What to do around Guaduas, Colombia?

Guaduas, in Cundinamarca, is another heritage town of Colombia. According to historians, the Villa de Guaduas was founded on April 20, 1572 on the old Camino Real that led from Honda -one of the most important ports on the Magdalena River- to Santafé (today Bogotá).

Along the Camino Real that crosses it, the old Guadueros saw the passage of viceroys and independence leaders – with Policarpa Salavarrieta and José Antonio Galán at the head – to the members of the Botanical Expedition who, led by José Celestino Mutis, had in Guaduas one of their main research centers.

In fact, one of the most remembered personalities of this town is the painter and botanist Javier Matiz, who masterfully captured images of the wide variety of the country’s flora on plates.

Its historic center, declared a national monument in 1959 (today an Asset of Cultural Interest), and its surroundings tell all this history through its monuments, mansions and vestiges, including a long cobblestone stretch of the Camino Real, which is still preserved.

Aware of the patrimonial value they have in their hands, and of its tourist potential, inhabitants, merchants and hoteliers have taken on the task of rehabilitating it little by little, and of projecting Guaduas as an ideal destination, in every sense of the word.

Discovering Guaduas

The town had 3 moments of foundation: the first foundation was in charge of Andrés Díaz Venero de Leiva, in 1572, and a second moment, given in December 1610, in charge of the Franciscans founded the convent of Nuestra Señora de Guaduas, located on the road to Honda. Finally in 1644, in the place called Villa de San Miguel de Guaduas.

Guaduas is located in the northwest of the department of Cundinamarca; the town has 2 areas that describe the geographical conditions that you will be able to enjoy; on the one hand the proximity to the Magdalena River and a flat, slightly undulating area of exuberant vegetation and warm climate. On the other hand, the area to the east comprises a mountainous system belonging to the Cordillera Oriental.

Guaduas is the birthplace of important figures of the country, among them Policarpa Salavarrieta, La Pola (Guaduas, 1797 – Bogotá, 1817), patriot heroine, apparently born in Guaduas. Also, Francisco Javier Matís (Guaduas, 1774 – Bogotá, 1851), painter and botanist of the Botanical Expedition, among other important figures.

Guaduas is considered as the little Colombia, thanks to the history and historical events that occurred there.

How to get to Guaduas

To get to Guaduas you must take a 3-hours road trip from the west of Bogotá city for 180 km, it is the same route you will take to Hinda, so you will be able to enjoy the different thermal floors and beautiful landscapes on your way.

Where to stay in Guaduas

In Guaduas you will find a great infrastructure, depending on your budget and personal tastes you can choose; our recommendations for you are: Camino a Santa Fé and Matisia Hotel Boutique.

Guaduas Attractions and Activities

La Pola’s House

You can find different articles that belonged to Policarpa aswell as to the members of her family. The house is humble and in keeping with the time, consisting of two rooms, a kitchen and patio. An ideal place to pay homage to such an important heroine.

Julia Castillo’s handicraft workshop

If you visit Guaduas you can not miss the opportunity to experience a unique clay handicrafts workshop, pieces of handmade collection, for the kitchen and home, the most curious thing about this workshop is that the base figure of the crafts is the figure of the hen kika.

Paragliding

You can spend a pleasant time for 30 or 45 minutes over the skies of the Magdalena River, you will have a beautiful panoramic view where you can not only appreciate the Magdalena, Guaduas and Honda.

Patio del Moro Museum of Arts and Traditions

During the tour in each of the rooms of this museum you can appreciate different pieces of collection of the colonial era such as clothing, beauty accessories and home accessories, being very typical for the inhabitants who once inhabited the town.

House of the Viceroys

It is considered a house of great importance in the town, since great celebrities lived there, among them Manuelita Saenz, who had a relationship with the liberator Simón Bolivar.

Piedra Capira Viewpoint

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, the snow-capped mountains of Ruiz, Santa Isabel and Tolima.

El Salto de Versalles Waterfall

The waterfall near the village no more than 40 meters high, here you can practice torrentismo and other ecotourism activities; is considered one of the most beautiful sector of Cundinamarca and an ideal place for photography lovers.

Santa Fe Royal Road

It is one of the most representative of the national routes that were made during the colonization period. It joins Bogota with the municipality of Honda, this road crosses the municipalities of Facatativá, Albán, Villeta and Guaduas.

During the tour you will be able to distinguish each of the marked stations: the Plaza de la Constitución as its center and longitudinally structured by the Camino Real, the Calle de la Pola and transversely by the Calle Real that links it with the Cemetery sector through the San Francisco Bridge.

Cathedral of San Miguel Arcángel

Its construction was initiated by the presbyter Justiniano Gutiérrez in 1809, from the design and the plans of Fray Domingo de Petrés. Its facade, of neoclassical style and impeccable white, has become one of the most recognizable images of Guaduas.

If you want to know more about Colombia, or wants to book your trip, please contact us.

References
  • Colombia Travel
  • Network of Colombian Heritage Villages
About the author

Luisa Martin

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

What to do around Honda, Colombia?

Placed in the department of Tolima, Honda is known as the “City of Peace” or “City of Bridges”. The colonial architecture is an indelible imprint of its past. It is said that a casual stroll through its colonial streets evokes the old Cartagena or Andalusia in Spain.

Honda is a natural paradise and historical heritage of Colombia. It was considered in the past as the first port of Nueva Granada (old Colombia), and currently it still retains a large number of bridges and buildings of the colonial era.

It keeps a past full of legends and glory, its development is growing in the tourism industry. In this guide you will have the necessary information for your visit to Honda.

Discovering Honda

The municipality of Honda is located 3 hours and 30 minutes from the city of Bogota.

The town of Honda was founded on August 24, 1539 under the name of Villa de San Bartolomé de Honda by Francisco Nuñez Pedroza. Honda is located in the north of the department of Tolima and borders the departments of Cundinamarca and Caldas.

Placed in the banks of the Magdalena River, Honda is part of the Network Colombian Heritage Towns. There you can walk the colonial neighborhoods which are full of history.

A Place in History

Honda has great importance in the history of Colombia such as the arrival of the first steamboat to the port of Caracolí in 1854, being considered the first river port of the country in the nineteenth century until the mid-twentieth century. Also the construction of the Navarro Bridge that was inaugurated in 1899.

The architecture and other data represent the economic, social and cultural importance that the town of Honda had.

A Very Hot Place

Bear in mind, the average temperature in Honda is between 24 ºC (75 ºF) and 35 ºC (95º F), which indicates that it is a town with high temperatures as well as humid. For this reason, we recommend you to wear clothes according to the temperature, sun protection elements and keep hydrated.

Gastronomy and Culture around Fish and the Magdalena River

Due to its proximity to the river, dishes based on fishing such as Viudo de pescado, Sancocho de pescado (fish stew), and other typical dishes such as Tamal tolimense, Sancocho de Gallina, Lechona and the traditional raspado (frozen juice). There are also other typical dishes such as Tamal tolimense, Sancocho de Gallina, Lechona and the traditional raspado (frozen juice).

