205 0 274 2529577 and Gravity Tours. Abadia Tours Travel & Destinations, Av 3 entre calles 17 y 18, 0274-2513115.
- Spanish Language Schools. Mérida is a good location to learn Spanish. Jakera has a few programs .
- Mercado Principal (From the center, take busetas marked "mercado"). A big market with a wide assortment of artesania and other touristy goods, as well as fresh fruits and vegetables on the first floor. Try the Levantón Andino, a smoothie that contains, among other things: fish eggs, quail eggs and a bull's eye.
- [dead link] Panaderia Roma, Calle 24 No 8-68, ☏ +58 274 2529095. Bread, pastries and coffee. Popular spot for breakfast.
- La Montaña Calle 24 6-47. Excellent meals for a reasonable price. Try the chicken in orange sauce and the lemon pie.
- Delicias Mexicanas Calle 25 7-48. To satisfy your cravings for Mexican food.
- Heladeria Coromoto Avenida 3 28-75. Has an entry in the Guinness Book of Records for being the icecream parlour with the most flavours. It has around 800 flavours including hamburger or rice-flavoured ice cream. But on any given day it only serves around 100 different flavours.
- La Abadia, Av. 3 between calles 17 and 18, is a restaurant/cafe/cybercafe with excellent fresh fruit drinks, trout dishes and coffees/desserts. Abadia Tours Travel & Destinations: llanos, paramo, paragliding, Canaima. Info: http://www.grupoabadia.com
- Areperia Dona Flor Nearby to Cafe Calypso/Centro Commercial El Viaducto, this is the queen of all arepa (corn-flour pita or pupusa like object) restaurants, with stuffings from the mundane shredded pork to pickled eggs and more.
- Calle Burgers At night small hamburger/hotdog stands appear near all the major nightclubs. Shady though they may look, their burgers are second to none with toppings including fried eggs, ham, shoestring potato fries and more.
- ¡Date! Con Rolando, Avenida Urdaneta and Calle 49, is another one of these excellent nocturnal hamburger stands, with a variety of meats and cheeses available for your burger, as well as patacones, in which crispy, mashed and fried plantains substitute for the bun. Established in 1985, ¡Date! has become so popular that Rolando has found it necessary to open locations in Barinas and Maracaibo.
- Pizzeria Da Enzo The best pizzas of Mérida, with the secret recipe of an Italian family. Andres Bello Avenue Centro Comercial San Cristobal, Mérida City.
- Pizzería El Sabor de los 4 Quesos [dead link] Best pizza in town, Avenue 2 between 13 and 14 No 13-66, in front of Plaza Milla.
- Café Ático, Near the Plaza de las Heroinas, this small coffeehouse/bar is a popular counterculture scene
- La Astilla, Plaza Milla. Excellent restaurant that serves local dishes and pizzas. Try the "Lomita al Salsa Mostaza Dyon", "Trucha con Champignones" and "Limonada Frappe".
- Federicos, Av. 5 between Calle 18 and 19. Italian/Argentinian owner that serves anything between pastas and delicious meat dishes.
Mérida is a college town full of fantastic bars and discos playing salsa and international pop music well into the morning, fueled by cheap Polar beer and strong cai pirinhas.
- Cafe Calypso
- (excellent cai pirinhas) in the Centro Commercial El Viaducto is a top spot to begin the night, conveniently near to the popular dance club,
- El Bodegón de Pancho
- (Centro Comercial Mamayeya) You can see the lit-up sign for blocks around, El Bodegón is the place to finish the night and dance until the early morning.
- (Av.4 Bolívar. Esquina De La Calle 21) features cheap set-ups of rum - you can buy a bottle and some mixers with a group of friends. Cheapest beers in town.
- El Balcon
- (Av. 2 con Calle 26) Balcony views, cheap Polar beer.
- Hoyo Queque
- (Av. 4 Bolívar. Esquina De La Calle 21) is a tiny bar with good often live music
- (Av. 2 Lora Con Calle 24 C.C. Los Tapiales) with famous "Bombas" drinks and a maze like interior from its colonial heritage to explore. A good place to escape from Reggaeton.
- Gradas Sports Bar
- (Av. 4 Bolívar. Esquina De La Calle 21 - caddycorner from Oyo) A fancy bar with lots of screens to watch futbol on
- The Clover
- (Av. 4 Bolívar entre calles 14 y 15) - best place to get a non-Polar beer in town.
- Habana Kawy
- (Av. Principal De Los Chorros De Milla) dance club focusing more on disco than salsa/merengue.
- La Cucaracha
- (c.c. Las Tapias, Nivel Estacionamiento.) Inside the Las Tapias mall, this is the quintessential Mérida dance club. Unfortunately, the bouncers are sometimes racist.
- Poco Loco (A couple blocks up from Plaza Bolivar near Gradas Sports Bar). A popular rock/punk club
- La Botana, Plaza de las Heroínas. A laid-back reggae bar in Las Heroínas
Heaps of cheap backpacker posadas with shared bathrooms (generally) are clustered around Plaza Las Heroínas. A few blocks further northeast, in La Plaza Milla, are a few nicer posadas
- Paty's, Calle 24, Ave 8, A good choice for low budget travellers. There is also a laundry service in house. Several of the other posadas listed here are for group parties that sign up for their tours as well, and therefore do not cater to individual backpackers. Go all the way to the end of Calle 24 towards the teleferico, and you will find it next to some exercise bars.
