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Mini guide Honda Colombia: a must-see off the beaten path

by Sabine
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In the middle of Colombia lies a town that is massively overlooked by travelers, but is so interesting, beautiful and an important part of Colombian history that this destination really should not be missed on your Colombia itinerary. I am, of course, talking about Honda. That hot colorful and colonial town sandwiched between two mountain ranges, where you arrive nauseated after a horror bus ride through the mountains. Honda has amazed me in many ways, and in fact, I would like to go back for more. Looking for easy off-the-beaten-path tours, or are you in Bogotá for a week or more and looking for a fun 3-day trip? Then Honda is perfect. A must-see in Colombia: the hot Honda!

 


Honda Colombia. Of all places.


The town of Honda is a historic highlight of Colombia. With a location on the border between Cundinamarca and Tolima and the Río Magdalena running right through the city, it was one of Colombia’s most important ports and the economic heart of the country between 1850 and 1910. Because of the more than 40 bridges you will find there, Honda is also called “the city of bridges“.

Honda is a true open-air museum where you can enjoy beautiful colonial architecture. The area where Honda is located was conquered by the Spanish in 1539. Honda itself was founded in 1643. Although in 1805 after a severe earthquake razed much of what was then a village to the ground, its colonial heart remained standing. And you can still visit that today.

But there is more to Honda than colonial streets. There are some very interesting and beautiful museums, you can sail on the famous Río Magdalena, eat fish until you can’t eat any more, discover the many bridges and wander through the ghost town with the abandoned train station.

 


Things to see and do in Honda


Visit a museum

In Honda you will find two very interesting and nicely set up museums, where you will learn about Honda’s history and function as the country’s once most important port city.

Museo del Río Magdalena

One museum you really shouldn’t miss is the Museum of the Magdalena River. Here on the map.

Completely renewed, you will find here, in the form of a ship, the story of the Río Magdalena and its history. How does the river run through the country, how did they fish in the river before and now, why is the river so important and what kind of ships sailed this famous water years ago.

In the historic state police building, which today houses the museum, you will also learn about travel culture, technological development and the animals that live in and around the river. It is beautifully designed and small but nice. An absolute must-see if you want to learn more about the history of the country and about the Río Magdalena. Please note that most of the information is described in Spanish.

Click here for the museum’s location, opening hours and their website.

 

Museo Alfonso Lopez

The second museum in Honda worth visiting is the home of and museum about former President Alfonso Lopez Pumarejo. The old colonial house tells the history of this former president who served between the years 1934 – 1938 and 1942 – 1945, from his birth in 1886 in Honda to his death in London in 1959. An interesting piece of history.

Also in this museum, everything is in Spanish and so is the extensive tour you get. Possibly the guide can also speak a little English. They were extremely happy to have foreigners come to visit the museum and enthusiastically recounted all that this former president has done for Colombia. If you want to learn more about the history, be sure to visit this beautiful museum!

Click here for location and hours of operation.

 

Take a city tour of Honda

Honda is perfect for a city tour. This way you can see the different facets of the city. Consider the colonial center, the abandoned section, the old train station and life along the Río Magdalena. We took a 4-hour city tour with fantastic guide Luís from Hotel Casa Belle Epoque (see further under ‘practical’) and discovered all about the city. Do you prefer to walk alone? Then be well informed about safety and where you can and cannot go. Click here for the route + more information about this great city walk.

 

Cruise the Río Magdalena and discover Colombia from the water

Taking a boat trip down Colombia’s most famous river is absolutely amazing. Cruise on the water that was the main transportation route in Colombia before the extensive road network. Across the water, from where you can enjoy flora and fauna around the Río Magdalena. And where you can walk on sandbars in the middle of the wide river.

Are you in Honda? Then don’t miss this. You can also do this with guide Luís, who will take you to his self-built wooden treehouse from where you will take an exciting trip down the wild river. Click here for all information about boating on the Río Magdalena!

 

What else is there to do in Honda?

Do you have more time? Then get out into nature and take the hike up the hill to Cerro de la Cruz. From there you seem to have a spectacular view of the city. Cross the Quebrada Seca, turn right and look for the start of the hike. Because of safety, it is better to take the hike with a guide. Start early to avoid the worst of the heat and bring good shoes and plenty of water. Unfortunately, we missed this piece, but I will definitely go back sometime.

