Mount Roraima - Adventure in Venezuela

No Longer Lost, but Still a Fantastic World

Mount Roraima, Tepui, Guayana, Venezuela
  davidluna/Getty Images 

If you're heading to Venezuela, you cannot miss the amazing adventure of hiking Mount Roraima in Canaima National Park. Arthur Conan Doyle populated the tepui Roraima with dinosaurs, strange vegetation and animals in his book, The Lost World, based on the accounts of British explorers Everard IM Thum and Harry Perkins who were the first Europeans to ascend Mount Roraima in 1884.

Subsequent explorations and modern-day climbers and trekkers find no dinosaurs, fossils or traces of prehistoric life on the top of the tepui, but they do find a fantastic world of crystal valleys, gorges, sandy beaches, mists and fog, fissures, rock formations, pools, and waterfalls. Mount Roraima is the tallest of the table mountains called tepuis and is located in the southeastern corner of Canaima National Park, near the borders of Brazil and Guyana.

This is the land of tropical savannahs, cloud forests, tepuis, rivers, and waterfalls. Roraima is one of the most recommended climbs in South America, and most people allow eight days for the trip. However, this allows only one day on the top of the tepui, which isn't enough time to properly explore all the nooks and crannies. Unfortunately, backpackers are limited by what they can carry.

Getting There 

There are no direct flights from Caracas or other large cities to the closest town with an airport, the border town of Santa Elena de Uairén. Many visitors fly to Ciudad Bolivar and take a smaller aircraft there. Some come in from Brazil.

Check flights from your area to Caracas and Ciudad Bolivar. You can also browse for hotels and car rentals.

The border with Guyana is closed due to a territorial dispute.

From Santa Elena, it's about a two-hour drive to the small Indian village of Parai Tepui, or Paraitepui, where you'll pay an entrance fee to climb the tepui, arrange for guides and porters (who are limited to 15 k), if not already provided by a tour agency. You can also arrange for a guide and porters in San Francisco de Yuruaní, about 69 km north of Santa Elena on the main road. If you're on your own, arrange for transportation back to Santa Elena at this time.

Plan to be in Paraitepui before noon since no one is allowed to leave after two PM, as it's at least a five-hour trek across the sabana to the first campsite. You can camp overnight in Paraitepui, but buy all your food in Santa Elena.

It's about a 12 hour trip to the top of the tepui. The trip is broken by an overnight camp either along the Río Tek or the Río Kukenan, 4 1/2 hours from Paraitepui. If you have enough time, you can also push another three hours uphill to the base camp.

The next day is the four (or more) hour climb up the ramp, through cloud forest, waterfalls and rock formations to reach the top of the tepui. You'll camp in one of the sandy areas called hoteles protected from the weather by rocky overhangs. Everything you take up, you must bring down, including used toilet paper. However, you may take no souvenirs from the tepui.

If you have only a day, you can take many of the trails leading from the camps, but to properly explore the black, craggy surface of the tepui, you should allow yourself at least an extra day. Your guide will lead you to the Valle de Los Cristales to see the colorful crystals; through gorges and fissures looking like alien worlds; to pools called jacuzzis, but don't expect hot water. You'll see strange plants, birds, and animals, even a tiny black frog that protects itself by curling up into a ball. You can hike across the tepui to

The descent from tepui Roraima takes about ten hours to reach Paraitepui.

An alternate way to see tepui Roraima is by helicopter, allowing two-three days on the summit.

When to Go to Mount Roraima

You can climb Mount Roraima any time of the year, but most people prefer the dry season between December and April. However, the weather is changeable at any time, and rain and mist are a constant. With rain, the rivers swell and crossing may be difficult.

What to Take to Mount Roramina

Be prepared for hot, steamy days and cold nights on the top of the tepui. You'll want reliable rain gear, tent, and sleeping bag, if not provided by your tour company. A foam mat adds comfort. Additionally, you'll need good walking shoes or boots, sneakers, a bathing suit, sun protection/sun blocker, hat, knife, water bottle, and a flashlight.

A camera and plenty of film is a must, as is a cooking stove and food. If you're on your own, take more food than you'll need in case you want to spend an extra day on the tepui. Take plastic bags to carry your garbage out. Take a big supply of good insect repellant. The Sabana is home to a biting gnat, jején. commonly referred to as la plaga, the plague.

Take an online, photographic climb up Mount Roraima with Climbing Roraima in Canaima National Park.

Buen Viaje!