Mérida is surrounded by picturesque mountain towns and villages. These can be visited in a rental car or as part of guided tours. Most have quaint little posadas for overnight stays, and some even have pretty nice lodges and hotels.
Los Nevados, a tiny, isolated mountain village, is one of the more popular destinations. Trips here are often done in a circuit, with one leg conducted by jeep and the other by mule or foot. Mucuchies is best known for its namesake breed of dog. On the road just outside of Mucuchies, on the way to Barinas and Los Llanos, is the beautiful little stone church of San Rafael de Mucuchies, built by Juan Félix Sánchez. Another stone church, also built by Sánchez, can be seen in El Tisure. Other popular towns include Tabay, Jají, and Mucutuy. The trails, lakes, and waterfalls of the Mucubají section of the Sierra Nevada National Park make a great destination for a day trip.
Where to Stay in the Mountain Towns Around Mérida -- The mountain towns outside Mérida have several pleasant options for spending a night or two. One of the nicest is the intimate Cabañas Xinia & Peter, La Mucuy Baja, Tabay (tel. 0274/283-0214; www.xiniaypeter.com), a delightful and artistically done retreat about 20 minutes outside Mérida. Close to Jají is the rustic Hacienda El Carmen (tel. 0414/639-2701; www.haciendaelcarmen.com), a former coffee plantation that retains the ambience of its working past. Located about 60km (37 miles) outside Mérida, Casa Solar, Apartaderos (tel. 0416/674-5653; www.casasolar.info), is a small lodge that bears the distinction of being the highest hotel in Venezuela at 3,500m (11,500 ft.).