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.


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.

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

Luisa Martin

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

Historic Royal Roads of Colombia: New trekking Destinations

Historic roads are routes that have great historical importance. Nowadays they are becoming interesting destinations for trekking in Colombia.

They exist from the prehistoric era and the first ones were supposedly traced by animals and then adapted by humans. They were usually for trade and communication throughout big empires.

Famous Historic Roads

Some of the most representative and largest historic roads are the following:

  • Silk Road: trade routes that connected the East and West from the 2nd century BCE to the 18th century, specifically East, South and Southeast Asia with Persia, the Arabian Peninsula, East Africa and Southern Europe.
  • Amber Road: amber trade route from the coastal areas of the North Sean and the Baltic Sea to the Mediterranean Sea.
  • Royal Road: highway rebuilt by the Persian king Darius the Great in the 5th century BCE for facilitating rapid communication throughout the Persian Empire.
  • Post Track: causeway in the valley of the River Brue in the Somerset Levels, England that dates back to 3.838 BCE.
  • Red River Trails: network of ox cart routes between Canada and the US, from the 19th century.
  • Inca road system: the most extensive and advanced transportation system in pre-Columbian South America. It was about 39,900 kilometers (24,800 mi) long and the most famous section is the Inca trail to Machu Picchu.

Nowadays, some historic roads have been the target of preservation efforts and, thus, adapted to tourism. One of the best examples is the Appalachian Trail.

Appalachian Trail

Appalachian Trail ©https.appalachiantrail.org

Proposed in 1921 and built in the following years, this trekking trail is 3,500 km (2,200 mi) long and goes from north to south in the Eastern United States.

Thousands of hikers attempt to travel the whole trail, but only 1/4 achieve it and are called ‘thru-hikers’.

The Appalachian Trail boasts a natural and cultural heritage, and for this reason, the Appalachian Trail Conservancy was created, to ensure this unique place is well-managed and preserved.

In 1991, an International Appalachian Trail was created, which continues northeast from the US state of Maine to Canada and then, sections in Greenland, Europe and Morocco were founded.

Royal Roads in Colombia 

Historic roads were essential in the formation process of Colombia, since they allowed not only product exchange but culture and knowledge exchanges. In this way, the former isolated villages were becoming a network, a community, that offered tons of new opportunities.

Geography and population distribution throughout the country set a huge barrier for communication between the different settlements, so the ancient trails traced by native cultures have an incalculable value until today.  

Transport roads between the Spanish mines in 1560. ©Monique Lepage

The Need to Connect the Country

Although the first routes were opened by indigenous communities amid dense forests and steep mountains for religious and cultural reasons, the Spanish conquerors were the ones who forced the integration of national territory.

Most urban centers were established far from the coasts as the largest indigenous groups lived in inland areas. Coastal towns had easier communication with Europe than with the capital and other inland territories, so the need for a transportation axis across the country was evident.  

Navigating the Magdalena River by Steamship, 1868 ©CC Leibniz-Institut für Länderkunde e.V., Leipzig

The Magdalena river was the axis to which several of the main hinterland roads converged, the royal roads.

Since the Spanish settlers sought to open new routes that helped the subjugation of the indigenous and the territorial integration, subsidies and benefits were offered to those who succeeded in opening crucial roads.

Later, from 1880 to 1930 the royal roads had their boom and transported volume of cargo and were traversed by travelers and mules as never before.

Since 1930, the bridle paths that allowed the inter-communication in Colombia experienced a crisis due to the introduction of wheel-friendly roads.   

Royal Roads as Destinations for Trekking in Colombia

Nearly 80 years later, in 2008, Colombia’s Ministry of Culture launched the first project of cultural tourism in the country, which was about redesigning and reopening 3 routes of Royal Roads and was called ‘Recovery of Colombia’s Royal Roads‘.

The program aimed to analyze several variables of existing royal roads to determine its viability as cultural tourist attractions. The first royal road to be studied was the one located between Guaduas and Honda, which is 33 km long 

What motivated to undertake this project was the belief that “we must know, cherish and recover the Royal Roads, because they are essential parts of our memory and guiding threads to the future”, according to the then Ministry of Culture representative.  

Now, these are the Colombian royal roads that are currently open for tourism. Check out some of our tours here!

Lengerke’s Royal Road  

Some of the most beautiful colonial villages in Santander are connected by bridle paths built in the 19th century.

Geo von Lengerke, a German engineer, was the mastermind of these multiple roads that served to explore new territories and boost regional trade to and from the Caribbean coast along the Magdalena river.

Although the roads were planned by a foreigner, the construction was in charge of local labor. These represent a great architectural landmark, taking into account the complex topography of this region in northeastern Colombia. However, it has to be mentioned that the Guanes and Yariguies indigenous communities would have traced and traveled the roads before. 

It is estimated that there are 800 to 1,300 km of roads with different conservation status, roads that demand a good physical condition since the trek is of intermediate to high difficulty. 

