One of my most beloved Colombian departments is Boyacá. It is simply stunningly beautiful there. Apart from the village Villa de Leyva, the rest of Boyacá is often skipped by travelers. For those who love traveling off the beaten path, this is the perfect destination! In Boyacá you will find Colombian life as it is, without hotels and tourists. Remote villages, many bad dirt roads full of potholes, no Internet coverage and abandoned farms. Its high mountain location makes it particularly beautiful, but also chilly and rainy often. Both in November and in December last year, I visited the village of Toca and its surroundings. Off the beaten track in Boyacá: welcome to an area not yet discovered by tourists!
Toca: a hidden village with a beautiful church
Once upon a time, even before the Spanish conquest of the central highlands in the Colombian Andes, Toca and its surroundings were inhabited by the Muisca. In the year 1537, Spanish troops invaded the area. However, the year in which modern Toca was founded is not clear, but put at January 7, 1555. Toca is located at an altitude of 2810 meters, 27 kilometers from Tunja, the capital of Boyacá. Because of the altitude, the average temperature is 13 degrees. About 3,700 people live in the village, and over 10,000 in the community. The village has a particularly impressive church that can be seen from afar, cute little houses and good food.
A piece of history
It is said that Toca was once an indigenous pre-Columbian settlement. En route to the eastern grasslands, conquistadors stumbled upon a village. Because of the number of houses and the many Indians they found there, they named the village “Pueblo Grande” (Big Village). Later, during an expedition led by General Juan de San Martin, in the year 1536, they found an Indian village headed by one Tocavita. In honor of this chief, the village was renamed Toca. Later, tribal chief Tocavita was beheaded along with other leaders in capital Tunja, led by Spanish conqueror Hernan Perez de Quezada.
The safest village in Colombia?
Well, whether it is entirely true I unfortunately cannot say for sure, but according to thisand this source (Spanish), Toca is one of the safest villages in Colombia. Until 2014, when a 20-year-old farmer was murdered by a couple of drunken boys after an argument. Before this incident, there had been no murder for about 25 years. In Toca and surrounding areas, people die of old age or disease, not violence. How beautiful is that? Now I immediately understand why the police in Toca had nothing to do and so just went to play soccer with the children in the square. This fact also explains why, as visitors to a finca hotel, we are left completely alone at night, without heavy locks on the door or a locked gate: it is really safe there.
Toca is just a small village, you won’t spend hours there. The environment, however, is another story. Drive by car or horseback along remote dirt roads, explore nearby villages or hike through the beautiful mountains. Tourists you will not encounter here. Enjoy the tranquility, nature and animals. I mean: how often do you see a woman walking her cow? Cows by the lake, dogs through the pasture and sheep with the mountains in the background. Wonderful!
Embalse de la Copa
The beautiful artificial lake, in the center of Boyacá, is located near Toca. The lake has an area of 880 hectares and is 33.5 meters deep. It is one of the main destinations in this part of the department for practicing water sports, such as windsurfing, canoeing and fishing. Cycling and hiking around the lake is also possible. From Casa Yerbabuena we went canoeing, biking, horseback riding and hiking by ourselves. During these trips, by the way, the lake was completely deserted. Really great! Located at an altitude of 2900 meters, the lake is known for its beautiful nature and beautiful sunrises and sunsets. Nights are perfect for stargazing.
How to get there.
From Tunja and other villages in the area, such as Paipa, buses go to Toca. However, to properly explore the area, a car or a horse is a more fun and better option. Read all about renting a car in Colombia here. From Bogotá, it takes you about 3 hours (by car) to get to Toca. Are you going by bus? Then transfer in Tunja or Paipa.
Where to stay.
Toca and the surrounding area does not have many hotels, but when you find one, it is a gem. This is how I found Casa Yerbabuena, an old finca in a fantastic spot on Copa Lake. To get there you have to call the owner in advance, because without a car it is impossible.
In the whole area, pretty much between Tunja and Paipa, at least with Tigo, there is no Internet coverage. Telephone coverage is also limited. Even in the hotel there was no Internet, phone or wifi. Keep that in mind when you go out here, and think about where you want to go in advance, or download maps.me on your phone.
Discover Colombia; discover Boyacá!