Venezuela’s Unique Mérida and Los Nevados

Travel through Venezuela’s soaring Andes from Mérida to Los Nevados with me and uncover a unique adventure…

Why Venezuela?

After 3 stressful months buying a boat in New York, fitting her out for ocean passages in Miami, then finally setting sail to Cuba, sailed south through the Caribbean Sea to troubled Venezuela.

Back in 2008 areas of Venezuela were not deemed ‘safe’, especially in a boat as many Colombian drug cartels operated (and still do) near Venezuela’s coast. Many yachties still sail to Venezuela and west to Colombia, before passing through the Panama Canal and spilling out into the Pacific Ocean.

I want to share this travel experience especially as Venezuela is going through an even more tumultuous and uglier period.

During the sail, we were lucky enough to squeeze some travel inland to Mérida and Los Nevados in the Venezuelan Andes, but also spectacular Angel Falls – post on the falls published next week.

Puerto Cabello, Venezuela, South America
Puerto Cabello’s protest

Hearing about the remote town of Los Nevados through other yachties whilst in the Caribbean and with Reality safely berthed in Puerto Cabello, it’s time to start the long journey to Mérida. Without an itinerary, we’re hoping to book accommodation and a guide to Los Nevados along the way…


Puerto Cabello to Mérida

Puerto Cabello to Mérida, Venezuela, South AmericaAn early morning start to catch the bus from Caracas passing through Puerto Cabello, before travelling south-west for the long 9-hour drive to Mérida.

Lago de Maracaibo

Travelling parallel to the expansive Lago de Maracaibo provides moments of beautiful vistas. At 20 to 36-million years’ old, this is one of the oldest lakes on Earth, although technically, this body of water is classed as a bay or lagoon.

Such a shame we can’t stop.

This bay is also home to one of the longest bridges in the world the General Rafael Urdaneta Bridge, which spans 8.7-kilometres across Maracaibo.

The Andes

Highway 1 also kisses the stunning Andes providing wonderful cinematic panoramas until we turn to ascend towards Mérida’s 1,630-metre altitude.

With the ascent comes crazy driving around a road that’s etched and clings to the sides of mountains with sheer drops, should something go amiss. The towering Andes provide dramatic backdrops until reaching Mérida.

Puerto Cabello to Mérida, Venezuela, South America

Mérida

Founded in 1558 and on the back of mining, Mérida’s original position was not where it stands today but around 30-kilometres south in Lagunillas. The town was moved to its current location due to unrest with the indigenous locals.

Mérida’s steep but clean hills certainly give any traveller a complete workout.

Mérida, Venezuela, South America

Tours agencies in town promising wonderful trips to Los Nevados are everywhere so it’s not difficult to book a trip – read traveller reviews before booking.

tour agency, Mérida, Venezuela, South America

What to see

The El Teleferico de Mérida is the town’s icon and you can’t visit without taking a ride.

The surrounding landscape provides wonderful walks or for the adventurous, hikes in the soaring peaks are offered, which may require ropes, ice picks, and crampons.

Experience white-water rapids, paragliding, or why not just soak your bones in soothing hot springs northeast of Mérida?

San Rafael del Páramo de Mucuchíes

San Rafael del Páramo de Mucuchíes to Mérida, Venezuela, South AmericaAscending further on a 1.5-hour-drive from Mérida, you arrive in the sleepy town of Mucuchíes, which was founded by the Spanish in the late 16th-century.

At 2,983-metres above sea level, this is considered as Venezuela’s highest town.

San Rafael de Mucuchies

Continuing further north along cultivated fields and large moors for another few kilometres, you reach the San Rafael de Mucuchies stone chapel.

Built solely by hand during 1980-1984 by Venezuelan Andean folk artist Juan Félix Sánchez using cement, shells, coral, and rocks, the church is declared a heritage Cultural Centre of Venezuela.

San Rafael de Mucuchíes to Mérida, Venezuela, South America
The rustic but fascinating interior is delightful to explore…

San Rafael de Mucuchíes to Mérida, Venezuela, South America
Surrounding mist paints an ethereal scenery on the journey back to Mérida…

San Rafael del Páramo de Mucuchíes, Venezuela, South America

El Teleferico de Mérida

First opened in 1960, the El Teleferico de Mérida (Mérida Cable Car) is also known as Mukumbarí. Starting in Mérida at 1,640-metres above sea level, you travel 12.5-kilometres until terminating at the 5th station – Pico Espejo – at 4,765-metres above sea level, which is one of Venezuela’s Andean mountains’ highest peaks.

