The Muisca Legend of the Origin of Life at Iguaque Flora and Fauna Sanctuary

The lagoon where mankind supposedly originated, the ancient Muisca trails and a variety of ecosystems are some of the magical attractions to be discovered at Iguaque Flora and Fauna Sanctuary, a sacred place for the Muisca culture. The information below will be very useful for your visit to Iguaque in the Colombian Andes.

Laguna de Iguaque, Sanctuary of Fauna and Flora Iguaque, department of Boyacá, Colombia. © Creative Commons

Iguaque Flora and Fauna Sanctuary

This sanctuary is located on the eastern mountain range between the departments of Boyacá and Santander, in the jurisdiction of the municipalities of Sáchica, Chíquiza, Villa de Leyva and Arcabuco, covering an area of 67.5 km².

Community Interaction with Iguaque

The communities on the periphery of the Sanctuary are mostly made up of farming families dedicated to cattle ranching and agriculture.

In other cases, the main socioeconomic activity is tourism, as in the case of Villa de Leyva. Know more about Villa de Leyva in our entries The Paleontologist’s Perfect Fossil Trip in Villa de Leyva, Colombia and Discover the Natural Attractions of Villa de Leyva, Colombia.

In the rural population, especially in Chíquiza, there is a deep rootedness for the Muisca Culture, indigenous people that inhabited the Cundi-boyacense highlands. The same is their rootedness for the natural environment that the Sanctuary offers, and they continue to venerate the Iguaque Lagoon, as a sacred natural element of their Muisca Culture.

Ecosystems You Can Know in Iguaque

The sanctuary has four different ecosystems: Páramo and subpáramo, Paramo wetlands, High Andean forest and Andean forest.

Paramo, Iguaque, ©Hernán Lopera, Natural National Parks System Archives

Páramo and subpáramo

The lower limit of the páramo ecosystem is 3200 meters above sea level until it reaches 3800 masl. It is important to note that the structure of the páramo and subpáramo is very similar, mainly composed by grasslands, and the presence of Frailejones (Espeletia sp.).

Paramo wetlands

In the sanctuary you will see the following types of wetlands: lagoons, wet drains, and wet plains. These bodies provide water to the communities near the sanctuary.

High Andean forest

The Sanctuary has an anomaly that means that the differences between paramo and high Andean forest can only be clarified thanks to the plant species of each ecosystem, since there are points in the Sanctuary where they can have the same altitude.

Andean forest

In the northern sector of the Sanctuary, it is possible to appreciate this ecosystem, located at the lowest point of the Sanctuary, the average altitude ranges from 2,400 to 3,000 meters above sea level.

The Muisca Legend

As per Muisca tradition humanity originated in Iguaque lake. Here Bachué (Goddess) emerged from the lake with a child in her arms. The child grew up and became her husband and together they populated the Earth. At the end of their mission they decided to become snakes and returned to the sacred lake.

How to get to Iguaque Flora and Fauna Sanctuary

Bogotá – Villa de Leyva

To get to the sanctuary you must take a 3.5 -hour road trip from the city of Bogotá to the town of Villa de Leyva, total distance of 190 km.

When you are in Villa de Leyva you must take a 30-minute road trip of 10 km to the Casa de Piedra sector to make a 3 km ascent on foot to access the sanctuary.

What to do in Iguaque Flora and Fauna Sanctuary


Bachué Trail to the Sacred Lagoon of Iguaque

The Sanctuary has the trail to the Iguaque Lagoon, the average time is estimated to be 6 to 7 hours of walking, the approximate distance is 8.2 km (round trip). The initial altitude is 2.800 meters above sea level and when arriving to Iguaque Lagoon the final altitude is 3.650 meters above sea level. Note that this is a medium-high intensity trail.

The time to start the hike is from 8am – 10am at the Carrizal Administrative Center; it continues through the Furachiogua Visitor Center, 700 meters above.

Birdwatching and Wildlife

Black Inca. Arango, C. 2016. Wiki Aves de Colombia. (C. Arango, Editor). Universidad Icesi. Cali, Colombia.