The cultural carnival and popular pageant of the Subienda is a celebration that takes place during the first semester of each year to celebrate the massive arrival of fish to this port on the Magdalena River.

During the festivity you can enjoy handicraft samples, horseback riding, cultural presentations, sports competitions, nautical promenade, the traditional parade of the candidates and their troupes, their boards with the popular verbena and presentation of musical groups.

In turn, the national pageant of the Magdalena River is held in October and also commemorates the fishing season.

How to get to Honda

To get to Honda you must take a 4-hours road trip from the west of Bogotá city for 180 km, during your journey you will pass through different thermal floors and you will be able to marvel at the beautiful landscapes; when you cross the majestic Magdalena River you will know that you have arrived at your destination.

Where to stay in Honda

In Honda you will find a great diversity of accommodation options depending on your budget and personal taste. Our recommendations as follows:

El Virrey Hotel Boutique, Hotel Boutique Posada Las Trampas, Casa Celeste Honda, Waka Hotel Rural and Hotel Calle Real Honda.

Honda Attractions and Activities

Among its cultural centers are:

  • The Magdalena River Museum.
  • The Alfonso López Pumarejo House Museum and Cultural Agency.
  • The Banco de la República Library

Great Colombian personalities have been born in Honda, such as: former President Alfonso López Pumarejo, bullfighter Pepe Cacéres, writer José María Samper, former Mayor of Bogotá Alfonso Palacio Rudas, politician Jaime Pava Navarro, General Abraham Varón Valencia, among others.

Historical tour

The streets of Honda have many stories so 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.

You will also be able to visit the municipal market square, called the ‘Parthenon’ of Tolima for its republican architecture with Greco-Roman influence; there you will be able to have lunch, shop for handicrafts, clothes, fruits or vegetables.

Calle De Las Trampas, in the Colonial zone.

It has a sinuous and zigzag topography, with a stone floor evoking the Andalusian constructions. This was the sector par excellence of a wealthy “elite”. The typical two-story houses were distributed, starting from the main door on the street, in the living room, bedroom, kitchen, windows overhanging the street, corridor sill, stairs and bedrooms on the second floor.

Although some had a balcony with a corridor facing the courtyard instead of the lot, the latter was rare in the central part of the Villa where the houses were built without leaving space between them, forming a kind of wall along the streets.

Cathedral of Our Lady of the Rosary

It dates from the middle of the XVII century, and it was a work financed with the tolls on the Magdalena River and the contributions of the neighbors. On October 7, 1989 its temple was consecrated Cathedral of the Diocese of Líbano-Honda. Its patron saint’s day is August 24.

Market Square

This building is similar to the Greek Parthenon and was used by the Franciscan convent of San Bartolomé. With the earthquake in 1805 it was destroyed and was provisionally taken over as military barracks and later converted into the market square by the English engineer Henry Valsint, taking 18 years to finish (1917-1935).

It has 148 columns (76 external and 72 internal) being the external ones of Doric capital and Ionic base while the internal ones 36 are smooth and 36 similar to the external ones, 108 doors, several arches, it is of green and white color and because of its shape it was called the Parthenon of Tolima.

In 1996 it was declared a cultural asset of national interest. Inside it is a little messy and sometimes even dirty but despite that it is still interesting culturally, historically and architecturally.

Rapids or Honda Falls

This natural wonder is a geological fault, which divides in two the navigation of the Magdalena River. This natural phenomenon allows the famous “subienda” to occur every year: the rapids prevent the thousands of fish that each year fulfill their natural cycle in the waters of the Magdalena from rising easily.

Walking on the bridges of Honda

Honda is known for its variety of bridges, among which there are 3 that you can not miss: Navarro, Alfonso López and Luis Ignacio Andrade.

Alfonso López Bridge

This one in particular owes its name to the former liberal president Alfonso López Pumarejo, who was born there in 1886. The bridge is over the Gualí River, very close to the market square.

Luis Ignacio Andrade Bridge

It is located over the Magdalena River, and connects with Puerto Bogotá, Cundinamarca. It is important for land transportation, so it is usual to see tractor-trailers crossing it.

Navarro Bridge

More than 100 years old, it is the oldest bridge in South America. It was declared a National Monument in 1994 by Decree 936, thanks to its technical and aesthetic merits and the relevance that this important engineering work has had for the National history. Built between 1894 and 1898, it joins the departments of Tolima and Cundinamarca.

This bridge has a particular history. It was bought in New York from the same company that built the one in the city of San Francisco. The government gave it in concession for its exploitation for 99 years by charging tolls according to the type of cargo to be passed. That did not last long because the Thousand Days War came and changed all the conditions.

The bridge has an iron and steel structure of the type called Cantilever cornice, with a length of 167.65 mts, 5.20 mtZ wide and a height of 18.30 mts over the river.

You will find the Navarro Bridge 200 meters from the historic center of the town.

Visiting Museums in Honda

Magdalena River Museum

The museum tells the history of the river, in your tour you will learn about the animals that inhabit and inhabited the river; the articles used by the fishermen, besides learning about the fishing culture of the inhabitants of the town.

It is a colonial construction of the XVIII century, where “La bodega El Retiro or Puerto de El Retiro” worked, which provided its services to the merchants of the town in the Upper Magdalena, docked and sailed brigantines, steamboats, champagne, canoes, canoes, canoes.

At the end of the XIX century it was the headquarters of the Gendarmerie Barracks, then it was the library and municipal archives, and nowadays it houses the River Museum.

Alfonso Pumarejo House Museum

Faithful witness of the passage of several generations, today it is the scene of a remembered Colombian colonial era.

This building is representative of the classic Andalusian colonial architecture, whose construction dates back to the XVII century. It has a single floor, with a clay tile roof, a four-sided roof and a central patio, built in adobe, with a load-bearing wall system, exposed gutters and downspouts, and colorful columns of fine wood.

Birdwatching is also another activity you can do in Honda. Visit our entry about the birding routes in Tolima to know more.

If you want to know more about Colombia, or wants to book your trip, please contact us.

References
  • Colombia Travel
  • Network of Colombian Heritage Villages
  • Tolima Government Website
About the author

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.

What to do in and around Jericó, Antioquia?

Known as the “Aldea de Piedras”, name given by the locals of the town. Jericó is on the list of “Network of Colombian Heritage Villages“, when you visit Jericó you will get to know its history and culture, the ecosystems and natural reserves, the gastronomy and local commerce.

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

Discovering Jericó

Jericó is in the southeast of the department of Antioquia. Bordered on the north by the municipalities of Tarso and Fredonia, on the east by the municipalities of Fredonia and Támesis; on the south by the municipalities of Támesis, Jardín and Andes and on the west by Andes and Pueblorrico.

Jericó was found in 1850 but there are records of its colonization since 1825. It is located approximately 108 kilometers southeast of Medellin.

The town is known in Colombia for being home to a large number of churches and colorful streets which you will enjoy on your tour.

Bear in mind, the temperature generally ranges from 11 °C (51ºF) to 37 °C (98ºF). The best times of the year to visit Jericho for dry season activities are from mid-May to early July and from early September to late October.

