Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela

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Mountaineering and trekking in Venezuela almost exclusively takes place in the Andean Mountains around Merida and its excellent national parks. The Sierra Nevada in Merida, in particular, and also the Sierra de la Culata offer many and varied possibilities for novices and experienced climbers and trekkers alike.

Advice and Information

Hiking and backpacking should not be approached casually. Even if you only plan to be out a couple of hours you should have comfortable, safe footwear (which can cope with the wet) and a daypack to carry your sweater and waterproofs (which must be more than shower proof). At high altitudes the difference in temperatures between sun and shade is remarkable and the weather can deteriorate rapidly. The longer trips mentioned in this book require basic backpacking equipment.

Climbing Routes

Pico Bolivar
This is Venezuela's highest peak, at 5,007m, and it attracts climbers from all over the world. There are various routes to reach the summit.

The Weiss Route: in summer, between December and May, this route can be climbed without much technical difficulty and with a rope, harness and climbing helmet (however, there can be problems with falling rocks). The main problem is the altitude. You should not attempt it alone or without a guide unless you are an experienced climber. It will take between 3 ½-5 hours to reach the summit. It is possible to camp at the Pico Espejo station, at 4,757m, or camp at Laguna de Timoncitos (4,600m), which is Bolivar's base camp.

There are other, more difficult, routes for professional climbers. For the Sur Este Route it is advised to leave Laguna de Timoncitos very early and ascend through a narrow dirt path to the crest of the mountain where you can make out the flank. The crest itself doesn't present any technical problems; however some parts along the way are classified as grade 3. You should reach the summit in 4 hours; a return trip should take 7 hours. In the winter months between June and December, the mountain is covered in snow, so you'll need crampons and an ice axe and it becomes a technical climb.

The North Flank Route is the most difficult climbing route, as it is across ice. Leaving Pico Espejo very early, you cross the base west of the mountain to the Nido de Aguilas, where the climb begins. You will need crampons, ice axes, ice screws, a helmet and a rope. The climb is on a gradient of 60°, and 70° in other places. After the glacier you come to a wall of rock, which you must climb to reach the summit. The whole trek takes about 8-10 hours.

Pico Humboldt

This is the second highest mountain in Venezuela, at an altitude of 4,944m. It is visited all year round, with its northeast and west faces being preferred by climbers for their extensive glaciers.

The climb starts from the entrance of the National Park of La Mucuy (2,00m). Take a bus from Merida to Tabay, and a jeep from there to La Mucuy. From the park entrance it is 4-5 hours up to Laguna Coromoto - a 7km walk through Andean cloud forest.

Pico El Toro

From the Loma Redonda station it is possible to climb Pico El Toro in 1 day. Views down to Merida are even better than from Pico Espejo. People with little experience but in good physical condition can attempt it without a guide. Turn right on El Alto de la Cruz pass and traverse gradually up over some fields of loose rocks. Return the same way or head down for 5-6 hours to Los Nevados.


Merida to Barinas
This exceptionally rewarding hike takes you through two states, Merida and Barinas, starting from Muchuchies at 3,000m and ending on the southern slope of the Sierra Nevada at about 400m. This little known trek is one of the best because of the open paramos, magnificent cloud forest on the southern slopes of the Andes and the absence of people.

Pico Pan de Azúcar

Opposite the Sierra Nevada is a parallel and slightly lower mountain chain called La Culata. Its high paramos are Piedras Blancas (4,762m), Tucani (4,400m), Pan de Azúcar (4,747m) and Los Conejos (about 4,200m). Many endangered species live here. The Condor has already vanished and the spectacled Frontino bear "Tremarctos ornaturs" may follow if not protected. The park is also known for its endemic flora, particularly the "frailejon" species. These range from small velvety plants to century-old trunks with tufted tops whose silhouettes reminded Spaniards of a procession of friars.

El Tisure

You can do this 2 or 3 day hike on you own quite easily. Take an early morning bus from the terminal in Merida heading towards Apartaderos and alight at La Mucuchache about 5 minutes after passing the stone Chapel of San Rafael the Mucuchies. On your right hand side you will see a white cross and a small creek. Follow the trail staying in the same valley and you will reach La Ventana pass (4,200m) after 3 to 5 hours. The last hundred metres are pretty tough, zigzagging steeply uphill. To descend walk down the other side into the Potrero Valley and further down you will get to a house where you can sleep. The Chapel of El Tisure is about 20 minutes away from there. You will need 2 to 3 days for the hike; eack way is about a 5 to 8 hour walk. Leave early to avoid bad weather and bring a tent, food and warm sleeping bags.

Paragliding and Hangliding

Merida is situated in a valley surrounded by high mountains. About one third of them are accessible over land or by cable car. Depending on the time of day there is always one spot from where you can fly and soar on the thermals. These places are:

La Trampa

A 45 minute drive west from Merida. Thermal flights and probably the best place for a cross country. It is possible to fly all year round but the best months are from November to May.

La Aguada or Loma Redonda

Take the cablecar and go up to the tirad or fourth station respectively. Thermal or dereliction flights of some 25 minutes, with an altitude difference of some 2,000m. Excellent views of the city of Merida. Also good for tandem flights. All year round flying.

Las Gonzales

A 40 minute drive west of Merida.. This is the best site for soaring and tandem flights in the late afternoon, which are best done with an experienced and skilled pilot. The price for tandem flights is around US $60 per flight andincludes transport to the respective site. All year flying. The Flight association is in charge of regulating pilots and prices for more safety.


Most travel operators and agencies offer paragliding courses of 5 to 8 days. The approximate cost of those is around US$300 and includes a flying license. Beginners must recognize that this is a dangerous sport and conditions in Merida (lots of wind and thermals) are much better suited to those with experience.

