Venezuela is a destination that everyone should visit. From idyllic Caribbean beaches to surreally shaped mountains, this country has virtually everything. It’s a shame the economic situation and increasing insecurity don’t help the country’s tourism.
After traveling for four months in the land of Simon Bolivar, I got to explore some really beautiful places like Mount Roraima and Angel Falls. The climb to Mount Roraima is completely different from any other trek you’ve done. Actually, Mount Roraima inspired Sir Arthur Conan Doyle to write the famous novel “The Lost World” as its landscapes seem taken from another planet. If you get to see it with your own eyes, you’ll know what I’m talking about.
The tepuis (“mountain of the gods” in the indigenous Pemon language) are the oldest exposed formations on the planet. These table-shaped mountains are found around the borders of Brazil, Guyana and Venezuela, and create wonderful landscapes of rock cliffs and endless waterfalls.
Would you like to know what the most fascinating hike in the world looks like?
Get into the Venezuelan “Gran Sabana” and complete the hike to Mount Roraima on a budget, without a tour!
Most agencies charge about $200-$300 for the whole trek (which usually includes transportation, guides, porters and food), but my friend Jabi and I decided to do it independently, in the backpacker style!
Note: Even if you don’t take a tour, keep in mind that you should always go with a guide. The summit of Mount Roraima is a real maze!
Time: 5-6 days
Difficulty: Moderate (medium-high if you don’t have much experience)
Maximum Elevation: 2,810 meters
Hike to Mount Roraima. Itinerary 6 days
Day 1: Paraitepuy – Tek River Camp
Day 2: Tek River Camp – Base Camp
Day 3: Base Camp – Roraima’s Top
Day 4: Explore the Top, Triple Border
Day 5: Roraima’s Top – Tek River Camp
Day 6: Tek River Camp – Paraitepuy – Santa Elena
First stage: Get to Paraitepuy and find a guide
This was strangely the most difficult part of the adventure. If you go with an agency, they will take you by jeep to Paraitepuy, but we had to get there on our own. There is a bus leaving from Santa Elena that takes you to the junction, at San Francisco de Yuruaní.
There should be some public transport from San Francisco to Paraitepuy in the morning, but we did not find any. Finally, we ended up walking pretty much all the way from San Francisco to Paraitepuy. This walk is terrible. It’s a dusty road with full sun exposure. If you bring a light backpack it’s alright, but we were carrying absolutely everything (a lot of kilos). That was a mistake.
We decided to stop a few kilometers before Paraitepuy because it was getting dark (and because we were broken). The next morning we saw a jeep coming and fortunately got a lift to Paraitepuy.
First stage done. Balance of harm: Blisters on both feet and a rash on the legs. Well, it could have been worse!
Once in the village it took us 10 minutes to get a guide. Any of the young villagers will take you to the mountain for a reasonable price. We did not hire a porter, though, just a guide for about $10 a day. After signing up in the guestbook, we were en route!
Tip: Leave all your heavy stuff in Santa Elena and bring a light backpack. You should get to San Francisco very early, find a jeep and ask for a ride to Paraitepuy in exchange for a few dollars.
Second stage: The Hike to Mount Roraima
Day 1: Paraitepuy – Tek Camp
The first day was pretty quiet. The trail was surrounded by huge savannah while the mountains started rising in the background. The tepuis of Roraima and Kukenán welcomed us to a landscape like that in science fiction.
The trail was well marked. Actually, it would be very easy to get up there on your own. The problem is that the top of Roraima is a real maze and you would be unable to move around it without a guide. In addition, the top usually gets pretty cloudy, making it even more challenging. Basically, you have to take a guide for six days when you need one for only one or two days.
That’s the price for exploring the top of the mountain, and believe me, it’s worth it!
Day 2: Tek Camp – Base Camp
After having breakfast at the Tek camp, we kept on our way up. This was a day with beautiful scenery. Step by step we were approaching the two tepuis and getting into the “lost world”. We started to pass the tepui Kukenán on our left and could see several waterfalls coming down its huge cliffs. We reached the base camp and were literally at the foothills of Roraima.
Day 3: Base Camp – Roraima Summit
Although it was not particularly technical, this was a long day, hiking from the 1,900 meters of the base camp to the 2,800 meters of the top. The ascent is done along a natural ramp formed on the mountain that climbs from right to left.
Sometimes the path was muddy and slippery; other times it was full of huge and uncomfortable stones. The most beautiful part of this path was walking below a waterfall that fell from the top.
Finally, we reached the Roraima plateau and got to our hotel (that’s what the guides call the caves where they usually camp). Once we were settled, our guide took us to enjoy the sunset at the nearby Kukenán viewpoint.
