Discover the Charm of the “Ciudad Vanidosa” Ciénaga, Magdalena, Colombia

Ciénaga is considered one of the most beautiful towns in Colombia, it was the setting for the inspiration of the book One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

Walking through the streets, squares, and houses of Cienaga you can bring to life the characters and events that are narrated in the book.

Founded in 1751, its historic center, consisting of 76 blocks, was declared National Heritage in 1994. Ciénega was also declared a Heritage Town in 2012 for its history, culture, and architectural richness, which further boosted tourism.

Within its architectural heritage, you can find the Templete, the Chapel of the Santa Teresa School, the Old Railroad Station, the Church of San Juan Bautista, the Masonic Lodge, and the Casa del Diablo (House of the Devil).

At the cultural level, its main events are the Cienaguero Cayman Festival held every January 20th and the National Guitar Music Festival that pays tribute to Guillermo Buitrago every June.

Besides, Cienaga has the magic to make you travel back in time for its historical, architectural, urban, environmental, and social values. In this guide, you will receive the necessary information to make the most of your visit to this special heritage town.

Exploring Ciénaga

This town and its surroundings have gone through difficult situations of violence and armed conflict in the past. Today, ecotourism, cultural tourism, and community-based tourism are economic bets for the people of the region.

Ciénaga Magdalena is known as the “Ciudad Vanidosa” because it has an endless number of water mirrors around it that reflect its beauty from any point you look at it.

It is located in the department of Magdalena, 33 km from Santa Marta, on the shores of the Caribbean Sea, and next to the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, at the northeastern end of the Ciénaga Grande de Santa Marta, a Ramsar area of Colombia and one of the biosphere reserves present in Colombia.

Ciénaga is wealth in water, with reserves coming from the Caribbean Sea, the Ciénaga Grande de Santa Marta, the Toribío and Córdoba rivers. It also has the hot springs Volcano, located in the village of Cordobita, just ten minutes from Ciénaga, which is the only hot spring in the Caribbean region.

The average temperature in Cienaga is between 23 ºC (73ºF) to 35 ºC (95 ºF) and the best time of the year to visit Lórica for hot activities is from mid-December to the end of February.

How to get to Cienaga Magdalena

  • Bogotá – Santa Marta– Cienaga

Take a 1,5-hours flight from El Dorado (BOG) in Bogotá to Simón Bolivar International Airport (SMR) at Santa Marta city. Once at in Santa Marta you take an approximately 40 – minutes ride (33 Km) to Cienaga Magdalena.

  • Bogotá – Barranquilla – Cienaga

Take a 1.5 hour flight from El Dorado (BOG) in Bogotá to Ernesto Cortissoz International  Airport (BAQ) in the city of Barranquilla. Once in Barranquilla, it takes approximately 1,5 – hours (72 km) to Cienaga Magdalena.

Where to stay in Cienaga Magdalena

Ciénaga has a low hotel demand but we recommend the hotel: Casa D’remedios La Bella Hotel Boutique.

Thanks to its proximity to the city of Santa Marta we recommend these hotels in the city:

  • Hotel Nueva Granada,
  • Oasis Fresh Hotel,
  • Placita Vieja Hotel Boutique,
  • Hotel Boutique Don Pepe and
  • Hotel Santorini Casablanca Santa Marta.

Attractions and Activities in Ciénaga, Magdalena

This beautiful town is a place where you can still breathe colonial air and where you can see the most beautiful landscapes due to its location at the foot of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta.

Visit the Cienaga Grande, Biosphere Reserve of Humanity 

Ciénaga del Magdalena - Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta
Ciénaga del Magdalena view from Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta

It is possible to enjoy this beauty, thanks to a tour called The Tour of Nature, which allows you to visit all the rivers that are tributaries of the swamp complex which concentrates a large number of important species of flora and fauna.

Visit the Palafito Villages of the Ciénaga Grande

Here you will experience a cultural exchange with fishing communities on a trip that includes land and boat transportation. The palafito villages of the Ciénaga Grande de Santa Marta have colorful wooden houses, and canoes are a vital part of the landscape.

Nueva Venecia, Buenavista and Trojas de Cataca are the only palafit towns in Colombia. Their streets are made of water and can only be moved by canoe, the only bridge that exists connects the school and the church.

Nueva Venecia

It is a magical town on the water, where you can discover a different reality in the country, with a surprising lifestyle. To get there you must do it by the river, it takes approximately 2 hours from the point of Tasajera.

Walking through its streets in canoes you will be able to explore and get to know a new reality. This place has an infinity of species in flora and fauna; it has its own Flora and Fauna Sanctuary, a magical place to connect with nature.

Nueva Venecia is completely fluvial, amphibious, and palafitic. To cross the town, visit neighbors, go to the store or to the police station, you must necessarily go by canoe.

Cultural and Architecture Places

Ciénaga, Magdalena, Colombia. Photo by Edgardo Perez Diaz, CC BY-SA 4.0

Historic Center of Ciénaga

Touring the historic center is to marvel at the magical realism that inspired the Nobel Prize winner in literature to recreate Macondo, the splendor of its buildings, there are also corners and moments taken as if from a book. You can enjoy sunsets with shades of yellow, red, and orange painted in the sky.

The Santa Cruz de Papar Farm

This is one of the places you can’t miss, it will transport you to colonial times thanks to its architecture. It was a hacienda where sugar was planted and alcohol was produced for export.

Centenario Square

This square has an ecclesiastical style, giving it the shape of an eight-pointed star, designed by the French architect Eduardo Carpentie. You will also be able to appreciate four water fountains, donated by the Italian colony, bordering this square.

San Juan Bautista Church

It was built in 1612 at the request of the indigenous people of Ciénaga to the representatives of the Spanish crown. The walls of this church have stucco murals. According to historians, its construction lasted several decades, due to the multiple battles that plagued the town.

Municipal Palace

It has a republican style, it was built in four stages. Its plans were designed by the firm Parrish of Barranquilla. What stands out the most is its tones have varied between a strong yellow and white, color that is already established for the buildings that are the heritage of the country. What will impress you the most are its arches, wooden doors, and floor.

Ruins “Casa del Diablo”

It is a corner mansion with two floors and republican style, white facade with 14 Roman columns and crowned by a pediment with zither shapes, built by Manuel Varela.

Its name is due to the fact that the inhabitants of Cienaga say that every year Manuel Varela sacrificed a worker from his banana plantation to Satan as payment for the prosperity granted to him.

Despite being a possible myth, other versions speak of some 300 dead, and some estimate that there were thousands, a tragedy that remained in the history of Colombia as “The Massacre of the Banana Plantations”.

Gabriel García Márquez was also tempted by this myth and therefore also referred to this event, unreal or not, in his book One Hundred Years of Solitude.

References
About the Authors

Sara Colmenares

The current director of Sula. Doctor in Biological Sciences. Her main interests are to explore and understand the organism-environment interactions, taking advantage of emerging knowledge for the management and conservation of species and ecosystem services. She is currently working as a consultant in functional ecology, ecosystem services, and conservation projects in Colombia related to ecotourism and birdwatching.

Luisa Martin

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

Travel Guide to Santa Cruz de Mompox, Mompós or the Land of God

Mompox is one of the most beautiful heritage towns in Colombia and has one of the best-preserved historic centers in Latin America. Santa Cruz de Mompox or Mompós has the typical architecture of the Spanish Colony, with white facades and beautiful windows covered with wrought iron railings.

This architectural beauty, as well as its excel of conservation, led Mompox to be declared a National Monument in 1959 and a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1995.

When this town was built in 1540 it was an important port. With time it became isolated, and that allowed it to preserve its architectural heritage. It is the magical place that so often inspired our Colombian Nobel Prize winner Gabriel García Márquez.

It is also known as the first town of the Viceroyalty of the New Kingdom of Granada to give the cry of absolute Independence from Spain.

Santa Cruz de Mompox, the largest river island in Latin America, also holds in its streets a unique cultural treasure in Colombia. The Mompox Jazz Festival launched in 2012, enhanced the tourist vocation of the town, attracting travelers from around the world.

Below you will receive the necessary information you need to make the most of your visit to Santa Cruz de Mompox.

Exploring Santa Cruz de Mompox

Momopox is located in the department of Bolivar, 320 km from Cartagena by land. It is on the list of “Network of Colombian Heritage Towns” a place full of history and culture. Its name comes from the indigenous Malibu language, “Mompoj”, and since the XVIII century it is called Mompox or Mompós in the official documents of the country; it is also known as “La Tierra de Dios” i.e. The Land of God.

It is located in the Department of Bolivar, 248 kilometers from Cartagena, and is bordered by the municipalities of Magangué (Bolivar), Pinillos and San Fernando (Bolivar), Santa Ana, San Zeno, and San Sebastian de Buenavista (Magdalena), with the Magdalena River in between, and with the municipality of Talaigua Nuevo (Bolívar).

The average temperature in Santa Cruz de Mompox is between 23 ºC (73ºF) to 38 ºC (100 ºF) and the best time of the year to visit Mompós is from mid-December to the end of February.

How to get to Santa Cruz de Mompox

You can take a direct flight from El Dorado (BOG) in Bogotá to San Bernardo Airport (MMP) at Santa Cruz de Mompox with a duration of 1,5 – hours.

Other alternatives to get to Mompox are:

  • Bogotá – Cartagena – Mompox

Take a 1,5-hours flight from El Dorado (BOG) in Bogotá to Rafael Nuñez International Airport (CTG) at Cartagena city. Once at in Cartagena you take an approximately 5,5-hours ride (273 Km) to Santa Cruz de Mompox

  • Bogotá – Sincelejo – Mompox

Take a 1,5-hours flight from El Dorado (BOG) in Bogotá to Las Brujas Airport (CZU) at Sincelejo city. Once in Sincelejo, you take an approximately 3-hours ride (148 Km) to Santa Cruz de Mompox.

Where to stay in Santa Cruz de Mompox

Bioma Hotel Boutique, Mompox, Bolívar, Colombia CC Bioma

In Mompox you can find several lodging options, among those are hotels that preserve the local architecture, we recommend:

Santa Cruz de Mompox Attractions and Activities

Historical and Cultural Activities in Mompox

In “La Tierra de Dios”, you will be able to appreciate the Andalusian architecture of the XVI century, considered one of the most precious cultural and historical jewels of the Caribbean.

The Culture House

It has civil architecture. It has been in operation since 1962, and keeps, as its director shows us, elements of the historical archive, antiques, works of Candelario Obeso, the black poet, and one of the maximum referents of the momposina culture, homemade swords, elements of tailoring of the time and indigenous crafts, among others.

Te Deum House

Its name comes from the Latin inscription that its owner Don Pedro Martinez de Pinillos placed on its façade: “Té Deum Lauda mus Te Dominum”. Renowned for its gardens and the huge sun tree in the middle of the courtyard, refuge of the howler monkeys, a species that moves around the city and emits a particular sound.

House of the Portals o the Marquesa de Torrehoyos

It is a group of houses (four) that is undoubtedly a permanent attraction in the city, is clearly distinguished by the portals or external gallery that runs along its facade and that prints an architectural character of its own and very different from the homogeneous silhouette of the city.

Rosario Cemetery Mompox, Bolivar, Colombia . Alcaldia Mompox, CC BY-SA 4.0

Mompox Rosario Cemetery

Usually, cemeteries are not tourist places but the cemetery of Mompox, along with that of Barichara, are among the most beautiful in Colombia.

A space full of cultural and historical heritage, besides having beautiful burial constructions and is inhabited by many cats. During the Holy Week season, it becomes the scene of the traditional serenade to the deceased.

San Anselmo Fort

Possibly it was built as a simple warehouse or deposit of merchandise. It is owned by an Austrian who, after sailing around the world in his sailboat, arrived and stayed in Mompox. At the next table, there are four old men, who with a slow coastal accent greet us, while they evoke, in a pleasant gathering, an epic Santa Cruz de Mompox.

Church of Santa Bárbara

It has a balcony that is undoubtedly the most impressive element. It is located in the square of Mompox, and it is also the place of legends among the locals.