How to get to Jericó

Take a 1,5-hours flight from El Dorado (BOG) in Bogotá to José María Córdova International Airport (MDE) at Rio Negro city.

Once at in Rio Negro you take an approximately 3-hours ride (108 Km) to Jericó.

Where to stay in Jericó

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

Jericó Attractions and Activities

Las Nubes Ecopark

Located 1.3 km away from the center of town with a walk of approximately 22 minutes, at an altitude of 2,250 meters above sea level you will be able to appreciate a breathtaking view of the Cauca River canyon.

In this natural reserve is part of the group of families that offer the service of ecological tours where you can meet countless species of fauna and flora.

In the ecopark you will be able to see deer, butterflies, birds, howler monkeys, armadillos, bush dogs, among others. Also, in its more than 4,000 hectares you can find sarros, eucalyptus trees, seven-horned trees and a great variety of ferns.

Tour to La Nohelia

In the company of the guides of La Nohelia you will discover the coffee culture in a tour through a coffee farm. Where you will learn about the whole process of harvesting, washing, drying and roasting of special coffee for the world, and finally you will taste a cup of high quality coffee.

Too you will visit the roasted coffee processing plant where you will learn the process to highlight the attributes of coffee from various growers (coffee growers) of the municipalities of Jericho, PuebloRico and Tamesis.

Cristo Redentor Viewpoint

It is a beautiful monument of white color that adorns the hill of ‘El Salvador’, it was inaugurated in October of 1828. The meaning of the locals is that his raised arms is the silent guardian that protects Jericho.

It was also erected as a protest and reparation, after the destruction of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, during the religious persecution in Mexico. It is a worthy expression of faith, hope and goodness.

To get to this point you only have to walk for 10 minutes from the center of town, from there you will have a beautiful panoramic view of the town.

Visit the Nuestra Señora de Las Mercedes Cathedral

This beautiful cathedral was built in brick and its most relevant feature is the height of its columns, it has an organ with 1,235 flutes, a crucifix made in 1880 and an oil painting of the Virgin of Las Mercedes, brought to the country in 1850. It is the main temple of the municipal diocese.

In addition you will be able to appreciate a giant poster of the Saint Laura Montoya, having clear that Jericho is the cradle of the believers of the first saint of Colombia.

Museum of Religious Art

This museum is  in the lower part of the cathedral and inaugurated in 1976. It is a place that you will love because it houses and preserves representative elements.

Among the most valuable elements that you will see is a French censer from the end of the 19th century, which belonged to the old cathedral since 1893; A naveta, used to carry incense and the high places of worship, from the 20th century, of French origin; Vestments of Monsignor Francisco Cristóbal Toro and some purple bonetes, used by the bishops in the ceremonies.

You will learn much of the history of the town as the great religious history of Jerico, if you are a devout person it will be a magical experience.

Los Balsos Botanical Garden

The garden includes a butterfly garden, a cactus garden, exhibition spaces, a library and a pond.

It is an ideal place to learn about the flora and fauna present in the town, besides to enjoying the tranquility of the garden.

What do to Around Jericó?

Visiting Támesis

A very beautiful town in the Cartama Valley in the southwestern region of Antioquia, approximately 3 hr from Medellín. It is a town surrounded by a spectacular nature that invites you to stop and enjoy the views of the beautiful landscape green and natural and old houses with typical facades of many colors.

Since Támesis is 25 km from Jericó you must take a 1-hour road trip. In Tamesis you can do adventure activities such as:

Caverns of the San Antonio River

The caverns of the San Antonio River, which have beautiful formations and crystal clear water sources at the bottom. You must keep in mind that to perform this activity you must have change of clothes.

Route of petroglyphs

The route of petroglyphs is located inside an indigenous settlement of the Embera Chamí tribe. There you will be able to learn more about the indigenous culture and customs that are still preserved there.

Paragliding

You can do this activity to appreciate the beautiful landscapes in this sector of the department of Antioquia.

Tubing

You will be able to make a descent through the Rio Frio in a rubber tire to appreciate the beautiful scenery.

Sport fishing

Támesis has La Parcelita, a place where you can do sport fishing.

If you wish you can do several of these activities in one day and return to Jerico. Moreover, if instead you want to stay for a couple of days we recommend Acantos Country Hotel.

References
  • Colombia Travel
  • Network of Colombian Heritage Villages
About the author

Luisa Martin

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

Visit Mongui and Know its Heritage, Football Balloons and the Ocetá Páramo

Mongui is on the list of “Network of Colombian Heritage Villages“, being one of the most beautiful towns in the department of Boyacá, besides having a great history to tell its visitors in the middle of its cobblestone streets.

You will fall in love with its colonial and republican court buildings and the kindness of its inhabitants. Mongui has an average temperature between 8 ºC (46º F) and 16º (60º F), and it is located at an altitude between 2.923 and 3.854 meters above sea level.

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

Discovering Mongui, Boyacá, Colombia

Mongui is located in the department of Boyaca, 3.5-hours (223 km) from Bogotá and 1.5-hours (88 km) from Tunja, the capital of the department.

In addition, Mongui has special geographic characteristics that favours great variety of native fauna, flora, and soils throughout the municipality, and an important diverse biodiversity.

How to get to Mongui

To get to Mongui you must take a 3,5 -hours road trip (totaling 223kms) from Bogotá for until you reach Mongui; during your trip you will be able to appreciate the Cundiboyacence highlands.

Where to stay

In Mongui you will find numerous accommodation offerings for all budgets and personal tastes; our recommendation for is the Hotel Otti Colonial.

Ecotourism in Mongui, Boyacá

Ocetá Paramo

Ocetá paramo is considered one of the most beautiful in the world, this is because its valleys contain the largest number of species of paramo flora in Colombia.

Among the most characteristic fauna that you will be able to appreciate are the lupines, senecios, white-tailed deer and the beautiful hummingbird chivito de páramo; without forgetting to enjoy the magical viewpoints that will take your breath away.

Páramo de Ocetá

Mongui is the closest town to the paramo, so you can dedicate a day of your visit to the town to visit this beautiful valley of Frailejones, where you can visit the Black Lagoon, the Boat, the City of stone and it is also possible to see fields of senecios. If you are lucky and the sky is clear, it is possible to see the Sierra Nevada del Cocuy.

To get to the paramo you can choose the option of walking for 3 hours or take the service of a 4X4 car, but it is essential that you take the guide service to safely enjoy the paramo while you learn about this beautiful place.

Rock climbing

On the outskirts of Mongui you can test your endurance to climb a rock, with a duration of 4 to 8 hours depending on the intensity you want to practice.

In the center of town you will find guides who can offer you this service.

Mountain biking

2 available routes start downtown and extend over 20 km and 40 km, where you will have an ascent up to 3650 meters above sea level at the highest point; on the way you will be able to appreciate the beautiful landscapes. The average time is 5 to 8 hours and it is advisable to start the tour in the morning.