Day 4: Exploring the summit of Mount Roraima
As you can imagine, this was the highlight of the expedition! The summit of Roraima is huge and there are many places you can visit. Our guide took us to the Maverick (the highest point of Roraima), the triple border and the Guácharo viewpoint.
Each place was special and unique, but I have to admit that the Guácharo viewpoint left me breathless. It’s a great place to take the typical “sitting-on-the-edge-of-the abyss” photo. The problem is that it’s 800 meters high, and between the vertigo, the wind and your friend having issues to focus on… those seconds sitting there feel very long. In the end it’s worth it (as long as you don’t fall, of course).
The visit to the triple border was also quite interesting because we walked along the summit and saw several rocks with cool shapes. Moreover, the famous triple border is merely a milestone with the names of the three countries. But if you climb over the milestone… you are in three countries simultaneously, which doesn’t happen every day, right?
In addition to those places, the top itself is a great place to explore. It’s a large flat surface with very strange rock formations, flora and fauna. Many animal and plant species are endemic and therefore unique to that mountain. Isn’t that crazy? I remember some nice little black frogs that I could find easily, and also huge spiders, carnivorous plants and hundreds of quartz minerals everywhere. It really seems like another world!
Day 5: Summit of Roraima – Tek Camp
The last day on the top we woke very early and went to visit the window, a viewpoint situated on the face of Roraima opposite the Kukenán tepuy. I loved that place too. It’s a shame that it was quite cloudy and we could barely see Mount Kenunán, but the views of the cliffs were really spectacular.
After that, we visited the pools (also known as the Jacuzzi) and returned to the camp. We had breakfast, picked up our stuff and began our way back to the “normal world”. We overnighted again at the Tek camp.
Day 6: Tek Camp – Paraitepuy – Santa Elena
Our plan was to go back as quickly as possible. Our guide told us that most jeeps get to Paraitepuy very early and often return to Santa Elena without passengers. Knowing that, Jabi and I woke at 4:00 in the morning and left the Tek camp. Once in Paraitepuy we saw a few jeeps coming by and negotiated a ride back to Santa Elena with one of the drivers.
And so ended one of the best adventures of my life! The hike to Mount Roraima is an experience that I highly recommend to everyone!
Budget for Hiking Mount Roraima
We completed the trek for about $50 per person, including food and a guide. That’s the cheapest option, but you need to bring your own tent, sleeping bag, etc. Anyway, talking about budgets in Venezuela doesn’t help much. I mean, if you’re reading this now, tomorrow the bolivar (their currency) can cost half what it does today.
ACCOMMODATION DURING THE TREK
The Tek camp, the base camp and the hotel at the top belong to Mount Roraima National Park. There are designated camping areas but no toilets. Drinking water is found in the nearby rivers.
We brought our own food. You can find supermarkets and shops in Santa Elena, but keep in mind that there is virtually nothing in San Francisco and Paraitepuy.
If you go by yourself, you’d better take an early bus from Santa Elena to San Francisco. Jeeps with tourists can appear in San Francisco at about 8:00 am, and it is very likely that they will give you a lift to Paraitepuy.
Ask the driver: “me das la cola por favor?” (That’s how they ask for a ride in Venezuela.)
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WEATHER. WHEN TO HIKE MOUNT RORAIMA
The dry season runs from December to March. During these months the weather is better but there are not many waterfalls. We went there in July and had a bit of everything: rain, clear skies and many waterfalls coming down the cliffs.
I heard that during the rainy season it can be quite difficult to cross a few rivers, compromising the entire trek.
TIPS FOR HIKING MOUNT RORAIMA
BRING PLASTIC SHIELDS AND MOSQUITO REPELLENT
The weather of the region is rather unpredictable. You’ll have to cross several rivers (with the water going up to your waist), walk in the rain, travel through slippery areas and even pass below a waterfall. Bring a raincoat and plastic sleeves for your camera and other belongings!
Don’t forget the mosquito repellent. The place is just infested by very small and annoying mosquitos. Little fuckers!
DON’T WALK FROM SAN FRANCISCO TO PARAITEPUY
Try not to walk from San Francisco to Parateipuy. Seriously, that walk killed me. As I said before, get to San Francisco as early as you can and find someone to take you to Paraitepuy.
INCLUDE THE GUÁCHARO VIEWPOINT ON YOUR EXPEDITION
Once at the top of Roraima there are many spectacular places to visit. I recommend that you visit the Guácharo viewpoint, where you’ll get the most amazing views ever!
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