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Imagine a city that once basked in riches, a city of underground pools, a city that's transformed itself into the cultural hotspot of the Yucatan Peninsula and redefined what it means to be authentic. You must be imagining Merida, Mexico.

Merida boasts a culture born out of its fantastical history, but the city wasn't always a Mexico must-see. Built on the Mayan city of T'ho, Merida was once home to conquistadors set on ridding the area of its cultural roots. The city walled itself in (literally) to protect residents from Mayan revolts and was able to mostly halt the demolition of its culture.

What's left today? A metropolis ready to embrace the buzz of the 21st century, thoroughly framed with historical architecture. Also known as the White City — buildings were constructed of limestone — Merida housed numerous millionaires at the launch of the 20th century when residents of the area began selling the henequen plant.

Walking down Merida's lavish memory lane is ideally accessible by simply strolling through Paseo de Montejo or Plaza Grande. A tree- and mansion-lined strip, Paseo de Montejo is a stretch of historical awe, inspiring a stop-and-smell-the-roses mindset. The city's main square, Plaza Grande, is bustling and bright with museums, markets and one of the Americas' oldest cathedrals, Merida Cathedral, just across the road.

Dotted with underground pools and Mayan ruins, Merida offers adventure that's off the beaten path. Notable tourist magnets include Chichen Itza and Uxmal; both are UNESCO World Heritage sites and are driving distance from Merida. These day-trip-worthy Mayan sites host gigantic structures that are said to be the most accurate representations of the ancient culture that are around today.

A refreshing change of scenery can be found by diving or going toe by toe into a cenote. These natural, underground pools are scattered around Yucatan, where turquoise waters are enclosed by cave walls. A popular dip near Merida lies in the X'Batun cenote, complete with snorkelling and a wide array of plant life, both above and below the water.

Merida has good taste — the city has embraced age-old Yucatecan cooking, rarely straying from tradition, with dishes such as cochinita pibil and panuchos to satisfy tourists and locals alike. Merida's spread of markets, dining rooms and cafés in the city's centre will definitely inspire restaurant hopping, but choosing where to go may just be the most difficult part of your trip.

Made for the guest who wants to feel like a local from the second they get off their WestJet flight, while still having the option to embrace their wild side, Merida welcomes all that live a little outside the lines. Embrace your authenticity in Merida — it's what the city is built on.

Airport served by: Merida, Mexico (MID)

Destination basics

Merida's hot and humid climate leaves plenty of room for sun and only a small space for anything but. The city's warmest months lie between March and September, sporting an average high of 33 C with temperatures often rising above 38 C. The average low usually hits 21 C.

Although rain season is prominent between June and October, guests of Merida need not fret — the rain will be warm due to the city's low elevation, so vacationers should grab a pina colada and go get caught in it. Please note that tropical storms are more likely to occur during the summer months.

Average monthly temperature and average monthly rainfall diagrams for Merida

It is no coincidence that the state of Mérida and its capital have the same name. The thousands of native and foreign visitors who come to this Andean paradise in western Venezuela want to know both the historical and university-like city as well as the splendid beauty of the surroundings blessed by a wide diversity of features. This diversity ranges from the snowed Pico de Bolívar, the highest peak in Venezuela with an altitude of 5,007 meters (16,450 feet), to the small and tropical Palmarito beach, located on the southeast side of Maracaibo Lake. Only by visiting one of the four national parks that cover an area of about 750,000 hectares (about 1,85 million acres), 12 state parks, three natural monuments, or 172 glacier lagoons, tasting freshly caught selected trout, visiting coffee growers' farms and chapels lost in the heights, buying handicraft in its place of origin, and walking the tough Andean paths, can you say you indeed visited Mérida. And if we add the stay at a rustic and cosy inn in the mountains, by the heat of a comforting fireplace, then the trip will be complete.


