All travelers staying in Bogota should devote a day or two to visit “the great source of water” – Chingaza National Park. This huge park offers the most stunning views just a couple of hours from the capital of Colombia. The area is of great ecosystemic and cultural importance in the region and offers a great nature experience.
In this post, you will find all the information you need to know to visit the Chingaza National Natural Park in Colombia, such as how to get there, what you can do in the park, where to stay, how much it costs and some recommendations for your trip.
Discovering Chingaza National Park
In the Eastern Cordillera, east of Bogota, an incredibly important ecosystem functions in a territory formerly worshipped by the Muisca indigenous. It is Chingaza, a National Natural Park of 76,600 hectares that provides 80% of the drinking water of Bogota – the capital and largest city in Colombia. Amazing, right? This region is a water factory thanks to its paramos, Andean forests, lagoons, creeks and rivers, and is nicely embellished with unique Frailejones.
The paramo ecosystem is native to the Andean mountains in Colombia, Ecuador, Venezuela, and Peru and extends from 3200 to 5000 MASL. “The paramos play a fundamental role in sustaining the lives of millions of people, providing essential ecosystem services such as water production for urban use, irrigation and hydropower generation. Paramo‘s soils and vegetation provide efficient forms of carbon storage and sequestration” (IUCN, 2010). What makes Colombia so special is that it is home to most paramos in the world, including the largest paramo on earth Sumapaz! After this parenthesis, you should know that climate change and human activity are endangering the paramos. Livestock and agriculture – especially potato crops in nearby areas, are the main threats to the Chingaza páramo.
In Chingaza, you will find over 60 lagoons of glacial origin that impress with their crystal-clear waters. You will feel lucky to drink such pure water! The largest and most important lagoon culturally is Chingaza lagoon, at 3250 m (10600 ft) ASL. The three Siecha lagoons are quite tourist-attractive too. Lagoons, mountains, and water were sacred worship sited for the Muiscas, where they made offerings. In their language, Chingaza means Serranía del Dios de la Noche (God of the Night Mountain Range).
Chingaza is also a haven for native flora and fauna. The park covers areas up to 4000 m (13120 ft) ASL, so the animals and plants that inhabit these zones are capable of withstanding extreme conditions such as temperatures as low as 4°C (39°F) and constant rainfall. This means that the flora and fauna that you see here are endemic to this ecosystem. There are over 2000 plant species and around 390 bird species reported in Chingaza National Park. A number of mammals and frogs are found here too.
How to get to Chingaza
Chingaza is located a couple of hours from Bogota by car. There are 3 access points to Chingaza NNP:
Guasca access: the Siecha control post is located 15 kilometers from the town of Guasca. You can only reach Lagunas de Siecha from this entrance.
- Private vehicle access: Route Guasca – La Trinidad rural settlement-San Francisco sector. After passing the Paso Hondo site, take the detour where you will find a signal indicating vehicle parking. From there, continue on foot for 1 kilometer until you reach the park cabin. No parking is available at the cabin. Vehicles are to remain on the road as indicated. This trip is recommended on a 4×4 vehicle. The distance between Guasca and the parking location is 14 kilometers.
- Public transportation access: Take a bus or taxi in Guasca to Paso Hondo, at La Trinidad rural settlement. The bus will drop you at Paso Hondo, from where you must continue on foot for 6 kilometers (1.5 hours) to the Siecha control post. Hikers are advised to be extra careful due to the transit of food-loaded trucks.
La Calera access: La Calera urban center – Cemento Samper ruins – Buenos Aires rural settlement – Piedras Gordas control post (22 km from La Calera). Continue for 28 kilometers to the Monterredondo administrative center. Access through this sector is only possible by private vehicle. No public transportation access exists.
- Private vehicle access: Route La Calera – Guasca. After 1 kilometer, take the detour on the right (passing the old Cemento Samper facilities-La Siberia), and then follow the road directions to the Chingaza Natural National Park. Although the road is not paved, it is in good condition, so cars, jeeps, and buses can drive here.
Fomeque access: starting from the Fomeque urban center, continue for 26 kilometers, passing through the La Paila-Laguna de Chingaza control post, continue for 28 kilometers to the Monterredondo administrative center.
- Private vehicle access: Fomeque – La Paila control post. 26 km on the road to San Juanito, Meta. You should take this land access in a private 4x4 vehicle or hire one at Fomeque.
- Public transportation access: There is a route from Fomeque to San Juanito, Meta which passes by the La Paila control post on Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. However, this route does not return the same day and there is no camping or accommodation available.
