These are very interesting times at Uncover Colombia. We are a group of individuals passionate about the idea of opening Colombia to the outside world and we are currently working hard behind the scenes in all fronts to convert this idea into reality.
After talking to a few travellers from around the world who have been to Colombia, there are two recurrent impressions which more or less can be summarised as:
- “Colombia is not what I was expecting”
- “The most memorable thing about Colombia is its people
We don´t want to be just another travel agency offering tours as a succession of hotel stays, coach transfers and sightseeing. Granted, the Colombian landscape is second to none; but we don´t want to offer just sightseeing and hospitality. We know that the biggest differentiator of Colombia when compared against other destinations is the Colombians themselves. We don’t want to offer just tours in Colombia; we want to offer travellers the opportunity of experiencing Colombia and its people. Our products will be a blend of amazing undiscovered destinations with lots of opportunities to get involved in Colombia’s daily life and interact with the locals.
As part of our product development effort, we have started a number of scouting trips, looking to identify those special places that could end up being included in our tour offering. This blog article is about one of such trips to the famous natural park of Guatavita. A regular tour to Guatavita would take you from Bogota by car into the new town of Guatavita (quite touristy) and then to the lake itself inside the natural reserve; you won’t be short of photo opportunities.
However, we want to offer something different.
So we set out from Bogota taking the main North highway out of the city, passing Briseño, Tocancipá and leaving the highway to enter the town of Sesquilé. Most visitors do not stop at Sesquile but go straight to the natural park and then to Guatavita town. We thought Sesquile was actually a more interesting and authentic Colombian town and decided to stop there. The first thing you see as you arrive to the central square is the Sesquile’s church a characteristic local landmark of a town that follows a traditional Spanish urban layout.
1 Sesquile’s central square church. Copyright Uncover Colombia
Sesquile is located on a hill offering views of the valley and the surrounding mountains. As I said already, the Colombian landscape is not short of photo opportunities. Here are two samples:
2 View from Sesquile. Copyright Uncover Colombia
3 “la cara del Indio” (The indian’s face). Rotate 90 degrees if you don’t see it. Copyright Uncover Colombia
One interesting geological feature of Sesquile is the mountain formation known as “La cara del Indio” (the indian’s face). During pre-colombian times, Sesquile was an important religious and commercial centre due to its proximity to the sacred lake of Guatavita. The native Muiscas believed that the face formed by the mountains was created my mother nature to depict the legendary cacique Macanu, a local tribal leader known as the guardian and protector of this land.
Even today, Macanu’s descendants have created a new settlement at Sesquile to preserve their traditions and ancestral way of life. We decided to take a detour and visit the settlement, higher up in the mountain. One of the locals showed us around.
4 Sesquile Muisca settlement. Copyright Uncover Colombia
5 Sesquile Muisca settlement. Copyright Uncover Colombia
After lunch, we left Sesquile and headed to the Guatavita lake natural park. The atmosphere of the place is mystical and peaceful. No wonder the place was considered sacred by the natives. The park attracts many visitors every year and it’s famous for its connection with the legend of El Dorado. It is said that the Tribe leader (The Zipa) with his body covered in gold was taken in a barge to the centre of the lake from which he dived into the water as part of a ceremony to honour the gods. You will hear the full story if you visit the Gold Museum in Bogota.
From the park, we continued to the new town of Guatavita. The new town was built from scratch and the inhabitants relocated after the whole valley where the old town was located had to be flooded to create the reservoir of Tomine. The result is a picturesque and harmonious village located right next to the reservoir. There are plenty of options to eat and drink while enjoying the view. When the water levels are low, you can still see the top of the old town church tower appear from the water.
6 new town of Guatavita. Copyright Uncover Colombia
7 The reservoir of Tomine. Copyright Uncover Colombia
Our scouting trip was almost over. We continued from Guatavita heading back to Bogota and closing the circuit we had planned for the day. We were hungry and we knew we had a last stop to make before returning to Bogota. As we arrived to the town of La Calera and headed for the local market, our craving for the famous arepas (corn flower pastries) that are on sale here became stronger.
Once in the market, all the ladies in charge of the market stalls greeted us and wanted our attention (and money). We settled for one of the many arepa stalls in the market courtyard and ordered the traditional combo: arepa stuffed with fresh cheese and grilled on the extra hot stone accompanied of agua de panela (sugar cane tea) and more cheese on the side. It is cold in the Andes and extra calories are always welcome!
The arepas of La Calera are famous for their special flavour, resulting from being slowly grilled on a hot stone stove heated by wood and charcoal.
8 Arepa stall in La Calera. Copyright Uncover Colombia
That was the end of our trip. Lots of interesting places covered that could make their way into our tours. But we want to know what you think. Would you like to visit any of the places we mentioned in this article?
We look forward to reading your comments.
The Uncover Colombia team
- Guatavita and Sesquile Day Tour (www.uncovercolombia.com)