One of the best things about Bogotá is its central location – you don’t need to travel too far to find pretty pueblos, high páramo wetlands and real cowboys. So once you’ve visited the capital’s tourist sights, stick around and make Bogotá a base to explore the gorgeous and diverse countryside that surrounds the city.
Here are some trips ideal for nature-lovers, adrenaline junkies and those who can’t get enough of charming colonial towns.
Rock climb in Suesca
Colombia’s rock climbing culture began 80 years ago at the 4km stretch of staggering sandstone cliffs called Suesca Rocks. The rocks’ close proximity to Bogotá (65km), the temperate climate and stunning scenery make it a rewarding day trip. There are over 400 different routes, all well-maintained and suitable for climbers of all levels, and if you aren’t too enthusiastic about hanging off the side of a cliff, there are hiking, rafting and mountain biking opportunities. Furthermore, there is also a campground located just a 10-minute walk from the rocks. Do try to avoid the weekends as the crags can get quite crowded.
The terracotta tiled roofs catch the sunlight in Guatavita © ChandraDhas / Getty Images
Paraglide in Sopó
Just 40 minutes from Bogotá lie breathtaking views and weather conditions perfect for paragliding. The launch site is up on a hill close to the small village of Sopó, and with just a few running steps you will be soaring over the savanna. Sights include the Tominé reservoir, where the old colonial town of Guatavita lies submerged, the Valley of Guasca and the new town of Guatavita. Buses to Sopó leave from the Portal del Norte TransMilenio station. On arrival, take a taxi up the hill to paragliding company Parapente Paraíso. If you’re a fan of dessert, stop off at La Cabaña de Alpina (Carrera 4) on the way back to Bogotá and treat yourself to strawberries with cream, cheesecake, arequipe (dulce de leche) and many more sweet dairy dishes.
Explore heritage in Monguí
As an alternative to the highly popular Villa de Leyva, head to Monguí, a 400-year-old mountain village situated four hours from Bogotá in the idyllic department of Boyacá. Belonging to the Network of Heritage Towns of Colombia, Monguí is rich in history, architecture and culture, and its location, perched high in the mountains, means 360-degree vistas of the hilly countryside.
Despite the typical Spanish colonial appearance of the town, Monguí offers a bona fide glimpse into the life of a rural mountain town relatively undiscovered by mass tourism. Monguí is also an excellent base for treks to the Páramo de Oceta and Lago de Tota.
Coffee tour in Fusagasugá
If you don’t have time to visit Colombia’s Coffee Triangle, don’t despair! Just two hours south of Bogotá, the climate is mild with a pleasant average temperature of 20ºC: perfect for growing the world’s favorite beans. The quaint Hacienda Coloma coffee farm just outside of Fusagasugá gives day tours of their plantation. Alternatively, Bogotá-based tour agency Andes Ecotours offers a day-long tour which includes visits to several traditional, family-run coffee farms where you’ll learn about the entire coffee production process: from planting and picking to drying and roasting.
A verdant hillside in Colombia's Los Llanos region © ChandraDhas / Getty Images
Ride ’em cowboys in Los Llanos
Intrepid travelers seeking an experience far removed from mass tourism will find Los Llanos, the so-called ‘Serengeti of South America,’ perfectly suits their adventurous cravings. Take a bus to Villavicencio, the gateway city to the grassy Eastern Plains, and from here you can organize a variety of trips.
Since the vast grassland is home to los llaneros (Colombian cowboys), visiting a ranch is a definite must for horse lovers or wannabe cowboys. Campo Ecologico Gramalote lets visitors experience what life as a llanero is all about – you’ll even herd cattle. Enjoy Colombia Hostel offers affordable accommodation and can help organize ecotours such as such river rafting, canyoning, hiking, cycle tours and wildlife-watching.
And if all that doesn’t win you over, the locals swear that the ‘best rumba in South America’ happens in Villavicencio at Los Capachos bar.
Hike in Chingaza National Park
Directly to the east of Bogotà lies Chingaza National Park, a vast landscape teeming with flora and fauna typical of a páramo environment. There are several hikes – each varying in length, destination and level of difficulty – through the park that grant unprecedented views of this spectacular area. And at a stone’s throw from Bogotá, nature lovers shouldn’t sidestep a unique adventure to this high altitude paradise.
Trek to La Chorrera Waterfall
La Chorrera Waterfall, Colombia’s highest 'interrupted' waterfall, drops 590m from the summits of the Verjón páramo, east of Monserrate and the Cerros Orientales. The 4-5 hour round-trip hike is easily accessible and begins just 45 minutes from Bogotá, on the way to Choachi. The moderately difficult trail starts out in rolling green hills dotted with small farms before narrowing and traversing the stunning Andean cloud forest, abundant with birds and lush vegetation, eventually culminating at the majestic Chorrera waterfall. A waterproof jacket or an umbrella (and a change of socks) is highly recommended.
Adrenaline hub in Tobia
Tobia is a picturesque village located two hours north west of Bogotá that's famous for its wide variety of adventure sports. Activities include rafting down Río Negro, abseiling, a 200m-high zip line, horseback riding, hiking and paintball. Situated at 650m above sea level with an average temperature of 28°C, Tobia offers easy breathing and warm, sunny days for travelers in need of a break from the high altitude and cloudy days of Bogotá. Tour companies Arrampicata and La Rivera Extrema both offer multi-sport packages.
Find paradise in Chicaque Park
Although located on the outskirts of Bogotá, Chicaque Natural Park is a world away from the busy, concrete city, and is a playground for nature lovers. As a cloud forest, the park is permanently cloaked in mist making the evergreen forest a natural haven for hundreds of different species. Birdwatchers will be kept quite busy.
There are over 20km of hiking trails varying in distance and difficulty that terminate at different points such as a 70m waterfall, an oak forest or high lookout points with incredible vistas of the region. A campground and cabins are available.
Discover Honda, City of Bridges
Located 3.5 hours from Bogotá in a steamy, tropical valley on the banks of the Magdalena River, Honda connects the departments of Tolima and Cundinamarca with some 30 bridges. Once an important port during the colonial era, Honda lost its economic significance when transportation routes changed. Fortunately, this forgotten little river town now forms part of the Network of Heritage Towns of Colombia, restoring its rightful place on the tourist trail. The authentic atmosphere of a bygone era, framed by stunning views of the majestic river and mountains, make a trip to Honda worthwhile.
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