After violent resistance from the indigenous Mucujún people, the Spanish colonial settlement of Santiago de los Caballeros de Mérida was finally established in its current location in 1560. It sits on a narrow plateau in the valley of the Chama River in the centre of the Venezuelan Andes, at an altitude of 1,600 meters (5,249 ft). The spectacular mountainous backdrop includes the country's highest summit, the 5000 m Pico Bolívar. Mérida developed initially as an important part of the territory of New Granada, before transferring to the control of the captaincy of Venezuela in 1777. Some 30 years later, its Catholic seminary was re-constituted as the University of the Andes, nowadays the second largest university in Venezuela.
With its lively nightlife, safe and relaxed atmosphere, a temperate mountain climate and a population of over 250,000 people (with 40,000 students) Mérida is the main centre for adventure tourism in western Venezuela. Activities include hiking, tandem paragliding, horse riding and mountain biking to some of the beautiful and remote villages in the Sierra Nevada National Park. Experienced mountain climbers can join 3-7 day climbing expeditions. We can also organize canyoning, white-water rafting, tubing and kayaking at an Adventure Camp located just a few hours from the city in the foot of the Andes mountains, on the edge of Los Llanos.
The historic Spanish Colonial city centre or Casco Central consists of eight major avenues running East-West and forty streets running North-South. This is the main commercial and cultural area, with many museums, libraries, churches and public squares, as well as restaurants and bars, and posadas and hotels to suit every budget. The nearest airport to Mérida is El Vigía (about 1 hour by road) with daily flights to and from Caracas. Mérida can also be reached by intercity bus from Maracaibo, Barinas, and Caracas. The Pan-American Highway connects the city with San Cristóbal in the southwest and leads on to the border with Colombia. More than just a land made for adventure, Venezuela is the gateway to all of South America.