Rafting and Kayaking

The best time for rafting is during the rainy season from May to November, which sometimes streches into December. On the southerneastern slopes of the Sierra Nevada National Park, some 3 to 5 hours away from Merida, you will find unspoiled, virgin rivers flowing down to the flatlands. Here, the water temperature is very agreeable, with a temperature of around 30°C.

Horse Riding

At the main tourist spots such as Pico El Aguila and Mucubaji lagoon it is possible to hire small criollo horses for a couple of hours. For those looking for more serious horseriding experience with healthy Quarter-mixed horses there is Hacienda El Vaho close to Santo Domingo and Finca Yegua Blanca close to Tabay. In both stables they keep about 30 horses.

Mountain Biking

The popularity of this sport has increased dramatically over the past years. Several operators rent out bikes for one or more days and explain where you can go and what to do on your own. Jaji and its surrounding areas together with the paramos are great places for 1 - 2 day trips. For longer routes that require more experience, the Pueblos del Sur offer a good challenge.

San Juan de Lagunillas

San Juan lies southwest of Merida, in the direction of Ejido, at 1100m. The first 2 kilometres are on paved road, then the ascent turns into a dirt track through fields of sugar cane and tomatoes. The next 6 kilometres is a gradual climb on a 20% gradient, with the last 2 km of climbing on clay. At the top of the ascent you can see the route leading to the Pueblos del Sur and also feel the wind that blows; you will need a good windcheater. Total distance: 30km, 60% uphill, 30% downhill, 10% level.

Las Gonzalez-Tierra Negra

Head from Merida southwards towards Ejido to Las Gonzales (1,400m). From there it's a climb on dirt tracks to Tierra Negra (1,900m), which is also used by paragliders in the afternoon. From Tierra Negra the route follows an ancient unpaved road that leads to the Pueblos del Sur. At the beginning, vegetation is sparse (mostly cactus), but after 6 kilometres bushes and shrubs begin to appear. Total distance: 26km; time 4-5 hours, 60% uphill, 30% downhill, 10% level.

Pico El Aguila-Piñango.

At 2,500m. The cycle ride is mainly through paramos, until it descends towards Piñango and more verdant countryside. It is a very easy day's ride and ideal preparation for another route, which begins at Piñango, see below. Total distance: 45 km, 3-4 hours, 7% uphill, 8%downhill, 85% level, average temperature 5-7°C.


This is one of the most beautiful mountain biking routes in the Venezuelan Andes, however it is rarely travelled. On leaving Piñango there is a gradual but continuous ascent of 14 km up to the high paramo at 3,600m; then it is a steep descent all the way to Timotes. Total distance; 39km, 5-7 hours, 32% uphill and level, 68% downhill.

Pico El Aguila-Merida

This route is a steep descent from 4,125m down to 1,650m, along the Transandean Highway. It runs through San Rafael, Mucuchies and Tabay. Total distance: 68 km, 4-5 hours, 5% uphill, 85% level, 10% downhill.

There is potential for canoeing on the road to Jaji at La Chorrera de Las Gonzales. However, you will need to bring your own equipment as nobody offers this service as yet. There are a variety of picturesque waterfalls around Merida so it is advisable to ask tour agencies for more information.


Venezuela boasts some of the best sports fishing in the world. Veteran international sports fishermen agree that the water off the Caribbean coast holds more white and blue Marlin than perhaps anywhere else in the world. Even though deep sea fishing has been the focus of the country's international reputation, closer to shore there is other quarry such as tarpon, barracuda, bonefish, ladyfish, snook, blue fish, kingfish, Wahoo, jack crevalle, blue runner and fellow fin tuna. Below are some of the best destinations for fishing trips:

Macuto - which is excellent for blue and white marlin, sailfish, dorado, wahoo and swordfish; there's plentiful accommodation near the marina and a large choice of craft ranging from 33 foot Betrams to 45 foot Christ craft.

Rio Chico - is outstanding for tarpon and snook, either in Tacarigua National Park or offshore for giant tarpon up to 200 lbs.

Los Roques - is Venezuela's bone fishing paradise. Small peñero boats take anglers to the flats where bonefish up to 12 lbs are caught. It is not unusual to catch and release up to 10 fish in an outing.

Lake Camatagua - is great for peacock bass fishing.
Fresh water fishing is also excellent in Venezuela. Fishing trips can be made to the Llanos and the many lakes in the Sierra Nevada in Merida which offer great fishing for brown trout. The season runs from mid-march to September. Please note, that as most lakes are situated in national parks you will need to aquire a permit from Inparques beforehand.

Scuba Diving

As you would expect with a country that boasts the longest coastline in the Caribbean, scuba diving in Venezuela is breath-taking. Some sites rank right up there with the better-known and highly acclaimed locations of Bonaire and the Cayman Islands. Venezuela also has the advantage of still being relatively unknown. The coast offers many and varied diving sites and in addition to the underwater flora and fauna, you can explore sunken shipwrecks from the colonial era.

Large parts of the coastline are protected as marine-based national parks, such as Los Roques - an archipelago of over 300 tiny islands lying north of La Guaira, and Morrocoy - in the state of Falcon on the western coast. As well as these national parks there are hundreds of other potential sites, the best of which are found around the many islands dotting the coastline.

Note that diving here can be dangerous if you don't take the correct precautions. There are only two recompression chambers in Venezuela; one in Maracaibo and the other in La Guaira. Therefore, divers, should be already quite experienced before they come, or take a course with a qualified instructor.

Simon Bolivar

Liberator of Venezuela
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