A May 2003 trip
to Merida by Coach Bear
Quote: With a year-round temperature that has a high between 75 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit, Merida is the perfect location for travel. Mountain hiking and beautiful scenery vie for one's attention along with the remarkable flora and fauna.
Merida is a colonial-era city founded in the 16th century. It is nestled between the highest peaks of the Venezuelan Andes. 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. The city (and area) is blessed with a physical setting that is not only lovely but unique in its wealth of geographical, climatic and biological variety. For example, orchids (the national flower), roses, and flowering trees such as the Golden Rain Tree (the National Tree) are in abundance, as well as citrus, strawberries, tropical fruits, and of course, majestic palms which adorn the city and its 35 well-shaded parks. Depending on whom you ask, there are 14 or more distinct zones of vegetation and/or climate within a short drive of Mérida, including cloud forest, rain forest, desert and páramo (high alpine), to name just a few. Wildlife, especially birds, are abundant in number and variety. Venezuela has more wild bird species than all of North America and Europe combined. A high percentage of these birds, including the giant Andes Condor, live in Mérida.
In addition to this, there are some great scenic areas, cultural arts, and other activities in and around the city.
Whatever you do, do not miss the teleferico. It is the highest and longest cable car in the world.
The owner of this small "posada", Humberto, offered us a great meal, ice cold beer, a place to rest our feet, and kept us company with some wonderful stories of the area. He explained that he, like many others in the area, had a small guest inn. He has expanded his to include the wonderful restaurant. He offers three small cabins, with room for five or six people for less than $50 USD. He also has two small guest rooms behind his restaurant. I plan to remember this on a future visit, as the scenery along the road is breathtaking.
However, my wife and I were there for some food. Humberto has meals available from breakfast through supper, but for a meal that satisfies during an early afternoon hiking, the "pabellon criolla", cachapas, and an ice cold "polar". Anna had the fresh trout and a "polar". (The Merida region has some of the best trout that I have ever seen.) The entire meal cost us about 15,000 Bolivars, or around $10 USD. We were so full by the time that we finished that we had difficulty beginning the return to the city. As we left, we exchanged information with our host and went away with a new friend.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on August 1, 2003
Vía Jaji, Manzano Alto, Salida Ejido
Attraction | "El Teleferico"
The station is only open between between 7am and 1pm. The first ride is supposed to start at 7am, but the person at the ticket booth told us that he needed to wait till there were at least 25 people. Some mornings the wait is short, on others, there is a line lasting more than 1.5 hours of waiting. The tickets for the teleferico are quite affordable at 7500 Bolivars for the first three stations and 500 for the last (the ticket for the final leg must be bought at the third station).
The first section starts at Barinitas station (1577m) and ends at La Montaña station (2577 m.) As we looked down from here, Merida City openly displayed its beauty. Looking upwards we easily saw El Gigante Dormido (The Sleeping Giant), a mountain named for closely resembling this shape.
On the second and third sections, we reached La Aguada station (3452 m.) and Loma Redonda station (4045 m.), respectively. As we looked down along these sections, we could see Merida's valleys and upwards there was Pico Bolivar (the highest point in Venezuela).
We felt like going to the highest section, so we bought our tickets for the last section, which took us to Pico Espejo (Mirror Peak - 4765 m.) Along this section we could sense the closeness of the summit. As we looked down we could see the two lagoons of La Negra and La Colorada. On the right was Cerro El Leon (Lion).
The return ride gives riders opportunities to hike paths to small villages on the mountain and in the surrounding valleys. The scenery continues to amaze you. Finally, we got back to the base station and returned to the hotel for a well-earned siesta.
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on July 31, 2003
Teleferico de Merida
West end of Calles 24 or 25
This park has the added attraction of almost 150 species of animals. One of the most interesting projects in the park is called "Oso Frontino", or Bear Frontier. This project was constructed in association with the Metropolitan Zoo of Cleveland, Ohio to serve as a habitat to protect the only species of bear found in South America. Another special project is the continuing construction of a habitat for the pair of condors. (they hope to get more of these fantastic birds in the future.) Viewing these birds is one of the most popular sights in the park.