Immaculate Conception Church

Built-in 1541 and despite having been rebuilt several times. In the interior you can notice several aspects, among others, the way the central nave was covered, using for it the armor of pair and knuckle.

Santo Domingo Church

It was built as a straw temple by the friars of the Dominican order, the first to preach the gospel in America. Years later its roofs were covered with bricks that remained useful until August 19, 1846, when it collapsed. Ten years later in 1856, the temple was restored.

San Francisco Church and Convent

This beautiful church is a clear example of momposina elegance, its walls are covered in red ochre in contrast with its white lines. A cultural jewel, worthy of knowing and appreciating.

San Juan de Dios Church

Built-in the XVII century. The church officiates on Holy Thursday, the mass for the sick and disabled to participate in the Momposina Holy Week.

Natural Attractions in Mompox

Mompos, Bolivar, Colombia. A town surrounded by swamps and rivers.

Pijiño Swamp

It is a backwater where different species of birds coexist, approximately 20, it is possible to find the white heron, the brown heron, the little brown heron, and also the kingfisher; in addition to the presence of reptiles.

This marsh has an area of approximately 1,350 hectares. Bird watching excursions are part of a program to show the world the richness of Colombia’s biodiversity and are promoted by the National Tourism Fund (Fontur) and the Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Tourism.

Margarita Island

This island is located in the geographical situation called the Momposina depression, bathed by the waters of the Magdalena River, with the arms of Loba, Mompox, and Chicagua; and has an area of 2600 square kilometers.

The island is home to fish species such as barbudo, bocachico, mojarra amarilla and mojarra lora, and amphibians such as babillas, galapagos, turtles and otters. The flora is composed of cantagallo, mangrove, bell pepper, coquillo or cocuelo and campano.

If you want to come to Colombia contact us and plan your trip with us.

References
About the Authors

Luisa Martin

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

Colombia’s Kibbe-flavored Caribbean town: Santa Cruz de Lorica

Lorica or Santa Cruz de Lorica, is a heritage town of Colombia located on the banks of the Sinú River, bathed by the Ciénaga Grande del bajo Sinú, in the department of Córdoba. It has an enormous cultural value, both for the influence of the Sinu River and the different groups that have inhabited the region.

This town of Lorica receives several names such as the Ciudad Antigua y Señorial (i.e., Ancient and Lordly City), the Capital of Bajo Sinú, the Capital of Bocachico and even as Saudi Lorica, as a result of the arrival of Lebanese immigrants in the late nineteenth century.

Santa Cruz de Lorica is known by both its architectural majesty and by its gastronomy. Regarding gastronomy, the Bocachico fish is an elemental ingredient of typical dishes such as Bocachico Sinuano and Sancocho de Bocachico.

Besides, since the end of the XIX century and the beginning of the XX century, Lorica stood out as one of the great fluvial ports of the country. If you visit this town, we recommend you to visit the banks of the Sinu River, for a magical walk.

Below you will receive the necessary information you need to make the most of your wonderful visit to Santa Cruz de Lorica.

Heritage town of Colombia since 2010

The Land of Mixed Waters

Lorica was founded in 1740, and its historic center presents a mixture of Republican and Arabian styles, offering a beautiful spectacle to those who visit it. For its architectural beauty it was declared a National Monument in 1996.

In Lorica you can find beautiful places that transport the tourist to the Middle East, such as the Municipal Palace, the Cathedral and the Afife Matuk Building.

An emblematic place of Lorica, on the banks of the Sinu River, is its market square, also called the Ranchon, which not only offers the best of local cuisine, very varied indeed.

Lorica’s Jewels of architecture

Its architecture combines a style that merges the Republican with the vernacular and Mudejar, a mixture of Andalusian and Arabic constructions.  This place is a faithful exponent of a cultural legacy that shows the dynamics of the mid-twentieth century, product of the heyday of activities such as navigation and trade.

Its great architectural constructions are the legacy of some foreign settlers who imposed a unique stamp that has been maintained over the years. In fact, Syrian-Lebanese immigrants who, with the desire to build their own properties, gave shape to their culture and marked the identity of this region.

Sustainable Destination

In 2020, with support from FONTUR, the Historic Center of the municipality of Santa Cruz de Lorica was certified as a Sustainable Tourism Destination, after meeting the requirements of the Sustainable Tourism Sector Technical Standard NTS TS-001-1.

This represents a tool for the promotion and strengthening of the tourism sector in the destination, which allows to offer all visitors a quality tourism, generating confidence and satisfaction when walking the streets of this magical municipality.

Exploring Santa Cruz de Lórica

Santa Cruz de Lorica is on the list of “Network of Colombian Heritage Villages” a place full of history and culture. Lorica has a unique architecture between Republican and Lebanese, so it is charming to walk through its streets.

This town is located in the department of Córdoba, 60 km from Montería. It is recognized as the treasure of the Caribbean, for its important fluvial artery which is the Sinu River.

Bear in mind, the average temperature in Santa Cruz de Lórica is between 23 ºC (73ºF) to 35 ºC (95 ºF) and the best time of the year to visit Lórica is from mid-December to the end of March.

How to get to Santa Cruz de Lórica

Lorica that is located in the department of Córdoba, 63 kilometers from Montería and 55 from Sincelejo. There are two airports near to city you can arrive traveling from Bogota.

Bogotá – Monteria – Santa Cruz de Lórica

Take a 1,5-hours flight from El Dorado (BOG) in Bogotá to Los Garzones International Airport (MTR) at Monteria city. Once at in Monteria you take an approximately 1,5-hours ride (61 Km) to Santa Cruz de Lórica.

Bogotá – Tolú – Santa Cruz de Lórica

Take a 1.5 hour flight from El Dorado (BOG) in Bogotá to Golfo de Morrosquillo Airport (TLU) in the city of Tolú, with ADA Airlines. Once in Tolú, it takes approximately 35-minutes (30 km) to Santa Cruz de Lórica.

Where to stay in Santa Cruz de Lórica

In Santa Cruz de Lórica you can find hostels and hotels that preserve the local architecture, we recommend Hotel Boutique Beteska and Onoma Hotel.

Santa Cruz de Lórica Attractions and Activities

Historical Center

The most striking attraction with eclectic buildings of Arabic influence and similar to those found in the city of Cartagena. Their fine elements and details make them imposing.

Public Market

Built in 1929, this building of republican architecture with certain Arabian touches, covers an entire block of the historic center, located on the banks of the Sinu River. Due to its importance and uniqueness, the Government, in 1996, named it a national monument.

Parish of Santa Cruz de Lorica

Built before 1800, and had to be remodeled in 1896. An important fact for when you visit this parish is that its bells were brought from Portugal, the bronze images of the facade are of French origin, and the clock, brought from Italy, was donated by the Syrian-Lebanese colony around 1929.

Gonzalez Building

It was owned by one of the wealthiest families in the region. It has an area of 540 square meters and it displays a republican style which highlights the facade and its internal spaces. You can take beautiful pictures in this imposing building.

Lorica Club

It is located in a corner of the Plaza de la Cruz, formerly where the Syrian-Lebanese immigrants organized their social gatherings. Nowadays it is open to the population where nightly events are held.

Afife Matuk Building

Placed on the banks of the Sinu River and adjacent to the public market. This building was finished in 1929, and it remains intact to date. Inside, you will notice how the light blue and white colors stand out in small walls that separate each space, with arabesque figures. It also has a room with a large window where you can see the waters of the Sinu River.

The Malecon of Lorica

It is the complement of the patrimonial buildings of the Historical Center and the Public Market, it has an extension of 5 km around the banks of the Sinu River. It was declared of Cultural Interest in 1998; during your walk you will be able to appreciate the beauty of the river and the beautiful buildings.

Gastronomic delights in Lorica

Immigrants played an important role in Lorica’s gastronomy, so it is possible to enjoy very typical dishes of the region such as bocachico stew, the popular sarapa, mote de queso (whose main ingredient is Creole yam and coastal cheese) and food such as kibbes (prepared with ground beef, wheat, onion, mint, salt and pepper) that characterizes the immigrant culture.

Craft traditions in Lorica

In Lorica, primitivist painting is its maximum artistic expression. It reflects the popular imagination, dishes, objects and colors of the peasant culture. Its main exponent was Marcial Alegría Garcés, a man who dedicate himself to painting. Marcial’s paintings are present in more than 18 countries, becoming one of the emblems of Lorica’s art and tradition. You will appreciate his history and works in the village of San Sebastian. Marcial also applies his art to ornate pottery pieces that are made and sold there, as well as canvas paintings and wooden frames.

Nature Destinations Near Lorica

Lorica is surrounded by a complex landscape of swamps and marshes mixed with pastures with extensive cattle ranching and patches of flooded forests. The area is very susceptible to water level variations in the marshes and the Sinú River as a result of seasonal changes in rainfall. The main habitats in the region are swamps and marshes.

Visit the Nearby Marshes and Natural Reserves

34 km from the town you can visit the swamp of La Caimanera, with 2000 hectares of mangroves, herons and reptiles. it is possible to kayak and canoe along the river.

There is also La Leche swamp, ideal to see monkeys, snakes, tigers and deer.  Finally, the Sanguaré Natural Reserve, with 110 hectares of tropical dry forest surrounded by mangroves, coastal freshwater lagoons, sea grasses and reefs.

Ciénaga Grande de Lorica is another big swamp, which is home to numerous species of birds, mammals, fish and reptiles. It is shared by five municipalities and fed by lagoons and streams and the Sinu River. It has an extension of more than thirty thousand kilometers, and it is home to the Blue-winged Teal (Anas discors) when they arrive from Alaska.

Swamp complex of the western margin of the Sinú River

This region was declared Important Bird and Biodiversity Area (IBA). Despite conservation efforts, the land is mainly used for extensive cattle ranching and fishing, subsistence agriculture and timber extraction. From 1997 to 2002 a project on sustainable use of wildlife was developed in the Bañó swamp, where a community-based tourism program was key. However, the place has no the expected recognition as an ecotourism destination.

Birdwatching

Bañó marsh alone registers a total of 142 species of birds. However, the number of species may be higher, as many marshes remain uninventoried.

There are large flocks of Fulvous whistling duck (Dendrocygna bicolor), Black-bellied whistling duck (D. autumnalis), White-faced whistling duck (D. viduata) and a large number of waterfowl in general. The area is potentially important for reproduction and long-term maintenance of the Northern screamer (Chauna chavaria) population, as well as five other species of ducks. More than 20,000 waterbirds congregate there.

Other fauna

Besides birds, it is possible to find some threatened fauna species such as Neotropical otter (Lontra longicaudis) (DD), Gray-bellied night monkey (Aotus lemurinus griseimembra) (VU), Dahl’s toad-headed turtle (Phrynops dahli) (CR), Magdalena River turtle (Podocnemis lewyana) (EN), Hicotea (Trachemys scripta callirostris) (LR/nt). Two characteristic species of flora are: Pithecellobium lanceolatum and Thalia angustifolia.

Diving

There are more than 17 dive sites where you can admire the largest variety of virgin corals in the Caribbean, nurse and whitetip sharks, turtles, fire and brain corals. It stands out Bajo Bushnell, a reef where barracudas, giant gorgonians and horn coral colonies abound. Other interesting diving places are: Burbujas, Los Pargos, Grieta del Socorro, Fondo Loco, Bajo Mariajo, Los Venados, Los Bayones. Moreover, for advanced divers, Bartolo reef and El Orion.

Beatiful Beaches of Coveñas and Tolu

Thanks to its proximity you can visit Coveñas and Tolú. To get to Coveñas you must take a 45-minute (30 km) road trip. There you will be able to develop the following activities:

Relaxing at the beaches of Coveñas

The beaches you can visit in Coveñas are La Coquerita and Punta de Piedra. You can practice activities and sports such as jet skiing, scuba diving, donut riding, jet skiing, among others.

Marine Infantry Museum Park

It is a museum that has a very attractive architecture, where the work of the armed forces is exhibited as well as part of the history of the country. You can enjoy 22 exhibition rooms and other spaces where the history of the Colombian infantry is shown from independence to the present.

