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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
- Colombia Travel
- Network of Colombian Heritage Villages
- Tolima Government Website
About the author
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.