The department of Boyaca is famous in Colombia for many reasons: breathtaking mountain landscapes, great hearty food (fitting for a mountainous region), sturdy and resilient inhabitants and, perhaps most importantly for us, having the most beautiful and picturesque towns and villages in Colombia where each resident gives his best to maintain its local patch spotless and adorably irresistible to the eyes of the traveller.
We wanted to go seeing the Christmas lights in Boyacá and capture some snapshots for our website, so we headed out for a short trip around some of the most beautiful towns in this region located close to Bogota making it a rather convenient destination for a short weekend break.
We took the main North Highway from Bogota towards Tunja, the capital of Boyaca located about 122 km from Bogotá. On the way to Tunja we passed the towns of Tocancipa and Gachancipa, and the Reservoir of “El Sisga”. Then we stopped for lunch at a restaurant on the road called “Leña Verde” located in the town of Ventaquemada where we had a delicious “arepa”, a rich soup called “cuchuco de trigo” and “longaniza” (a long pork sausage)… as we said earlier, with its cold weather, Boyaca is all about hearty food.
Leaving cholesterol central behind and passing through Tunja without stopping, we arrived in Duitama about an hour later, looking for a famous local neighbourhood called “Pueblito Boyacence” (little Boyaca village). This neighbourhood was built as a representation of the colonial architecture of seven of the most beautiful towns in Boyacá: Villa de Leyva, Tibasosa, Tenza, El Cocuy, Sáchica, Monguí and Ráquira, while Its central square includes a representation of the Muisca culture. (Muisca is the name of the indigenous culture and folk who inhabited the centre of Colombia before the Europeans arrived).
After hanging around Pueblito Boyacence we headed off to Paipa, a spa town built near the lake of “Sochagota” where you can find natural hot water springs, aquatic sports and nice hotels. Just 5 km away from there we got to the “Pantano de Vargas” battle memorial. One of the hardest and perhaps the most decisive battle for Independence was fought here on July 25th 1819. This battle is very important as the rebel troops were exhausted after crossing the Andes through the Pisba moorlands trying to take the Spaniard army by surprise. The two groups found each other in this wetland and battle ensued. The independentist army fought with the support of a small British contingent sent from England under the command of Colonel James Rooke (who died of his injuries, days after the battle).
Half way through the battle, things were not looking great for Bolivar’s army as his tired and ill-equiped men were falling against a more rested, prepared and disciplined Spanish army. The story goes that, on the eleventh hour, Simon Bolivar felt defeated and as a last resort he issued an order to Juan José Rondón: “Coronel, Salve usted la patria” (“Colonel, save the homeland”). Then, Rondón with just 14 lancers on horseback charged straight through the Spaniard troops, breaking their formation and opening up the way for the rest of the independentist troops. This was a turning point in the battle and Bolivar’s side attained victory at the end of the day.
With the sunset we went to Tibasosa, a town with great colonial streets and nice Christmas lights in the main square. We bought delicious sweets and other products made of “feijoa”, an endemic fruit which is one of the main products of the town. Some of the feijoa products we had were sabajon (licour), ice cream and mantecada (iced bun).
After such a wonderful and educational day, we took the road back to see Christmas lights in the places we visited during the day. First we went back to Pueblito Boyacence, the perfect ending spot for a nice trip around Boyacá, it was fully and beautifully decorated with the lights, which gave to each house and square a gorgeous view. We are surely coming back to stay at this neighbourhood with small hotels and a nice and quiet environment.
Taking the road again, we continued to Puente de Boyacá, where on August 7th 1819, the last battle for the independence of Colombia took place (the rebels commanded by Simon Bolivar defeated the Spaniard army here). This is a gorgeous place with monuments that remind us of national heroes and the events that led to the birth of Colombia as an independent country.
Finally, after an hour of contemplation and pictures of the Christmas lights everywhere in Puente de Boyacá, we took the road back to Bogotá with a great satisfaction of having enjoyed, learned and shared a wonderful Christmas day.
The point of discussion was inevitable:
– “Surely, we should be launching a tour to Boyaca!”
What do you reckon?
- Photoblog: Christmas Lights in Bogota (uncovercolombia.wordpress.com)
- Guatavita and the legend of “El Dorado” (uncovercolombia.wordpress.com)