Mérida stretches long and narrow along a valley located at an altitude of 1,625 meters (5,331 feet), next to the majestic Sierra Nevada (snowed mountain). Its position is diagonal, from northeast to southwest. The city is crossed by the rivers Chama on the west side, and the Albarregas practically through the middle. The rivers Milla and Mucujún join the latter in the northern area of the city. Three transverse viaducts join the two parts of the city divided by river Albarregas; they are the Sucre, Miranda, and Campo Elías viaducts. Our panorama follows the same south to north direction of that of the first Spaniards who arrived in the zone and founded the city.

From the south boundary (La Parroquia-Alto Chama) and Sucre viaduct, through Miranda viaduct (Calle 38)

Although this section represents half of the city lengthwise, in the practice its density and tourist appeal are less abundant than those found in the northern half which, paradoxically, includes both the most traditional and the most modern sectors of Mérida, one on each side of the river. Nevertheless, in the southern part there are spots that no informed tourist should miss.

Avenida Andrés Bello (that later becomes Avenida Urdaneta) is the most interesting place in the area. La Parroquia is located in its south end, renowned for its magic-religious festivals as well as for large, old houses of great interest; and El Punto sector, currently Zumba (Urbanización Alto Chama), where Mérida was born for the second time, though it would not be the last.

Along the above-mentioned avenue, the chain of parks will catch your eye. Mérida has 28 urban parks, more than any other city in Venezuela, apart from squares and monuments scattered about. Besides pure parks, here you will also find the Parque Jardín Acuario, the Museo de Ciencia y Tecnología, and the monument to Juan Rodríguez Suárez (Xuárez), founder of the city.

Avenida Andrés Bello changes names to Avenida Urdaneta and leads to Sucre viaduct. At this point, the facilities of Aeropuerto Alberto Carnevalli begin, which extend to the next viaduct: Miranda. The airport has a colonial style that enchants tourists, and a location in the middle of the city and too close to the mountain which pilots do not like. Other well-maintained parks enhance the airport's surroundings.

Apart from the interesting spots above mentioned, other ones on Avenida Andrés Bello or Urdaneta besides parks, squares, and monuments include Alto Chama, Las Tapias, and San Cristóbal shopping malls as well as a number of restaurants and high quality stores that offer a wide variety of goods. Towards the east, behind the airport, is Estadio Olímpico Guillermo Soto Rosa, Gimnasio 9 de Octubre, Estadio de Béisbol Libertador, the Piscina Olímpica and Hospital de la Universidad de Los Andes.

If you cross Albarregas river through Miranda viaduct and reach the Avenida Las Américas, you will stand before the modern Mercado Principal de Mérida (street market), a recommended visit if you want to get to know the Andean idiosyncrasy and handicraft, or want to buy products from the region. Across from it is Mercado Murachí.

Between Miranda (Calle 38) and Campo Elías (Calle 26) viaducts

Without returning by the same path you came just yet, you will be able to see here the first sculptures of the Museo Mariano Picón Salas inside Parque Albarregas, which extends between Miranda and Campo Elías viaducts. Further up this same Avenida Las Américas you will find the bullfight ring Plaza de Toros Román Eduardo Sandia.

Once you return to the other side of the river, Avenida Andrés Bello or Avenida Urdaneta takes a third name: Avenida 3, with a new park at this point, the Parque Glorias Patrias. Heading northward, between Calles 29 and 28 is Plaza Rangel del Llano and its monument and church. Beside that is the famous Heladería Coromoto.

From Campo Elías viaduct (Calle 26) to the traditional city's north end (Calle 13)

This is the area where Mérida was finally established, after its two first foundations in the current San Juan de Lagunillas and El Punto or Zumba. Here, especially around Plaza Bolívar located between Calles 23 and 22, and Avenidas 3 and 4, you'll find the greatest examples of Mérida's architectural and historical heritage. This part of the city is included in our Recommended Tours.

Plaza de Las Heroínas Merideñas and the Teleférico de Mérida

This is one of our Recommended Tours within the same zone that covers Plaza de Las Heroínas and Teleférico de Mérida, located at the west end of Calles 24 or 25 where no other avenues cross. Here is what might be Mérida's most widely known landmark: the Teleférico, or cable car. It is not unusual for a person to travel to Mérida exclusively to take this tour.

