Mérida is known as el techo de Venezuela - the roof of Venezuela.
The highest state in the country, capped by perpetual snow. Pico Bolívar, at 5,007 meters (16,427 ft), is the mightiest of them all, while you can visit the frosty summit of neighboring Pico Espejo (4,765 meters/15,634 ft) on the world's longest and highest cable car. The people of this harsh Andean terrain are hard-working, resourceful and religious, and Mérida is an enclave of tradition. Peasant farmers eke out a living on steep terraced plots and cart their potatoes and carrots off to market by mule. Villages with Indian names like Moconoque, Mucuchies and Timotes are strategically situated about a day's mule trek apart.
Often these settlements are little more than clusters of crooked, red-roofed, single-story houses built flush against the narrow road. There may be a stand selling woolen ponchos and blankets to combat the damp, chill air, and probably a shop offering smoke ¬cured hams and homemade cheese. Otherwise, life centers around each town's Plaza Bolívar with its colonial church. Even the metropolitan capital of Mérida, which shares the state's name, lacks skyscrapers.
Besides the cable car to the clouds, the city boasts an abundance of parks, one of the country's largest and oldest universities, a cathedral with a portrait of God Himself, and an ice cream parlor offering quite possibly the most bizarre flavors in the world (anyone for a double dip of garlic and tuna?).
Mérida is about a 45¬minute flight from Caracas, and the landing on a short, narrow strip surrounded by jagged peaks is a heart pounding experience. Rather than flying, you might prefer to drive to Mérida along the Transandina highway. The 160-km (100-mile) stretch from Valera in Trujillo state to Mérida city is incredibly dramatic, with hairpin turns, switchbacks and a few sheer drop-offs.
The Trans Andes traces part of the trail that Simón Bolívar braved on his campaign to liberate Nueva Granada (Colombia). In 1819 he led 2,000 !laneros (plainsmen) and a foreign legion of English and Irish troops over the Andes to victory at the decisive battle of Boyacá. The first stop in Mérida state is the little village of La Puerta, "The Door" to the Andes. From here it's a 22-km (14-mile) zigzag of a drive to Timotes, legendary among trout fishermen. Casting for brown and rainbow trout is a popular sport in the streams and lagoons all over Mérida. The season is mid March to the end of September. Some 45 km (28 miles) from Timotes, you 'llreach the freezing Paso del Aguila (Eagle Pass), just below Pico Aguila. This is the highest point in the Venezuelan highway system, at an elevation of 4,007 meters (13,146 ft). Bolívar and his troops marched through the pass in 1813 on the Admirable Campaign that concluded with his triumphant entry into Caracas.