Merida Venezuela

mrdSouth Americans like inflict long names on their cities. Take Santiago de los Caballeros de Merida, which is capital of the state of Merida in Venezuela. Nobody refers to it by its full name, as everyone just calls it Merida, which can be confusing when people are discussing the state rather than the city.

Merida, the city, is one of the major cities in the Venezuelan Andes, having been founded in 1558 and was named after the Spanish city of Merida. Merida is situated at an altitude of 1,600 metres (5,249 ft), and is close to Venezuela’s highest mountain, Pico Bolivar which rises to a height of 4981 metres (16,338 ft).

The city is situated on two rivers, the main one being the Charma, with the lesser river called the Albarregas with La Rosa Lake providing a tranquil retreat in the lower part of the city. Merida occupies a narrow valley, so the city limits are elongated, but the width is quite contained. Also, the city from ground level appears to be flat, but it is actually built on a slight incline, giving the city a peculiar slope.

It is a university town, and with nine universities and colleges, Merida has a student population of thirty percent. This is a good thing for visitors as it means there are plenty of cheap places to stay and to eat with plenty of nightlife to keep the students from studying.

Because of its position in the Andes, Merida attracts many adventurers who go here for the excellent mountain climbing or other sports such as mountain biking, white water rafting, paragliding and canyoning. Two of the most popular mountains fro climbers are Pico Bolivar or Pico Humboldt.

There is an easier method to ascend the mountains rather than by foot, and that is via the Teleferico, which is the world’s longest and highest cable car system. This breathtaking ride takes you 12.5km (7.5miles) from the bottom station of Barinitas (1577m/5174ft) to the top of Pico Espejo (4765m/15,633ft) in four stages. The ascent to Pico Espejo takes close to two hours if you choose to go straight there rather than break your trip at any of the stops, and provides some stunning views of the Andes along the way, providing there isn’t too much cloud cover.

There is plenty to see and experience in Merida as it has some excellent museums, plenty of parks and religious buildings. As Venezuela is a tropical country many locals go to Merida to escape the heat as the city’s altitude gives it a much more comfortable climate than you get in other parts of Venezuela.

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