Santander and Boyaca – places that made me fall in love with Colombia one more time !
After spending months on the beautiful beaches of colombia’s costa caribe teaching yoga, it was time for some adventures again! Here are my recommendations for Santander and Boyaca :
Mesa de los Santos & Canyon del Chicamocha
Canyon del Chicamocha is the second largest canyon of the world and really worth a visit. We stayed in the village of Mesa de los Santos, from where you can start your hike to Canyon de la chichamocha or do rock climbing.
Refugio de la roca
Lonely planet recommends this beautiful hostel located inside the rocks of c
anyon del chicamocha and offering a breathtaking view over it’s immensity – and it is for a reason. The place does not only have the best homemade bread we ever tasted but each of it’s little cabanas is completely unique and if you enjoy rock climbing, it is one of the best spots. They also have a beautifl yoga room and a very nice restaurant, offering breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Hiking canyon de la chicamocha
You will need a guide to hike the full canyon, but there is the option to hike from mesa de los santos to Jordan, the village on the bottom of the canyon in one day, which we did.
With that said, the hike is pretty tough and about 20 km in total, with a considerable climb up from Jordan back to mesa de los santos. It will easily take you 8 hours to complete this trek so you need a certain fitness level. The temperature can climb up to 40 C° during the day so it is very recommended to start your hike as soon as you have enough daylight to do so – around 5 am.
The trail is very well marked and offers great views of the canyon. Jordan is a very typical little village and you might enjoy a cold drink before you make your way back up.
If doing it in one day is too much for you, there is the option to start in the afternoon, there are two hostels in Jordan, Tamarindo and Shangri La. We saw them both during our hike, and due to the situation they were empty, so maybe it would be a good idea to contact them beforehand to avoid bad surprises.
Visit a coffee farm
Before visiting Santander, I didn’t know that the production of coffee actually started out in that state – and only moved to the eje cafetera later on. We visited Hacienda el Roble, an impressive and peaceful place about 30 minutes by bus from Mesa de Los Santos. Not only did we learn a lot about coffee but visiting the beautiful garden and hacienda was an experience for itself and I can only recommend passing a morning there.
This village is called “ the most beautiful pueblo in colombia” (but I guess it is sharing this title with quiet some other pueblitos) and is a bit more touristy – but absolutely worth it. It is located only about 30 min by bus from San Gil and really worth staying there more than just a daytrip !
Camino real a Guane
This hike starts on the top of the hill near the church and is absolutely gorgeous. It goes mostly downhill and takes you about 2 hours. Once you arrive in Guane, you can taste some sabajon or eat a typical breakfast and then take a bus back to Barichara. When we were there, the buses didn’t really run as usual due to covid19 so I can’t tell you much about that. Some people were taking tuktuks on the way back.
While the Camino is beautiful, Guane has a bit of another vibe and gives the impression of having been only preserved like this for tourists. Still, it’s cobblestoned streets and gorgeous views are worth a visit. As it is very small, you can see it in one hour or two.
As we love to bike back in Europe – we were looking for a good opportunity to ride here in Colombia too. Bicichara opened in 2021 and they provide guided tours around barichara or simply bike rentals. Their facilities feature a little art gallery and a café. The owners were super kind and helpful – so if you look for a bike trip, I can really recommend you to visit them.
Being vegan in south America (unless you work in a yoga camp…) can be a bit tricky at times so we are always super happy to discover veggie restaurants. Shambala offered amazing food in a cozy and nice setting near the parquet central of barichara.
Villa de Leyva
Our first stop in Boyaca was villa de leyva. As we visited during a pandemic AND semana santa, there are some disclaimer to this since I think the experience can be very different in different times. Villa de Leyva is rather touristy but it is truly beautiful and you will enjoy strolling around it’s streets and enjoying food in one of the many restaurants around there. Villa de Leyva offers international cuisine and a lot of tours and “attraction”. Speaking of them, some aren’t worth the money and are clearly a tourist trap.
The national parc of iguaque is beautiful. We did a hike there but the main attraction, the santuario de iguaque was closed. Same for the casa de terracotta, biggest house made of terracotta and a local attraction.
Mongui & Paramo de Oceta
This little village in the mountains of boyaca was one of my favourite destinations in Colombia. We came here to hike the paramo de oceta, one of the most beautiful paramos in the world and truly a magical place. If you have the chance to go there, I highly recommend it, we were enchanted by the energy of this place.
The hike is about 14 km long and starts behind the cathedral of mongui. The full hike will take you about 7 hours and bring you from 2900 m elevation up to 3900 m elevation. Since this is already considered high altitude, it’s recommended to acclimate yourself a bit before going there. I could clearly feel the altitude and was short of breathe and a bit dizzy sometimes – but nothing wild.
You can cut the hike by two hours getting a ride to the starting point of the hike and avoiding the first hours of climbing which aren’t as spectacular. It will still leave you with a 5 hours hike.
The area can be a bit tricky to hike since the paramo climate is pretty cloudy and some areas of the paramo are private. You can hire a local guide to bring you there. Also, bring warm clothes as it can get pretty chilly in that altitude.
Hospedaje las cabanas
We stayed in those little cabanas at the entry of the village and had a great experience. The owners were really helpful with everything and the cabanas were cozy and even featured hot water and enough space for a little bit of yoga.
Eat arroz de oceta at « La Casona »
This restaurant close to the main plaza has a nice terrace and their chef created a (vegan if you ditch the cheese!) dish consisting of rice and veggies that only grow in the paramo. It was delicious to taste all these new veggies plus it gives you a lot of energy after completing the hike to the paramo de oceto.
Visit a football factory
Random fact: since the years 1930, footballs are produced here in Mongui and they are successfully getting exported to whole central and south America. We didn’t know about it at all and visited one the of the factories to see how they still produce the footballs by hand. If you have one extra day there or if football is your thing – go for it !
Have you ever visited Colombia ? Or is it still on your list ? Leave me a comment if you visit any of these places !