Beside the Teleférico is the beautiful Plaza de Las Heroínas. Since the Teleférico is such a tourist attraction, it is not unusual that the surroundings of this square are full of hotels, restaurants, handicraft shops, tourist guides and transportation, and everything that can be of interest for the visitor. Next to the plaza and opposite the Teleférico is the noteworthy Mercado Artesanal Manuel Rojas Guillén (handicraft market).

Avenida Universidad and Avenida Chorros de Milla

Finally, in Mérida's northwest end we find a zone that has different appeals and covers a vast sector around Avenida Universidad and Avenida Chorros de Milla. This zone makes part of our Recommended Tours.


Mérida-Apartaderos route (Santo Domingo and Pico El Águila)

The spots along this 58 kilometer route to Apartaderos are countless and in an almost non-stop succession await tourists to satisfy their most varied likes. Theme parks, different types of hotels and colonial inns, handicraft stores, trout farms, fruit and vegetables, high quality food, quiet and silent lagoons, cold hillsides covered with long-lived plants typical of the moors, pointed peaks and twisted mountain paths, churches and chapels made of stone, cosy villages, and mostly breathtaking views of deep and endless valleys that conform this daydream journey which branches off once you get to Apartaderos, either to Santo Domingo or towards Pico El Águila (Eagle's Peak). This route is a recommended one, since it makes part of the visit to Mérida, despite its being lengthy.

Mérida-Jají route

Among the attractions along the route towards the southwest we should mention in the first place, Alexis y La Venezuela de Antier (Alexis & The Day Before Yesterday's Venezuela), a theme park that revives scenes and characters of our history, located 5 kilometers (3 miles) away from the city. On the way to Jají you may appreciate the great water fall and natural monument of La Chorrera de Las González and visit the craftsmens' town of Los Guáimaros as well as the craftsmens and musical village of La Mesa de Ejido or La Mesa de Los Indios. Jají is the only fully colonial village that remains in the country. It is just 37 kilometers (23 miles) away from Mérida, and visiting it is a must.

Other routes

Many of the trips to villages, mountains, valleys, sown fields, hot springs, water falls, rivers, and lakes can be taken in one day. Others need a little more time and often demand great physical condition or a 4 wheel-drive vehicle, a mountain bike, or a mule.

Leisure options in Mérida are somewhat different from the ones you find in other cities. They are different because night activity is scarce. That has an explanation: citizens from Mérida seem to prefer work to fun; the university students do not carry cash, and tourists come to do things different from painting the town red. However, discos such as El Club 37, La Cucaracha, and Javi's Music Town; multiplex cinemas such as Las Tapias, Tibisay, or Viaducto, Park Hotel's Bingo Royal, or the amusement arcades like Hyper Video and PIP's Video Juegos are a proof that these options do exist. But the immense and rich Mérida's leisure world has other forms of expression.

National Parks

There are four national parks in the state of Mérida which cover an area of about 750,000 hectares (about 1,85 million acres). These, along with 12 state parks, the 28 parks in the city and the many recreational and theme parks comprise a density of offers that almost nobody can match worldwide.

The four big parks, full of beauty for the seasonal visitor as well as challenges for the professional sportsman, are Parque Nacional Sierra Nevada, Parque Nacional Sierra de La Culata, Parque Páramo Nacional La Mucuy, and Parque Nacional Tapo Caparo.

Other parks

The parks that fill Mérida are not only relaxing spaces but also learning centers about historical facts and characters, since many of them specialize in honoring personalities and institutions such as the parks Glorias Patrias, La Marina, La Aviación, Andrés Bello, Los Escritores Merideños, Tibisay, Las Cinco Repúblicas, Las Madres, Humboldt, Don Quijote, Los Conquistadores de la Sierra, and others.

A different group consists of recreational and didactic parks such as Parque Jardín Acuario on Avenida Andrés Bello, and Parque Zoológico Los Chorros de Milla in the sector of the same name. Also, pleasant theme parks such as Pueblo Típico Los Aleros, on the way to Apartaderos; Pueblito Sueños del Abuelo, in Valle de La Culata; Xamú - Pueblo Indígena, next to Lagunillas; and Alexis y La Venezuela de Antier, on the way to Jají can be found. All of them are located at a short distance from the city.