San Bernardo Archipelago

You can also visit this paradise, a group of islands in the Gulf of Morrosquillo where you can enjoy everything from gastronomy to water sports. For more information visit our blog Travel Guide to El Rosario and San Bernardo Corals National Natural Park.

Las Cuevas Toluviejo

There are 7 caverns where you can go spelunking and explore the mysteries hidden inside, also formed by millenary formations of stalactites, stalagmites and dolomites in its depths, dating from the Miocene and Pliocene periods.

If you want to plan your trip to Colombia do not hesitate to contact us, visit our Plan your trip page!

References
About the Authors

Sara Colmenares

The current director of Sula. Doctor in Biological Sciences. Her main interests are to explore and understand the organism-environment interactions, taking advantage of emerging knowledge for the management and conservation of species and ecosystem services. She is currently working as a consultant in functional ecology, ecosystem services, and conservation projects in Colombia related to ecotourism and birdwatching.

Luisa Martin

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

The Adventure’s and Extreme Sports’ Capital of Colombia: San Gil


San Gil is known as the “Tourist Capital of Santander”, as you will find adventure experiences and the possibility of extreme sports.

During your stay in San Gil you will learn about the history of the brave Guane tribe, which in the past inhabited these lands giving origin to the mestizaje (i.e. Miscegenation).

The town was founded in 1689 under the name of “Muy Noble y Leal Villa de Santa Cruz y San Gil de la Nueva Baeza” in the department of Santander, 103 kms from Bucaramanga capital of the department, and 300 kms from Bogota, capital of Colombia.

Below you will find the necessary information you need to make the most of your visit to San Gil.

Exploring San Gil, Santander, Colombia

Among the wonders you can find in San Gil are the Fonce, Suarez and Mogoticos rivers, as well as caves, waterfalls, trails, natural spas and parks, where you will explore and enjoy yourself to the fullest.

In fact, San Gil has cobblestone streets and gardens that decorate the landscape around the ceiba tree in the center of the town park. The historic center of San Gil, dates from the seventeenth century, and is declared a National Monument of Colombia.

It also has an average temperature of 21°C (69º F), making it a pleasant climate for tourists.

San Gil is only 32 km far from Barichara. So you can visit Barichara for a day trip and then return to San Gil in the evening. Know more about Barichara in our entry 9 Plans You Cannot Miss in Barichara.

Extreme and adventure sports in Colombia

Rafting in San Gil, Santander, Colombia

San Gil is the pioneer city of extreme and adventure sports in Colombia. In 1996 it began the commercial operation of rafting being the only destination in the country at that time.

There you can practice various extreme and adventure sports such as rafting, canoeing-rafting, torrentism, paragliding, caving, rappelling, canyoning, bungee jumping, mountain biking and motocross, among others.

It has the endowments of nature in areas such as waterfalls, rivers, natural caves, mountains and the great Chicamocha Canyon located just an hour from San Gil.

How to Get to San Gil

To get to San Gil by air from the main cities of Colombia (Bogota, Barranquilla, Medellin or Cali) you must take a commercial flight to the city of Bucaramanga.

Once in Bucaramanga, take an approximately 2,5-hours ride to San Gil.

If you want to travel by land to San Gil, be ready for a 309 km and approximately 7 hours road trip from Bogotá.

Natural Attractions and Activities in San Gil

Paragliding, San Gil, Santander, Colombia CC BY 2.0

1. El Gallineral Nature Park

El Gallineral is the only Natural Park within an urban perimeter in Colombia. It is a beautiful island formed by two branches of the Curití stream at the junction with the Fonce River.

The vegetation with heliconias and other wild flowers, its beautiful trees with hanging mosses create a paradise full of exotic landscapes. There are also cobblestone paths and colonial bridges which invite the visitor to walk and enjoy its fresh and romantic atmosphere.

At the Playita de la Piedra del Pato you can also enjoy the viewpoint where you can see the sailors passing by in the boats living the adventure of rafting.

It has a territorial extension of 4 hectares, where you will have the opportunity to go rafting on the Fonce River, hike through the caves La Antigua and El Alumbre, and visit the beautiful Pozo Azul.

The great variety of fauna and flora, is summarized in some species such as: Kapok tree (Ceiba pentandra), fig tree, heliconias, bromeliads and anthuriums.

Not to mention that the park is an ideal place for birdwatchers, with birds such as the Niceforo’s Wren (Thryophilus nicefori), Chestnut-bellied hummingbird (Amazilia castaneiventris), Amazonian motmot (Momotus momota), among many others.

The Gallineral Park is located next to the Fonce River boardwalk, following the right side of the road that leads from Bogota to Bucaramanga, less than 300 meters from the Rojas Pinilla Bridge. It is one of the most beautiful and attractive regional nature reserves in the country.

Inside the park you will find a restaurant, cafeteria, crafts and fun in the middle of nature.

2. Juan Curi Ecological Waterfall Park

The ecological park Cascadas de Juan Curí is located at kilometer 22 via San Gil – Charalá, in the department of Santander.

It is run by a family dedicated to adventure tourism, offering  lodging services, restaurant, ecological hikes, horseback riding, rafting and parking.

It stands out in the region for being a leader in the implementation of ecological activities, adventure and environmental awareness, without breaking with the environment, becoming known as one of the most sustainable places in the region.

There are waterfalls and a virgin jungle. Its main attraction is a large waterfall that exceeds 200 meters high. There you will be an interactive part of all its beauty and enjoy a refreshing swim in a natural well of more than 2 meters deep.

El Gallineral Park, San Gil, Santander, Colombia CC Licence

3. Guane Archaeological and Anthropological Museum of San Gil

Here you will have the opportunity to see a sample of the Guane ethnic group as well as walk through the corridors of the colonial house museum.

The museum is located in an old building. The cover is in stone, and it has two halls of a single plant. The building is made of brick, wood, cane and tile roof, and has large rooms. Its walls are white, painted with lime, and the floor is dark red tile.

Among the conservation samples are archaeological remains, sculptures, textiles and rock art made with colored earth. The most important objects are the young indigenous mummy, three unique jaguar cups, and fossils of fish, wood and giant ammonites.

4. Chicamocha National Park

The Chicamocha National Park is 60 km from San Gil, 1.5 hours by car. It is formed by several squares, where the spaces of the daily life of Santander are represented.

It is the second largest canyon in the world and has been nominated to be part of the 7 wonders of Colombia.

Know more about this park in our entry Discover the Chicamocha Canyon, the Largest Canyon in Colombia.

5. Paragliding at the Chicamocha Canyon

The flight takes place very close to the Chicamocha National Park. It is possible to reach heights of more than 2,000 m. If you are lucky with the right weather conditions you can enjoy beautiful landscapes such as the immensity of the canyon, mountains, the Chicamocha River that meets the Suarez River and Fonce River.

The average time for this activity is 20 to 30 minutes depending on weather conditions.

6. Trekking in San Gil

This is one of the most popular activities in San Gil, it is perfect to connect with nature on the road to Pinchote. In this trail you will find rappel, canyoning and mountaineering.

There is a 30-meter long suspension bridge 10 meters high, and an extreme staircase of 23 m. You will finish the trekking circuit with the second phase of the 225 m long cable flight until you reach a beautiful Kiosk.

7. Speleology at Vaca and Indio Caves

San Gil has 2 important caves that you can visit: Vaca and Indio.

The cueva Vaca is one of the jewels for caving in Colombia. In the cave you will cross cold water wells, watch bats and giant vaults. There you will be able to observe the formation of concave rocks such as stalactites and stalagmites, natural phenomena related with caves.

The Cueva del Indio is a magical subway place created over the years, where you can observe the beautiful rocky monuments known as stalactites and stalagmites. After crossing several obstacles along the way and connecting with the deepest part of the cave, the tour ends with a 3-meter jump into a well of icy water.

8. Rafting in the Suarez River

If you are a lover of adrenaline, nature and extreme experiences the Suarez river is ideal, as it can reach class v rapids, becoming one of the most visited places for rafting by travelers during their journey through South America.

This activity has an average of 2 hours of navigation on the Suarez river reaching iii, iv and v degrees.

9. San Gil Bicycle Tour

It is a tour of 15 km, with a duration of 5 hours and a medium-high degree of difficulty. Throughout the bike tour you will be surrounded by farms, coffee plantations, fruits and lots of nature.

10. Bungee Jumping in San Gil

Only 2 kilometers away via San Gil – Charalá, you will have the opportunity to go for bungee jumping on a metal structure 70 meters high over the waters of the Fonce river.

Find out more about extreme sports in Colombia in our vlog The Coolest Extreme Sports in Colombia – Colombian Travel Guide.

Where to Stay in San Gil

La Mansion Hostel, San Gil, Santander, Colombia

Most of the hotels can be found in the center of town. We recommend Campanario Hotel Boutique, La Mansion Hostel, Palmas del Zamorano, and Sunset Palm Lodge.

References
About the author

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

What to do in Santa Fe de Antioquia? Cultural and Natural Heritage

Known as the “Mother City”, Santa Fe de Antioquia is adorned with beautiful colonial architecture, cobblestone streets, colorful wooden windows everywhere you look and the majestic Puente de Occidente.

Santa Fe de Antioquia is on the list of Network of Colombian Heritage Villages, a place full of history and culture; it is considered “the cradle of the paisa culture and the mother of the Antioquia department”.

In this guide you will have the necessary information to visit this adorable small town.

Discovering Santa Fe de Antioquia

Founded with the name of “Antioquia” on December 4, 1541 by Marshal Jorge Robledo in the same place where a mining town that was called Santa Fe was originally located; only until 1584 it began to be called Santa Fe de Antioquia, due to the merger of the city of Antioquia and the town of Santa Fe.

Bear in mind, the average temperature in Santa Fe de Antioquia is 23 ºC (73ºF) and the dry season is between December and March.

How to get to Santa Fe de Antioquia

The town is located in the western sub-region of Antioquia, bordered on the north by the municipalities of Giraldo and Buriticá, on the northeast by the municipalities of Buriticá, Liborina and Olaya, on the east by the municipalities of Olaya and Sopetrán, on the south by the municipalities of Ebéjico, Anzá and Caicedo, and on the west by the municipalities of Caicedo, Abriaquí and Giraldo. In addition it is located approximately 58 kilometers (36 mi) north of Medellín.

Take a 1,5-hours flight from El Dorado (BOG) in Bogotá to José María Córdova International Airport (MDE) at Rio Negro city. Once in Rio Negro you take an approximately 3,5-hours ride (56 Km) to Santa Fe de Antioquia.

Where to stay in Santa Fe de Antioquia

There you will find numerous accommodation offerings for all budgets and personal tastes; our recommendations for you are:

Santa Fe de Antioquia Attractions and Activities

Puente de Occidente, Santa Fe de Antioquia, Colombia

1. Walk through the historic center

We recommend that you start the tour in the central square, having as a starting point the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, which is a construction of the nineteenth century and you will fall in love with its unparalleled beauty.

As you walk through the streets you can appreciate different restaurants where to taste the traditional local dishes and delicious desserts. In addition you will find small fruit and handicraft markets.

2. Visit the municipal house of Juan Antonio Mon y Velarde

It is currently the town hall which has an imposing architecture. There you will be able to enjoy its garden and appreciate its beauty walking or taking a seat in the central part of the house.

3. Photographic session of the house of the Gómez Martínez family

It is one of the most recognized houses of Santa Fe de Antioquia and you will be able to recognize it by its majestic walls made of stone, brick and real mixture.

Being one of the largest houses, it is also the most used as a photographic scenery for tourists, so do not miss the opportunity to take a beautiful picture in its imposing wooden windows.

4. Visit the churches of Santa fe de Antioquia

Temple of Our Lady of Chiquinquirá

You must walk to the Plazuela de la Chinca 3 blocks from the main park, there you will find the Martinez Pardo Park where the church is located. The church of Our Lady of Chiquinquirá, built between 1863 and 1868 is well known for its neoclassical architecture with baroque details.

