Hike Mt Roraima in Venezuela
Mt Roraima rose to fame when Sir Walter Raleigh described it during his search for the legendary golden city of El Dorado and Arthur Conan wrote of it in his novel “The Lost World”. Despite its fame it is not on the path so well-traveled. This is largely to do with it being located in the notoriously politically unstable country, Venezuela. It does indeed have the feeling of a lost world and it is unlike any landscape on earth. Although being located out of the way, in the far eastern corner of Venezuela, the hike itself is not too challenging.
Roraima is a moderate hike yet has the feel of true adventure as you enter a world unlike any other. It has a rich history with a dash of mystery. Each of the 3 days hiking to the top traverses completely different landscapes. The first day is grassy plains punctuated with termite hills. The tepui seems so close as you walk across the savannah. Roraima is invitingly in sight for most of the day. The first camp is beside a creek which offers a fresh swim to wash off the dust. Beer and snacks are available from a few rough sawn shacks. Remember good insect repellent as there are some nasty bities also ready to cash in on hikers.
Day 2 is about a 6 hour moderately easy walk up to the base of the tepui, camping once again close to a creek. The here vegetation is more lush and the elevation offers a great view across the plain towards the village of Pareitepuy, where you set out from the previous day.
The 3rd day is the most challenging as you scale up a ridge, under a flowing waterfall to the summit. The cloud forest is a feast for the senses as you pass through gardens of orchids, palms, bromeliads and ferns. It is a complete contrast to the dry savanna you left the previous day.
At the top hikers stay in the “hotels” or caves nestled into the rocky formations. There is nothing luxurious about these “hotels” only that they are dry and sheltered perched on the side of the mountain with views for miles. There are tons of day hikes to do across the 31km² plateau at the top exploring a variety of landscapes including the valley of the crystals and river caves. It is easy to get lost and guides are an absolute essential here. Plan to stay at least 2 days at the top.
Facts and figures
There has been a lot of media attention on the unrest in Venezuela and safety is a very real concern there. I don’t normally go on package holidays but for safety reasons I chose to have Hike Venezuela organise the trip. The only time we were in a group was when we hiked up the mountain and journeyed by boat up to Angel Falls. Both trips can only be done with a guide anyway. Every precaution was taken on every leg of the journey to ensure we did not fall prey to bandits.
Your guides are English speaking Pemon locals with a wealth of information on the area and its natural wonders. It is very easy to get lost up there and to hike without a guide would be ill advised.
Once you are in Santa Elena de Urainen you are quite safe. We walked the town without fear or concern. The hike offers no threat either. The greatest care is taken by the government to preserve this fragile area with its very rare species of plants and animals. EVERYTHING trekked in is trekked out including your own solid waste. There is NO litter, NO graffiti and NO fires. It is a credit to the Venezuelans that this area is so well cared for.
In a nutshell
The lazy way
The longest day of walking is across the plain for 15km. That’s pretty easy going for most people. It takes 3 days to cover the 25km to the top of the tepui. The final 5kms to the summit is pretty steep, slippery in some places and takes you right through a waterfall. We felt that it should have been a 2 day walk in total even with the tricky final ascent. My knees are in very poor shape and I had little trouble with the following:-
Porters can be hired to carry your pack the whole journey for about US$50. Tip generously as it is very inexpensive.
Pack your hiking poles. They are a Godsend on the final ascent to the top. The steps from the second base camp leads up some clay steps through the cloud forest. Poles can make all the difference on this stretch particularly, but hiking poles make the hike easier the entire trek.
Although many airlines no longer go to Caracas there are some exceptions and it is possible to fly there still. I highly recommend Hike Venezuela to arrange transport within Venezuela by both air and road. They are all about getting you around in the safest and most time effective manner. It is so inexpensive; take the personal taxis as it is much safer than the buses. There are bandits and they are more likely to target the tourist buses than individual cars. The cost is so cheap and it is much safer and more comfortable.
The stop off point to hike Roraima is Santa Elena de Urainen in the south eastern corner of Venezuela right on the border of Brazil and a stones throw from Guyana.
You can also get to Santa Elena de Urainen from Boa Vista, Brazil as it is 150km south. Buses go from Boa Vista each day and then a taxi can take you to Santa Elena de Urainen. With limited flights to Caracas recently, this has become a more popular means of entry.