Valera to Mérida

From the lowland heat of Valera, roads climb towards the mountains, passing colonial towns and entering an increasingly rugged landscape.

This is the most important town in Trujillo state. Here, you can choose between two roads over the Sierra, either via Timotes and Mucuchíes to Mérida, or via Boconó and down to the Llanos at Guanare. There are several upmarket business hotels, few decent budget ones, and lots of good Italian restaurants on the main street.

Trujillo

From Valera a road runs via the restored colonial village of
La Plazuela
to the state capital, Trujillo. This beautiful historic town consists of two streets running uphill from the Plaza Bolívar. It's a friendly place with a warm, subtropical climate. The
Centro de Historia de Trujillo
, on Avenida Independencia, is a restored colonial house, now a museum. Bolívar lived there and signed the 'proclamation of war to the death' in the house. A 47m-high monument to the
Virgen de la Paz
, with lift, was built in 1983; it stands at 1,608 m, 2½ hours walk from town and gives good views to Lake Maracaibo but go early.

Boconó and Niquitao

From Trujillo there is a high, winding, spectacular paved road to the town built on steep mountain sides and famed for its crafts. The
Centro de Acopio Artesanal Tiscachic
is highly recommended for
artesanía
(turn left just before bridge at entrance to town and walk 350 m).

Niquitao
, a small town one hour southwest of Boconó, is still relatively unspoilt. Excursions can be made to the Teta de Niquitao (4,007 m), two hours by jeep, the waterfalls and pools known as Las Pailas, and a nearby lake. Southwest of Niquitao, by partly paved road is
Las Mesitas
; continue up towards
Tuñame
, turn left on a good gravel road (no signs), cross pass and descend to
Pueblo Llano
(one basic hotel and restaurant), from where you can climb to the Parque Nacional Sierra Nevada at 3,600 m, passing Santo Domingo. Good hiking in the area.

Road to the high Andes

After
Timotes
the road climbs through increasingly wild, barren and rugged country and through the windy pass of
Pico El Aguila
(4,118 m) in the Sierra de la Culata, best seen early morning, otherwise frequently in the clouds. This is the way Bolívar went when crossing the Andes to liberate Colombia, and on the peak is the statue of a condor. At the pass is the tourist restaurant
Páramo Aguila
, reasonably priced with open fire. People stop for a hot chocolate or a
calentado
, a herb liquor drunk hot. There are also food and souvenir stalls, and horses for hire (high season and
weekends). Across from the monument is a small chapel with fine views. A paved road leads from here 2 km to a
CANTV
microwave tower (4,318 m). Here are tall
frailejones
plants; nearby are large storage sheds for vegetables from Piñango cooperatives. Continuing north as a lonely track the road goes to the
Piñango lakes
(45 km) and the traditional village of
Piñango
(2,480 m), 1½ hours. Great views for miles around. Eventually the road reaches the Panamerican and Lago de Maracaibo.

Santo Domingo, with good handicraft shops and fishing, is on the spectacular road up from Barinas to Mérida, before the Parque Nacional Sierra Nevada. Festival: 30 September, San Gerónimo. The tourist office is on the right leaving town, 10 minutes from the centre.

This is edited copy from Footprint Handbooks. For comprehensive details (incl address, tel no, directions, opening times and prices) please refer to book or individual chapter PDF
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