Know the Cultural Patrimony of Mongui

San Francisco Church, CC license

History of Balloons in Mongui

When Froilán Ladino was recruited in 1932 to render military service for Colombia in the war against Peru; when he was in Manaus he met Brazilian saddlers who were experts in the manufacture of leather balls; and two years later, when the war ended and he returned to Monguí, he joined his brother Manuel, to create his own tannery and to elaborate leather balls.

Froilán taught the craft of ball manufacturing to a group of twelve peasants who later became known as the “twelve apostles”. This activity was a new way to generate resources with an activity that could be combined with agriculture and cattle raising.

The Ladino company had its best period in the 1970s, when they were in charge of supplying demand throughout the country.

However, the boom in the entry of Chinese products in the 2000s caused a decline in the demand affecting domestic manufacturers like Ladino.

If you want to get more information and learn more historical data in the Ball Museum located in the village you will be able to learn.

Calicanto Colonial Bridge

The bridge was built by the Sanoha tribe in the XVII century over the Morro River, its name comes from the material with which it is made: calicanto, a glue made of a mixture of lime, sand, beef blood and molasses.

It represents a typical work of the Colonial era, after its construction was where the stones that were used to build the Basilica of Our Lady of Monguí were transported.

Basilica and cloister of Nuestra Señora de Monguí

This beautiful stone-built Basilica was finished during the seventeenth century and is consdiered cultural heritage of Colombia, besides being an architectural treasure of the department.

Its origin was a small chapel where the Franciscan missionaries met to evangelize the indigenous people who were in this region.

When you are in front of the front door you will be able to appreciate the coats of arms of the kingdoms of Aragon and Castile, as a symbol to remember the supremacy of Spain during the time in the region.

Franciscan Convent and Church

The Franciscan convent and church is located next to the Basilica, it has 2 floors and what you will appreciate most are the ceilings supported by Roman arches, at the entrance you will be able to appreciate a gigantic stone column in the form of a spiral of about 2.5 meters high.

Its construction took 100 years, since those responsible for its manufacture decided to devote the relevant time to each of the details; when you are walking inside the convent you will be able to see some paintings depicting scenes of Christianity, and some furniture used by the friars of the time.

Peasant for a day

Through sustainable tourism and the association of several farmers you can experience a day of a family in the sector; you can learn about morning activities, animal management techniques and the preparation of typical foods. This activity begins in the early morning and ends after lunch.

References
  • Network of Colombian Heritage Villages
  • Colombia Travel
About the author

Luisa Martin

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

The Magical Realism of the Macondo Route in the Colombian Caribbean

Macondo does not appear on maps, and could be any town in the northern Caribbean of Colombia. Everything seems to indicate that Macondo is inspired by Arataca, a municipality in the department of Magdalena where Gabriel García Márquez was born. So, the Macondo Route is recently developed as a touristic project, since 2017.

What does it mean Macondo?

Macondo comes from makonde, which is the plural of likonde, a word used to refer to the prenominate fruit in the millenary Central African language, which literally means ‘devil’s food’.

The Macondo Route

The Government of the Department of Magdalena has designed the Macondo Route, which will take you to each of the places present in the book One Hundred Years of Solitude, by the Colombian novel winner Gabriel Garcia Marquez. This project integrates 8 municipalities that you will have the opportunity to discover.

You can also enjoy an eco-village in Macondo and the Mauricio Babilonia’s butterfly farm. This tour promotes the growth and development of these towns, in addition to promoting the protection of the environment.

Cienaga

The town is located in front of the Caribbean Sea, near the Cienaga Grande. Ciénaga has historical, colonial, archaeological and natural sites to visit; the beaches on the shores of the Caribbean Sea offer a moment of peace and tranquility. It is part of Colombia’s network of heritage towns.

Ciénaga can be reached from Santa Marta or Barranquilla by car or bus. From Santa Marta it is 17 kilometers, while from Barranquilla it is 62 kilometers. To get to Ciénaga from Bogotá you must take a 1-hour flight from the city of Bogotá at El Dorado International Airport (BOG) to Simón Bolívar International Airport (SMR) in Santa Marta. From the airport you have to take a cab to Ciénaga, 33 km away (40 minutes).

It can be said that Ciénaga has the privilege of possessing an invaluable historical and cultural heritage. The Templete, the Chapel of the Santa Teresa School, the Old Railroad Station, the Church of San Juan Bautista, the Masonic Lodge, “La Casa del Diablo” transport us to past times and accompany us in the present with its colonial air.

Its colonial style houses show the former prosperity of the sector and is testimony of the economic boom that Cienaga had since 1900, through the export of bananas. It went from being an indigenous town in a state of colonial occupation to become the third most important city in the Colombian Caribbean.

García Márquez’s grandparents arrived in Ciénaga in the first decade of the 1900s. Although García Márquez only lived a short time in Ciénaga, the municipality is full of tributes to him.

One of the most visited places by the local people is the Balneario de Costa Verde, a place with beautiful landscapes and natural pools, where the Cordoba River flows into the Cienaga Grande and its countless pipes.

You can not forget to take a tour of the historic center of the town along with its streets, which will transport you to another era full of history.

The Cemetery of the Rich

The tomb of Remedios, la bella, is located in the San Miguel de Ciénaga cemetery, better known as the cemetery of the rich. According to local guides, the name of the person who gave life to the character in the book is Rosario Barranco, who was the first Miss Magdalena, in 1934.

Many stories related to her unparalleled beauty were told about her, hence the nickname ‘Rosario, la bella’ (Rosario, the beautiful). Some say that García Márquez took the reference and adapted it to ‘Remedios, la bella’, because for him she was so beautiful that she was a remedy for ugliness.

Their deaths even resemble each other, unmarried, flying between white sheets. Rosario collapsed in front of the church of San Juan Bautista, of a fulminating heart attack, from her shawl Garcia Marquez created a sheet for Remedios, in which she flew to heaven.

Banana-growing Zone

It has a natural and historical wealth that marked the territory with the inclusion of the railroad train and the cultivation of bananas. It also has the privilege of having three basins that are maintained with water throughout the year.

Most of the banana towns were built on the sides of the railroad, so there is an element that connects the Colombian Nobel’s magical realism literature and the passage of the train loaded with bananas that transformed Macondo.

Nowadays, in terms of agriculture there is corn, rice, beans, fruit trees, horticulture and cassava, in addition, there is an important area planted with bananas and oil palm.

The Riofrío Commissariat

The Riofrío Commissariat is located in the Riofrío district, in the banana-growing zone. There, the day laborers of the United Fruit Company, the U.S. multinational that marketed fruits grown in Latin America, went on strike in order to improve their working conditions.

The company’s managers did not comply with their demands and twenty-four days later, on December 6, 1928, one of the most chilling events in Colombian history took place: The Banana Factory Massacre.

The nonconformity of the workers were narrated in One Hundred Years of Solitude explaining the state of mind of the workers, who needed a change. And although they only demanded that their rights be respected, no one supported them.

The most frequent activities take place in Rio Frio, Sevilla and Tucurinca, where you can enjoy a swim in crystal clear waters, you can also make kayak tours that end where the Sevilla and Rio Frio river basin joins.

