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Mérida, Venezuela

Santiago de los Caballeros de Mérida

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Merida from the teleferico

Merida from the teleferico

Peter and Jackie Main

Mérida, in the state of Mérida, lies in the midst of two of Venezuela's Andean mountain chains. Founded twice, first illegally in 1558, and then at a different location as Santiago de los Caballeros de Mérida in 1560, Mérida is the home of Venezuela's second oldest university, the University of the Andes, founded in 1785.

More than university students and faculty enjoy the year-round spring like climate. With mountains, including the snow-capped peaks of Pico Bolívar, (5007 m/16,523 ft) Pico Humboldt (4,942 m/16,214 ft), Pico Espejo (4,753m/15,594 ft) and Pico Bompland (4883 m/16,113 ft), which form part of the Parque Nacional Sierra Nevada, one of four in the area. There are also 12 state parks. The region is popular with climbers, backpackers, wildlife lovers, birders, and sightseers who enjoy the variety of scenery from lush rainforest, abundant waterfalls to mountain peaks permanantly covered with snow, glacier lakes, and páramos, or highland moors reaching from about 3300 m to the snowline. Add the small and tropical Palmarito beach, located on the southeast side of Maracaibo Lake, and there are a dozen or more varieties of climate and geography in the state of Mérida.

The fertile valleys between the mountains support agriculture, including coffee plantations, sugar cane, flowers, especially the frailejón which grows only in the altiplano areas of Venezuela, Colombia and Ecuador and bloom in November and December. Tropical plants, palm trees, citrus, strawberries, orchids, and the Golden Rain tree grow lavishly. The city, built between and bisected by rivers, maintains 35 parks in its long, narrow stretch. With flat land no longer available, the city now grows up from its base (1,625 m/5,331 ft). Earthquakes and wars of independence have taken the toll on the city, but it cultivates a pleasant, quiet grace with plenty of cultural activities.

Getting There:
Mérida is 680 km (422 miles) southwest of Caracas, easily reached by plane or road.
By Air:
The airport is on the meseta, right inside the city, 2km south-west of Plaza Bolívar. City busses connect the airport to the rest of the city. The runway is short, and the surrounding high mountains make landing in bad weather difficult. Planes are often rerouted to the airport at El Vigía. If this happens to you, insist on free transportation to or from Mérida. Check flights from your area. From this page, you can also browse hotels, rental cars, and special deals.

By Bus:
The bus terminal is 3 km south-west of the city center and is linked by frequent public transport. Half a dozen buses a day run to Caracas and to Maracaibo.

When to Go:
At a height of a mile above sea level the tropical climate is moderate so it gets warm enough for sunbathing in the afternoon and just cool enough at night for sound sleeping-all year round. Average temperatures range between 20ºC to 25ºC (68ºF to 77ºF) to 15.5ºC (60ºF.) at night. Average daily temperature: 19ºC / 66.2ºF. The rainy season, May through November, with August and September being the wettest months, cooperates with rainfall early in the morning, thus not interfereing with daily activities. However, fog, particularly in the surrounding area, often obscures the sights.

Check today’s weather in Mérida.

Many visitors go to Mérida to celebrate the Feria del Sol with bull fights, exhibitions and dancing in February and early March.

Shopping and Practical Tips:

  • The Heladeria Coromoto is a Guinness World Record holder for the number of ice creams, though some, such as black beans, shrimp, sausage, or garlic might not be to everyone's taste.
  • Mercado Principal de Mérida offers three floors of restaurants and shops where you'll find everything from fresh produce to local handicrafts.
  • Lodging and Dining suggestions from Frommers.

    Please read the next page for things to do and see.

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