El Teleferico de Mérida, Venezuela, South America

Magnificent clear views across the Sierra Nevada En La Mucuy Park transform the higher you ascend.

El Teleferico de Mérida, Andes, Venezuela, South America

Travelling through 5 stations, you stop to change cars at 3 stations – La Montana, La Aguada, and Loma Redonda. Officially the world’s longest cable car, the journey takes around 2 hours.

The ascent brings snowfall until finally reaching the 5th station: Pico Espejo.

The monument of the Virgen de las Nieves (Virgin of the Snow) protects the mountain and is a popular photo spot.

Virgen del las Nieves, El Teleferico de Mérida, Andes, Venezuela, South America

A somewhat tired station provides relief from the cold although does need a revamp…

El Teleferico de Mérida, Andes, Venezuela, South America

Free to wander across the mountain in the bitter cold…
El Teleferico de Mérida, Andes, Venezuela, South America
…until taking the cable car once more, to descend to Estación Loma Redonda as this is where you hire a mule and guide to Los Nevados.

Cable car update

Soon after our visit, the cable car closed indefinitely due to the end of its service life. Undergoing extensive modernisation in 2011, the service re-opened to the public in 2016. This link contains several videos capturing much flashier stations with an updated cable system.

Street scenes

Take a stroll through Bolivar Plaza and enjoy artists and street vendors vying for your attention, or stop for a siesta along the way…

Mérida, Andes, Venezuela, South America
Ancient methods and aged wooden tools are still used to plough fields.
Mérida, Andes, Venezuela, South America

Where to sleep

Posada La Montaña is run by the hospitable and welcoming Gioia, an Italian Venezuelan that only rents out rooms to English-speaking yachties.

The well-located posada provides a comfortable private room that looks out onto a fern-covered atrium with cushy seating – a lovely sanctuary in which to relax.

Tip:

Whilst in town, try an ice cream from the Guinness World Record holder that offers 860 different flavours Heladeria Coromoto on Avenida Independencia 28-75. The avocado flavour sounds tasty but I stop at the sardine flavour.


Getting to Los Nevados

Mérida to Los Nevados, Andes, Venezuela, South AmericaHearing about Los Nevados through the hostel’s owner in Mérida, this tiny town atop of a mountain only reachable by mule or 4×4 Jeep, sounds so intriguing that we decide to take the plunge and visit.

Including a map here just for your bearings of Los Nevados as not sure of the actual route from Mérida – all will be revealed in the fullness of time…’

They say that it’s not all about the destination but also about the fun of getting to the destination – travel from Mérida to Los Nevados is amazing!

Travelling by mule

Hoisting myself onto a sturdy mule that looks as if he’s done this trip a thousand times, settle into the uncomfortable saddle for the 6-hour ride.

The steep terrain sees us clambering over shiny worn stones whilst ascending the ancient hills of spectacular Sierra Nevada National Park. It’s not long before guilt sets in and I succumb to the mule’s well-being so dismount and walk.

Mérida to Los Nevados, Andes, Venezuela, South America

Sammy (our local guide) thinks I’m crazy as apparently, these mules are used to this trip – only use the mule on the occasional flatter surface.

Mérida to Los Nevados, Andes, Venezuela, South America
The remote wilderness along the way carves an altering painting against the sky’s grey backdrop…

Mérida to Los Nevados, Andes, Venezuela, South America

Snaking our way along tracks that sever the mountains with crumbling sheer cliff-edges is exhilarating.

Visions of the gravel underfoot giving way and tumbling thousands of metres below on my mule to our deaths into an abyss of nothingness, flash through my mind.

Time to dismount once again.

Sammy knows this path intimately and never wavers – his indigenous blood is entrenched in these mountains.

Mérida to Los Nevados, Andes, Venezuela, South America
Of course, the heavens open during the last hour of the journey and in no time we’re drenched. Rounding another steep bend on the sodden ground, the welcomed sight of picturesque Los Nevados emerges slowly, a transpiring mirage in the Andes…

Sammy directs us to our accommodation in the mountains and we bid farewell.

Los Nevados

Founded in 1591,  snuggled within the gorgeous Sierra Nevada National Park and perched at 2,711-metres high, the air thins and everywhere you walk in this tiny village seems to be uphill.

Locals are involved in tourism but also farm corn, potatoes, garlic, and wheat.

Mérida to Los Nevados, Andes, Venezuela, South America

Wandering around every corner, a new landscape unfolds…

Los Nevados, Andes, Venezuela, South America

…a breath-taking dynamic canvas.
Los Nevados, Andes, Venezuela, South America

Street scenes

Time stands still in Los Nevados and there’s always time for a neighbourly chat…

Los Nevados, Andes, Venezuela, South America

Cowboy hats are the fashion in Los Nevados.