To get to Zona Bananera you must take a 1 hour flight from the city of Bogota at El Dorado International Airport (BOG) to Simon Bolivar International Airport (SMR) in Santa Marta. From the airport take a cab to Zona Bananera, 59 km (1 hour).

Varela, municipality of the yellow butterflies

Near the commissary stop, and still next to the train tracks, is Varela.

“After the massacre of the banana plantations the quantities of bananas that remained on the plants uncut began to decompose. This caused the proliferation of many butterflies of different colors, being the yellow ones the predominant ones“, says a local guide.

It is in Valera, where a mechanic of the United Fruit Company lived and who in One Hundred Years of Solitude appears as Mauricio Babilonia, who is in love with Renata Remedios Buendia. The yellow butterflies preceded Mauricio Babilonia’s appearances, indicating to Remedios when she could meet her forbidden love.

City of the “gringos” and Casa Museo de Sevilla

After crossing the Aguja and Frío rivers, you arrive at the city of the “gringos”.

As “Gabo” once recounted, Prado Sevilla was a privileged place in the banana region. The high officials of the United Fruit Company, who were generally American, French and German citizens, enjoyed a swimming pool, bilingual school, golf course, the only movie theater in the region, heliport, electric light (which none of the other towns had), a military battalion that guarded its inhabitants all day long, a clinic and buildings completely different from the other workers’ camps.

There you will find the Casa Museo de Sevilla, which still preserves the original furniture that the United Fruit Company provided to its employees.

Macondo

There in Zona Bananera is a small village called Macondo. Its inhabitants tell that Garcia Marquez knew it, and that he simply didn’t give them the credit out of interest or embarrassment.

At the entrance of the village, which is located in the heart of the banana zone, there is a giant, colorful sign that reads: “I love the real Macondo. Land of inspiration that gave birth to the magical Macondian world. Fertile land blessed by God on the banks of the Sevilla River”.

In an interview with Gabriel García Márquez asking him where Macondo was, he answered that it existed in everyone’s mind. For this reason, the inhabitants of this village consider that he was not loyal to them. And, although Macondo generates a lot of money for the film, manufacturing and literary industries, the inhabitants of the real Macondo are impoverished.

Aracataca

Aracataca is the birthplace of the writer Gabriel García Márquez. It is located in the north of the department of Magdalena, in the sub-region of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, the temperatures range between 33°C and 36°C.

Many of the places in Aracataca pay homage to Gabriel García Márquez. The most recent is the Macondo Linear Park, which was founded in 2019. There you can see a colorful artistic path of 350 meters with more than 30 murals that capture some fragments of the author’s most representative works.

There is also the Gabriel García Márquez Public Library, the Remedios la Bella Municipal Library, the statue of Remedios la Bella, the Railway Station and the Telegraph House, where Eligio García, Gabo’s father, worked.

The first place we recommend you to visit is the Gabriel García Márquez House Museum, where the famous writer lived. Admission is free but they ask for a voluntary donation for its maintenance.

You can also go to the old Casa del Telegrafista (Telegraph House), where the Colombian writer’s father worked, the entrance is also free. Finally, you can take a tour through the streets of the town in the company of a guide, who will tell you the stories of Gabo when he lived in the town.

To get to Aracataca you have to take a 1-hour flight from Bogota city at El Dorado International Airport (BOG) to Simon Bolivar International Airport (SMR) in Santa Marta. From the airport you have to take a cab to A, 84 km (1.5 – hours).

Other places you can visit around the Mancondo Route

Sitionuevo and Puebloviejo

Sitionuevo is a municipality of the department located in the department of Magdalena, is on the right bank of the Magdalena River is one of the ideal places to enjoy nature in the Caribbean.

Puebloviejo It is located in the north of the department of Magdalena, linked by an isthmus to the city of San Juan (Ciénaga). It has an incalculable hydrographic wealth, as it is surrounded by the waters of the Caribbean Sea and the Ciénaga Grande de Santa Marta.

The villagers summarize the essence of the true fishermen of the country, so when visiting this town you can learn about traditional fishing techniques and hear many anecdotes of veteran fishermen.

To get to Sitionuevo you must take a 1-hour flight from the city of Bogota at El Dorado International Airport (BOG) to the Ernesto Cortissoz International Airport (BAQ) in Barranquilla. From the airport take a cab to Sitionuevo, 37 km away (1-hour).

To get to Pueblo Viejo you have to take a 1 hour flight from the city of Bogota at El Dorado International Airport (BOG) to Simon Bolivar International Airport (SMR) in Santa Marta. From the airport take a cab to Puebloviejo, 37 km away (1 hour).

Via-Parque Isla de Salamanca

Near this town is the Via-Parque Isla de Salamanca. This park is located on the right side of the Troncal del Caribe highway, 110 km from Santa Marta and 10 km from Barranquilla after crossing the Pumarejo bridge. It is full of exuberant trails with unique fauna and flora of the Tropical Dry Forest.

Along the way you will find a considerable variety of freshwater vegetation, as well as mangroves and the aquatic community of floating species, water lettuce, freshwater grasses and swamp forest.

In terms of fauna, mammals are represented by the presence of 14 families and 33 species. The park has a record of 241 bird species, and since 1964 it has been declared a refuge for birds and amphibians.

El Retén

El Reten is located in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta subregion. This town has two large rivers, the Aracataca River to the north and the Fundación River to the south, both of which originate in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta and flow into the Ciénaga Grande.

During your visit to these lands you can dance and enjoy the cumbia and other rhythms enlivened by flutes, bagpipes, drums and others; you can wear the typical costumes and enjoy a rumbero atmosphere.

You will have the opportunity to visit the natural reserve El Chuval which, in turn, borders the Ciénaga Grande. In this wonderful place you can find a diversity of fauna and flora, you can go fishing, or just to see the view.

To get to El Retén you must take a 1 hour flight from the city of Bogotá at the El Dorado International Airport (BOG) to the Simón Bolívar International Airport (SMR) in Santa Marta. From the airport take a cab to El Retén, 97 km (2 hours).

Santa Marta

Santa Marta, officially the Tourist, Cultural and Historic District of Santa Marta, is the capital of the department of Magdalena, Colombia. It was founded on July 29, 1525 by the Spaniard Rodrigo de Bastidas, which according to the texts, makes it the oldest standing city in Colombia. It is located on the shores of the bay of the same name.

Santa Marta is known by the slogan The magic of having it all. In addition to several beaches and sites of historical value, it has the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, which has archaeological sites such as Ciudad Perdida.

Its most famous beaches are El Rodadero and Taganga, the latter being the entrance to the Tayrona National Park.

In the Plaza de Bolivar, next to the boardwalk, is the Casa de la Aduana, where the body of Simon Bolivar rested in a burning chamber. It currently houses the Tayrona Gold Museum of the Bank of the Republic.

The city also has several sites of cultural interest. Among them are the San Juan Nepomuceno Cloister, the Quinta de San Pedro Alejandrino, from 1830, and the Cathedral Basilica of Santa Marta, built in the 1760s. This temple houses a small urn containing the heart and entrails of Simón Bolívar.

