The adventure-sports capital of Venezuela, progressive Mérida is an affluent Andean city with a youthful energy and a spectacular mountain position. It has an unhurried, friendly and cultured atmosphere derived from the massive university, its outdoor-sports presence and its wonderful climate, which attracts lowlanders for its bright but breezy days and cool nights. Active visitors will be spoiled for choice, with myriad options for hiking, canyoning, rafting, mountain biking and Mérida's specialty: paragliding. The city is also the major jumping-off point for wildlife-viewing trips to Los Llanos and lightning-viewing trips in Catatumbo.
Affordable and relatively safe, Mérida has a high standard of accommodations and numerous good places to eat. While not a place to indulge in colonial architecture, it has some of Venezuela's best nightlife, and is a major stop for backpackers.