Laguna de Guatavita

by Alex on Nov.14, 2010, under Blog, What to do in Bogotá

The Laguna de Guatavita and the Muisca people, indigenous to her surrounds are apparently the source of the El Dorado legend that originally had nothing to do with a city of gold


After telling us that there are many nonsense legends and the one true story, our guide recounted unto us how, as part of his inauguration, the new Cacique (chief-type thing), would strip naked, be covered in honey and then have gold dust blown over him. On a raft in the middle of the lake, the new Cacique would be struck by the first rays of the sun and in luminescent glory, throw offerings of gold alloy and gemstones into the laguna. He never though made it clear as to whether this was the ‘one true story’ or rubbish

Various peoples have over the years gone to great lengths to take the treasures from the lake, including (apparently) enslaving thousands of Muisca to empty water from the lake with pots, and cutting a great cleft in the side of the lake. We were told that the lake now contains only 30% of the water that is once did, 10 million cubic meters having been drained… Many of the artefacts taken from there lake can been seen in Bogotá’s Gold Museum e.g.


This day trip involves a few hours of countryside walking through very picturesque landscape and a guided tour of the lake.

From Portal Norte, take a bus towards Guatavita, tell the driver that you want to get of at the turning for Guatavita, you come to this after passing through Sesquilé. From here it’s about a 2 hour walk to the entrance of the park, the route is signed. Alternatively, you can get off the bus in Sesquilé and take a colectivo (bus) to the park entrance

On leaving the park (the exit is different to the entrance), walk down the hill a little to a little eating place for snackage. After that you can either get a colectivo or walk back to the main road from where you can catch a bus back to Portal Norte

If asking for directions, make sure that you specify that you want the Laguna de Guatavita as many locals might think you are looking for the Embalse de Tominé, a reservoir near to the village of Guatavita la Nueva

13,200 COP – entrance, foreigners
8,800 COP – entrance, nationals

Entrance hours 09:00 – 16:00, the park is open open until 18:00

Visit the park’s site here

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Parque Natural Chicaque

by Alex on Jun.22, 2010, under Blog, What to do in Bogotá

Parque Natural Chicaque is a cloud forest reserve to the south west of Bogotá. It is visitable from central Bogotá in one (long) day but it’s probably best to stay there for a night, or two.

View from park entrance:


Its website tells of 18 km of footpaths through seven types of forest and more than 300 species of birds and 20 of mammals.


Accommodation is available at the refuge (right) or in nearby cabañas, both options including breakfast, lunch and dinner. Camping at the refuge camp site includes the three meals as well as use of the refuge’s toilets, showers etc. You can also camp near the park entrance, no food is available there so bring cooking stuff.


The refuge has a large circular dining room with balcony with stunning views (left) of the valley of San Antonio de Tequendama, the large fireplace in the middle providing for a cosy evening after a day of exercise and general naturey stuff.

To get there by public transport from Bogotá, take the Transmilenio to the Portal Sur (1,600 COP) and from there take a bus west along the autopista to Soacha (1,300 – 1,350 COP). If you can, get a bus to El Parque de Soacha and get off the bus at El Parque (an obvious central plaza type place), other buses pass Soacha on the autopista, ask someone to tell you where to get off and walk the 3-4 blocks from the autopista to El Parque. I’ve heard that in the mornings you can find cars that will take you from El Parque to Chicaque for 10,000 – 15,000 COP. The other option is to walk two blocks south from El Parque to a small roundabout from where you can get buses that pass the entrance road to Chicaque. Buses to Apulo, Anapoima, La Mesa, Mondoñedo and Funza all pass the park entrance road. Your best bet is to stop any bus that passes and ask. As well as asking the driver to stop at the entrance to the park, it’s wise to ask fellow passengers to tell you where to get off the bus, it’s not unusual to find yourself at the end of a bus route with an unapologetic driver telling you that he forgot that he was supposed to stop for you…


From where the bus drops you it’s about a 30 minute walk to the park entrance where you pay the park entrance fee (if you get a private car from Soacha’s Parque it will bring you to the entrance). From here you can walk the trails of the upper part of the park and also use the park entrance camp site. If you are staying at the refuge/cabañas/refuge camp site, there is a fairly lengthy decent through probably about 500 metres to get to there, it’s reckoned to take about 50 minutes – we managed to scab a lift in one of the park vehicles having had a shambles of a time getting there, including ending up in Funza explaining to the bus driver that implicit in my question ‘do you go past Chicaque’ was the request that he stop there… You pay for your accommodation at the refuge. If you don’t fancy the long climb out of the park you can hire a horse to take the strain for you.