Where to stay?

You can visit the Casa D’ Remedios La Bella hotel boutique in Ciénaga, where each room is named after the female characters of the work One Hundred Years of Solitude, or visit the Amaranta Restaurant, which includes other elements in honor of “Gabo”, such as a clock that gathers 12 of his books.

Want to plant your trip to Colombia? do no hesitate to contact us!

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.

Salamina the ‘City of Light’, is the perfect alternative to Salento

In the midst of the mountains of northern Caldas, the ‘City of Light’ of Colombia, Salamina, declared a National Monument and a National Asset of Cultural Interest, highlights its cultural and historical legacy through its colonial houses, balconies, steep streets and its extensive religious tradition.

This municipality, founded in 1825 and today inhabited by more than 18,000 people, was the birthplace of Mother María Berenice Duque, the nun who is in the process of beatification by Pope Francis since 2018.

The catholic temples have given way to the construction of the cultural identity of this beautiful municipality. Wwhile other municipalities in Caldas exhibit and are recognized for their panel, coffee or mining culture, the people of Salamina proudly preserve the religious legacy of their history.

In this guide you will have the necessary information for your visit to this beautiful town, and also how to get to know the wax palm neat to it.

Discovering Salamina

The town was founded in 1825, Salamina is known as “The City of Light” of Caldas. Its name “the city of light” is due to the fact that many famous poets and actors have come from this traditional paisa town.

One of the most traditional and important events for the people of Salamina is the celebration of Holy Week, which enjoys great renown at the departmental and national level, as well as the “Night of Fire”, the celebration of the day of the Immaculate Conception, patron saint of this municipality.

The night of every December 7 and 8, the streets and balconies of the town are decorated with thousands of lanterns and lights to pay homage to the Virgin Mary.

Salamina is located north of the department of Caldas and has a township called San Felix is located 74 Km away from Manizales, the capital of the department.

Moreover, Salamina is a beautiful town with streets of iconic wattle and daub houses and clay tiles, the average temperature in Salento is 23 ºC (73ºF) and it is located at an altitude of 1,775 meters above sea level.

Salamina is considered a representative of the paisas’ traditions and customs because of its well preserved 19th century architecture.

How to get to Salamina

Take a 1-hour flight from El Dorado (BOG) in Bogotá to Airport La Nubia (MZL) at Manizales city. Once in Manizales you take an approximately 2-hours ride (75 Km) to Salamina.

Remember that you can get to Manizales from any of the major cities in the country by air.

In addition, if you wish to take the overland route from Bogota, the journey takes 9-hours and 365 Km.

Where to stay in Salamina

In Salamina you will find a great infrastructure, depending on your budget and personal tastes you can choose; our recommendations for you are:

  • Las Marias Family Home
  • La Estancia Hotel Boutique
  • Hospedaje Casa Real

Salamina Attractions and Activities

La Pila de Salamina

It is a fountain that you cannot miss, it is located in the central square of the town and is an imitation of another one that can be found in the Place de la Concorde in Paris. It is considered the most beautiful fountain in Colombia.

It is said that it was brought to the country via Barranquilla and transported by the Magdalena River to the department of Tolima where it was then transported by mule to Salamina.

Visit to the Rodrigo Jiménez Mejía House of Culture

It is considered the most important architectural jewel of Salamina thanks to the wood finishes, beautiful balconies, majestic doors, lintels carved with figures and lanterns complete a wonderful set.

Visit the San Esteban Cemetery

It has a chapel of gothic architecture, beautiful gardens and a relaxing view of the mountain.

When you walk through the cemetery you can notice the socio-economic differences of some tombs, since in ancient times the dead were buried in certain places of the cemetery as a distribution of the social classes of the former inhabitants of the town.

The Natural Forest of Wax Palm La Samaria

Wax Palm Forest

Located just 30 km away from Salamina’s urban, this forest is one of the most amazing and best preserved corners that the department of Caldas offers.

Unlike the Cocora Valley in Salento, Quindio, in this forest there is not much noise, nor commerce around. It is a place with more tranquility, more contact with nature, a solitude that will help you to have that encounter with yourself.

Besides, the forest is the habitat of one of the most beautiful birds in America, the yellow-eared parrot lives in the canopy of these immense plants.

Birdwatching

We recommend you visit the  “Mirador de la Samaria”, where you will be able to do birdwatching, and check one of the most representative birds of the region, the woodpecker and one of the most beautiful birds of America, the yellow-eared parrot that inhabit the tops of the immense wax palms.

The entrance fee to the forest is COP 10,000 and you can stay in the forest for a maximum of 7 hours.

Taking into account the above you can decide when you can know the beautiful town of Salamina. Plan your trip with us!

References
  • https://colombia.travel/en/salamina
About the author

Luisa Martin

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

What to do in Salento in the Colombian Coffee Triangle?

In the department of Quindio you will fall in love with one of the most beautiful towns in Colombia: Salento, which historic center was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List as part of the “Coffee Cultural Landscape” in 2011.

It is perhaps the most important municipality for tourism in Quindío, due to three fundamental reasons:

  1. The first, the beautiful and preserved architecture left by the Antioquian colonization;
  2. the second, the imposing Cocora Valley, which is one of the most beautiful landscapes in Colombia;
  3. and the third, the contagious atmosphere of peace and well-being that permeates immediately upon arrival.

In this guide you will have the necessary information for your visit to these beautiful town, and also how to get to know the wax palm, the national tree of Colombia.

Discovering Salento

Located 26 km from Armenia, on the western side of the Central Mountain Range and to the northeast of the department, Salento is like a historical account of the region, since its streets reflect intact the tradition of the initial settlers.

Tradition that even today many still strive to preserve so that the place projects its full charm. This town of colorful houses and balconies adorned with flowers has among its residents some foreigners who one day arrived and decided to remain trapped by the charm of the place.

And speaking of charm, Disney released its new movie, called Encanto, inspired by this place.

Salento was founded on September 16, 1842 but its creation would only take place until 1908. Moreover, Salento is the oldest municipality among the 3 departments that make up the Eje Cafetero (Quindío, Risaralda and Caldas). In addition, it is the gateway to the Cocora Valley and one of the entrances to Los Nevados National Natural Park.

Bear in mind, the average temperature in Salento is between 17 ºC (63ºF) and 23 ºC (73ºF) and it has 2 dry season periods, one from mid-June to early September and from late December to mid-January.

How to get to Salento

Take a 1-hour flight from El Dorado (BOG) in Bogotá to El Edén International Airport (AXM) at Armenia city. Once in Armenia you take an approximately 45-minutes ride (25 Km) to Salento.

Remember that you can get to Armenia from any of the major cities in the country by air. In addition, if you wish to take the overland route from Bogota, the journey takes 6.2 hours and 305 Km.