Santa Barbara Church

This beautiful church made of stone is located next to the religious museum, inside is the altar of the Virgin of Anguish with her son in her arms after being taken down from the cross. You will fall in love with its internal and external beauty.

5. Visiting the museums of Santa Fe de Antioquia

One of the museums that you cannot miss is the Juan del Corral Museum where you will be able to learn about the history of the city and appreciate pre-Columbian pieces of the region. Admission is free of charge.

Another museum you can visit is the Francisco Cristóbal Toro Museum of Religious Art, where you will see important works of the colony, pieces of gold and silver work. In addition to having 2 beautiful rooms, a room dedicated to Mother Laura and another to Holy Week in Colombia.

6. Visit the bridge Puente de Occidente

One of the most popular attractions in town. Just 5 km from downtown you will find this architectural jewel of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, considered one of the most important ancient engineering works of the country. It is 291 meters long, allowing you to cross Cauca River.

Cauca River in Santa Fe de Antioquia

7. Outdoors and Nature Activities

Among other activities you can do in Santa Fe de Antioquia are the following:

Horseback riding

you can make a tour through the town on horseback, you can also cross the western bridge above or below the western bridge, where the horses will allow you to be in contact with the Cauca River.

Hiking

With the help of a guide you can hike in the nearby or rural areas of the town; you should bring comfortable clothes and hydration for the hikes.

Rafting

There are 2 important rivers near the town, Cauca and Tonusco, where you can do this aquatic activity; there you will have the opportunity to live a pleasant moment with all the protection and security of the case.

Visit to a vineyard

Visit the Sicilia Vineyard, which is located 45 km from the town. When you arrive at the vineyard you will have the opportunity to learn about the whole process of harvesting and production of high quality wines.

When you finish the tour you will be able to enjoy a glass of wine and if you wish you can stay in the beautiful facilities or take an afternoon of relaxation in a Wine spa.

Bicycle tours

Make a wonderful tour both in the cobblestone streets of the town and in the rural areas; each tour lasts approximately 4 to 5 hours accompanied by a guide.

Paragliding and hot-air balloon flights

Since there are high points in the mountains around the town it is possible to do these activities. With the support of specialized guides you will have a magical experience of paragliding or hot-air balloon flights over the valley of Tonusco.

Important events in Santa Fe de Antioquia

Holy Week

If you wish to visit Santa Fe de Antioquia during the holy week season you will be able to appreciate the beautiful cultural representations of this religious town happening during these dates. The processions are performed by faithful parishioners who respectfully interpret each role with the utmost respect and devotion that this date deserves.

Los Diablitos Festivity

At the end of each year, to be more exact the last 9 days of the year, the Fiesta de los Diablitos is celebrated; where different people dress up as striking devils with wide clothes and elaborate paper hair; they interact with the public that observes them in their daily parades through the center of town.

Santa Fe de Antioquia is a small town that will make you fall in love with its cultural offer and the quality of its inhabitants, you will also get to know the roots of the paisa people. Plan your trip with us!

References
About the author

Luisa Martin

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

9 Plans You Cannot Miss in Barichara

Barichara is on the list of Network of Colombian Heritage Villages, besides being one of the most beautiful villages nationwide thanks to its bohemian and colorful Andalusian style architecture.

Barichara is an excellent destination for a quiet place with a magical and photogenic atmosphere.

The town grow around the church built in 1751 on account of a supposed apparition of the Virgin. Initially it was called Vare – florence, then Vara-echada and finally Barichara, which means “Place for rest” in Guane dialect which is a derivative of Chibcha.

Barichara is built on stone. Its streets, houses, temples and especially the cemetery, a prominent place for its railings and windows, are built with yellow stone.

The cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in memory of the Virgin of the rock is a unique work, and the historic center of Barichara was declared a national monument on August 3, 1978.

In this guide you will have the necessary information to make the most of your visit in Barichara

The Diversity of Barichara

Barichara is a town in the northern Andes of Colombia with about 5,000 inhabitants. Approximately 90% of Barichara’s architecture is built by the tapia pisada technique, an ancestral procedure of building with earth, without the support of wooden pieces or any other material.

This town is located on a plateau of around 40,000-50,000 hectares, where historically there was a tropical dry forest, a type of threatened ecosystem that is in danger of disappearing from the Earth. Today, 98% of the forest is destroyed and urgently needs to be restored.

The Aquileo Parra Association – Friends of Barichara, is a non-profit organization that has the purpose of preserving the historical and touristic heritage of Barichara. It also defends the natural resources and the ecological reconstruction of the Tropical Dry Forest in the Bioparque Móncora project.

Temperatures in Barichara range between 19°C (66º F) and 28°C (82º F).

How to get to Barichara

Barichara locates in the department of Santander, 121 km from Bucaramanga capital of the department, and 350 km from Bogota, capital of Colombia.

To get to Barichara by air from the main cities of Colombia (Bogota, Barranquilla, Medellin or Cali) you must take a commercial flight to the city of Bucaramanga. Once in Bucaramanga, you take an approximately 3,5-hours ride to Barichara.

Where to stay in Barichara

Most of the hotels can be found in the historic center of town, where we recommend the following alternatives:

Casa del Presidente Hotel

Barichara Attractions and Activities

1. Participate in workshops

Tapia Pisada

In the Villa del Alfarero you can experience the tradition of the typical construction of the village.

You will have a conversation where you will learn about the history and recommendations on the manufacturing process, besides having a tour of the village where you will be able to build a wall of Tapia from the time of preparation of the land to the assembly of the bricks made.

Bahareque

In this workshop you will learn about the millenary indigenous technique of Bahareque, through the oral tradition inherited from the indigenous Guanes tribe, inhabitants of this region.

During the workshop you will be taken on a tour of a real Bahareque construction and be able to touch its walls, caña brava, terrones, tree root ties, Fiquetones.

After having the theoretical knowledge of the technique you can put it into practice by building part of a wall.
At the end of the workshop you will take a bath, since you will be in contact with a lot of mud. So please bring along a pair of clean clothes.

Mud and adobe tile making

In the workshop you will be teach to identify 4 types of soil (Clay, Gredosa, Fine and Sandy) required for the elaboration of the tiles.
You will visit an ancestral oven with a production capacity of 4,000 units during 60 continuous hours of combustion, day and night, where temperatures reach over 1200 degrees Celsius.

You will get an explanation from the instructors of each of the steps in the production process where you can have a contact with the clay in each of the steps until you reach the firing point.

Typical cooking

In this workshop you will be able to have a direct contact with the typical gastronomy of Barichara. You will have the opportunity to learn about the production process of the following products and interact with the raw material: Typical Barichara cookies, “Arepas de maíz pelao” (corn), Pan artesanal, Sancocho de Gallina.

2. Visit the church and chapel of Barichara

Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception of Barichara.

You will see this beautiful and unusual 18th century Spanish colonial cathedral built entirely of yellow stone. Despite being a giant cathedral for the population of the town it is a place that will amaze you from the moment you enter and if you wait to see the sunset you will marvel at the beautiful ocher tone it takes at sunset.

This cathedral is a unique work, and it is supported by 10 monolithic columns carved with 5 meters high and 70 cm wide.

Visit the chapel of Santa Barbara

You want to know a beautiful chapel of the XVII century which is the scene of many marriages in the town due to its decoration with golden leaf, with arabesque, Moors and inverted flowers; which makes it a magical atmosphere for beautiful ceremonies. It is located 4 blocks from the main park of the town.

3. Visit the viewpoint of Barichara, the Salto del Mico.

Just 10 minutes walk from downtown you can enjoy a beautiful viewpoint where you will be able to appreciate the Suarez River Canyon, the Serrania de los Yariguies National Natural Park, and the municipalities of Galan, La Fuente and Zapatoca.

4. Visit the cemetery of Barichara

It is not usually one of the favorite plans of many people, but both the cemetery of Mompox and Barichara are considered one of the most beautiful in the country.

As well as all the construction of the town based on stone the cemetery is not the exception, during your tour inside the cemetery you will be able to appreciate beautiful stone carved tombstones and beautiful colonial structures.

5. Hiking Barichara – Cabrera

This tour is done through the road of Via crucis in the middle of a beautiful forest to reach the municipality of Cabrera; its duration is 6 hours with a medium degree of difficulty.

Besides, there you will be able to appreciate different types of butterflies and birds, among them you can have the possibility to see the Nicéforo’s wren (Thryophilus nicefori), an endemic bird species of Santander.

6. Tobacco Tour

It is important to know that the department of Santander is considered the largest producer of tobacco in Colombia with 50% of national production.

In the rural area of Barichara it is possible to find a farm where you can take a tour for 3 hours where you can see the different processes of development of the seedling (harvesting and maturation of tobacco).

7. Trekking in Barichara

You will have the opportunity to make a trekking in the middle of the fossils and the royal stone roads during three days, having as starting point Barichara to Los Yariguíes National Natural Park.

This tour should be done during three days, has a medium degree of difficulty and a total distance covered of approximately 40 km with an average daily walking time of 5 hours.

You can visit the village of Guane until you reach Zapatoca crossing the majestic Saravita river and the Lengerke II road. From Zapatoca you will make the last trip to Los Yariguíes National Natural Park.

8. Rafting Rio Suarez

This fantastic plan has a duration of 5 hours, has 8 fast currents with unique waves in the country; you will be enjoying one of the best rivers to develop this activity. Keep in mind that this activity can only be done by people over 18 years old.

9. Horseback riding

You can make horseback riding tours throughout the day, starting at 5:00 a.m. to appreciate the sunrise or at the last hour at 6:00 p.m.

The cobblestone streets and beautiful landscapes will accompany you on your tours and with the support of the guides you will learn more about this treasure of Colombia.

Thanks to the proximity between San Gil and Barichara of only 32 km you can choose to enjoy a full day of adventure activities that San Gil offers, and then at night return to Barichara.

For more information about the activities and everything you need to know about San Gil visit The Adventure’s and Extreme Sports’ Capital of Colombia: San Gil.

References
Luisa Martin

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

 

Salt Deserts, Salt Mines and the Salt Cathedral of Colombia

From Bolivia to Namibia, there are few but enormous salt deserts in the world that can be visited, just as there are few salt mines in the world that open their doors to tourists. In Colombia you can find both, from sea level to the Andes mountains.

We invite you to take this tour through the salt deserts and salt mines of Colombia.

The Importance of Salt

The real value of salt, regardless of domestic consumption, which is marginal, lies in the fact that it is a fundamental input in at least a hundred industrial processes, ranging from the manufacture of balanced feed to detergents, glass and tannery treatment.

Colombia produces some 540,000 tons of salt annually, a relatively small figure. Forty percent of Colombia’s salt comes from the Zipaquirá, Nemocón, Upín and Galerazamba mines, while the remaining 60 percent is extracted from Manaure in La Guajira.

History of Salt Mines in Colombia

Origins of Salt Deposits in the Cretaceous Period

Salt deposits in the Andes are believed to have been left by ground movements during the Cretaceous, 200 million years ago, when the Eastern Cordillera was lifted, and large marine lakes were left to dry and sediment, until they were finally covered by a thick layer of earth.

Muisca economic values – Salt. Picture by: cultura10.org

Importance of Salt for the Muiscas

If there was one commodity that was prized by the indigenous people before the conquest, it was salt. This product was used in the barter system by the Muiscas.

Such was its value that salt allowed the creation of a network of roads and meeting places between indigenous markets where the product was exchanged for others such as corn, gold, ceramics or cotton. There was even a commercial relationship with coastal communities to exchange mine salt for sea salt.

The routes used by the Indians were around the Magdalena River, which connects the northern region of the country with the Muiscas in the Andes.

Salt was so important that for the Zipa and Zaque, the indigenous kings, territories such as Zipaquirá or Nemocón were the crown jewels and allowed them access to many luxuries that their geographical location denied them, including emeralds, fish and peacock feathers, among others.

Salt During the Spanish Colony

Later, salt became much more important among the Spaniards, who used it frequently, among other things, to preserve foodstuffs in the absence of refrigeration.