Los Nevados, Andes, Venezuela, South America

Mules are more abundant than tourists in this tiny town…

Los Nevados, Andes, Venezuela, South America

Where to sleep

A welcomed oasis sitting on top of a mountain offering panoramic views, the Posada Bella Vista (phone: 0426 872 4605) offers dinner and breakfast, which is included in the cosy room’s price. Why not laze around in one of the veranda’s hammocks, whilst reading your book?

Posada Bella Vista, Los Nevados, Andes, Venezuela, South America
Room with views over sweeping mountain valleys…

Posada Bella Vista, Los Nevados, Andes, Venezuela, South America


Jeep ride back to Mérida

Leaving mid-morning we take the more humane trip – for the mule, not us – opting to travel in an old 4×4 Jeep to Mérida.

Only the locals from Los Nevados drive scarce tourists back to Mérida in 4x4s on these mountain tracks.

Los Nevados, Andes, Venezuela, South America

Of course, dramatic vistas go hand-in-hand with dramatic mountain terrain, which goes hand-in-hand with treacherous and narrow jarring roads that can only be described as goat tracks.

To say that the 5-hour back-grinding bumpy ride doesn’t see clenched whitened knuckles and torn cuticles would be lying – it’s not an easy ride. Walking is much more comfortable.

Mérida to Los Nevados, Andes, Venezuela, South America

At this height, we’re always looking down into the deep disappearing mountain gullies and valleys below, whilst a sporadic mountain path appears, scarring the rugged Andes.

Mérida to Los Nevados, Andes, Venezuela, South America

Adios Los Nevados…

Alluring South America forces your return and since this 2008 trip, spent another 9 months travelling through this incredible continent.

Visit Nilla’s Photography for more images. More posts on the Venezuela at Image Earth Travel.

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54 thoughts on “Venezuela’s Unique Mérida and Los Nevados

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    1. “an extreme adventure to the highest uninterrupted waterfall in the world” – and after reading your full immersive post filled with incredible pictures, I’d say that was an understatement! Thank you for the heads up! 🙏 😊

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Totally understand, so many wonderful places to visit, and I like that you write about places you’ve actually been to! CR’s the only country south of Mexico we’ve ever been to, but it’s getting close to 3 years ago now; still have very fond memories of it 😊

      Liked by 1 person

    3. And, only a lifetime to do it all in!
      Yes, I like to write my own content on my actual experiences and try to be true to my readers, whetherI’ve had a good or bad experience. I’ve had writers approach me to Ghost Write for my blog but I’ve declined their offers.

      Costa Rica sounds like a great place to visit and glad you had a wonderful experience! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    4. “And, only a lifetime to do it all in!” – Ahhhahaha, yes! 😊 Yeah, idea of someone ghost writing my posts is like totally opposite why I do this, it must be me; you’re right to be as authentic as possible. It’s not schematics, lol! It’s life experiences we share (or try to) 😊

      Liked by 1 person

    5. Yes, I always say this to people that put obstacles in their path for going out and just doing something – everyone has a 50/50 change of success, why not try? My philosophy for everything in life. 😉

      I hope that my readers understand that I write all my own material and share my own photos as I have thousands upon thousands of 30+ years of travel. On the rare occasion that I don’t post my own photo, I always credit the photographer.
      Once I start writing, I can’t stop as I’ve got so many travel experiences to share and usually have around 12+ posts in Draft at any one time.
      I only hope that I can keep my readers entertained. I’m sure you have loads of stories to share also?

      Liked by 1 person

    6. I do! But I don’t have 30+ years of travel experience, lol! But – and I think this fits in with what you’re saying about one’s authenticity – everyone does have experience, whatever # of years one has, and those are valid, regardless. They’re another POV in our human experience! Your writing strikes me as totally authentic, with tidbits of your own experience only you could relate, i think that’s wonderful! 😊 My stories, for now, are a hodgepodge cause that’s what my life’s been, for better or for worse, lol! I’d like to travel more, paint more, dance more, but I’m pretty happy w/my life. Though I do have an unwritten “wish” list. Why not? 😊

      Liked by 1 person

    7. You’re right! Everyone has a story to tell and experience on things, regardless of the number of years.
      I was bitten by the travel bug back in 1985, so that hasn’t died over the years – it’s just got stronger and my drug of choice.
      I also believe if you’re going to go to all the trouble and time to write a post about something you’ve experience, why do it for someone else…I know Ghost Writers do it for experience and hopefully some exposure, but I know a few and it’s not the case. Content writers also write about places they haven’t travelled to and first research a destination, rip off photos from the internet, then re-write the content as their own – I don’t agree with this either.