Mérida State is a criss-cross of tourist routes. Practically every single exit in every direction is a tourist route. Among those trips you can take to make it back the same day are: "Mérida-El Valle-Páramo de La Culata", "Mérida-Apartaderos/Santo Domingo, and Apartaderos/Pico El Aguila/Timotes", "Mérida-Jají-La Azulita-Lagunillas", "Mérida-Ejido-Las González-Estanques-La Victoria-Tovar-San Francisco-Guaraque-Mesa Quintero-Capurí-Canaguá-El Molino", and "Mérida-El Morro-Aricagua-Mucutuy-Mucuchachí-San José-Acequias."

Other routes to further and more intricate destinations require more time to visit and often demand a properly conditioned vehicle, a reliable donkey, or a mule.

Soccer is in Mérida's veins and, unlike many other Venezuelan states, people do not pay much attention to baseball. Yet, it shares the like for bullfighting with the western states of Zulia and Táchira as well as with the states located in the center of the country. The city would be left empty during the patron saint's festivities, known as Las Ferias del Sol, should there be room for everyone in the bullfight ring Plaza de Toros Román Eduardo Sandia.

The privileged state's topography has allowed to highly develop other sports such as the traditional mountaineering, excursions and fishing, or the modern mountain biking, para-gliding, and pendulum or bungee. The latter is also practiced on Miranda viaduct, downtown Mérida, which makes a perfect diving board.

A leisure time and cultural activity is attending the many deeply-rooted celebrations, mostly religious, that are carried out in Mérida and the surrounding villages year-long. Every month there are one or more celebrations nearby.

As a university life city, there is a wide range of museums and cultural institutions, many of which are located in the traditional part of the city and are therefore of easy access. A short distance from Plaza Bolívar you can visit the Museo Arquidiocesano, Museo Arqueológico Gonzalo Rincón Gutiérrez, Casa de la Cultura Juan Félix Sánchez, Museo de Arte Colonial inside the Casa del General Paredes, Casa Bosset, which safeguards the Biblioteca Antigua de Mérida and serves as the headquarters of La Cantoría and the Orquesta Típica Merideña, Casa de los Antiguos Gobernadores, Biblioteca Bolívariana, Centro Cultural Tulio Febres Cordero, and Museo de Arte Moderno Juan Astorga Anta.

Other museums and cultural, artistic, and scientific institutions in the city are the Museo Mariano Picón Salas and the Museo de Ciencia y Tecnología. In the Ruta del Páramo are the Museo del Trigo El viejo Molino and the Observatorio Astrofísico de Hato del Llano. Southward are the Museo del Café and Museo del Emigrante inside the premises of Hacienda La Victoria.

Regarding the stage and screen, the Centro Cultural Tulio Febres Cordero has halls where they show opera, ballet, theater, and movies. On Saturday night the Orquesta Sinfónica del Estado performs. In Plaza Bolívar, the city government sponsors concerts on Sunday nights. And next to this square, the Teatro César Rengifo de la Universidad de Los Andes is another stage permanently open to scenic arts and concerts. Finally, the aficionado to genuine popular music should not miss the village of La Mesa de los Indios or La Mesa de Ejido, a few miles south from the city, whose music and musicians are already a legend.

People from Mérida respect and keep their traditions, including the gastronomical ones. As a heritage from ancient natives, chicha (alcoholic drink made from fermented maize) is still the traditional drink, as well as the bread made of that same grain. From Spaniards, stew and soup still remain a highlight of the region's cuisine, where "pisca andina", a tasty dish based on potato from the paramo (the moors), stands out. You can try it at any local cuisine restaurant. Don't forget to try the stuffed trout, garlic trout, or any other style, then finish the meal with smoked goat cheese or some "dulces abrillantados" (glazed candies), inherited from those hard working nuns of the order of Saint Clare during the colonial times. You will also find that fruit wines, such as those made from blackberries, are not to be missed!