Salt During Colombia’s Independence

Later on, the income from the salt produced in Zipaquirá helped to finance the independence struggles. Salt was so important that during the 20’s of the last century, this activity was under the tutelage of the recently founded Bank of the Republic, as if it were the monetary policy of the time.

Recent History of Salt Mines in Colombia

In the 1970s, the salt monopoly remained in the hands of the state. Today the mines are managed by private industries.

Apart from its economic importance, and its exploitation as a natural resource, today the salt mines and brines are important tourist destinations in Colombia, the most outstanding being the Salt Cathedral of Zipaquirá, Colombia’s first Wonder of the World.

So if you were wondering in which country is the Salt Cathedral, well here is your answer, it is in Colombia!

Marine Salt Mines of Colombia

An unforgettable visit to the pink seas and salt deserts of Colombia, a universe of landscapes and surreal beauty.

Manaure

The salt mine of Manaure is the department of La Guajira, in the Caribbean coast of Colombia. Manaure is the largest salt mine in Colombia, producing around 300,000 tons of salt per year. These mines are also an important part of the Wayuu indigenous people’s culture.

When you arrive at the salt mine of Manaure you will find an amazing salt desert. Besides, there is the big machinery pumping for the extraction of salt. Your guide will explain each of the salt extraction processes during the visit.

The main attraction of this maritime salt mine is the pink tone of its waters. This is due to the algae, small crustaceans and microorganisms which turn the water pink. Those amazing organisms are capable of withstanding these high levels of salinity.

At the end of the tour, you can go to the nearby beaches of Mayapo and El Pajaro. Both are quiet beaches with white sands and aquamarine green sea.

If you want to know more about other activities you can do near the Salina Manaure, check out our blogs: Travel Guide to Los Flamencos Fauna & Flora Sanctuary in ColombiaTravel Guide to Macuira: The Cloud Forest Oasis in La Guajira Desert and Northern Caribbean Birding Route.

How to get to Salinas de Manaure

Take a 1-hour flight from El Dorado International Airport (BOG) Bogotá to Almirante Padilla International Airport (RCH) at Riohacha city. Once at the airport, take an approximately 1,5- hours (74 km) ride to Manaure.

Colombia’s Pink Sea: Galerazamba

The famous Pink Sea of Colombia is located in Galerazamba, Santa Catalina, department of Bolivar, between the cities of Cartagena and Barranquilla. It is 54 km from the city Cartagena and 67 km from the city of Barranquilla. It is an also located 15 min (4 km) from the famous Totumo volcano.

Galerazamba is known as “the pink sea of Colombia”. Like Manaure saline, it is pink. The color is given by the beta carotenes produced by a halophilic microalgae, i.e. salt lover microbes.

The mine opens Monday to Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. and on weekends the entrance starts at 8:00 a.m. The best time to visit this salt mine is in two seasons, one from December to April and the other from August to September.

How to get to Salina Galerazamba

Take a 1,5-hours flight from El Dorado (BOG) in Bogotá to Rafael Nuñez International Airport (CTG) at Cartagena city. Once at in Cartagena you take an approximately 1h30min ride (54 Km) to Salina Galerazamba.

Underground Salt Mines of Colombia

An unforgettable walk to the depths of the earth, descending through mining tunnels that support the mountain, you will know the most surprising corners of the Salt Mine, a universe of knowledge and sensations.

Nemocón Salt Mine

This beautiful salt mine is located near the municipality of Nemocón, in the department of Cundinamarca. The mine has more than 500 years of history underground and is considered a natural wonder thanks to its vernacular architecture, material testimony of the traditional subway mining. It opened its doors to the public 38 years ago.

The entrance door to the mine is a large German door 3 meters high, which is supported by thick trunks of eucalyptus. The eucalyptus trunks are still there because the salt filtered through the plant fibers. Then salt got solid and now the trunks are stronger than the rock.

Inside you will find the salt waterfall, more than 80 years old, and the spring or wishing well, which are some of their main scenarios. This is a magical thematic, mining, cultural, historical and scientific tour.

How to get to Nemocón Salt Mine

To get to the sanctuary you must take a 1 -hour road trip from the city of Bogotá to the town of Nemocón, total distance of 59 km. When you are in Nemocón you walk for 800 m until you reach the access point of the Nemocón Salt Mine.

Zipaquirá Salt Mine and the Salt Cathedral

This wonderful salt mine is located in the municipality of Zipaquira, in the department of Cundinamarca. It is in the middle of the Cerro del Zipa at 2,652 meters above sea level and has an average temperature of 14ºC (57º F).

When you access the mine you can feel the mineral smell and the whole environment is dark. In the inside, artificial highlights illuminate the carved rock and tunnels.

You will find beautiful sculptures carved by the miners. Among them there is La Piedad, whose face has strong indigenous features, in honor to the Muiscas. Also, you cannot miss is the water mirror, where light gives a fascinating optical effect over the water.

The Salt Cathedral

The Salt Cathedral of Zipaquirá is the result of salt deposits in the mountains of the municipality with more than 200 million years old. To build it, more than 250,000 tons of salt rock were extracted. And one of its great attractions is that this deposit is the largest reserve of rock salt in the world.

In 2007, the Salt Cathedral won a contest to choose the Seven Wonders of Colombia. In addition, it was also nominated among the Seven Wonders of the Modern World.

This mine is a subway universe where you can find 8,500 square meters of a rich artistic collection, where the delicacy of art and the roughness of mining work result in sculptures carved on salt and marble in an architectural, cultural and natural environment.

Catholic Paths

The first is the Stations of the Cross, which commemorates the Way to Golgotha of Jesus Christ with his Cross. The second section mades up of the dome. From there you can see the 16-meter high cross carved in bas-relief at a distance of 145 meters. You can descend to the balconies over the chambers, the choir and the stairs of the labyrinth of the Narthex.

The final section leads to the center of the cathedral. A work carved in marble called The Creation of Man, a tribute to Michelangelo, locates there. Besides there are four huge cylindrical columns symbolizing the four evangelists, crossed by a crack symbolizing the nativity and descent of Christ.

The Salt Park

Although the Cathedral itself becomes Zipaquirá’s main tourist attraction, it is part of “El Parque de la Sal”, a thematic cultural space dedicated to mining, geology and natural resources.

The park has 32 hectares and is a unique natural reserve with green spaces, surrounded by nature with corners for resting and sports activities.

Some of the most important sites of the Salt Park are the Brine Museum, the Climbing Wall, the Miner’s Route, the Guasá 3D Movie, the Water Mirror, and the Light Show, where you can admire the impressive system of lights and sound throughout the tour, which further enhances this architectural and cultural icon.

Essensal: A Salt Spa

At the end of the tour you will find Essensal, a relaxation and wellness center where you can find a complete salt-based personal care scheme. It includes natural cosmetic products, body care and relaxation items, and different relaxing massage options focused on wellness.

From the moment you enter the mine, you will experience pleasant sensations of tranquility and harmony, while breathing pure air rich in natural microelements.

How to get to Zipaquirá Salt Mine

To get to the sanctuary you must take a 46-minutes road trip from the city of Bogotá to the town of Zipaquirá, total distance of 43 km. When you are in Zipaquirá you must take a 15-minutes road trip of 4 km to Catedral de Sal de Zipaquirá.

You can also take a tour with the Savannah Train Turistren.

Riverine Salt Mines of Colombia

Upín Salt Mine

Located in the department of Meta very close to the municipality of Restrepo, it is the least explored salt mine in Colombia, so we recommend that you do not miss the opportunity to discover it.

In the deposits you will be able to appreciate a salt water spring where you can see the liquid is transported to some cauldrons where it is exposed to high temperatures to evaporate.

This is also a good Birdwatching spot in Meta.

How to get to Mina de sal de Upín

Take a 1-hour flight from El Dorado (BOG) in Bogotá to La Vanguardia Airport (VVC) at Villavicencio city. Once at in Villavicencio you take an approximately 40-minutes ride (18 Km) to Restrepo,when you are in Restrepo you must take a 10-minutes road trip of 3 km to Mina de sal de Upín.

References
  • Colparques
  • Catedral de Sal
  • Portafolio
  • Expotur-eco
About the authors

Sara Colmenares

The current director of Sula. Doctor in Biological Sciences. Her main interests are to explore and understand the organism-environment interactions, taking advantage of emerging knowledge for the management and conservation of species and ecosystem services. She is currently working as a consultant in functional ecology, ecosystem services, and conservation projects in Colombia related to ecotourism and birdwatching.

Luisa Martin

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

Best Nature Spots Around the 18 Heritage Towns of Colombia

The Heritage Towns of Colombia are part of the Cultural Heritage of our country. Although this is their main and greatest attraction, you should know that each of them has beautiful natural attractions that are also part of our natural heritage.

That is why in this blog we will tell you what activities in nature you can do when you visit each of the Heritage Towns of Colombia.

If you want to know more about the heritage towns and their cultural attractions read our post Complete Guide to the 17 Heritage Towns of Colombia.

Introduction

Throughout the Colombian territory you will have the opportunity to explore 18 magical towns, where you will be able to learn about the extensive history, culture and architecture of the country.

18 opportunities to connect with people from different regions to marvel at unique landscapes, walk along cobblestone roads in historic towns and discover churches built hundreds of years ago. They’re the perfect place to experience new cultures and destinations hand in hand with the most biodiverse country in the world.

Heritage Towns in the Caribbean Corridor of Colombia

1. Santa Cruz de Mompox – Bolivar

Mompox is one of the most important trading points in the whole country. This heritage town has a high religious and historical tourism.

It is located in Isla Margarita and has the protection of the imposing waters of the Magdalena River. It is believed that it was once the settlement of the Malibu indigenous tribe.

Nature Activities and Attractions in Mompox:

  1. During your visit you should not miss the beautiful churches found in the town, as well as The Museum of Religious Art.
  2. Mompox has The Museum of Religious Art, where you will be able to appreciate various religious relics made of silver and gold are exhibited in the museum.
  3. One hour away by boat you will enjoy the Ciénaga de Pijiño, where you will be able to see the local flora and fauna.

Our recommendations for hotels in Mompox: Hotel Nieto Mompox Riverfront, La Gloria Hotel by BespokeColombia and Café Mompox – Colonial House.

2. Ciénaga – Magdalena

It is located very close to the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta and on the shores of the Caribbean Sea, in this town has earned the title of “The capital of magical realism”, as it was the place that inspired Gabriel Garcia Marquez in his masterpiece, One Hundred Years of Solitude.

Nature Activities and Attractions in Ciénaga:

  1.  You can walk through each of the streets of the town and use your imagination to transport you through each of the scenes of Gabo’s book and let yourself be carried away by the magic of literature and the beautiful buildings.
  2. Bird watching in Salamanca Island Park.
  3. Nueva Venecia, it is a place of floating houses and you can only move with the help of a spear and go through the few “aquatic streets”.
  4. The Volcano hot springs, is considered a sacred place for both the inhabitants of the sector and the surrounding indigenous communities; it is located 15 minutes by car and is the only hot springs on the Caribbean coast and reach a temperature of 43° Celsius (109° Fahrenheit).

Our recommendations for hotels in Cienaga: Casa D’Remedios La Bella Hotel Boutique and Hotel Bellavista Cienaga.

Heritage Towns in the Golfo de Morrosquillo and Sabana Corridor of Colombia

3. Santa Cruz de Lorica – Cordoba

One of the most striking features of this town is the architecture of the historic center, it has a republican and Arabic style.

It is also known as the spell of Sinu, due to the Lebanese and Syrian immigrants, who contributed to the cultural development, without leaving aside that it is also called “the city of Bocachico” due to the local fish of the town.

Nature Activities and Attractions in Lórica:

  • Afife Matuk, is one of the most characteristic houses of the town for its Syrian-Lebanese style, its columns take you to travel hundreds of kilometers forgetting that you are in Colombia.
  • Lorica Church, the strong Arab influence of the town has made the main church has a very different style to many others in the country.
  • Market of Lorica, is located on the river which makes you have a unique experience in gastronomic and cultural issues, there besides buying the things you need you can also taste delicious local food.
  • Visit Blanca Beach and the rural banks of the Sinú River.

