Right on Colombia’s largest lake, Lago de Tota, is the Reserva Natural Pueblito Antiguo. A beautiful place full of nature, stunning views, culture and history. Not for nothing is Lago de Tota and its surroundings one of my favorite places in Colombia. I have visited Lago de Tota many times, and this time too I was looking for a new sight. On my own, I set out and drove up into the mountains, on a dirt road full of holes, to the Pueblito Antiguo Nature Reserve. The ideal place not only to get to know the surroundings and enjoy beautiful views, but also to learn about the history of the Colombian department of Boyacá. Read all about this interesting open-air museum.
Lago de Tota: a natural wonder in Boyacá
Not only stunningly beautiful, but with a size of 55 km² and a location at an altitude of 3,015 meters, Lago de Tota is also the largest and highest freshwater lake in Colombia. After Titicaca, Tota is also the highest lake in South America. And if that is not enough you will also find here one of the highest located beaches in the world, namely Playa Blanca.
Lago de Tota is up to 60 meters deep and a popular spot for diving. Don’t expect high temperatures here: due to the high altitude, the water is quite cold and you don’t need to bring your bikini to visit the beach either. The region around Lago de Tota is fantastically beautiful and also quite large. There is much to do and with ease you can entertain yourself here for a week.
There aren’t many foreign tourists there, so you immediately have a beautiful destination off the beaten path.
The museum Pueblito Antiguo
I visit Pueblito Antiguo, a not at all well-known place and quite remote. Fortunately, I get there easily by car, stopping several times along the way to enjoy the view of Tota and the islets.
Pueblito is a depiction of a typical village from Boyacá in the 1970s. It is particularly quiet (I am the only visitor), colorful and you can look inside the old houses. There is also a meteorological station. Would you like explanations during your visit? If so, ask for a guide to accompany you (included in the price).
What to see in Pueblito Antiguo?
The central square with its white colonial church, school and cute houses is the core of this small museum village. You’ll find an old store, a bakery, a barbershop, a small movie theater and a toy store, among other things. In the center of the square is a beautiful fountain.
Looking inside the old cottages
In the colored stores you can look inside. Very nice!
The colored houses stand out beautifully against the green mountains, blue water and white clouds. Whether the sun is shining or not: this is beautiful!
A train: the lake express
The old locomotive with one of the wagons stands beautifully in the grass. The wagon is decorated after the era of the northeastern railroad, where steam trains ran between Bogotá and Sogamoso in the middle of the last century. The railroad was made by Belgians during the first 25 years of the last century. In this nostalgic atmosphere, you can now have coffee or something to eat, overlooking the lake.
The blacksmith’s square shows how the blacksmith used to work. There is a sculpture in tribute to the cyclists of Boyacá.
An old Ford bus
The old original 1955 Ford bus of bus company ‘Abelardo Barinas’.
The wrong forest
The pine forest has had serious effects on the area for a reason I do not know. Hence the “wrong forest”.
There is a nice walk down to get to the “green beach”. The narrow tunnel you pass through during the tour simulates the tunnels used in mines in the past. I was a little late for that, but you can learn more about mining and the typical Colombian green emeralds at Pueblito Antiguo.
The guide who accompanies me to the green beach takes me to the “mirador del faro,” or lighthouse viewpoint. From here I look out over the beautiful lake. I have seen Lago de Tota so many times from different angles, but this never bores.
Like everywhere else in Colombia, there is a short Camino Real: a stone path from pre-Hispanic and colonial times. Of course, not as beautiful as the Camino Real in Barichara, but certainly nice to see.
The happy forest
Just before you arrive at the shores of Tota, you have to pass through a special piece of forest. In fact, this part belongs to the indigenous forest of Lago de Tota and is therefore very old. The guide shows me all kinds of unusual trees and plants that have been growing there since time immemorial.
The green beach
Finally, I arrive at Playa Verde: the green beach. Consisting mainly of grass and a little sand, here you can feel the cold water, have lunch and enjoy the views before starting the steep way back.
Why is a visit to Pueblito Antiguo worthwhile?
Sogamoso and the villages around it are easy to visit, but discovering Lago de Tota and its immediate surroundings without a car is more difficult. After all, by bus you cannot stop at beautiful viewpoints and admire the surroundings.
A visit to Pueblito Antiguo gives you a purpose to take a nice walk (see ‘practical’), learn about the culture and history as well as enjoy beautiful views of Lago de Tota. It is so far off the beaten path: ideal for still seeing more of Colombia in a reasonably easy way.
Once you pass the beautiful gate, you will find Pueblito a pleasant place to look around, enjoy the colorful houses contrasting with the green mountains and much more. If you want more than the usual tour, the whole trip there, the visit and back again is definitely recommended. Boyacá is so incredibly beautiful: a shame to miss it!
Where can you find Pueblito Antiguo?
In Boyacá, there are two Pueblitos. The largest and most famous is Pueblito Boyacense and you will find that near Duitama. This smaller and lesser known Pueblito is located directly on Lago de Tota and can be found between Cuítiva and the main road between Sogamoso and Aquitania. So remote and quite off the beaten path, but no less fun and interesting to visit. Click here for the exact location.
Entrance fees and opening hours
Admission to the museum costs 20,000 pesos for adults and 15,000 pesos for children and the elderly (2023).
Pueblito Antiguo is open only on Saturdays, Sundays and on holidays from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM.
How to get there
I drove there by car, which is without a doubt the easiest way to get there. Do you also want to go by car? Read all about car rental in Colombia.
If you do not have a car, you can have your hotel call a cab or take the bus to Cuítiva. From that cute village (which is worth a visit anyway) you can walk along a dirt road to Pueblito. Depending on exactly which route you take, you will spend around 1 hour and 15 minutes with this hike. This allows you to immediately see the impressive surroundings and discover Boyacá in a different way. Don’t forget your umbrella and a warm sweater, as the weather here can turn quickly.
Recommended places to stay
A fantastic option, somewhat remote from Lago de Tota, is Hotel La Casona de Suanoga. This is a typical finca far away from civilization. The surroundings are impressive, the people very nice and the service perfect. There is no internet and the nearest restaurant is not walkable, but if you have a car or are willing to travel a lot by cab this is really the place to go.
Visit Boyacá and discover Colombia!
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