Roraima is one of the best trekking trips in Latin America. Their ‘Lost World’ landscape was beloved of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, who immortalized the vast, inaccessible mesas as evolutionary outposts where dinosaurs defied extinction, isolated from the perils of nature and man.
It is not difficult to picture these images as you leave civilization behind and begin your trek into the midst of the forbidding monoliths.
The trek crosses savannah, rivers and thick cloud forest. It offers stunning views and the opportunity to explore a unique eco-system on the top of the Roraima table mountain, a height of 2,700 m. It requires a medium to high level of fitness to complete the 6-day trek, with a hike of 4 to 8 hours per day. It is recommended that you carry no more than 10 kgs of personal baggage and leave any additional equipment in your accommodation in Santa Elena. At night you will sleep in tents – including 1 night on the mountaintop – and local Pemón and Guyanese guides will prepare your food on site each day. The trek begins at 8am in Santa Elena de Uairén and ends there 6 days later at about 6pm.
This remote peak was first noted by a white man in 1595, the poet and explorer Sir Walter Raleigh, who called it a “mountain of crystal” but deemed it impossible to climb. In the late 1830’s, the Royal Geographic Society sent Robert Schomburgk, a German scientist, to the region; his reports fueled speculation about what might be on this mysterious plateau. In 1877, in the wake of debates over Darwin’s theory of evolution in England, an editorial in The Spectator asked, “Will no one explore Roraima and bring us back the tidings which it has been waiting these thousands of years to give us?”
Seven years later, Everard Im Thurn and Harry Perkins made a successful ascent of Roraima, an ancient 9,219-foot sandstone mesa towering above the tropical rainforest and savanna. Im Thurn’s colorful account is believed to have partly inspired Conan Doyle’s 1912 sci-fi novel “The Lost World,” about a Jurassic Park-like plateau roiling with prehistoric beasts.
Despite the early hype, Mount Roraima has remained very much a lost world, especially for Americans. Most climbers are from Europe.
When you finally reach the top of Roraima, the actual plateau is as silent as a tomb. You have the feeling that you are not welcome there for long, though it is a privilege to see it.
The best time for a trek to Mount Roraima is in the dry season, between December and March. The days en route to Roraima are warm, but it still rains often, while the top of the mountain can be chilly and wet.
Leave Santa Elena around 8 am for the 2-3 hour journey by jeep to the Pemón village of Pareitepui, where visitors register with the National Park authorities and where the porters pick up the equipment. After a light lunch, start the 4-5 hour trek across the open savanna, eventually arriving at the Tek Camp where you will spend the night in tents.
After breakfast, set off for another 6-hour hike. Today you cross the Tek and Kukenan rivers, which can be quite a challenging experience if there has been heavy rainfall. Passing by fields of orchids, in the early afternoon, you stop for lunch at the Military Camp. Then the trail climbs for a few hours, taking you to the base camp at a height of 1,800 m near the foot of Mount Roraima, where you spend the second night.
This is the most difficult day of hiking. After breakfast, there is a steep trek for a couple of hours through lush, beautiful cloud forest to the wall of the mountain, marked by a slope of huge boulders and a waterfall. The trail rises along this natural stone ramp that runs from right to left through the jungle and up the side of the cliff face, the only accessible route to the summit, which takes about 90 minutes. After a light lunch, you can begin to explore and enjoy the tremendous views across the Gran Sabana from a height of 2,700 m. On this night you sleep on the top of Mount Roraima, sheltered by a natural rock overhang known as “Los Hoteles”.
The plateau of Mount Roraima is around 70 sq km and offers bizarre rock formations, flesh-eating plants, and black frogs that are unique to this ecosystem. After breakfast you spend around 8 hours exploring the summit, hiking to the valley of crystals; the Triple Point obelisk marking the border between Venezuela, Guyana and Brazil; and to the El Pozo waterhole and cave system.
After breakfast, you set off down the mountainside for a full day hike that will retrace your steps and take you back through the jungle, over the savanna, and across the two rivers to the Tek camp. You can enjoy a refreshing swim in the river at the end of this 7-8 hour trek.
On the final day, you hike back to the village of Pareitepui. Here – after leaving a good tip – you say goodbye to your guides and meet your jeeps for the journey to Santa Elena after cold drinks and lunch. On the way, you will stop at the Quebrada de Jaspe – a natural formation of water and beautiful red stones.
Receive weekly travel news and special offers.