One Sunday we get in the car and drive a familiar route. Only now we turn left at the “Lagunas de Siecha” sign. Suddenly there is little left of the fine dirt road. For five kilometers we are shaking because of the bad road. When we arrive at a little road that is supposed to represent a parking lot, I am glad the car is still in one piece. We follow the trail through a beautiful forest toward the visitor center. Once we’ve paid, we immediately start walking. The weather is beautiful and I am super curious to see Siecha’s famous lakes. Soon Chingaza proves to be a true natural wonder. Chingaza National Park: a great day trip from Bogotá. In this article you will read all about the hike and how you can visit the national park.
Chingaza National Park in Colombia: discover the world of páramo
If you like nature and hiking then Chingaza is your place. What a beauty! Not surprising either when you consider the extraordinary ecosystem you’ll find yourself in when you go hiking in Chingaza.
Páramo is also called the sponge of the Andes, an alpine ecosystem found in the high part of the Andes Mountains. At an altitude between the tree line at about 3,500 meters and the snow line at an altitude around 4,700 meters. The páramo ecosystem consists of uplands with lakes, peat and grasslands. Interspersed with beautiful valleys, bushes and small forests. There are even parts that look something like a lunar landscape. In Colombia you can admire páramo in several places, including here. The typical image of páramo in Colombia is characterized by the many frailejones.
Frailejones are plants found only in Colombia, Ecuador and Venezuela. And are special to see for that reason alone. Of the 146 species, half are found in Colombia. You have them in all shapes and sizes, and the plants take years to grow to great heights. About 1 centimeter per year to be exact, so a frailejon as big as yourself is over a hundred years old. Also, frailejones are very fragile and the plant is eaten by the black bear. Frailejones are vital to the conservation of páramo as they retain water, they act as shelters and they feed fauna.
Lagunas de Siecha in Chingaza
There are several hikes you can take within Chingaza National Park. The hike to Lagunas de Siecha seems to be one of the most beautiful and exactly this one is often recommended if you only have 1 day to visit Chingaza. But what is so special about Lagunas de Siecha?
Lagunas de Siecha are 3 glacial lakes considered sacred in the religion of the Muisca, the Indian tribe that inhabited this area before the Spanish conquest. The lakes are at an altitude of 3590 meters amid spectacular páramo and hundreds of frailejones.
Hiking in Colombia: spectacular Chingaza
A hell of a ride uphill
Chingaza is not known for sunny weather, so being there in the dry season is nice. The sun is shining brightly, making the temperature very pleasant at this altitude. After the hellish drive, we arrive at the “parking lot”. We walk the first 1.5 kilometers uphill to the visitor center, where we buy our ticket. Since only a limited number of hikers are allowed per day, we made reservations in advance.
The hike to Lagunas de Siecha
The hike starts at 3350 meters altitude and is immediately enjoyable. Already during the first 100 meters we encounter frailejones and see only beautiful views. A path has been made on this first section, making it a little easier to walk up at this altitude.
Valleys full of frailejones
Soon we come to a place to sit for a while and just enjoy what we see. As we continue walking, I see a valley full of frailejones in the distance. I’ve seen frailejones so many times, but this just remains SO special. We rise and rise and further on we see dark clouds hanging over the mountains. That’s exactly where we need to go.
Lagunas de Siecha under the clouds
As soon as the sun disappears behind the clouds, the temperature drops immediately. So the coats back on. There under those clouds are the lakes for which we are taking this hike. Lagunas de Siecha. By now, the trail isn’t easy anymore, and fortunately it is still dry. We scramble over rocks and up hills. We can get to two of the three lakes. Between the frailejones over narrow and dry mud trails.
How beautiful it is here….
Eating Dutch pancakes among Colombian páramo
We climb through the now wet mud over the second mountain and suddenly we are at the third small lake. It splashed a little and was freezing cold, but after 2 hours of hiking we did get hungry. In the morning I baked pancakes that should give us extra energy now. Some advice: take food with you during the hike, you will need the energy.
To spectacular views
We leave our lunch spot and hike back toward the sandy trail. There, a steep road goes up to a viewpoint. And by steep, I mean really steep. I am not often afraid of heights when I am on a mountain, but now I have to gulp. But it was worth it! Once at the top, it turns out to have not only a spectacular view of Lagunas de Siecha, but also the other way to Embalse de Tominé and Guatavita. Wow! We are surrounded by hundreds of frailejones that make the view even more special.
The miracle called Chingaza
How amazingly beautiful is Chingaza! While we are there on top of that mountain enjoying the view, I consider that I want to do another hike in Chingaza as soon as possible. I look forward to seeing what else this national park has to offer.
Down an unreal path
I don’t think I’ve seen anything like this before. We walk another route steeply down among the frailejones with totally different views on either side of the mountain. And if that’s not enough, the view right in front of us is also bizarrely beautiful. For some reason, the other hikers walk the other route back, so we meet no one at all at this time. I keep taking pictures and enjoying this natural wonder.
Practical information: how to visit Chingaza National Park from Bogotá?
Want to know more about Chingaza National Park? On the website of Colombia’s national parks you will find more information.
Hiking trails in Chingaza
- Lagunas de Siecha (that is, this route), accessible from Guasca.
- Lagunas de Buitrago, in the Piedras Gordas sector, accessible from La Calera.
- Cuchillas de Siecha, also in Piedras Gordas (you will need a guide for this route due to the difficulty and length of the hike)
- Laguna Seca, between the Piedras Gordas and Monterredondo sectors.