      Your blog is cool and provides loads of great information to your readers. Guess we’d all like to do more of everything and yes, why not! 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  1. I’ve got a fascination with troubled lands, and have traveled to a few. Amazing voyages all of them. Venezuela has gone downhill since your visit, but I still dream of visiting it one day. Such places always reemerge from darkness. I will definitely refer back to your posts when I venture there. Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’ve got a fascination with troubled places, and have traveled to a few. Amazing voyages. I know Venezuela has really gone downhill since your trip, but I do dream of traveling there one day. I will definitely refer back to this incredibly informative post when I do.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I know exactly what you mean and I’m always drawn to troubled places – can’t explain why. I would also love to return as it’s such a spectacular country with so much to offer a traveller.
      Thank you for your feedback and glad you found this post useful.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Your whole SA adventure is mesmerizing🙂 Glad for you to have this chance, I am so jealous sometimes LOL
    I think I would have walked all the way back from Los Nevados though.. the heights are gorgeous but frightening at the same time. The last photo is exquisite, amazing scenery!!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. The things of economic and cultural value that socialist politics can destroy is unreal. They took an amazing, beautiful country and flushed it down the toilet. There’s no beauty in that mural or in the people who painted it. They took real people full of life and smashed their existence and that of their descendants. Yes, to travel is to get an education. Sadly, the people in our country who need that lesson will probably go to Cancun for Spring Break instead.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for taking the time to share your powerful thoughts – much appreciated.
      I totally agree, Venezuela was in trouble back in 2008, but now its decline is horrendous – I despair for its people and the millions of refugees fleeing because of Venezuela’s collapse. Greed, money, and corruption also has a habit of destroying too many countries.
      Have you visited Venezuela?

      Like

    2. I have not personally been to Venezuela. But I live in Florida, where a lot of those refugees have landed. Many of them are very distraught by how socialism has become fashionable among the younger generations here in the US. (Ditto for Cubans.)

      A good friend of mine was a missionary to Venezuela many years ago and fell in love with the people and culture. He has kept in touch with the families he served over the years, and is absolutely worried sick over them. The whole thing is just so sad.

      Liked by 1 person

    3. It’s distressing to know that so many people are displaced and doesn’t seem to be getting any better now or in the future – Venezuela is a complete mess now but the world is closing its eyes. I completely understand how your friend fell in love with Venezuela and also the people.

      Also stopped in Cuba for several weeks on the sail from Marathon to Venezuela. Back in 2008, it felt as if Cuba was boiling under the surface…not sure what it would be like to visit now since it has opened up to tourism. Loads of wealthy international companies eyeing this country off I suspect as where there’s money to be made…

      Like

  5. Lovely photos! I like the misty ones, mist always makes everything look so eery. It’s my fav weather to take photos in. Good travel information also! I really want to travel South America at some point, the logistics of getting around always seem daunting at first, so it’s good to hear realistic accounts of what to expect. x

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Nicole, South America is an incredible continent to explore. Yes, SA can be daunting but to be honest, we didn’t have any plans just the first few nights booked in Buenos Aires and 9 months later, we left.

      You need loads of time as depending on the country it can be slow travelling (unless you fly everywhere, which is expensive). Or if you’re going, just pick one country and explore it properly instead of picking 10 destinations in 5 countries for 2 weeks for example – just a thought.
      Thank you for the great feedback! Nilla

      Like

    1. No I haven’t but my husband and I have done some traveling out the US to a few different places. It was a little scary at times but so amazing to see all the history and culture. I was actual reading your post out loud to my son and husband this morning and we all were a bit surprised at how peaceful your journey looked because of the turmoil there. It’s heartbreaking really.
      My husband and I were in Barcelona, Spain a few years back and it was beautiful in so many ways but it was very scary with all the protesting and fighting at the time going on. I didn’t really feel safe. Still I’m really glad we went and experienced Spain. I saw and learned so much while we were there.

      Liked by 2 people

    2. Travel is an education (in my eyes anyway) and regardless of where you’re travelling, it has a habit of throwing you into situations that you wouldn’t normally experience at home.

      This trip was in 2008 and yes, it was still a dangerous time but not as much as what’s happening at the moment in Venezuela. There were still a couple of close incidents whilst in Venezuela, but not to us thankfully.

      I would love to return right now but am hesitant because of the state the country is in…tragic.

      Barcelona is a great city. Thank you for sharing my post with your family – very humbling! 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

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