Mérida's principal church, the Basílica Menor de la Inmaculada Concepción, took more than 150 years to complete, but the effort paid off in one of the most impressive and eclectic cathedrals in Venezuela. Originally based on the design of the 17th-century cathedral in Toledo, Spain, work was begun in 1803. A couple of earthquakes and several distinct periods of construction have left it a mixed breed, with artistic and architectural touches representing various epochs, including some beautiful stained-glass work and large frescos.
Within a 4-block radius of Plaza Bolívar, you'll find a handful of local museums. The small but interesting Museo de Arte Moderno Juan Astorga Anta (Museum of Modern Art Juan Astorga Anta), Avenida 2 and Calle 22 (tel. 0274/252-9664), is housed within the city's Cultural Arts Complex, where you can often find out what concerts, exhibits, and performances are happening around town, if none are happening in the complex's own performing arts center. The nearby Casa de Cultura Juan Félix Sánchez (Juan Félix Sánchez Cultural House), Avenida 3 and Calle 23 (tel. 0274/252-6101), has rotating exhibits of local and popular artists. The Museo Arqueológico (Museum of Archeology), Edificio del Rectorado at the Universidad de los Andes, Avenida 3 and Calle 23 (tel. 0274/240-2344; admission BsF2), has a small collection of archaeological relics, including tools, ceramics, and jewelry. The highlight here is a reconstructed pre-Columbian grave and a fairly well-preserved headless mummy. The Museo de Arte Colonial (Museum of Colonial Art), Avenida 4 and Calle 20 (tel. 0274/657-2340; free admission), has a decent collection of mostly religious art and crafts from the colonial period. Both of the above museums are housed in perfectly preserved old colonial homes, with pretty central courtyards.
Finally, there's the Jardín Botánico de Mérida (Mérida Botanical Gardens), Avenida Alberto Carnevali (tel. 0274/240-1241; admission BsF5; daily 9am-5pm), an extensive collection of neo-tropical flora. The gardens feature an extensive collection of bromeliads, as well as sections dedicated to medicinal plants, orchids, and aquatic species.
Mérida's famed teleférico was closed in August of 2008, when engineers discovered safety problems in both the cables and towers. Currently, the government is seeking a solution, but there's no indication when the world's highest and longest cable-car system may reopen.
If it does reopen, you will have a chance to take an amazing ride to the summit of Pico Espejo at 4,765m (15,629 ft.).
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