- Suasie Corto and Suasie Largo, in sector Monterredondo (for Suasie Largo you will need a guide due to the difficulty and length of the hike).
- Las Plantas del Camino (Laguna de Chingaza), in sector La Paila.
How to get to specifically Lagunas de Siecha?
To get to Lagunas de Siecha in Chingaza, you have to go off the beaten path. The entrance to the park is about 15 kilometers from the village of Guasca. So for both transportation by car and public transportation/taxi, you have to go to Guasca first.
In Guasca, where you still have Internet coverage, make sure you type in the route on Google maps and check it out. Without a map, it is difficult to get there, as there are signs only from a certain point.
From Guasca, follow the route to Vereda la Trinidad, sector San Francisco. You will pass a place called Paso Hondo (enter this on Google Maps). At Paso Hondo, there are three exits. Note that there is also a place there called Lagos de Siecha and is for sport fishing. So that’s not where you should be. So drive on until you see a sign that says “Parque Nacional Natural Chingaza – Lagunas de Siecha”. You should then turn left. Up to this point you will drive on a dirt road, but this road is passable. However, once you turn left to the park entrance, the road is terribly bad. It is recommended to do it with a 4×4 vehicle. This bad stretch is about 5 kilometers.
At one point, there are two exits and you will see a sign of Chingaza at the left exit. Pay close attention because it’s easy to drive by. At that sign, park your car and walk about 1.5 kilometers to the visitor center.
By public transport / taxi
Take the bus or a cab from Guasca bound for Paso Hondo in Vereda la Trinidad, sector San Francisco. If you can’t find a bus, just ask. Ask the bus driver to drop you off at Paso Hondo. From there it is about a 6-kilometer (1.5-hour) walk to the visitor center. If you go by cab, you can ask the driver to get you out at the point where the bad road starts. That saves a mile of walking.
How do you get to the other routes in Chingaza?
Want to do another hike in Chingaza? How you get there then depends on how you arrange it and exactly where you are going to do the hike. If you do it with an organized tour, for example, you go from Bogotá.
Hiking through Chingaza Colombia: practical tips
The hike is doable, but the altitude makes it tough. If you are just arriving in Bogotá, the advice is to acclimate for a few nights before doing the hike. The trail is pretty good, but definitely not for people with mobility problems.
Walk on good walking shoes and don’t forget to bring a raincoat. Chingaza is a rainy area and the chances of having rain are quite high. We were lucky and had mostly sunshine. Later I did the walk again, but with rain. When it rains, the trails turn into mud puddles, so good footwear is really necessary then. Also bring a warm sweater, because especially without the sun, it is quite cold.
Also, don’t forget to bring your sunglasses, a cap and sunscreen. Even when it is cloudy you burn quickly and the sky is very bright.
Bring plenty of food and drink, this is not available there and the start of the hike is in the middle of nowhere: there are no restaurants nearby.
Duration and mileage
Depending on how fast you walk and how much you are bothered by the altitude, the hike will take about 3 to 4 hours. You can only start in the morning, so be there before noon. The walk is over 5 kilometers.
Do you need a guide?
No, but it can make it easier for you. Since it is quite difficult to get there, an organized tour may be the way to go. Click here for a tour to Lagunas de Siecha or Buitrago.
The visitor center
The visitor center is about a 1.5-kilometer walk from the “parking lot”. Here you will find a ticket office where you pay for your ticket. You then get a brief explanation of Chingaza and this hike (Spanish) in a separate room with a large map of the area. The visitor center has toilets, but there is no toilet paper. So bring that yourself. You can’t get anything to eat or drink there (at the time of writing), so take something with you. The hike begins directly from the visitor center.
Foreign travelers without a resident visa to Colombia pay 62,000 pesos (2023). Do you do have a visa or a Colombian passport? Then you will pay 19,500 pesos. Click here for current prices.
How and where to arrange
Throughout Chingaza National Park, there is a restriction on the number of visitors per day. The eaxact limt is not clear. The three times I have been to Chingaza I made reservations in advance, which could be done through a website at the time, but it is now (2023) out of business. If you come on a weekday outside of vacations and puentes? If so, it’s likely that you won’t need to book in advance anyway. If you want to be sure, you can try emailing to this address: firstname.lastname@example.org. And make your reservation there (best write in Spanish).
You can also choose to arrange an organized tour. Click here for a tour to Chingaza from Bogotá.
Going to Chingaza on a day trip from Bogotá or staying in the region?
The hike to Lagunas de Siecha is great to do on a day trip from Bogotá. You’ll have to leave early and you’ll be back late.
However, it is not a punishment to spend a few nights in Guasca or this region. For example, check out this particular hotel at a family living self-sufficiently. Or stay in the fun Sopó. For example, in the beautiful Casa Agrreste. From here you can also go paragliding in Colombia or go climbing on the rocks of Suesca. Also in Guasca you will find beautiful hotels. And what about Guatavita? This picturesque white village has much to offer and there is a tremendous amount to do in the area. Check out the hotels and campsites here. I would personally recommend spending at least a few days in this beautiful region. This is how to discover Colombia in a different way!
Check out the area and hotels here (zoom out for a large area)
Chingaza National Park: a natural wonder in Colombia. Discover an extraordinary ecosystem like you see almost nowhere else in the world and enjoy stunning views. Click here for other hikes in Colombia in páramo.
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