Mountain range, hiking, trekking, paragliding, cable car, -- The great South American mountain chain, the Andes, runs through Venezuela from the Colombian border in a northeasterly direction through the states of Táchira, Mérida, and Trujillo. The mountains here, in three major ranges -- the Sierra Nevada, Sierra de La Culata, and Sierra de Santo Domingo -- rise to more than 5,000m (16,000 ft.). The principal city here is Mérida, a picturesque and bustling college town nestled in a narrow valley. However, there are many small mountain towns, as well as some interesting indigenous villages, that are scattered about and worth exploring. This is a prime area for hiking, trekking, and a wide range of adventure sports.

Mérida nestles in a narrow valley between two mountain rivers, the Albarregas and Chama rivers, and is flanked by two high Andean ridges, the Sierra Nevada and Sierra La Culata. Mérida's narrow streets and colonial architecture make it a great city to wander at your leisure, while the roaring rivers and rugged mountain terrain make it a prime base for some serious adventure.

The best way to enjoy the fabulous scenery is to ride the teleferico, the highest and longest cable car in the world. It runs from Merida up to Pico Espejo, and the ride is divided into four stages - each with its own cable car. The view is spectacular:. Close to the last cable-car station is Pico Bolivar, the country's highest point. You can stop along the way to get off and hike or ride mules to the village of Los Nevados. See our MERIDA TOURS page.

Grassland plains. wildlife, bird watching, eco tourism -- Located on plains that roll on for hundreds of miles south and east of the Andes, Los Llanos is an area of flat, mostly open cattle ground, punctuated with some isolated stands of forest.. In the dry season, the wildlife congregates in dense herds and mixed flocks around the ponds and creeks. The quantity and variety of wildlife visible at the nature lodges located in Los Llanos is truly phenomenal

-- It has been recognized internationally as a wildlife refuge and outstanding natural site, where several rare and threatened species like the Orinoco crocodile (Crocodylus intermedius), Giant otter (Pteronura brasiliensis) jaguar (Panthera onca), puma (Felis concolor), and river dolphin (Inia geoffrensis0 are protected. Anacondas,

Spectacled caimans, capybaras, anteaters, and red howler monkeys are also common. Birds are well represented with about 270 different species. Egrets, ibises, and storks congregate in large numbers along the rivers and streams, and nest in large colonies. Among the most striking species are scarlet ibises, jabirus, hoatzins, scarlet macaws, sunbitterns and numerous birds of prey. This is one of the top spots on the planet for bird-watching.

Desert plains, sand dunes..... The sand dunes of the Isthmus of the Peninsula of Paraguaná are located north of the city of Coro, in Falcon State. Sand is brought from the sea by the Trade winds and deposited on the Istmo de Médanos. These winds, coming from Northeast, constantly model the sandy landscape.

Sand retention capability possessed by plants as the Mesquite can start the formation of dunes. These plant species possess very intricate root systems that catch great quantities of sand, obstructing its westward migration, causing the formation of the sand dunes.

Climate is relatively arid, in the dunes. Precipitations are low and scarce, concentrating in the last months of the year. Mean temperature varies within 27 and 30ºC. Dunes conform a very special dry environment, in the Isthmus of Paraguaná Peninsula. These areas have been protected under the legal figure of a National Park due to their landscape importance

Scientists think the Catatumbo, named for a river that runs into the lake, is normal lightning that just happens to occur far more than anywhere else, due to local topography and wind patterns. Lake Maracaibo basin is surrounded by mountains that trap warm trade winds coming off the Caribbean. These winds crash into cool air spilling down from the Andes, forcing them up until they condense into thunderclouds creating an average 28 lightning strikes per minute across a wide area – an energy burst that could power all the light bulbs in Latin America. More on Catatumbo.