Where to stay in Salento

In Salento you will find a great diversity of accommodation options depending on your budget and personal taste. Our recommendations as follows:

  • Hotel El Mirador del Cocora
  • Montana Glamping
  • Hotel Terraza
  • La Cabaña Ecohote
  • Hotel Kawa Mountain
  • Hotel Real

Salento Attractions and activities

Tour the town

We recommend that you start the tour walking through the beautiful streets of Salento, where you will see the predominance of adobe and mud houses with colorful wooden balconies and gates decorated with flowers. On your walk you will be able to appreciate the authentic architecture of the traditional coffee towns from the beginning of the 20th century.

Walk along the Calle Real (Royal Street)

This is the main street of the municipality. On your walk you will be able to appreciate beautiful restaurants, coffee shops, handicraft stores and commercial passageways.

At the end of this street you will find some colorful stairs that take you to one of the viewpoints of Salento, the viewpoint of Alto de la Cruz. From the viewpoint you will be able to see a large part of the town and its church, and if you are lucky you will be able to see part of Armenia and the mountains of Los Nevados National Natural Park.

Visit the Cocora Valley

This beautiful tourist place is something you cannot miss on your visit; it is a world-class tourist attraction for its majestic beauty and it is one of the last cloud forests that are home to the Ceroxylon quindiuense or Quindio wax palm, the tallest in the world.

The Cocora Valley is an important habitat for many animals such as the yellow-eared parakeet, the toucan and the spectacled bear, hence its importance of protection.

That is why we recommend you to have a lot of respect for the flora and fauna, and to walk ONLY along the areas allowed by the park rangers.

To get to the Cocora Valley you must take the road that takes you to the access point, the trip takes 25 minutes by car 11 km from Salento.

Visit Acaime and the hummingbird house

Acaime is a natural reserve full of native flora and fauna, located on the Central Mountain Range 4 Km from the Cocora Valley.

In this reserve you will be able to appreciate a great diversity of hummingbirds, as well as other species of the region and beautiful streams.

The entrance fee is COP 5,000, which is redeemable for a traditional snack (panela water with cheese or a delicious coffee).

Visiting the Los Nevados National Natural Park

It is one of the most beautiful National Parks in the country, where you can visit beautiful landscapes and see the greatness of the most important snow-capped mountains where you will connect with nature and its majesty.

For more information on how you can make the most of this beautiful National Park you can read our blog:  Best Things to Know Before Visiting Los Nevados National Natural Park.

Go to Santa Rita Waterfall

This beautiful waterfall of no more than 20 meters high has a natural with a quiet and romantic atmosphere for its visitors.

In the village of Los Andes, 4 km from the center of Salento, at this point there is a walk of 1.5 km, on the way to the waterfall you will see tunnels, suspension bridges, water sources and the old train track.

The entrance fee is COP 5,000.

El Mirador Ecopark

It is an obligatory point of visit because from there you can observe the Cocora valley that is born between the mountains of the Central mountain range and slides parallel to the Quindío river; it is possible to arrive by car and park it in the parking lot of the place, which also has public restroom.

The structure, in the form of a balcony, is built in guadua, thus representing an excellent tribune to admire the landscape, even through some telescopes rented by the locals. From the lookout point, a short trail leads from the lookout point to the Alto de la Cruz.

There they sell delicious sweets, honey, wafers and candies for the cold. The best way to get there is to ask any inhabitant.

Coffee Process and Coffee Tour at Finca Hotel El Ocaso

Finca El Ocaso is located on a hill just 4km from Salento (20 minutes by car or one hour walking), with a unique landscape surrounded by mountains and adorned by the murmur of the Quindio River that passes along the farm 300m downhill.

It has a typical coffee house with more than 100 years of history and tradition where lodging services are provided for a maximum of 10 people. Finca El Ocaso has extensive gardens with a great variety of flowers and native trees and several hectares of coffee.

Enjoy the trails that go to the bamboo forest, to the hill (viewpoint), to the water source and to the Quindio River where you can do bird watching and learn about the flora and fauna of the tropical rainforest.

Alto de la Cruz Viewpoint

Through the more than 200 steps that start where the Fieal de Salento street ends, you can access this site that allows you to get an idea of the magnitude of the Cocora Valley, and at the same time offers a panoramic view of the town.

During the breaks in the tour, the images of the Way of the Cross that Jesus traveled on his way to Mount Calvary appear. The viewpoint, besides being a tourist attraction, is a permanent pilgrimage destination.

Morrogacho Hill

This is the stage before Los Nevados Park, which can only be reached on foot from the Cocora Valley and by a difficult road on which all precautions must be taken.

The hill, of unique morphological characteristics, is located at an altitude of 3,450 m, in the midst of a dense Andean forest landscape that makes it one of the favorite natural destinations of the people of Quindio.

The cave represents the mystery of having been a cemetery and ritual center of the Quindos Indians who once lived in the area. It is recommended that the expedition be accompanied by a guide.

La Explanación Bridge

Around 1948 this western railroad crossing was built as part of the road project between Buenaventura and Bogota. Currently, the structure, with arched bases, is a national monument belonging to the Boquía trail. It is also known as the Amparo Bridge.

Quindío National Road

When in other times communication between east and west was required, this road was the most important articulation route. Although since the 18th century Viceroy Pedro Messia de la Cerda was interested in its creation, it was not until 1823 that the work began, while in 1830 it was Simón Bolívar who ordered its opening. The old road extends between the Boquía trail, the river of the same name and the Quindío River.

Bird watching

The upper canyon of the Quindío River is the habitat of endemic and near-endemic species and specimens that captivate with their colors, shapes and behaviors. In the vicinity of the Cocora Valley, near the canyon, you can go on hikes to observe birds such as the torrent duck and the blackbird.

Along the same route, going up on horseback, the Acaime nature reserve is home to birds such as the masked saltator, the Golden-plumed parakeet, and the White-capped tanager. Other special birds can be observed along the Estrella de Agua, La Montaña and La Picota nature reserves, considered one of the best corridors for bird watching.

The Ocellated tapaculo, the Mountain cacique, the Grey-breasted mountain Toucan and the Chestnut-naped antpitta, are special birds that fly through this landscape.

References
  • https://colombia.travel/en/salamina
  • https://www.colombia.travel/en/salento
About the author

Luisa Martin

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

Naturally Mummified Bodies of the Museum of Mummies in Colombia

When you think of mummies, you surely think about Egypt, and its famous mummified pharaohs buried in their imposing pyramids. Yes, Egypt is known for its magical history and its gigantic cultural contribution, with their special techniques to mummify their bodies. But did you know that you can find naturally mummified bodies in the museum of mummies of Colombia?

In a hidden village, approximately 99 km from Bogota, there is San Bernardo, a cozy village with very friendly locals. In the cemetery of San Bernardo, many of the dead become mummies for unknown reasons. It happens so often that the Church decided to build a mausoleum to keep them in glass urns, when the families allow it.

It is known for being the only town in Colombia where the dead buried there have a layer of skin between white and brown tones that gives them a very peculiar appearance.

In San Bernardo, death acquires a fantastic and mystical touch, since there is no scientific explanation for this process.

The following is the information you need to make the most of your visit to San Bernardo, the town of mummies in Colombia.

