El Ávila Excursions: Sabas Nieves to La Silla de Caracas
January 1, 1970
by Estefanía V. Merkt
Caracas, the capital of Venezuela is located in a valley surrounded by delightful mountains. To the north of the valley, there lies the central part of the Cordillera de la Costa, a long chain of mountains that runs along the shores of Venezuela. This group of mountains makes up the Avila National Park, originally called by the indigenous people of Caracas Waraira Repano, which means “great mountain chain” or “land of tapirs”.
One of the main privileges of this beautiful national park is its proximity to the city. The park literally surrounds the entire north end of Caracas. Within the park can be performed various activities. It can be used as a place to train physically because of their sheer slopes or to walk their paths while getting in touch with its abundant nature.
For those who want to relax and exercise at the same time, El Ávila has several walks leading to various ranger stands. It is possible to take these excursions from the entrances of El Marqués (from the Cota Mil freeway), Altamira, Los Palos Grandes, Sebucán, Cachimbo, Boleíta, San Bernardino and Chacaíto. On the way to the ranger stands there are several gullies, where visitors can enjoy a pleasant family trip or cool off while hiking.
Some of the most popular walks are the one from Altamira, which receives the name of Sabas Nieves and the walk from El Marqués, called La Julia.
Sabas Nieves (1300 m.)
If you decide to climb to Sabas Nieves, from Altamira, you will be accompanied in the initial stretch by dozens of people doing physical exercise. After several minutes of ascent through a wide, reddish and steep road, you reach a platform where the mayor’s office of Chacao Municipality has installed public exercise equipment. There is also a small grotto, where there is a statue of a catholic virgin adorned with flowers and some candles.
The hiking can take you between fifteen or forty-five minutes, depending on your physical condition. At this point, you can lie down on the grass, having the city at your feet, behind the trees, or you can take the stairs to keep ascending.
This is a nice place to arrange well-deserved picnic after an hour of training. But if you have the will to continue, go on climbing and you will pass by the highest resting area, called Loma Serrano.
El Banquito (1620 m.)
Next stop, located about 30 minutes from Sabas Nieves, is a clearing with a famous little bench where you can contemplate the city, called El Banquito.
Once we pass Sabas Nieves, people traffic decreases considerably. The trail in this part of the route changes and becomes narrower and slipperier. The vegetation is denser, protecting us from the sun and making the temperature in this part of the course way cooler. The ascent is also not so pronounced as the previous path. In this part of the route, we get to an intersection where you must take the road to the right, to the West Peak of El Ávila.
At the end of this rest area, you will find a crossroads. The one on the left leads to Quebrada Chacaíto, the one on the right returns to Sabas Nieves and the one in the center leads to No Te Apures and La Silla de Caracas.
No te Apures (1800 m.)
You will arrive at No te Apures, which literally translates to “Do not Hurry”. The name is already an indication of what you can expect from this route.
The climb is arduous. In many places, tree roots serve as stairs. Throughout the journey, the vegetation is thick, and every time the city is further and further away. After another half hour or more of climbing, you reach the spot, the No te Apures refuge, with the satisfaction of a great goal fulfilled.
If you want water, this is your last chance to get some. There is a small detour and about a two or three minutes walk, there is a pipe that facilitates the capture of water from a small stream.
Now you may return, happy because you have done an excellent exercise and also enjoyed the nature in all its magnificence. Or better still, continue on this adventure to get to watch the Caribbean Sea from the top of the mountain.
La Silla de Caracas
About an hour later, after walking the coldest path of the trail, you arrive at an emblematic group of rocks called La Silla de Caracas. Surprisingly, the ride is not over yet. You can still keep hiking from there to the left and you will get to the West Peak of El Ávila (2480 m.), or get to the right, leading the Oriental Peak (2640 m.). On this point, you can see either Caracas or the sea in La Guaira.
This is the path that Los Palmeros de Chacao tours every year on the eve of Holy Week to pick the palms of Día de Ramos, a local tradition of more than 200 years.
If you get to make the whole journey it will take you about four hours to go up to the top, and then four hours to go back down to Caracas. Make sure you take with you plenty of fresh water to drink and some light food to munch on the stops. Use sunscreen protection, wear fresh clothes and pack a sweater. If you plan on walking by night – which is not at all recommended because it can be pretty dangerous- you may also bring a flashlight.
What I enjoy the most of this adventure is all the roads that are available to walk. You can always find an option with a new point of view of a great landscape to observe the city of Caracas and the coast of the Caribbean in all its splendor. You get to discover the wonderful vegetation and diversity of animal species while enjoying the sounds of nature.
Hiking El Ávila is an amazing opportunity to take a moment to breathe some fresh air and get away from the daily chaos and multitudes of people in the city.