Cuevas del Pirata

Useful Information

Location: Sierra de La Culata National Park, La Azulita 5102, Mérida.
(8.712908, -71.440680)
Open: no restrictions.
Fee: free.
Classification: SpeleologyKarst Cave
Light: bring torch
Dimension: T=19-22°C
Guided tours: self guided
Photography: allowed
Accessibility: no
Address: Cuevas del Pirata, La Azulita 5102, Mérida.
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
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07-DEC-1989 Parque nacional Sierra La Culata, Dr Antonio José Uzcátegui Burguera, created.


Cuevas del Pirata is a small cave which actually has a trail, although there is no other development. It is located at the edge of the village La Azulita, in a sort of park which is reached down a long staircase. At the foot of the cliff face there are several cave entrances, and the cobblestone trail enters the caves and allows easy access to the entrance section. However, it soon ends and so the visit is pretty short. But that's no problem, the forest around the cave is a climbimg park with rope bridges and platforms in the trees. This place is called Zona de escalada “La Azulita”, and not only the trees but also the limestone cliffs above the cave are popular with climbers. They are the location of the yearly Encuentro Nacional de Escalada La Azulita (La Azulita National Climbing Meeting).

However, back to the caves, the plural is obviously a result of the numerous entrances. They are also known as Cuevas del Quebradón. According to legend, they were discovered by pirate Henry Morgan, hence the name.

One day the pirate Henry Morgan plundered the city of Maracaibo. The Spanish had built the San Carlos de la Barra Fortress, 30 km from the city, on the approach. But when they arrived it was undermanned, only nine men were not able to defend the fortress and the city. They attacked the fortress with their cannons, landed on the beach and stormed the fortification. They found it empty with a trap, a slow-burning fuse leading to the fort's powder kegs. Morgan extinguished the fuse, then they spiked and buried the guns, so they could not be used against the privateers He spent three weeks sacking the city, which had been abandoned by their inhabitants. Then he sailed across the brackish Lake of Maracaibo, to the harbour of Gibraltar on the southern side. They refused to surrender, and the fort fired a barrage. So Morgans men landed by canoe and assaulted the town from land. He spent five weeks plundering Gibraltar. Then he returned to Maracaibo, but in this long time they had spent plundering, Don Alonso del Campo y Espinosa had re-armed San Carlos de la Barra Fortress with 126 cannons. So they prepared a fake ship which they sent at Espinosa's flagship, the Magdalen. The plan worked, and the flagship burned, Espinosa abandoned his flagship and made his way to the fort. The privateers faked a landing of their forces, and the cannons were set for a landward attack. In the evening Morgan's fleet raised anchor without unfurling their sails. They moved on the tide, and when they had moved level with the fortress, they finally raised their sail. When the Spanish saw their mistake, it was too late to redirect the cannons to the sea.

This is the actual history of the event, which happened in the year 1669. But according to local lore, there was another event. While Morgan stayed at Gibraltar, he heard that Mérida was a very rich city, so he planned an expedition there. But when they reached the city, there was a Spanish army protecting the city, so they fled back to their ship. At some point halfway back, they sought refuge inside some caves, which were then called The Pirate Morgan Caves. The Spanish army was satisfied that he obviously fled and withdrew. When Morgan learned of their retreat, he took the city of Mérida and plundered it.

Another version of the story says that Morgan crossed the Páramo de la Culata and used this cave to hide a great treasure.

And there is another legend about the cave, which says that the indigenous inhabitants of this place used the cave to perform rituals.