The roads that helped the local economy thrive over 150 years ago, today keep their function, but in the tourism sector: they are favorite attractions among tourists visiting Santander.

One of the reasons is the big role that nature plays in beautifying the trek that passes by some of the best preserved villages of the region.

Itinerary of the trip along Lengerke’s roads


The Lengerke’s royal roads are full of amazing viewpoints and a background that helps tourists connect with Colombia’s history and development, while enjoying nature. This is the itinerary of the trip along Lengerke’s roads: 

First Stop. The journey starts in Mesa de los Santos, a warm municipality that offers extreme sports facilities and a renowned organic coffee.  

Second Stop. Jordan is the next stop, reached after descending by the breathtaking scenery of the Chicamocha Canyon, which takes about 3 hours. Jordan connected the southern municipalities with Bucaramanga, Santander’s capital, so it was of high importance. There it is safe to camp and rest before continuing toBarichara 

Third Stop. The colonial village of Barichara was declared a World Heritage Site in 1978, since it keeps its classic infrastructure of narrow streets, white walls and yellow ground, which gives its inhabitants the nickname of ‘patiamarillos’ or the yellow-legged. Barichara has various cultural attractions you can visit during your stop. 

Fourth Stop. The journey goes on to Guane, a small village that was the most important chiefdom for Guane indigenous community during the pre-Columbian era. Its church, Santa Lucía, is a National Monument.  

Five Stop. The last leg of the trip is from Guane to Zapatoca, the town where Lengerke lived his last years. There is a great ecotourism offer in this place, including vineyards, the Nitro’s cave, La Lajita waterfall and the Azul and Ahogado wells.  

Honda – Santa Fe Royal Road 

This is the most representative historic road of those built during the colonial era. Starting from Honda, a commercial port by the Magdalena river, and passing by the villages of Mariquita, Villa de Guaduas, Chinauta, Villeta and Facatativa, it ended Bogota (formerly called Santa Fe de Bogota). 

In colonial times, the Magdalena river was navigable up to Honda. The Spaniards made the town a starting point to travel to the center of Colombia.

The royal road, built by slave labor in the 16th century, was very rustic, considering the difficult terrain: it went up and down, went along mountains, valleys, rivers, small villages and unexplored land.

Despite that, everyone who wanted to get to Bogota, had to go through this route, the main communication path in the kingdom of Nueva Granada. 

It was about 112 km long and most of it was between mountains, the rest was located in the Bogota savanna. Travelers completed the route in 6 days or less in the summer; however, during the winter, they could take twice.  

José Celestino Mutis

The ‘Mutis Route’

The first route for cultural tourism was created to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the death of Jose Celestino Mutis. It is called ‘Mutis Route‘ and includes the most important towns where this wise botanist passed by during his famous ‘Botanical expedition‘, i.e the ones that formed the Honda royal road.

Its goal is the appropriation and recovery of the artistic, cultural and historical wealth of the villages, while generating income for the improvement of their life quality.

It has nearly 300 km from Bogota to Ibague and its paths can take between 2 and 7 days of traveling. 

Itinerary of the trip along the Mutis Route

Some of the villages that are privileged to have a section of the royal road are focusing on its preservation and offer guided tours down the road. 


In Tolima, this town was a key transit point in the royal road, that witnessed not only valuable goods but news about new scientific discoveries and ideas.

It was the headquarters of the Royal Botanical Expedition from 1783 to 1791, when it moved to Bogota. 


It is in northern Tolima and became the main connection of the hinterlands with Cartagena and, from there, with Spain.

During the 18th century, its royal road had its boom, which lasted until the 20th century.  Today, Honda is one of the Heritage towns of Colombia, thanks to its historical legacy.



This town is known to be the home town of Policarpa Salavarrieta, the heroine of Colombia’s independence, but before that, it was a key place in the route between Honda and Santa Fe de Bogota.

From the Capira Stone viewpoint, you can see the stunning  Magdalena river valley and a section of the ancient Royal Road that leads to the capital of the country.

A civil society organization, along with young students, is in charge of maintaining the path for visitors to enjoy the travel along it.  

La Mesa 
Camino Real – Mutis Route, Tena, Cundinamarca,

La Mesa is a municipality in Cundinamarca situated on a plateau at 1,200 MASL and also played an important role in the road system of the hinterlands, serving as a mountain port. 

It was a node of a network of several roads that came from nearby regions such as the Bogota savanna, the Magdalena valley and Tequendama.

Some of these stone paths have been preserved to this day, for example, the royal road to San Javier or ‘Camino del Resbalón’. Although short, this road is a fantastic work that is only disrupted by some paved crossroads. 

About the author.

Ana María Parra

Modern Languages professional with emphasis on business translation. Interested in cultural adaptation of written and audiovisual content.  Passionate about knowing new cultures and languages, tourism and sustainable living.