Exploring San Bernardo

The municipality of San Bernardo is the agricultural pantry of Sumapaz region, charming, magical and quiet land. Its gastronomy is recognized regionally and its agro-ecological fairs are the best in Sumapaz.

Its landscapes offer a great variety of climates and agricultural products; a natural paradise rich in natural niches such as the Sumapaz National Natural Park, its people are friendly and welcoming and always welcome you with open arms.

San Bernardo is the only place in Colombia where there is a natural mummification process that has not been explained.

Why are they mummified?

It all started in the 1950’s, when the new cemetery was inaugurated. The old one was on the banks of a river in the lower part of the municipality, but the current swept away some of the dead when the waters rose.

When they began to remove bodies for exhumations, mummified bodies began to appear.

Environmental Context for Mummification

The context in each case may be different, but in principle an extreme environment is needed: very hot, very dry or very cold.

After death, our cells begin to break down and release all sorts of substances – including enzymes – that create an ideal environment for bacteria and fungi, which enter this mixture and begin to break down the body.

In most cases, enzymes need an aqueous environment to work. But if the temperature is too high, the body dehydrates before the enzymes can take action, and this results in mummification.

When the temperature is too low this can also happen because the cold inhibits bacterial activity. Especially if the body remains covered with ice or snow.

Swamps (wet by nature) are another natural environment that favors mummification. This is because they are generally cold, acidic and anaerobic environments.

Another influencing factor is the composition of the soil, e.g. the presence of heavy metals in the soil can retard the action of enzymes. The material of the coffin, as well as the textiles that cover the body and absorb the liquids, can also have an impact on the process.

Finally, it also depends on the body characteristics of each individual.

What can be happening in San Bernardo?

San Bernardo lies on the hills of Sumapaz, in the south of Cundinamarca, and the cemetery was built on the side of a mountain where it smells of pine trees and flowers. This cemetery is placed in the highest part of the village, near to the Paramo.

The gravedigger tells that the dead are exhumed every five years, and it always happens that they are intact… when they are cut they still have blood, they have flesh and they have everything. Even the eyes!

But there is a particular detail, according to the gravedigger, when the bodies come out “exact”, there is a thin layer of ice that covers the whole body. His testimony may suggest the very cold environment cause for mummification.

However, there are no studies to support the hypothesis of freezing, in spite of the testimonies.

Funerary and Cultural Heritage

Recently, the mummies of San Bernardo, and all the natural process is proposed to be declared as Funerary and Cultural Heritage.

The aim is to promote the Mummies of San Bernardo as Funerary and Cultural Heritage given the characteristics of the phenomenon that occurs naturally and the manifestations and identities that derive from it.

It is Funerary Heritage because it generates alternative visions of the meaning of death and the transcendence of the body after death. It is Cultural Heritage because through popular and daily orality emerge all kinds of myths connected with others transmitted by generations about the reason for the phenomenon. The mummies are the living memory and identity of a region that resists oblivion.

How to get to San Bernardo

The town is located in the south-east of the Department of Cundinamarca in the Sumapaz Province. San Bernardo has an average temperature of 21°C (69º F), making it a pleasant climate for tourists.

To get to San Bernardo you must take a 3-hour road trip from the south of the city of Bogotá for 99 km. On your way you will pass through towns like Fusagasuga and Arbelaez. When you passing Arbelaez  you must take an unpaved road that will take you to the center of town.

Where to stay in San Bernardo

Being a very small town we tell you to dedicate a whole day to walk the streets and points of interest.  In the afternoon you can stay in the town of Fusagasuga which is to 36 km away. In Fusagasuga we recommend you to stay in the following hotels:

Attractions and activities in San Bernardo

San Bernardo has two attractions that you will have the opportunity to visit. So we recommend some other nearby activities and attractions that you will love.

Mausoleum José Arquímedes Castro, or the Museum of Mummies

Mummies of the Mausoleum of Mummies © Mausoleum of Mummies

This is a museum that exhibits the mummies. Their bodies did not decompose but were calcified, keeping the skin and some parts of the body intact.

Currently, there are 14 mummies exhibited, since their number was reduced for health reasons, but at some point there were about 180.

The inhabitants of the village believe that the origin of the mummification is based on the diet of the Sanbernardinos, based on the consumption of Guatila and Balú. Both foods are part of the food tradition and grow wild and naturally, without chemicals that alter them.

However, all the surrounding municipalities consume the same food, and do not present mummified dead, thus refuting this local hypothesis.

The Mausoleum is open every day except Tuesdays from 8:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. and from 2:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. The entrance fee is 5000 pesos for adults and 4000 pesos for children. It is recommended to visit early in the morning so that you can make your visit at your leisure.

Before visiting the museum of mummies remember:

  • The mummies are deceased people so it is very important to maintain the due respect.
  • Avoid taking pictures of the mummies out of respect for the deceased and their families.
  • Do not throw garbage on the floor during your trip.
  • Your early visit allows you to go to places in and around San Bernardo with beautiful scenery.
  • Keep your hands clean and wear your mask correctly.

Macaracuay Ecological Farm

At the farm you can learn about the flora and fauna present in the village, have a sample of each of the products that are harvested. You will learn about the traditional farming techniques used in the village. It is possible to have contact with the animals of the farm and eat typical food of the area.

Water activities

In the Negro River, near the village, you can do activities such as rappel, rappel and hike through caves near the river. You should keep in mind that these activities can only be done with certified guides that you can find in the different agencies located in the center of town.

Horseback riding

If you are a horse lover you can take the horseback riding service available in town, the marked trails will take you through traditional paths used by the villagers to get around. In addition, you can also ride to the Rio Negro River or the Macacuay Ecological Farm. Please note that most horseback riding hours are between 8:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m.

La Chapa Viewpoint

In the neighboring town of Pandi, you will find an imposing viewpoint, from which you will have a view of the Sumapaz River canyon, the municipalities of Pandi, Icononzo, Venecia, Alto de Boquerón, Chinauta and the Natural Park of the Nevados del Tolima, Ruiz and Santa Isabel. It is located 8.3 km (26 minutes) from the center of San Bernardo, so it is necessary to take a car service to reach this point.

Green and Aquatic Park

This beautiful park is located 3 km from the town of Fusagasuga and 40 km from San Bernardo (1.5 – Hours); during your stay in the park you can enjoy beautiful and unimaginable landscapes, abundant in water, and a majestic diversity of green in the mountains.

You will be able to do activities such as hiking where you will be able to do bird watching and recognize the species thanks to the information offered by the park guides. You can have the opportunity to stay in individual cabins or there is also a camping area.

Quinini Hill

In the municipality of Tibacuy is this beautiful nature reserve with a beautiful viewpoint, located 60 km from San Bernardo (2 – hours). Quininí refers to the “Sacred Mountain of the Moon or Moon Goddess”, which is what it means in the language of the indigenous communities that lived there. Quinini is also a recommender destination for birdwatching near Bogotá.

References
About the authors

Sara Colmenares.

Current director of Sula. Doctor in Biological Sciences and Specialist in Tourism Management and Nature Tourism. 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.

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.