Our recommendations for hotels in Lorica: Hotel Boutique Beteska and Hotel Hausen.

Heritage Towns in the Northwest Region of Colombia

4. La Playa de Belén – Norte de Santander

This beautiful town is nationally recognized for two factors, the white facades of its houses as well as the Unique Natural Area Los Estoraques, a strange but beautiful landscape of giant rock formations.

Nature Activities and attractions in Playa de Belen:

  1. The estoraques is the main attraction of this town, where you can appreciate gigantic rock formations of geological origin, which create caves and labyrinths.
  2. If you wish to have a beautiful view of the town and the estoraques, the Mirador Los Muertos offers you an unforgettable view, where you can wait for the sunset and fall in love with the tone that the facades take when the sun goes down.
  3. Varagúa Natural Park, is the place where you will be able to learn about the composition of the flora and fauna of the town as well as walk through trails that will make you fall in love with its great diversity.

Our recommendations for hotels in Playa de Belen: Finca Hotel Casa Real, Orquídeas Plaza Hotel and Yaragua.

5. Barichara – Santander

Barichara is considered the most beautiful town in Colombia, it is a charming place for lovers of photography and colonial architecture. Its name, which comes from the Guane dialect, derived from the Chibcha, means “place for rest”.

Nature Activities and Attractions in Barichara

  1. You can enjoy the viewpoints present in the town, such as the Salto del Mico, which is not far from the center of town.
  2. You can also visit the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, considered one of Baricharás must see.
  3. If hiking is within your hobbies, Barichara’s Lengerke trail, a walk of approximately 2 hours that continues to the towns of Guane and Zapatoca is highly recommended;
  4. Visit the cemetery, it is not a plan that many tourists usually do but the cemetery of Barichara will enchant you with its beautiful architecture.
  5. 10 minutes away by car you will be able to enjoy Moncora Biopark, where you will have a plan to connect with nature and you can do bird watching.

Our recommendations for hotels in Barichara: Hotel Hicasua and Convention Center, Hotel Buenos Aires Barichara, Hospedaje Donde Lorenzo, Hotel Campestre Ataraxia Barichara and Hotel Terra Barichara.

For a more detailed guide to get the most out of Barichara read the following blog Driving from La Guajira to Mompox and Barichara.

6. San Juan de Girón – Santander

This beautiful town is located 9 Km from the capital of the department, Bucaramanga, where you can have the opportunity to appreciate houses and constructions of the XVI, XVII and XVIII centuries.

This led to this city being declared a National Monument in 1963.

Nature Activities and Attractions in Girón:

  • Colonial Bridges, Giron has 6 colonial bridges that are still in use today and connect the different areas of the town.
  • El Humedal del Pantano, in this wetland you can have all the information of the flora and fauna of the region.
  • Las Iguanas Waterfall, this beautiful waterfall is made up of stones located in a special way that make it a jewel of the department of Santander, you can visit just 30 minutes from the center of town.

Our hotel recommendations: Macaregua Hotel Boutique and Hotel Las Nieves.

7. Socorro – Santander

It is considered one of the most important historical towns in the independence of the country, and hometown to many of the heroes of rebellion who fought for independence, among which is the heroine Manuela Beltran.

Socorro’s streets still have a colonial republican style where you can still feel the courage of a people that took the first steps for the revolution of the country.

Nature Activities and Attractions in Socorro:

  1. Socorro has the most traditional independence park in the country, since it is known that the Comuneros (a warlike group that rebelled against the Spanish Empire) began to gather here.
  2. The Cathedral Nuestra Señora del Socorro is one of the largest 19th century constructions in the country, an ideal place to take excellent photographs due to its architecture and beauty.
  3. The Suarez River is a natural attraction 30 minutes away from the center of town where you will be able to relax and have contact with the nature of the sector, in addition to water activities such as rafting and canoeing.
  4. Socorro is very close to the municipality of Curuti so you can visit a cave that is located on the border of these two municipalities, you can perform activities of speleology with the support of the guides of the municipality.

Our recommendations for hotels in Socorro: Hospedaje Los Capuchinos, Hotel Villa Del Socorro and La Serrana Hostal Spa.

Heritage Towns in Antioquia – Chocó Corridor of Colombia

8. Santa Fe de Antioquia-Antioquia

It is considered the heritage town with more history of Colombia, as it was considered the center of economic and cultural development of the region.

It was formerly the capital of the department of Antioquia, besides being one of the best preserved towns in Antioquia in its traditional architecture.

Nature Activities and Attractions in Santa Fe de Antioquia

  1. Your tour through the streets of this beautiful town will leave you amazed, thanks to its architecture in large balconies and huge carved wooden doors.
  2. Walking across the Cauca river over the Puente de Occidente will be a plan that you will love, the beautiful structure will amaze you, besides being the scene of beautiful photographs.
  3. Birdwatching

Our recommendations for hotels in Santa Fe de Antioquia: Hotel Arena Santa Fe de Antioquia, Hotel la Ardilla de Santa Fe and Hotel Santa Barbara Colonial.

If you want to have a more detailed guide to make the most of Santa Fe de Antioquia read the following blog 2021 Medellin Colombia Travel Guide from the Experts.

9. Jerico – Antioquia

It is one of the most important religious tourist destinations in the country; Jerico was also the birthplace of the holy mother, Laura Montoya Upegui. It is a beautiful colorful town with 17 temples that adorn the religiosity of its inhabitants.

Nature has also been generous with Jerico, its tutelary hills are a favorite destination for hikers and ecology lovers. And its Main Park, one of the most beautiful in Antioquia, preserves an architecture that evokes the best years of the coffee culture.

Nature Activities and Attractions in Jerico:

  1.  If you want to learn more about the history and religious culture of the town you cannot miss the Archaeological Museum of the Southwest and the House of Culture of Monsignor Pompilio Gallego Arboleda.
  2. One of the most striking attractions of the town is its beautiful Nuestra Señora de Las Mercedes Cathedral, which stands out for its orange tones on the roof contrasting with the mountains surrounding the town.
  3. Los Balsos Botanical Garden, a place where you can learn about the fauna of the town and the species that are present there.
  4. The viewpoint of Cristo Redentor is the highest view of the town, after a walk you will have the most beautiful panoramic view of the town.
  5. Hikes in Morro El Salvador, Río Piedras, Chorros de Quebradona.
  6. Visiting Las Playas Spa.
  7. Paragliding, Paramotoring, Hang Gliding, Mountain bike.
  8. Cerro Tusa and Jerico Helicopter Tour.
  9. Ecological tour of the Coffee and Rainbow waterfall in Jericó.
  10. Hike in Las Nubes Natural Park at sunset in Jericó

Our recommendations for hotels in Jerico: Hotel Santa Laura, Hotel Atenas Jericho, El Despertar Hotel, Hotel de Cauca Viejo and Cabañas y Flores.

10. Jardín – Antioquia

Jardin has beautiful colonial architecture, which is surrounded by overwhelming green landscapes. Ecotourism is one of its strong points. It is also a perfect place to see and photograph the “Andean Cock-of-the-Rock”.

The central square of Jardin will fascinate you, you will find that the landscapes that can be appreciated seem to be from a beautiful fantasy book, besides its houses and buildings have remained almost untouched for a century.

Nature Activities and Attractions in Jardin:

  1. To enjoy its colorful streets and beautiful architecture we recommend a tour in a Tuk Tuk, where the drivers can show you around every corner of the town for 2 hours.
  2. Visit the Basilica Menor La Inmaculada Concepción, this beautiful gothic style basilica (named as such by Pope John Paul II himself) will enchant you and when you are inside the beautiful decoration will leave you breathless.
  3. Among the hiking plans Jardin offers them in the outskirts of the town, there you will be able to visit La Cueva del Esplendor, Salto del Angel and have a contact with an Embera indigenous community.
  4. Among the ecological plans you will be able to visit the Jardín de Rocas Natural Reserve, where you can go bird watching and see the habitat of the beautiful Andean Cock of the Rock (Rupicola peruvianus).
  5. Birdwatching and visit the Proaves Nature Bird Reserve Yellow-eared Parrot (Ognorhynchus icterotis)
  6. Around the town you can visit natural reserves, ravines and caves where you can take speleological tours.

Our recommendations for hotels in Jardin: Hosteria El Paraiso, Hotel Jardin Antioquia, Hotel Kantarrana Urbana Jardin and Hotel Diana Campestre.

Heritage Towns in the Coffee Cultural Landscape (PCC) of Colombia

11. Aguadas – Caldas

This magical heritage town is nationally and internationally recognized for its traditional aguadeño hat made from the iraca palm, besides being the site of the National Colombian Pasillo Festival.

Besides, Aguaduas is known as the “City of Fog” as it is often surrounded by thick fog.

Nature Activities and Attractions in Aguaduas:

  1. The most important tourist attraction of the town is Guayacanes, a place of beautiful trees with colorful leaves, a great place for excellent photographs.
  2. Francisco Giraldo Cultural Center, is a museum that was built in the XVIII century, where you can appreciate relics of the aborigines that once inhabited the area.
  3. Museo Nacional del Sombrero, due to its typical hat the town has a museum where you will learn about the origins and elaboration process from the oldest technique to the evolution it has had until today.
  4. Cerro Tutelar del Pipintá Cerro Monserrate, from an approximate height of 2,270 meters above sea level you can have a spectacular 360 º view, from there on clear days you can see the Nevado del Ruiz, Pácora, La Vereda el Morro, Castile, Marmato.
  5. La Chorrera Waterfall, on the outskirts of Aguaduas 9 km from the center of town you can meet a spectacular waterfall of 50 meters high, there you can take a shower and spend a pleasant moment.
  6. Petroglyphs El Dorado, during a 30 minutes drive you can reach a rural area where you will find caves with pictograms of more than 450 years old, it is a place that you can only visit under the supervision of authorized guides to protect these relics of the ancestors.

Our recommendations for hotels in Aguaduas: Paraiso Tropical and Casa Blanca Hotel.

12. Salamina – Caldas

Built on the top of a hill in the department of Caldas and its strategic construction makes many of its corners a fascinating viewpoint. It is a magical town of the Andean colonization.

As you walk through Salamina you will find houses of wattle and daub, calicanto and wooden balconies laden with flowers of different shapes and colors.

Nature Activities and Attractions in Salamina:

  • You can tour the town and let yourself fall in love with the beautiful houses and buildings of the town as well as the pila that is located in the center of town.
  • Finally in the wax palm forest La Samaria you will have the opportunity to appreciate a beautiful and quiet wax palm forest, it is not usually as visited as Salento, this alternative is more relaxed.

Our recommendations for hotels in Salamina: La Estancia Hotel Boutique, Hospedaje Casa Real and Bonsai Casa Hotel.

If you want more information on how to visit Salamina read this blog (Salamina’s blog).

Heritage Towns in the Central Corridor of Colombia

13. Villa de Leyva – Boyacá

Villa de Leyva is considered one of the most beautiful colonial towns in Colombia; this is due to the beauty of its landscapes, its houses and cobblestone streets.

Throughout the town and its surroundings you will be able to learn a lot about the historical events that occurred in this town, as well as enjoy the gastronomic and cultural offerings it has to offer.

Nature Activities and Attractions in Villa de Leyva

  1. The first place you can enjoy on your visit is the central square, a perfect spot to shoot postcard photos thanks to the architecture of the church and the landscape of the mountains behind it. Moreover you can enjoy a diversity of  local and international cuisine offered;
  2. Villa de Leyva is well known for its museums, so you cannot miss the opportunity to visit the Paleontological museum, without leaving aside the delicious Chocolate Museum.
  3. To get the most out of Villa de Leyva’s off road attractions we recommend that you rent a quad bike and  visit: The terracotta house, Pozos azules and Pozo rojo, La Periquera waterfalls and Parque Arqueológico Monquirá.
  4. The Cave Paintings, located 7 km from the center of town is a place where you will enjoy cave paintings of the Chibchas, an earlier indigenous culture.
  5. The ostrich farm, if you want to enjoy a few hours with these beautiful birds and learn more about their behavior, you can do it 15 minutes away where you will be in a farm where they will explain everything about this bird.
  6. If you are interested in nature tourism you can enjoy Iguaque Flora and Fauna Sanctuary; it is located 30 minutes by car from Villa de Leyva. This sanctuary is very special for the inhabitants of the area because it was an important point for the Muisca culture.
  7. Stargazing.
  8. Visit the Desierto de La Candelaria desert.

