My last week in Colombia was all about avoiding Bogotá.
Throughout the first 4 weeks of my stay in Colombia, I had only gotten shit reviews about Bogotá. “It’s ugly”, “it’s cold as hell”, “it’s sketchy”, “I got robbed at knifepoint”…..enough!
Even though I normally take advise on any location with a grain of salt and would choose to go see for myself, this time my gut feeling was telling me that if I did not end up going to Bogotá I would not be missing much….I gotta trust my gut.
So this left me with a big dilemma…..“where do I go after San Gil?”. It would take me 3 full days to decide.
Welcome to central Colombia.
Even though I chose this destination only about one hour before boarding the bus in that direction, with little to no expectations on what I would find once there, I am glad I first chose to head to Sogamoso.
As the bus entered Sogamoso, I had a glimpse of Pasto in my mind. There wasn’t much to look at when entering the city. The weather seemed cold and rainy, which didn’t help my first perception of the place.
I took a taxi to my hostel, and this is where I absolutely fell in love with this place!
Guaque Hostel is a small house converted into a hostel, and it’s everything a traveller wants; amazing backyard for bonfires, hammocks, cheap bar, and information on what places to visit, nice hosts.
Although the hostel is a bit far from town, it is the perfect place to relax. It also sort of forced everyone to buy their own groceries and cook at the hostel, so it was easier to meet other travellers and make new friends.
Coming into Sogamoso I really did not know what there was to do. All I knew was that Monguí was less than 1 hour away, which is the main reason why I headed in that direction (Monguí does not have any hostels listed online, only hotels. Later I found out that hospedajes are plenty, but you have to get there to book a room).
Sogamoso serves as a starting point for many outdoor activities in the area. The city is surrounded by mountains, waterfalls, and many small towns, all within 2 hours from Sogamoso.
Hike to the Páramo de Siscunsí
The day I got to Sogamoso I got convinced to partake in this 8 hour long hike to the Páramo lake of Siscunsí. Although we went through one misadventure after another, the views offered by the Páramo were worth the effort.
Although this was a guided tour at a somewhat pricey 35,000 COP plus 10,000 COP for getting to and from the Páramo, this trek is the only activity in Sogamoso for which a guide is really needed, as there is no trail on the way to the Siscunsí lake.
Day in Playa Blanca
On day 2 some of us went to check out Playa Blanca, a white sand beach stretch of Colombia’s biggest lake, Tota Lake.
Although the day was cold and windy, some of the locals had no issue getting into their swimwear and braving the cold inside the water, some of them just said “screw it” like the woman in the picture below and went with their regular clothes. Hell, even the dogs went…maybe it’s just me, but I was chilly that day.
Playa Blanca is a good spot to retreat and relax for a day. The views of the mountains surrounding the beach and the low flying clouds make for some pretty amazing views.
From Playa Blanca you can catch a bus to Tota or Iza, or decide to walk the distance to Tota and catch a bus there.
We decided to make the walk to Tota through the highway. After all, it was only 5 kilometers away from Playa Blanca. Halfway through the walk, we decide that we had walked enough, so we waited for a bus, but none would pick us up!
EVERYONE from Playa Blanca catches a bus to get to Tota, and all buses leave Playa Blanca full. So if you plan on walking the distance, be 100% sure of that. We walked for one hour before we changed our mind, we tried hitchhiking rather unsuccessfully, and it would take an extra half an hour of walking for a colectivo to take pity on us and give us a ride to Iza.
Unexplored and almost like trapped in time, the picturesque town of Iza is definitely worth a visit. The biggest draw of this town comes on weekends, where locals fill the market selling all sorts of desserts, most notably the “merengón” (meringue with local fruits).
We hit the town on a holiday weekend in Colombia, and Iza was packed with tourists, mainly from Bogotá. However Iza does not see much action on regular weekdays.
My time in Sogamoso was limited and unfortunately I did not get to go to Monguí or do any other activity or see something else in the area:
- Rock climbing in Puente Reyes
- Salto Candelas waterfall (one of the highest in Colombia)
Villa de Leyva
As my last stop in Colombia I chose to stay in Villa de Leyva. 3 hours away from Bogotá, Villa de Leyva served as the perfect place for me to kick back for my last couple of days before flying out from Bogotá.
And what to say about Villa de Leyva?
Colonial houses and one of the largest squares in all of America, Villa de Leyva is one of the prettiest places I had the chance to visit during my stay in Colombia. Best of all, it was surprisingly inexpensive considering the number of tourists Villa de Leyva gets.
Although I only had 2 full days in town, I still found plenty to keep myself occupied for a few days.
Hike To Mirador Del Santo
A small hike with beautiful views just outside of town, this viewpoint is the best for a bird’s eye view of the city.
Depending on your fitness level, the hike up to the Santo will take you anytime between 40 minutes to 1 hour and a half (it took me the latter, my cardio is shit, I really need to find a way to get it back).
The best part of it was that no one really seems to do this hike, so I literally had the mountain all for myself. I thought about quitting a couple of times before getting to the top (I think I’m all hiked-out). But once I reached the Santo, I screamed with all my being Rocky-style 😀
The highest part of the mountain is on rocks, and as I was about to head down it started raining, making the surface slippery and treacherous. I almost broke my neck a couple of times while coming down, so be careful!
Within walking distance from pretty much anywhere in town is Casa Terracota, an entire house built out of clay which took 15 years to complete.
The house has 3 floors and all the amenities needed to actually live there, such as plumbing and running water. Even though it is inhabited, the level of detail in every room is quite nice.
Entrance to the house is 10,000 COP.
The cities of Sogamoso and Villa de Leyva offer many options for the budget traveller. With plenty of outdoor activities to do, these two cities should be in every traveller’s Colombia itinerary.