I was extremely impressed with the park's attempts to use only native plants and animals in mostly natural settings. With the cooperation of the zoo in Cleveland, the owners of the Chorros de Milla have begun the attempt to bring the animals to the people, so as to preserve a wonderful natural resource.
The park is open on Monday through Sunday from 8:00 am until 6:00 pm during the high season and on Tuesday through Sunday from 8:00 am to 6:00 pm during the low season. For me, I saw what I wanted in about a two-hour visit. Those with children might want to spend a bit more time. Any visitor to the area will have missed a beautiful chance to see some of the popular local animals if they do not visit Chorros de Milla.
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on August 1, 2003
Parque Zoologico Chorros de Milla
Final Avenida Chorros de Milla. Sector Norte
The Parque Jardin Aquario is composed of three modules. The first serves as the welcome area and displays a 25 foot long color photographic mural of the City of Mérida. This is the best we've seen! In addition to mounted fish, this module also contains the administration office for the aquarium, notices of other Cormetur Tourist Attractions, and public rest rooms.
We then visited the second module, which is presented as a series of rooms showing typical campesino residential lifestyles. These representations are well done, offering excellent detail, and appear in the low light typical of Andean campesino homes. The only difficulty that we had was that there was no written explanation or description... nothing in either Spanish or English. We found the displays to be beautiful (in a cultural aspect), but went away with a sense of disappointment, since it would have been more educational to have explanations of everything.
The third module contained over 300 different types of aquatic life representative of 36 different species. There were three large aquariums and ten smaller (5 feet wide) tanks, containing agua dulce (fresh water) fish. The species were described with their latin and common names along with information relating to their habitat, food preferences, and other environmental data. This was much more understandable, since we at least had a description (in Spanish).
Overall, this attraction was well worth at least an hour of our time. We feel certain, though, that most visitors would spend much more time at the aquarium, if these fine displays were more properly described and were offered in a second language.
During the high season, the aquarium is open daily from 8am - 6pm. During the low season, the hours are posted as Saturday and Sunday only from 10am - 6pm.
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on August 5, 2003
Avenida Andres Bello
Located on the site of an old sugar mill, the museum covers about 10 acres. The property is owned by Universite de Los Andes, and is operated in conjunction with a government agency. University students work as guides and instructors within the museum.
Visitors were formed as a group at the front entrance of the museum by coordinators, then escorted to about two dozen major learning areas. At each stop we were introduced to a university student, who instructed the visitors in his/her area of studies and specialization. The main entrance building contained the pre-historic section. Here we saw graphic and interactive displays of the formation of the earth, the flora and fauna, (with particular emphasis on the geographical areas of Merida and Venezuela), displays explaining tectonics, jungles, and the rain forests (including man's encroachment and resultant destruction of the people, their culture, vegetation and animals). There was also a sales area with books, toys, games, shirts, hats, and other learning and gift items.
After leaving the entrance building, we walked through an outdoor garden area with life size replications of T Rex and other pre-historic animals, complete with a large colored wall mural depicting the major time frames of evolution from single cell to man. Continuing around part of a lagoon brought us to the main computer facilities. The entrance fee allowed us to use the pc's to further our knowledge of applications using a computer. Students would sell more time on the computer or the internet at a low cost. A 12-hour course in computer instruction could be purchased for about $30.
Next, we came to the largest building of the museum, originally, the main factory of the old sugar mill. Here, there were about a dozen areas of display and interactive learning in such scientific and engineering disciplines as astronomy, optics, robotics, human physiology, space, kinetics, laser light, inertia, and experimental demonstrations. All of these continued the theme of hands-on, interactive involvement. One area that my wife and I related to made use of Lego blocks to build photo voltaic, pneumatic, electrical, and solar robots. Some of the robots were computer controlled!
There was even an active mountain climbing area, where under the guidance of an instructor, we were outfitted with mountain climber's safety gear, given preliminary instructions, and attached to a safety line. Then we practiced climbing an artificial mountain.
The entire experience took us about four or five hours. We could have spent longer, but I wanted to get out and enjoy my last evening in town.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on August 5, 2003
Museum of Science and Technology
Avenida Andrés Bello, Urb. Las Tapias, Boulevard Cinco