Merida Trip Write-up


MERIDA and the ANDES MOUNTAINS trip notes, including Colonia Tovar and Caracas

MARCH 2005

by Deborah & Steve, s/v ARGO

NOTE:  All prices are for the ROOM per night double occupancy, not per person.  All had private baths and matrimonial bed except as noted.

US$ 1 = Bs 2,600 



Gioia’s house – Bs 26,000/night.  Excellent location.  She has 3 rooms in her nice and clean house she lets out.  Private bath (although one bath does not adjoin room but is yours.)  She gives you keys and you come and go as you like.  No meals served.  Upon arrival she will give you an orientation to Merida including listing of restaurants and places to see and side trips so this makes it a great place to stay your first night(s).  She is very accommodating and will pick you up at the bus terminal, etc.  She gives an optional day tour to the NE to see the condors – Bs 120,000/tour, so if you can find others to join you then it’s cheaper per person.  Highly recommend staying there initially.  She only checks email every few days but will respond, best way to quickly reach her is on her cell phone.  She speaks excellent English., house (0274)252-4807 (her mother may answer who does not speak much English), cell (0414)746-1121.  We spent the first 2 nights with her.  Incidentally, she will only take English-speaking (American, Canadian & Brits) cruisers – in 10 years she has never had a single problem.

Posada La Montana Bs 35,000/night, 10% discount for 4 or more nights.  Excellent location.  All rooms look out onto a nice atrium; upstairs covered outdoor sitting area with great view of mountains great for happy hour and reading, and patio on ground floor with tables great for take-out pizza.  Rooms are small, clean, H&C water, cable TV.  Recommend 2nd floor as will get better ventilation.  Only negative is only windows look out into atrium so air flow and natural light are lacking, although there is a big wall mounted fan that provided us with more than adequate air flow.  We enjoyed the sitting area (usually had to ourselves) for reading and happy hour.  After we returned from Los Nevados we stayed here for change of pace.  Highly recommend also.



The options are:

-          the teleferico (aerial cable car)

o        then a 5 or 6-hour hike,   OR

o        4-hour mule ride – it’s the same path up, over and around the mountains

o        or reverse the order

-          4-hour jeep ride between Merida and Los Nevados

-          or some combination.

We took the earliest (7:30)  teleferico up to level 3, then rode mules to Los Nevados.  We spent 2 nights there, and then took the jeep back to Merida.  We know others who have done it in reverse order, or took jeep both ways. 

Teleferico – Bs 20,000 / person one way, plus they hit us up for a park fee of Bs 10,000 (they asked for Bs 30,000 but Steve balked). This goes from Merida up to Level 3 (the 4th and highest section was not open when we went).  It is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays during low season so plan accordingly.  It’s about an hour ride and gives you a great view of Merida and surrounding area.  You’re up at 13,000 ft. so be sure to wear/take warm clothing, including gloves and hat.  Having said that, we overdressed and pulled layers off as the clouds never moved in as is usual in the afternoon.   TIP: Going up, sit looking down as the view is better.

Mules – Bs 7,000 per mule and per guide.  When you get up the teleferico, go immediately to line up your mules/guides.  The day we went, there was only 1 mule and 1 burro there so we started off with them.  You want MULES, as the burros are low to the ground and thus harder to ride and NOT very surefooted.  Some of the terrain is steep and we opted to walk a few times instead of risking falling down the mountain should the mule/burro slip.  After an hour into the ride, some available mules came by and so we took one of them to ride and used the burro to carry our backpacks (another Bs 7,000 but worth it).

Jeep Bs 20,000 / person.  The only vehicles that travel these treacherous mountain roads are 4x4 Jeeps driven by the locals from Los Nevados.  They leave mid-morning from Los Nevados to Merida, so they have time to return back before dark.  The son of the owner of Posada Bella Vista drove us back.

TIP – The mules are kept overnight in Los Nevados and the guides bring them to the teleferico early each morning (yep, they do the 5-hour walk both ways each day).  Although most people seem to do the trip the way we did it, it may make more sense to reverse the order and ride the mules from Los Nevados to the teleferico since there would be more assurance of having mules available.



Posada Bella Vista – Bs 60,000/night including breakfast and dinner (there is really no other place to eat).  We stayed for 2 nights and paid a discounted total of Bs 100,000 including breakfast and dinner.  H&C shower, NO heat in room but they give you several thick plush blankets that were cozy.  Room #1 in the lower building is the best with extra window and great corner view over valley.  We highly recommend spending at least 2 nights here so you can enjoy the wonderful scenery and to reward yourself for the effort of getting there no matter how you did it!   There isn’t much to do here but relax, hike around a little, and read a book in the hammocks on the patio or enjoy the view from several vantage points.  This was probably a highlight in our trip, but it is rustic!  The other recommended posada is Guaramuchi (sp?) but the rooms are not as “nice”.  (0274) 808-2520 / 808-2517  (Picture at lower right: View from our room.)



Rancho Alpino – Bs 60,000/night including American breakfast.  Located just below where the bus drops you off, just west(?) of the main street.  Great location, big room & bath with H&C water, cable TV, and we had cabana #8 which had a private balcony overlooking valley.  Most other accommodations are hotels and more expensive.   (0244) 355-1470  (Picture: View from our balcony.)



Hotel La Floresta -  Bs 80,000/night.  Recommended to us as it is in a relatively safe location (Plaza Altamira), conveniently located to metro subway station, lots of restaurants around, within walking distance to the huge Sambil mall.  A very nice park/art gallery backs up to the back of it.  Ask for a room on the back side (facing park) as it is more quiet as opposed to front side which faces the busy street.  Ask for Mr. Nelson as he speaks English.  (0212) 263-1955 or  Best to make reservations in advance as it tends to stay full.



We traveled by nice bus from PLC to Merida (Merida Express, Bs 58,000/person, 24 hour trip due to mudslide detours, normally more like an 18-hour trip).  Nice bus from Merida to Maracay (Flamingo, Bs 28,000/person, 12-hour trip), then 2 local buses to Colonia Tovar.  From Colonia Tovar local bus to El Junquito and taxi to Caracas (advised not safe to take bus all the way into Caracas).  Very nice double-decker bus from Caracas to PLC (AeroExpreso Ejecutivo, Bs 25,000/person, 6 hours).  The long distance buses have reclining seats, foot rests and play movies (usually in English).




-          Carry passport and immigration papers showing that each person has cleared into the country.  (NOT boat papers)  Our bus was boarded by the Guardia Nacional during the night and they wanted to see that we had legally entered the country and paid our fees.  If you can’t prove this, they’ll hit you up for big bucks.  We know someone who this happened to (they wanted US$100 but ended up paying them US$60), and also witnessed this on our bus.  We had our original passports with us (although a copy may have sufficed) and we were not hassled at all.

-          Take flashlight(s) and/or candles with you as we experienced several power outages on our trip. 



Deborah & Steve, s/v ARGO, March 2005


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