If you want more information about this sanctuary you can read our blog: The Muisca Legend of the Origin of Life at Iguaque Flora and Fauna Sanctuary.

Our recommendations for hotels in Villa de Leyva are: Hotel La Posada de San Antonio, Hotel Campanario de la Villa, Hotel Casa Cantabria Campestre, Hotel Casa de los Fundadores, Hotel Abahunza and Hotel Casa Boutique.

If you wish to have a more detailed guide for your visit to Villa de Leyva you can read the following blog: Discover the Natural Attractions of Villa de Leyva, Colombia.

14. Monguí – Boyacá

It is catalogued as one of the most beautiful towns in the department of Boyacá, so you must visit it once in your life. Additionally Mongui has the recognition of being the first municipality in Colombia in the production of handmade balloons.

It is one of the coldest towns in the department so it is recommended that you bring warm clothes for your visit.

Nature Activities and Attractions in Monguí:

  1. Minor Basilica of Our Lady of Monguí, built in the XVIII century, has a beautiful Romanesque style, making it very special. In addition, during the Holy Week season they offer to the locals and visitors beautiful shows of interpretation of the Stations of the Cross.
  2. Colonial Bridge Real Calicanto, is the place that the lovers of photography do not want to lose, it is a small stone bridge that allowed the connection of the distant sidewalks of the town and the center of the same one. Being a construction of the eighteenth century still continues to maintain its design intact.
  3. Páramo de Oceta, a 1 hour walk you will have access to a beautiful paramo, where through trails that can be more than 3 hours you will be able to appreciate the flora and fauna of the paramos as well as the main species of the region.

Our recommendations for hotels in Monguí: Mongui Plaza Hotel, Los Recuerdos de Florito y Leo, Hotel Otti Colonial, Hospedaje Bella Vista Monguí and Bahareque Casa Camping.

15. San Miguel de Guaduas – Cundinamarca

Guaduas was the birthplace of Policarpa Salavarrieta (also known as “La Pola”), one of the most important historical heroines of the nation’s independence.

It is located 115 km from the capital of the country, Bogotá, and is a place that has a large number of houses of wattle and daub, clay tiles and zinc that still maintain the colonial style.

Nature Activities and Attractions in Guaduas:

  1. Piedra Capira Viewpoint, this is a beautiful viewpoint located 20 minutes from the center of Guaduas, where you will find a huge rock with a cross from where you will be able to appreciate a beautiful view of the Magdalena River.
  2. El Salto de Versalles, it is a beautiful waterfall of no more than 40 meters high, is considered one of the most beautiful of Cundinamarca and an ideal place for photography lovers.
  3. Santa Fe Royal Road, is an old cobblestone road that linked Bogota with the municipality of Honda, this road crosses the municipalities of Facatativá, Albán, Villeta and Guaduas.

Our recommendations for hotels in Guaduas: El Portón de Enriqueta, Hotel Paso Realce, Quinta Baroe, La Rosa Nautica Hostel and Hotel Casa Blanca.

16. Honda – Tolima

It is the only town of heritage located in the department of Tolima, its importance lies in its proximity to the Magdalena River and being the way of connection with the cities of Barranquilla and Cartagena.

It was considered in the past as the first port of Nueva Granada, currently still retains a large number of bridges and buildings of the colonial era.

Nature Activities and attractions in Honda:

  1. You will love walking in the historic center of the town, especially the Calle de las Trampas, this was a colonial sector where it is considered that the Viceroys of Spain lived.
  2. Among the museum options there are two, the Magdalena River Museum and the Alfonso Lopez Pumarejo House Museum; in them you will learn about the history and importance of this town for the country.
  3. Walk over the Navarro Bridge, considered the oldest bridge still in operation in South America; you will find it 200 meters from the historic center of the town.
  4. Agrotourism and Birdwatching.
  5. Hiking and horse riding.

Our recommendations for hotels in Honda: El Virrey Hotel Boutique, Hotel Boutique Posada Las Trampas, Casa Celeste Honda, Waka Hotel Rural and Hotel Calle Real Honda.

Heritage Towns in the Pacific Corridor of Colombia

17. Guadalajara de Buga – Valle del Cauca

It is a town of great importance for worship and peregrination both nationally and globally, thanks to the Basilica of the Lord of Miracles, one of the most visited places. But Buga is also a point of conservation of flora and fauna.

Activities and attractions in Guadalajara de Buga

  1. Yotoco Forest, which is the largest tropical forest reserve in the department you will be able to appreciate the howler monkeys and Sonso Lagoon is an ideal place for bird lovers.
  2. El Vínculo Regional Natural Park, it is the largest reserve of the tropical dry forest ecosystem in Valle del Cauca, declared a regional natural park in 2006. It has a set of ecological trails with beauty and rich landscape, hundreds of birds, flowers, trees and animals in danger of extinction, typical of dry forest.
  3. Sonso Lagoon, it is located within the wetland complex of the upper Cauca river basin, in the municipality of Buga, between the Guadalajara and Sonso rivers. It is the main wetland in the alluvial plain of the Cauca River and the last redoubt of the lagoon ecosystem within the strategic Tropical Dry Flooded Forest ecosystem.

Our recommendations for hotels in Guadalajara de Buga: Chrisban Hotel Boutique, Hotel El Faro Buga and Hotel Ciudad Señora Buga.

Heritage Towns in the Llanos Corridor of Colombia

18. Pore – Casanare

It is the first town of the eastern plains that enters the list of heritage towns in the country. In the case of Pore, it is considered the first capital of freedom and democracy of the New Granada.

Located 72 km from the capital of the department, Yopal, there you will be able to find relics of great importance such as the prisons built by the Spanish, the cobblestone streets and the mansions that preserve the colonial style.

Nature Activities and Attractions in Pore:

  1. Quebrada la Niata, a few kilometers from the center of town you will find a beautiful creek of crystalline waters where you can take a bath and spend the afternoon without inconvenience.
  2. In ecological tourism, Laguna de Piña Corozo is a magical place that you will find 30 km from the center of town, there you can make migratory and permanent bird watching in the sector.
  3. Zamaricote Natural Reserve, being the only fluvial star of Casanare, from that point are born approximately 64 streams and rivers, enriched with its myth of the enchanted lagoon, ecological walks and descent by rope to the source of the river Pore.
  4. Tour through the historic center of the town, through your tour you can see the deteriorated walls that show signs of the passage of the Spaniards through this town along with the abandoned prisons.

Our recommendation of hotel in Pore: Hotel El Tesoro Del Llano

How many of Colombia’s heritage towns do you know?

No matter the answer now you have a list of magical places to discover, get out of the routine and fall in love with this beautiful country.

About the authors

Sara Colmenares

The current director of Sula. Doctor in Biological Sciences. Her main interests are to explore and understand the organism-environment interactions, taking advantage of emerging knowledge for the management and conservation of species and ecosystem services. She is currently working as a consultant in functional ecology, ecosystem services, and conservation projects in Colombia related to ecotourism and birdwatching.

Luisa Martin

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

Farallones de Cali Natural National Park, the Land of the Tororoi Bailador

In west of the city of Cali you will find páramos, waterfalls, trails, mountains and rivers hidden in the  youngest rock formations of the Western Cordillera of the Andes: Farallones de Cali Natural National Park.

This protected area, distinguished by its majestic blue peaks that rise above a plain that separates the basins of the Pacific and the Cauca River, is recognized for its great natural wealth and therefore becomes a must-see destination when it comes to nature tourism in this region of the country.

Below you will get the information you need to enjoy and fall in love with the largest natural reserve in Valle del Cauca.

Discovering Farallones de Cali Natural National Park

Farallones de Cali National Park is located in southwestern Colombia, in the department of Valle del Cauca, between the municipalities of Cali, Jamundí, Dagua and Buenaventura, covering an area of 1,500 km².

The “farallones” are rock formations of about 20 million years ago, being the youngest of the Western Cordillera of the Andes, formed by the folding of the South American and Nazca tectonic plates.

The protected area is the largest in Valle del Cauca and allows the conservation of more than 540 bird species and more than 30 rivers that originate there. The rivers and streams that originate in this area are divided into two basins: the Cauca and Pacific basins, and supply the southwestern part of Colombia.

Pance Peak, Farallones de Cali National Park, CC Parques Nacionales Archives

The elevation gradient is between 200 and 4,100 meters above sea level, where the following ecosystems are present:

  • Tropical Rainforest (200 and 1,200 meters above sea level);
  • Humid Sub-Andean Forest (1,200 and 2,000 meters above sea level);
  • Humid High Andean Forest (2,000 and 3,500 meters above sea level) and
  • Páramo (above 3,500 meters above sea level).

Farallones de Cali NNP has the only paramo ecosystem in Colombia that does not have frailejones. However, the park is considered one of the richest in flora and fauna Colombia.

How to get to Farallones de Cali Natural National Park

Bogotá-Palmira-Pance

Take a 145- minutes flight from El Dorado Bogotá (BOG) to Alfonso Bonilla Aragón International Airport (CLO) at Palmira city. Once at the airport, take an approximately 45- minutes ride to Pance at Centro de Educación Ambiental El Topacio.

What to do in Farallones de Cali NNP

Colombia’s National Natural Parks announced that as a contribution to the country’s economic reactivation and as a continuation of the reopening of protected areas with an ecotourism vocation, the Farallones de Cali National Natural Park reopened its doors so that visitors can enjoy its natural and cultural values.

Authorized sectors for entry

The organization, in charge of administering and managing the Natural Parks System and coordinating the National System of Protected Areas of Colombia, announced the following points that will be authorized for visitors:

  • Puesto de atención a visitantes el Topacio, located in Vereda el Topacio Corregimiento de Pance, Distrito de Cali, access to the attractive Pico de Loro.
  • Quebradahonda Visitor Service Station, located in the Quebradahonda Village, Corregimiento de los Andes, District of Cali, access to the Peñas Blancas attraction.
  • Km 81 Visitor Service Station, located in La Cascada, municipality of Dagua, access to the Cañón del Anchicayá attraction.

Schedules and measures to take into account

National Parks informed that visitors will be able to enjoy the protected area “in day trip mode” and it is important to follow the instructions of the park rangers, the National Police and members of the communities that provide ecotourism support.

The entrance hours are from 6:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. and the departure time should be no later than 5:00 p.m.

Biosecurity protocols

At the same time, the entity highlighted the recommendations and biosecurity protocols, which have been developed given the pandemic situation and among which are: maintaining social distance, permanent use of masks and glycerin alcohol, as well as avoiding crowds.

Additionally, the tourist load capacity of each of the trails has been reduced to 30% for this reopening stage, and also police accompaniment is provided.

What to enjoy in Los Farallones?

In this protected area you can spot species such as the spectacled bear and the anteater, along with guans, chachalacas, parrots and eagles.

Los Farallones de Cali National Natural Park, located in the Western Cordillera of Colombia, allows visitors to enjoy relaxing landscapes, which are also home to marsupials and monkeys, as well as camping and hiking activities.

Hiking

Hiking is an exciting activity in Farallones de Cali National Park. You can hike on 4 trails: Pico de Loro Trail; Burbujas Trail; Peñas Blancas Trail and Anchicayá Canyon.