There are 173 species of birds and 19 species of hummingbirds. The largest bird in the Andean forests is the Andean guan (Penelope montagnii) and you can see it in the sanctuary’s facilities. Theres is another bird, the Black Inca (Coeligena prunellei) a hummingbird which is endemic species of the humid montane forests in the departments of Santander, Cundinamarca and Boyacá.

Other representative birds include Moustached brushfinch (Atlapetes albofrenatus) and the Acorn woodpecker (Melanerpes formicivorus flavigula), both endemic to the eastern cordillera of the Andes. Additionally, the Rufous wren (Cinnycerthia unirufa), Golden-fronted whitestart (Myioborus ornatus), Tawny-breasted tinamou (Nothocercus julius) and Lined quail-dove (Zentrygon linearis), which are near endemics species.

The largest and most charismatic mammals are the Andean white-tailed deer or Paramo deer (Odocoileus goudotii) and the Little red brocket or Soche deer (Mazama rufina). Recently, Tigrillo or Oncilla (Leopardus tigrinus) and the Tayra (Eira barbara) have been recorded in camera traps.

In addition to them, Iguaque has 3 species of snakes that are in conservation programs: Atractus crassicaudatus, Chironius montícola and Mastigodryas boddaerti.

Scientific Tourism and Environmental Education

The exuberant nature of the protected area and its conservation status make it a suitable place for scientific research. In addition, environmental education activities can be carried out. In order to carry out scientific research activities, a permit is required.

Where to Stay in Iguaque Flora and Fauna Sanctuary

The sanctuary does not offer lodging services for visitors; there is only a camping area. Our recommendation for you is to stay in Villa de Leyva, 15 kilometers from the entrance to the sanctuary.

The hotels we recommend are: Selina Villa de Leyva, Santa Maria de Leiva Hotel boutique and La Casona de la Villa.

Best time to visit Iguaque Flora and Fauna Sanctuary

The sanctuary can be visited all year round. The dry season occurs twice a year at the beginning of September until the end of March, and the average temperature is of 13º C (55º F).

Iguaque Flora and Fauna Sanctuary Entrance fees

The entrance fee varies depending on the nationality and age of the visitors. These are the entrance fees for 2021:

  • Colombians, foreigners holding valid residence permit and tourists from Bolivia, Ecuador and Peru (ages 5 to 25): COP 13,000
  • Colombians, foreigners holding valid residence permit and tourists from Bolivia, Ecuador and Peru (over 25 years old): COP 19,500
  • Non-resident foreigners (over 5 years old): COP 55,000
  • Children under 5 years old and Colombians over 65 years old have free entrance presenting their IDs.

Currently the Iguaque Flora and Fauna Sanctuary is CLOSED to the public due to infrastructure adjustments to their ecotourism services.

Before visiting Iguaque Flora and Fauna Sanctuary Consider:

  • In order for you to enter Iguaque Flora and Fauna Sanctuary you must buy an accident and rescue insurance policy, with either of the following companies: COLASISTENCIA, AVIA SEGUROS and SEGUROS MÉDICOS INTERNACIONALES.
  • The hours for visitors to walk the trail to the Iguaque Lagoon are from 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. After that time, entry is not allowed.
  • Departure time from the protected area is at 5:00 pm.
  • You can make a reservation to enter the sanctuary by sending an email to 24 hours before the visit indicating the number of people and the date you wish to enter.
  • The maximum number of people allowed to enter the sanctuary is 50.
  • You should wear warm, waterproof clothing to protect you from the cold and rain, use sunscreen, a hat or balaclava, gloves, hiking boots or marsh boots.
  • The entry of pets or domestic animals is prohibited.
  • The use of flash when taking photographs is prohibited.
  • Use of binoculars to watch animals’ behavior is recommended.
  • Bring along valid identification documents and health insurance.
  • It is recommended to be vaccinated against yellow fever and tetanus.
  • If you take specific medications, take them with you a personal first aid kit.

Some prohibitions

Feeding, bothering or hunting animals, alcoholic drinks and drugs, throwing cigarette butts, burning garbage, felling, and capturing wildlife.

  • Colparques
  • Parques Nacionales
About the authors

Luisa Martin

Engineer, world traveler, amateur photographer, traveling blogger, and foody.