What to do in Chingaza
Hiking: 5 hiking trails currently exist: Lagunas de Siecha trail, Lagunas de Buitrago trail, Laguna Seca trail, Suasie trail, and Las Plantas del Camino – Laguna de Chingaza trail. The hikes along these trails let tourists admire the stunning cloudy landscapes with crystalline lagoons and a bunch of Frailejones while learning about the ecosystem, its importance and the cosmology of past inhabitants of the region including the Muiscas, Guayupes and farmers. There are also 3 viewpoints: La Arboleda, La Ye (from where you can see the Chingaza lagoon) and Mirador de los Condores.
Wildlife observation: In Chingaza, you can spot animals such as the white-tail deer (Odocoileus virginianus) – the largest species of deer in Colombia, which you will mostly find in pairs sneaking through the vegetation. Also, you can find the little red brocket, mountain paca, the endemic Pristimantis dorado frog and the puma. The main attraction of the park is the Andean bear, though. Also known as the Spectacled bear, the vulnerable species Tremarctos ornatos is actually difficult to spot because it is solitary and elusive. However, you can always trace it by tracks on the ground, scratches on trees, beds made of leaves and other signs.
Flora observation: Among the 2000 species of plants in Chingaza, 5 are Frailejones. There is even an endemic species called Espeletia uribei, one of the tallest in the world since it reaches up to 18 meters. The Chingaza orchid (Telipogon falcatus) is a small, beautiful epiphyte orchid, which means that it grows on the surface of a plant.
Birdwatching: As mentioned above, around 390 species of birds have been recorded in Chingaza. Occasionally, on clear days, majestic Andean condors (Vultur gryphus) can be spotted soaring over the paramo from Mirador de los Cóndores. Other representative birds are the masked trogon (Trogon personatus) and the endemic Flame-winged parakeet (Pyrrhura calliptera).
Where to stay in Chingaza
You can make day trips to Chingaza, but there are two options for accommodation in case you want to spend an entire weekend away from the city.
Camping: There is a camping zone in the Monterredondo sector equipped with parking, electric power, and bathrooms with drinking and hot water.
Dorm in a cabin: Also, in the Monterredondo sector you will find a cabin managed by Corpochingaza, a community tourism organization in charge of the ecotourism services in the park.
Entrance fees to Chingaza
The entrance fee to Chingaza National Natural Park varies depending on the nationality and age of the visitors. These are the entrance fees for 2020:
- Colombians, resident foreigners and tourists from Bolivia, Ecuador and Peru (ages 5 to 25): COP 16,500
- Colombians, resident foreigners and tourists from Bolivia, Ecuador and Peru (over 25 years old): COP 20,000
- Non-resident foreigners (over 5 years old): COP 53,500
- Children under 5 years old and Colombians over 65 years old have free entrance.
Additionally, depending on the vehicle you enter to the park in, you have a different fee:
- Car: COP 14,500
- Van (Colectivo): COP 37,000
- Bus: COP 78,000
- Motorcycle: COP 10,000
What you should consider when you visit
- Visitors must purchase an all-risk policy for entering and staying in the protected area.
- You must file an entrance request at least 15 before your visit.
- The trip to Chingaza is only possible with a private car. If you don’t have one, contact a local tourism agency that organizes transportation for you. Having said that, the access roads are unpaved and care must be taken while driving.
- Plan a 2-day or 3-day trip to Chingaza if you want to hike several trails to explore more of the park. Distances are long and the weather is variable.
- Entrance hours are from 8:00 am to 12:30 pm. You must leave the park by 4:00 pm if you are not sleeping there.
- Only 40 people are allowed per trail, except for the short Suasie trail – which allows 80 people, and Lagunas de Siecha trail – with capacity for 60 people.
- If you are camping in the park, make sure the equipment is suitable for high mountain environments.
- Wear cold weather, waterproof clothes in layers (so you can peel off when necessary). This includes hiking boots or rubber boots since the trails can be very muddy.
- Use sunscreen! Even if you think you don’t need it because it is cloudy. Also, a pair of sunglasses doesn’t hurt.
- Don’t feed the deer and any other animal in the park! This is for their sake.
- Don’t throw any garbage or take your garbage with you.
- Album Jet Vive la Aventura Colombia – Parques Nacionales Naturales de Colombia, National Geographic, Compañía Nacional de Chocolates
- National Parks Colombia
- International Union for Conservation of Nature IUCN
About the authors.
Ana María Parra
Current content writer for Sula. Modern Languages professional with emphasis on business translation. Interested in cultural adaptation of written and audiovisual content. Passionate about knowing new cultures and languages, tourism and sustainable living.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]