Since Mérida is a a tourist town, its cuisine covers local, national, and international dishes, and you can undoubtedly find one to satisfy your palate any time. Check out this tasty route:


At the city's south entrance, by Andrés Bello Avenue, there are several well-known restaurants such as the Italian Restaurant EntrepuebloS and the pizzeria-restaurant Fuente de Soda Alto Chama, both located in La Parroquia. Nearby, in Urbanización Alto Chama, is the cafe-deli On The Run and, inside the neighborhood's shopping mall, is Azafrán Café. If you keep going along the same avenue, you get to Centro Comercial Las Tapias (a mall), in which Trevi Snack Bar and Sierra Cream Gelatería are located. All these establishments are frequently visited, since they are located in a densely populated area.

Near the airport, the density decreases although good places are not scarce, such as Date con Rolando and the beautiful Restaurant La Gruta inside Hotel Caribay with its international and regional menu as well as Restaurante Los Pinos, located behind the hotel. On the opposite bank of Albarregas river on Avenida Los Próceres, also known as Panamericana, is the restaurant of Hotel La Pedregosa, which serves international food that is particularly good.


You will enjoy Restaurant Gran Balcón, in Paseo de la Feria, as well as a variety of establishments located along Avenidas 2, 3, and 4 such as Pizzería El Sabor de los Quesos, Gerardo Hamburguesas, Rincón de la Cachapa, Pollo en Brasas, Panadería El Llano, y the famous Heladería Coromoto whose Guinness record has made it a tourist attraction. Opposite the viaducts, you will be tempted by exquisite Tía Nícota and the many-sided Javi's Music Town, which brings together fastfood, soda fountain, restaurant, disco, and a video bar.


Restaurante Club Venitalia, located between Calles 25 and 26, has an Italian and international menu for both locals and visitors. On the nearby streets and avenues you'll find Atico I Cafe and Caffe Plaza Garibaldi, the restaurants that belong to Hotel Altamira and Posada La Montaña, as well as the international Restaurante Bimbo on Calle 23. Near the Plaza Bolívar culinary highlights include Cafe Internet La Abadia, and Café Rodos, from where the plaza can be seen. On the east side of the plaza and next to Teleférico, several eateries like Cheo's Pizzería await you. Going to the north boundary of the traditional zone, the restaurants inside La Casona de Margot and Los Bucares de Mérida inns are open to the public.


This area has ample spaces; for that reason restaurants are somewhat more scattered than those downtown. Nevertheless, you will be pleased to find timely venues such as Paseo Sierra Nevada and Kawy II Café.

Merida Country: Venezuela

Merida by the Numbers: Population: 250,000 Elevation: 4913 ft Average Annual Rainfall: 67.9 in Average January Temperature: 67 degrees F Average July Temperature: 69 degrees F

Quick Facts: Electricity: 110 volts, 60Hz, standard two pin plugs Time Zone: GMT/UTC -4 Country Dialing Code: 58

Did You Know? Merida is home to the University of the Andes, Venezuela's second oldest University founded in 1785.

Orientation: Merida is situated between two of the Andean mountain chains. It is situated near Pico Bolivar, Pico Humboldt, Pico Espejo, and Pico Bompland. Merida is located 680km southwest of Caracas.

War and culture comprise Mérida's historical backbone. Inevitably, the city's foundation was not established by means of books but by means of the sword. Coming from New Granada's city of Pamplona to "search for gold and subdue native Indians if necessary," Spaniard Juan Rodríguez Suárez (Xuárez), known as "The red caped captain," made his way through the Sierras Nevadas (Snowed Mountains), and arrived exactly in the village of Xamú or Jamú (nowadays San Juan de Lagunillas, located 19 miles south from today's Mérida). Without being authorized by anyone, he decided to found a city on October 9, 1558 by naming it Mérida, in memory of his native Mérida de Extremadura in Spain. But this foundation would not last for long since, due to the constant attacks by the neighboring natives, it had to be moved to El Punto in 1559 (a place known today as Zumba, in the city's south end) where Mérida was born for the second time, though it would not be the last.