  • Pico de Loro Trail: Starting point 1718 masl to 2860 masl arrival point. Difficulty level: Medium – High and maximum capacity of 50 people per day. (3 hours)
  • Burbujas Trail: Starting point 1676 masl to 1735 masl arrival point. Degree of difficulty: Low and maximum capacity of 267 people per day.
  • Peñas Blancas Trail: Starting point 1987 masl to 2886 masl arrival point. Degree of difficulty: Medium – High and maximum capacity of 50 people per day.
  • Anchicayá Canyon: It is a natural well with a depth of approximately 80 cm to 6 meters. Degree of difficulty: Low-Medium and maximum capacity of 200 people per day.

Birdwatching

Tororoi Bailador. CC Diego Calderón (Colombia Birding)

The most representative birds of the park are the:

  • Long-wattled umbrellabird (Cephalopterus penduliger);
  • Multicolored Tanager (Chlorochrysa nitidissima);
  • Yellow-green tanager (Chlorospingus flavovirens);
  • Cauca guan (Penelope perspicax);
  • Andean Cock-of-the-rock (Rupicola peruviana);
  • Banded ground cuckoo (Neomorphus radiolosus); and,
  • Baudó guan (Penelope ortoni).

Land of the Tororoi Bailador, or the Dancing Grallaria

Species number 562 was named Tororoi Bailador, which was discovered in the Dagma conservation area, immersed in the Farallones de Cali National Natural Park.

Thus, the Tororoi Bailador is an endemic bird recorded in the park, and it is known to be present in five rural territories near the park.

Wildlife Tours

In Farallones de Cali NNP you can observe small bats up to pumas, in addition to panthers, ocelots, foxes and spectacled bears.

The amphibian community includes the Lehman’s poison dart frog, Oophaga lehmanni. Check our dart frogs tour here.

Orchids tours are also a very well developed activity to do in the park. Know more about orchids of Colombia in our entry The Richest Country in Orchids in the World: Colombia.

Where to stay in Farallones de Cali NNP

Thanks to the proximity of Farallones de Cali NNP with the city of Cali it is not necessary to stay overnight in the park.

We recommend you to stay in Cali, where there are plenty of nice hotels you can stay. Our recommendations for you are:

  • Hotel Casa del Hidalgo
  • Hotel Dann Carton Cali
  • Cali Marriot Hotel

Best time to visit Farallones de Cali NNP

We recommend that you visit the park during the 2 dry seasons, between the months of January and March, and between July and August.

Keep in mind that Farallones de Cali NNP has an average temperature of 25º C (77º F) in most of the marked trails but in the summits it has a temperature of 5º C (41º F).

Farallones de Cali NNP Entrance fees

Farallones de Cali NNP does not currently charge admission to visitors.

What to consider before visiting Farallones de Cali NNP

  • The park currently has regulated access, so you must request access to the following email farallones@parquesnacionales.gov.co.
  • The hours of entry and permanence of the trails allowed in the park are:
    • Pico de Loro Trail: Entrance from 6 am to 8 am; departure 4 pm maximum;
    • Burbujas – Pance: Entrance from 6 am to 5 pm;
    • Peñas Blancas Trail: Entrance from 6 am to 8 am; departure 4 pm maximum;
    • Anchicayá Canyon: stay from 7 am to 5 pm.
    • The Pico Pance trail is currently restricted because it is in an intangible zone.
  • 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.

References
  • Parques Nacionales
  • Colombia.travel
  • Colparques
About the authors

Sara Colmenares

The current director of Sula. Doctor in Biological Sciences. Her main interests are to explore and understand the organism-environment interactions, taking advantage of emerging knowledge for the management and conservation of species and ecosystem services. She is currently working as a consultant in functional ecology, ecosystem services, and conservation projects in Colombia related to ecotourism and birdwatching.

Luisa Martin

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

Best 3 Sunflower Fields That You Can Actually Visit in Colombia

The Sunflower (Helianthus annuus, the common sunflower) is worldwide known for its beauty and Vincent van Gogh paintings. The blooming of this beautiful flowers everywhere attracts many people to the so-called sunflower tourism.

Although they are treated as weeds, they fulfill an important function: their ability to grow in all types of environments and their resistance to drought allows them to invade degraded sites, where they detain the soil. Also, because they produce a lot of nectar, they attract numerous pollinators, such as bees. 

Origin of Sunflowers

Indigenous domestication

Sunflowers were domesticated by Mesoamerican Indian tribes, and are traditionally associated with pre-Columbian Mexican cultures. They were cultivated more for their usefulness than for their beauty.

However, the sunflower was used as a symbol representing the sun deity, primarily by the Aztecs and Otomies in Mexico and the Incas in Peru.

In 1532, Francisco Pizarro entered Peru, where he found a gigantic sunflower that the indigenous people of the Inca empire worshipped as a sacred image of the sun god. Then, gold figures of this flower, as well as seeds, were taken to Europe at the beginning of the 16th century.

Crops and Sunflower Tourism

Nowadays, their cultivation for oil extraction has been widespread in Spain since about 1980, thanks to subsidies from the European Economic Community. The same happens in the United Stated.

However, this is not the only appeal of sunflowers; the beauty of their fields attracts millions of tourists around the world.

Today there are sunflower fields on every continent, but the sunflower fields in Spain and Italy are the most famous for their unparalleled beauty.

The most beautiful sunflower fields in Spain are those found in the regions of La Bureba in Burgos, Cardejón in Soria, Carmona in Seville and Antequera in Malaga.

On the other hand, the most famous sunflower field in Italy is in the Tuscany region.

Sunflower Movement

Every day, sunflowers move towards the sun, following it on its east-west route. At night they move in the opposite direction, as if waiting for the sun to rise the next morning.

But one day they stop doing so, since when they reach maturity they stop their dance, do not turn again and remain oriented indefinitely towards the east until they die.

This movement, called heliotropism, is regulated by the circadian rhythm of the plants, and favors their growth.

And the truth is, it is not the flower that turns, it is the uneven growth of its stems that causes the turning. And when they stop growing, they stop turning.

That they stop is not entirely sad, since when they reach maturity, the plant is ready to be pollinated. The flowers release additional heat, which makes them more attractive to pollinating insects.

Find out more in the Science Report Circadian regulation of sunflower heliotropism, floral orientation, and pollinator visits: Sun-tracking when young, east-facing when mature, warmer sunflowers attract more pollinators.

Sunflower Tourism in Colombia

Research on sunflower cultivation in Colombia has been carried out since the late 1950s. But it was not until 1985 that the first sunflower field was planted for commercial production. The first crops were planted in Valle del Cauca, Tolima and Cesar.

In general, sunflower grows well in Colombia, from sea level to 2600 meter above sea level, so much so that today there are crops in Bogota. However, it was not until 2020 that some fields began to be used for tourism.

Today, there are several destinations where you can visit sunflower fields in Colombia, bu today I am goiong to talk about the most suitable for visit: San Martin, in the department of Meta, in the eastern plains of Colombia, Montes de Maria in the department of Bolivar, in the Colombian Caribbean region, and Valledupar in the department of Cesar, also part of the Caribbean region.

Sunflower Tourism in San Martin, Meta

Sunflower Tourism in San Martin de Los Llanos, Meta, Colombia CC @campodegirasolessm

The municipality of San Martin de los Llanos is located one hour from Villavicencio, capital of Meta. The annual sowing of sunflowers in a private plot of land in San Martín de los Llanos is the place that delights the visitor’s eyes with a minefield of this plant.

For more than five years, between the months of October and November, the sunflower crop blooms, and every year tourists are treated to the experience of walking among a crop of large and impressive sunflowers.

The tour starts at 10:00 in the morning or at 3:00 in the afternoon, from the municipality of San Martin with the indications of the authorized guides.

To get there you have to cross a 3-kilometer dirt road from San Martin; since it is private land, it is not permitted to indicate the exact location of the place.

Sunflower Tourism in Montes de María (or Serranía de San Jacinto), Bolívar

Sunflowers in San Jacinto, Bolivar, Colombia. Pic. by @yulart__

Between the departments of Bolívar and Sucre, in the Colombian Caribbean, is located the sub-region of Montes de María, a vast territory of agricultural and livestock tradition whose geographical location consolidated it as a corridor that connects a large part of the country with the Caribbean region and some of its main ports.

The Montes de María (also known as Serranía de San Jacinto) length does not exceed 110 km and its altitudes are less than 1,200 meters above sea level.

Montes de María, a Post-conflict Destination

The Montes de María area suffered from conflict for years, being a zone of FARC-EP guerrilla activity and paramilitary groups including the AUC. A particularly difficult period was in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

For years, this territory was forgotten, but now it is reappearing to conquer Colombians and foreigners with its beauty. In addition to the handicrafts, bagpipes and natural landscapes, there is a sunflower field, which has become another tourist attraction.

Tourism, entrepreneurship and sustainability

In the Sibar farm there is fish farming, chicken breeding and now, beekeeping that began to be generated thanks to the planting of these sunflowers.

It is an eco-efficient farm, where nothing is thrown away. The chicken feces (chicken manure) are used as fertilizer for the sunflowers. The flour from the sunflowers is fed to fish and chickens.

Bee Keeping Crops: The company AgroFrance sold the sunflower seeds to the farm owners

Sibar Farm and its Sunflower Fields

The idea arose as a result of the pandemic. Originally, it was a soy-based poultry feed manufacturing company. Due to the covid-19 pandemic, they came up with the idea of using sunflower meal as raw material for concentrate plants for cattle, sheep, swine, fish and poultry feed.

The company AgroFrance sold the sunflower seeds to the farm owners, and gave them technical assistance for planting, which is how the three-hectare sunflower field was born.

This sunflower variety produces grains with high protein, vitamin and fiber content, which have different uses for human consumption. These characteristics make this field even more special for tourists.

The field is located on the Sibar farm, on the outskirts of the municipality of San Jacinto, and very close to the Troncal de Occidente highway in the Montes de María.

Entering to contemplate the 180 thousand sunflowers has no cost. The only recommendation of the owner Alfredo Villadiego is that the visit is made with all the biosecurity protocols and without making noise because they can scare the bees!

Sunflower Tourism in Valledupar, Cesar

Sunflower Fields in Valledupar, Cesar, Colombia CC Publimetro.co

The cultivation of sunflower in the department of Cesar arose thanks to the union of several farmers. As in Bolivar, AgroFrance International distributed the seed to the local agricultural farmers.

The crops are located on the road that leads to the village of El Jabo, five minutes from Valledupar, at Finca La Esmeralda, and there are other fields distributed in the village of Los Venados, and in the municipality of Urumita in La Guajira.

Sunflower as an Alternative Crop

Sunflower cultivation in Cesar has become a planting alternative due to the scarce markets for rice, corn, cotton, sorghum, and other products, and it is a plant that does not require abundant water. Farmers in the area hope to harvest the grain to take it to agribusiness as oil or flour.

Bee sanctuary, therapeutic and tourist attractiveness

The harmonious and constant buzzing of bees accompanies this yellow feast, making it a sanctuary for bees. Thousands of bees arrive in swarms from the mountains to give life to the crops and help the pollination of this plant.

Some countries such as Germany, Austria, Denmark, Spain, Belgium, France and Greece must implant bee hives, artificially, due to the scarcity of this insect in these countries.

One of the owners of the crops has witnessed how hundreds of people come to appreciate these flowers, and for the landscape impact of 200 thousand sunflower plants framed under the silhouette of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, which for some resembles Swiss landscapes.

The fields have even been visited by several people with health problems to enjoy the beauty of the crop. In this way, they are contributing to the community.

Important Precautions When Visiting a Sunflower Field

  • You should wear appropriate footwear for the tour and the mud.
  • Avoid wearing strong perfumes before visiting, as they attract bees.
  • In addition, it is recommended not to run inside the field and it is forbidden to cut the sunflowers.

Remember, these places are especially for those who wish to enjoy nature.

If you want to know more about nature and agro-tourism destinations in Colombia do not hesitate in contact us or visit our Plan your trip page.

References
About the authors

Sara Colmenares

The current director of Sula. Doctor in Biological Sciences. Her main interests are to explore and understand the organism-environment interactions, taking advantage of emerging knowledge for the management and conservation of species and ecosystem services. She is currently working as a consultant in functional ecology, ecosystem services, and conservation projects in Colombia related to ecotourism and birdwatching.