They have peacocks too…


Entrance to park – 10,000 COP
Camping at the entrance camp site – 10,000 COP
Camping at the refuge campsite including breakfast, lunch and dinner – 42,000 COP
Accommodation, breakfast, lunch and dinner at the refuge – 75,000 COP
Accommodation, breakfast, lunch and dinner per couple at the refuge – 159,000 COP
Accommodation per couple in a cabaña plus brekka, lunch and dinner at the refuge – 220,000 COP
Horse rental – 16,000 COP
Guide (general) – 55,000 COP
Guide (specialist) – 65,000 COP

Just found some lovely pictures of Chicaque here

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Santandercito – a day trip from Bogotá

by Alex on May.14, 2010, under Blog, What to do in Bogotá

Or a couple of days in the countryside, either way, it’s a great place to go to escape the hecticosity of the city…

The first part of the journey across town to Portal del Sur on Bogotá’s transmilenio is as quick as you might like, dedicated bus lanes avoiding the seemingly constant congestion of the capital:


OK, so that picture was taken on the only day sans congestion, that’s not the point…

From Portal del Sur take a green ‘alimentador’ (feeder bus) to the Terminal del Sur, the cost of the journey is included in your Transmilenio ticket, buses leave every 20 minutes and the journey takes about 4 minutes. Alternatively, it’s a 10 min walk west along the autopista. At the Terminal del Sur get a bus towards Mesitas del Colegio to Bella Vista, price 8,000 COP. It’s not long before you pass the city limits and the views start to pick up…


The Salto de Tequendama (above) is stunning to say the least. There are plenty of eateries at viewpoints opposite the falls and in fact it would not be a bad idea to get a ticket to the falls, hang there for a while soaking in the view and smells of barbecuing meats mixed with the stench of most of Bogotá’s sewerage that it seems flows over the falls, then catch another bus the twenty or so minutes on to Bella Vista.

Although only an hour out of Bogotá it feels as if it could be 5, 10, 15, whatever. Warm (18-22 degrees year-round) and with beautiful views of the mountains to east and west, Bella Vista is a one horse town with two petrol stations and half a dozen or so purveyors of food that probably exists only to service passing traffic – muy tranquillo indeed:


Just uphill of the Santandercito road is a great arepera that does arepas in the Boyacense style, if you’re after a snack. If you are not going to stay in Santandercito, you might want to wander the 100 or so metres down the main road to the Parque Temático Orquideas del Tequendama and continue your relaxation with some prettiness. Entrance is 7,000 COP which includes a guided tour and a tinto.


If you are going to stay then walk down the Santandercito road from Bella Vista. After about 10 minutes you pass the Alto de la Palma hotel on the right hand side, it’s expensive and I’ve read some pretty dire reviews. About two minutes further on you come across a road on the left (this is the first turning since taking the Santandercito road from the highway). This road leads to Santandercito village and a few buildings down on the right hand side is Hotel El Prado run by Carlos Ortega (tel. 316 613 9972). Double rooms cost 50,000 – 60,000 COP per night. Continue down the road from the hotel to get to the village centre:


The highlight of the town square is spectacular hand-made ice cream from a shop opposite the square from the church. There are a few bars and eateries and down-hill from the church is a shop/cafe run by Gustavo, a friendly Venezuelan who speaks good English. There is also a pizzeria in town.

You can usually get a bus back to Bogotá from Bella Vista, if you are visiting over a bank holiday weekend or other busy period it is worth the effort to book a bus from the office on the left hand side of the road that leaves the square opposite the church – during busy periods buses passing through Bella Vista can be full and a long wait can be had waiting to get back to town…

Click here for orchid garden pictures and here for pictures of Santandercito.

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