Although October 9, 1558 has been recorded in history as the official date of Mérida's foundation and Juan Rodríguez Suárez as its founder, it was not deemed as such by New Granada's authorities who considered the foundation illegal for not being official. As a consequence, they sent Juan de Maldonado to legalize the new site's situation and to arrest Rodríguez Suárez. He complied with both orders: he moved the city to its present location, at a higher spot of the plateau, and renamed it Santiago de Los Caballeros de Mérida on June 24, 1560. Suárez was taken back to Bogotá for prosecution, with capital punishment as the sentence. Only the intervention of the Archbishop of Bogotá prevented the sentence from taking place, and friends helped him escape. He then returned to the Province of Venezuela and was welcomed and sheltered in Trujillo City, thus becoming America's first political refugee. However, these troubled early stages of the city resulted in a long history of fights between both Rodríguez Suárez's and Maldonado's parties and descendants, which lasted for two centuries.

If struggle —not only against the natives but among the Spaniards —characterized Mérida's foundation, the cultural vocation that has given it the nickname of "Venezuela's university campus" dates from pre-Hispanic times. This territory used to be the home for Tatuy or Mucumbache culture, considered the northernmost expression of the Inca culture. It is not surprising that San Francisco Javier Seminary, created by Jesuits in 1600, would be a seed sown in fertile land which two centuries later would bear its greatest fruit: the university, aim and bed of Mérida's arts and science, and second in seniority to that of Caracas.

After creating the Capitanía General de Venezuela in 1777, which separated these lands from Provincia de Pamplona in New Granada, Mérida emerged as an Episcopal See in 1778 and, in 1780, Brother Juan Ramos de Lora was appointed as the first bishop of Mérida and Maracaibo's diocese. Even though it took him five years to settle in Mérida, it only took him one month and three days to found in 1785 a study center which would later become Real Colegio Seminario de San Buenaventura de Mérida and, in 1810, it would turn into Pontificia Universidad de San Buenaventura de Mérida de Los Caballeros. Transformed in 1832, it acquired its present name of Universidad de Los Andes in 1883. The university has not only characterized Mérida's history and idiosyncrasy, but has also covered it geographically, since its faculties are spread around different urban areas.

The above-mentioned year of 1810 is noteworthy for the level of cohabitation between Mérida's books and artillery. On September 16, the city proclaimed its support to the independence cause begun in Caracas on April 19 of the same year. On September 21, five days later, the university was born. The city's independent spirit, probably inherited from its untamed founder, meant a huge amount of human and material sacrifice as well as glorious pages during Simón Bolívar's "Admirable Campaign" and, especially, during his journey through the Andes in 1813. Mérida was the first city to grant him the title of Liberator, and it is here where the first monument in memory of Bolívar was erected in the world, which consists of a column and a bust built in 1842 and that can be appreciated at the Parque de Las Cinco Repúblicas (Five Republics Park).

Mérida was not only struck by war throughout its history but by Mother Nature as well. The renowned writer from Mérida, Tulio Febres Cordero, recorded a list with a total of 131 seismic movements that occurred from 1610 (the year in which the first earthquake recorded and described by Brother Pedro Simón took place) to 1930. One of the most tragic tremors was in 1812, when about 1,000 people lost their lives, a devastating figure for a population who, 60 years later and according to 1873's census, had barely reached 3,317 inhabitants.

Fortunately, the great wars and earthquakes are buried in the past, allowing this noble town to fully develop the vast wealth that characterizes it. Its richness ranges from the diligent harvesting of the crops on the rough mountains' slopes and the delicate production of the most varied handicraft, to the greatest scientific and humanistic contributions made by its inhabitants, and their present leadership in regard to state-of-the-art technology, communications, and tourism.

Present Mérida, with a population of 600,000 in the year 2000, is a worthy child of her history. The ancient and educated pre-Hispanic indigenous people who lived in these heights would not have disliked the city that graces their land these days.

Points of interest in Merida

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