Ahead of a joyously brilliant June which sees three bank holidays – we kid you not, three fantastically fabulous festivos full of fun times and frivolity – The Bogota Post’s top travel writers bring you their suggestions of trips you can easily make from the capital.
Whether you’re a nature lover, culture vulture, or just someone looking for a bit of relaxation in the sun, there’s plenty to do within a couple of hours of Bogota. Don’t let the fact you’re not flying somewhere exotic stop you from having a little holiday
San Francisco de Sales, Cundinamarca
The small town of San Francisco de Sales is nestled in a lush green valley surrounded by small coffee plantations, rivers and farms. The main attraction is the Jardin Encantado, a paradise for hummingbirds: hundreds of them visit the 50 feeders in this magical garden. The town is also worth a visit for its pleasant climate, good hiking, and relaxed, non-touristic atmosphere. It’s also possible to visit for the day from nearby La Vega if a full weekend seems a bit much.
How to get there: Take a bus from the Salitre Terminal or Portal 80 to La Vega and ask for San Francisco. The journey is about an hour; get off at the roadside stop of Minas and take a colectivo into the town.
Where to stay: There are several simple hotels surrounding the main plaza and fincas scattered around the town available for rent.
Good for: Nature lovers, a relaxing weekend.
The self-proclaimed “prettiest town in Boyaca,” where the colonial architecture is set beautifully against hilly landscapes, and stone bridges lead flower-lined roads over cool streams. Nearby Laguna de Tota and hikes through the Paramo Oceta or the Salto Candelas waterfall make the region attractive for nature-lovers too.
How to get there: From the Portal del Norte, frequent buses go to Sogamoso that take about three hours. From Sogamoso, it’s a 30-minute bus to Mongui, or a $5,000 COP taxi to nearby Finca San Pedro.
Where to stay: Finca San Pedro is a rural, family-run hotel/hostel outside of Sogamoso. Prices vary from $10,000 COP for camping, $25,000 COP for a bed in the dormitory, or $80,000 COP for a private room for two. Options in Mongui include the Hotel Porton de Oceta, with private rooms for two at $90,000 COP.
Good for: A relaxing weekend, hiking, and nature.
Lying to the east of Bogota, over the mountains and through the surrounding paramo, Choachi is popular with weekenders from the capital. The town has a busy atmosphere, with plenty of small bars, barbecue restaurants, and local souvenir stalls. Choachi’s hot springs, the Termales de Santa Monica, are the town’s main attraction: you can soak away the stresses of the city in their allegedly healing waters. The nearby hike to La Chorrera (below), Colombia’s tallest waterfall, is also well worth doing.
How to get there: Buses leave from the bus station at Avenida Calle 6, across from the police station. The journey takes about an hour.
Where to stay: The hotel at Termales de Santa Monica is a more upmarket option, otherwise the lovely Choachimilco hotel in town has a beautiful garden and well-appointed rooms.
Good for: Hikers, nature lovers, a relaxing weekend.
La Vega, Cundinamarca
La Vega is true tierra caliente for Bogotanos: located at about half the altitude of the capital on the road to the Magdalena Valley, it is the perfect place to escape the Andean chill and enjoy some hot weather for a change. The main draw is finding a hotel with a pool, getting the trunks on, and grabbing a cold beer. You can also do some bird-watching while visiting the Laguna Tabacal, a sacred indigenous lake outside the town, well worth a day trip.
How to get there: Either from the main Salitre Terminal or (easier option) from Portal 80; the ride takes about an hour on a fairly winding road.
Where to stay: High end options include Hotel Don Juan de la Vega and Hotel Campestre La Vega Inn; otherwise, there are more basic hotels throughout the town.
Good for: Hot weather, a relaxing weekend, history and culture.
La Chorrera waterfall, Cundinamarca
On the road to Choachi, La Cascada La Chorrera is a forgotten gem, so long as you really like walking. Stop first at El Chiffon, a smaller waterfall with pools, which is a 45 minute stroll from the road. There you can enjoy a delicious meal surrounded by misty mountain views or even a swim if you’re feeling brave enough to face the cold. From here you can trek a further hour and a half to the bottom of La Chorrera to see an incredible 590 metres of sheer black rock and a surprisingly small amount of water. A raincoat is advisable.
You can also go camping (bring your own tent), horse riding (but don’t bring your own horse) and abseiling/rappelling.
How to get there: Catch the Transmilenio south to Tercer Milenio. The bus station is located just across the south entrance of the station. From here jump on a bus heading to Choachi.
Where to stay: It’s an easy day trip from the capital but camping is also possible.
Good for: Nature lovers, walking.
Along the Magdalena River on the border between the departments of Tolima and Cundinamarca, Honda is a formerly-wealthy trading port that has preserved its colourful colonial architecture. The principal reasons for visiting are the charming, narrow streets that meander up the hilly area overlooking Colombia’s most important river, and the town’s history – preserved in the impressive structure of the bustling Plaza de Mercado and a small handful of minor museums.
How to get there: Honda (and its hot weather) is about a four-hour bus ride from Bogota. A number of bus companies leave from the Salitre Terminal.
Where to stay: Honda is host to a number of hotels. Two of the nicest are Hotel La Belle Epoque and the Posada Las Trampas, in the mid to upper budget range.
Good for: A relaxed weekend, romantic getaways, history buffs.
Parque Nacional Chingaza, Cundinamarca
A great option for those who enjoy a long walk in the woods – or in this case, the paramos.
Covering 70,000 hectares and reaching altitudes of over 4,000 metres, the park offers 40 glacier lakes and diverse wildlife (supposedly there are jaguars!). Chingaza contributes 80 percent of Bogota’s water supply, but that water only makes up one percent of the total water in the park. So bring a raincoat and thermals.
You will need to book and receive your entrance permits in advance. Call 3532400 or reserve online at email@example.com.
How to get there: Take the road to La Calera about 20 km from Bogota. Look out for the signs to Piedras Gordas, where you will find the entrance will be in Piedras Gordas.
Where to stay: Camping options are available, although it’s easily done in a day trip.
Good for: Nature lovers, hiking, day trips.
Suesca is an accessible oasis from the city chaos, just 59 km north of Bogota. It’s not the town that’s the biggest draw to the area, however, but what surrounds it. The wispy veil of Old Man’s Beard on the cliff provides a unique landscape with many options for climbing and discovering the rolling hills beyond.
Have a go at nailing the ‘mono dedo’ (monkey finger) on a climb, thrash it out on a mountain bike, or just sit back with a beer and watch nature do its thing.
How to get there: Transmilenio to Portal del Norte and then an intermunicipal bus to Suesca. By car it’s a 45 minute drive from Bogota.
Where to stay: There are a couple of hostels, several hotels and a camping zone, all within walking distance to the rocks.
Good for: Climbing, mountain biking, nature lovers.