Merida, lies in the midst of two of Venezuela's Andes mountain chains, including the snow-capped peaks of Pico Bolívar, (5007 m/16,523 ft) Pico Humboldt (4,942 m/16,214 ft), Pico Espejo (4,753m/15,594 ft) and Pico Bompland (4883 m/16,113 ft), which form part of the Parque Nacional Sierra Nevada, one of four in the area. There are also 12 state parks. The region is popular with climbers, backpackers, wildlife lovers, birders, and sightseers who enjoy the variety of scenery from lush rainforest, abundant waterfalls to mountain peaks permanantly covered with snow, glacier lakes, and páramos, or highland moors reaching from about 3300 m to the snowline. Add the small and tropical Palmarito beach, located on the southeast side of Maracaibo Lake, and there are a dozen or more varieties of climate and geography in the state of Mérida.
The fertile valleys between the mountains support agriculture, including coffee plantations, sugar cane, flowers, especially the frailejón which grows only in the altiplano areas of Venezuela, Colombia and Ecuador and bloom in November and December. Tropical plants, palm trees, citrus, strawberries, orchids, and the Golden Rain tree grow lavishly. The city, built between and bisected by rivers, maintains 35 parks in its long, narrow stretch. With flat land no longer available, the city now grows up from its base (1,625 m/5,331 ft). Earthquakes and wars of independence have taken the toll on the city, but it cultivates a pleasant, quiet grace with plenty of cultural activities.
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