 


Honda: practical information


How do you get to Honda?

Honda is the transportation hub of Colombia. Located in the middle of the country, here you will find a large bus station from where buses go to all corners of Colombia. So you can go anywhere you want to from Honda. Think Bucaramanga, Cali, Manizales, Medellín, Bogotá, Neiva, Santa Marta and many more destinations. You can even take a bus from Honda to Buenaventura.

This makes Honda an ideal destination for a stopover of a few days off the beaten path. We ourselves arrived by direct bus from Zipaquirá, which took about 4.5 hours. From the Terminal de Transporte in Bogotá there are also direct buses that take between 3.5 to 5 hours (depending on traffic).

Note: The route to Honda is one that make you sick. Prepare for this if you are prone to car sickness.

How many days do you need?

In a few hours you will have seen the colonial center and a few bridges, but if you really want to get a feel of Honda and get everything out of your stay, you will need at least two full days. We were there 3 nights and thus 3 days and that was perfect to see most of it.

Climate

Located at just 229 meters above sea level sandwiched between the country’s two highest mountain ranges, Honda is pretty hot. Also at night. So a hotel with a pool is recommended (see ‘where to stay’) and also DEET, a cap or hat, plenty of water and sunscreen should not be missing in your suitcase. Despite the heat, it does rain occasionally, especially in the rainy season.

Where to stay in Honda

Honda is anything but touristy, so you won’t find many hotels there. The best and nicest place to stay is in the historic center. Here you will find two hotels, one very expensive and the other quite affordable.

We were in the latter and it really comes highly recommended. Gorgeous colonial in a historic building, beautiful views from the rooftop terrace, a pool and jacuzzi, great staff and, of course, guide Luís who knows all about Honda and enthusiastically takes you around town or up the mountain or on the water. Read more information here about Casa Belle Epoque or book here your stay!

Or find your hotel here:



Booking.com

Food and drink

Like hotels, there are not very many restaurants in Honda. Certainly not in the historic center. Still, you can eat very well in Honda and there are some very good restaurants. If you like fish you’ve come to the right place, but there are plenty of choices for vegetarians (like me) as well.

  • Restaurante Katleya. Also in Alto del Rosario, you’ll find perhaps the city’s most popular restaurant. We desperately wanted to eat here, but in the 3 days we were there, the restaurant was not open once. In fact, the owner opens when he feels like it, so you have to get lucky!
  • Donde Martha. This seafood restaurant is located on the Río Magdalena, from where you can enjoy beautiful views and watch the daily fishing life. Very special I can tell you. Besides this restaurant, you will find several others along the river called Las Bahias Restaurantes Tipicos, or typical restaurants.
  • El Primer Muelle. On the same street, on the corner, you will find restaurant El Primer Muelle. We haven’t been here ourselves, but according to the hotel, you can also have great food here.
  • 40 Puentes. Named after the number of bridges in Honda. In a traditional building. The restaurant is not always open, so check the link for opening hours.

Is Honda a safe destination in Colombia?

Honda is a safe town to visit, but keep in mind the advice. The colonial center is safe, even in the evening. This is also a great place to take pictures with your (large) camera. If you come outside the colonial center, be careful.

Honda has quite a bit of poverty and neighborhoods that are best avoided. During the day you can walk on the Tolima side of the Río Magdalena (where the old center is located), but be careful with your camera outside the center. In the evening, it is best to avoid everything outside the colonial center and take a cab if you want to go somewhere.

Do not cross the Río Magdalena. So if you go to Puente Navarro (the famous yellow bridge over the Magdalena River), walk back the same way and do not continue on the other side of the river. The commercial center around Iglesia Señora del Carmen (the red church) is safe, but be careful with your camera and don’t go there after sunset. The same is true for the section along the Río Magdalena.

Want to be sure you’re in safe areas and can take photos anywhere? Then ask Luís (see above under “where to stay”) to take you on a city tour.

 


Are you traveling in Colombia and need to travel long distances? Then don’t forget Honda. Honda is a fantastic town and really recommended for a stop during your Colombia trip or for a few days away if you are in Bogotá. Take the challenge and be amazed by this must-see in Colombia!


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