- Posada Guamanchi, ☏ +58 274 252 2080. Calle 24 No. 8-86, The backpacker's choice in Merida with an attached tour company. Rooms accommodate between two and four people.
- [dead link] Posada La Montaña, Calle 24 No 6-47 (Entre Av.6 y 7), ☏ +58 274 252 5977. A beautifully restored colonial building, tastefully decorated with hand crafted wooden furniture and plenty of leafy foliage, conveniently located right in the heart of Merida. There are 19 rooms set around the sunny terrace.
- Posada Jama Chia, Calle 24 No 8-223, ☏ +58 274-252-5767. Nine rooms with shared bathroom and a shared kitchen. US$8 pp.
- El Floridita, Close to Plaza de las Heroinas.
- Posada Suiza.
- Posada Luz Caraballo, Avenida 2 Lora, No 13-80 (In front of Plaza Sucre), ☏ +58 274 252-5441. Private bathrooms, hot water, cable TV, car park, restaurant.
- [dead link] Posada Yagrumo, Calle 24, No 8-78, Merida (close to Plaza de las Heroinas), ☏ +58 274 2529539, +58 416 8745247 (cell), firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Posada Casa Sol, Av. 4 between Calles 15 and 16., ☏ +58 274 252-4164, email@example.com. Rooms from US$42 for a single, $50 for a double. Breakfast an extra $8 pp..
- Casa Alemana Suiza, Av. 2 calle 38 n130, ☏ +58 274 263 65 03, firstname.lastname@example.org. Very nice Swiss owner who can help you arrange tours, etc. In and around Merida. Very nice view over the mountains from the roof terrace.
Keep in mind that the beds in many hotels (mostly up to the mid-range levels) are nothing more than mattresses on concrete slabs that resemble box springs. Depending on what your sleep preference is, they may not be the most comfortable for you. Something for you to consider when looking for a hotel to stay at.
Venezuela's cheapest internet shops can be found in Mérida. There are dozens and cost around US$0.50 per hour or less.
Remember to wear your sunscreen and be careful about over-exerting yourself - you're at reasonably high altitudes, and close to the equator.
A trek you can do on your own is to Los Nevados. Take the teleférico to station Loma Redonda, make sure you don't pay the full amount for the teleférico. From there follow the trail. It's a beautiful 4 to 5 hour walk to Los Nevados. Mules will carry you. In Los Nevados there are several posades where you can sleep, and have dinner and breakfast. The next morning jeeps will leave for Mérida at 9AM. It's a 4½-hour ride along a narrow road.
If you do it the other way around you might save the teleférico entrance and the Inparque tax, but you have to race from Los Nevados to Loma Redonda to catch the last cablecar down. If you want go to Los Nevados call to Abadia Tours Travel & Destinations: Av 3 entre calles 17 y 18 Mérida
An alternative route when the cable car is not running is to start at Mérida and take a jeep to Los Nevados. Jeeps leave at Plaza las Heroinas from 7AM (travel time 4-5 hours). At Los Nevados you can stay at a number of posadas:
Posada Bella Vista - Incredible views from the terrace. Call +58 274 6580146 or +58 274 5113956 for a reservation.
Posada Guamanchi - Excellent food! Go to Guamanchi Tours at Calle 24 to book this posada.
In Los Nevados you can make some beautiful hikes for a couple of hours. Ask the owners of the posadas for information.
The next day, it is possible to walk to the house of Pedro Peña (tel: +58 416 0877510 - only Spanish - call in advance to make sure he is there and has space available). Pedro is the grandson of the first person to reach the top of Pico Bolivar. He has excellent stories and a game of domino always makes for a good night. To get to Pedro's, it is best to rent a guide (and mule). Ask at the posada for arranging this. The 3rd day, walk down to La Cruz and take a bus back to Mérida (1 hour).
Explore the cold high plains full of frailejones, lagoons and cold winds.
Aguas Termales del Musui
Take a bus towards Musui and (with a guide, or at least someone who's been before) hike up to the hot springs. Bring camping supplies, you'll want to spend at least one night soaking while you watch the stars overhead.
Los Aleros is a theme park located in Mérida, Venezuela. It depicts a typical andean town in the 1930s. It was created by Alexis Montilla in 1984. An absolutely breath-takingly beautiful place to visit but beware of creepy ghouls that will jump out of dark corners to scare you. Fun for the whole family.
Montaña de los Sueños
About a 45 minute drive from downtown Mérida this theme park is all about the old time movies. There are a lot of classic cars, jukeboxes, movie scenes, and other general 1930-1960 movie, radio, and music memorabilia. It's a pretty interesting place if you love seeing some of the history of movies in Venezuela. The cost is around US$15 per adult. The theme park does not open until later in the day and is best at night. Telephone: +58 274 262-1557 or +58 274 263-9757
Popular picnic destination reasonably close to the city. Bring a lunch and a few bottles, go swimming and commune with nature amongst the throngs of Merideño families on weekends. Catch a bus to Tabay from the center, then take a jeep to La Mucuy. (~1 hr total)