Tunja's Enigmatic Ceiling Paintings

Several colonial mansions in Tunja, including the Casa del Fundador Suárez Rendón and the Casa de Don Juan de Vargas, have ceilings adorned with paintings featuring a strange mishmash of motifs taken from very different traditions. They include mythological scenes, human figures, animals and plants, coats of arms and architectural details. You can spot Zeus and Jesus amid tropical plants, and an elephant under a Renaissance arcade.

The source of these bizarre decorations seems to have been the scribe Juan de Vargas. He had a large library with books on European art and architecture, ancient Greece and Rome, religion and natural history, and it appears that the books' illustrations inspired the anonymous painters who worked on the ceilings. Since the original illustrations were in black and white, the ceilings' color schemes are entirely the design of these unknown artisans.

Bolívar's Bridge

The Puente de Boyacá is one of the most important battlefields of Colombia's modern history. On August 7, 1819, and against all odds, the armies of Simón Bolívar defeated Spanish troops led by General José María Barreiro, sealing Colombia's independence.

Several monuments have been erected on the battlefield. The centerpiece is the Monumento a Bolívar, an 18m-high sculpture topped by the statue of Colombia's hero and accompanied by five angels symbolizing the países bolivarianos (countries liberated by Bolívar): Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia. An eternal flame for Bolívar burns nearby.

The Puente de Boyacá, the bridge that gives its name to the battlefield and over which Bolívar's troops crossed to fight the Spaniards, is just a small, simple span reconstructed in 1939.

The battlefield is on the main Tunja–Bogotá road, 15km south of Tunja. To get here, take a local bus from Tunja headed to Tierra Negra; most intercity express buses won't stop here.