When you think of traveling in Colombia, highlights like Tayrona, Salento and Medellín quickly come to mind. But actually Colombia is known for something few tourists see: páramo. Indeed, the most beautiful páramo in the world can be found in Colombia. Namely Páramo de Ocetá. Now I have seen páramo many times, but Ocetá is surely the most spectacular páramo area I have been to so far. It is also without a doubt the easiest páramo area to reach for travelers in Colombia. In short: want to see a spectacular piece of nature that can hardly be seen anywhere else in the world? Then don’t skip Páramo de Ocetá near Monguí, one of the most beautiful villages in Colombia! Hiking in Colombia: Páramo de Ocetá.
Monguí | The ball village of Colombia
If you want to go to Páramo de Ocetá you must first go to Monguí. And that is by no means a punishment. Monguí is known as one of the most beautiful villages in Colombia, located in equally beautiful Boyacá. Close to Lago de Tota. The village is located at an altitude of 2900 meters and so you will find a fresh climate with an average temperature between 8 and 17 degrees, depending on whether the sun is shining. Just like everywhere else in the Colombian mountains.
Monguí is not only a very picturesque white village, it is also the ball village of Colombia. Soccer balls, basketballs, volleyballs, leather balls, plastic balls, big balls, small balls: in Monguí they make and sell it all. Need a ball or just want to see balls hanging in the streets? Then bring a visit to Monguí.
Páramo de Ocetá | One of the most beautiful páramo areas in the world
Páramo de Ocetá is located between the villages of Monguí, Mongua and Tópaga. It starts at an altitude of 2,900 meters and ends at 3,950 meters. The Ocetá Páramo is known for its thousands of frailejones that you’ll find there, truly spectacular. By the way, did you know that frailejones only grow between 1 and 2.5 centimeters per year? So many of these plants are more than 100 years old. Amazing!
Colombia is the country with the most páramo in the world: as much as 60% of this ecosystem can be found in Colombia. Of these, Páramo de Ocetá is considered the most beautiful páramo in the world. And I believe that immediately. Not only because it is really spectacular when you walk there, but also this area is very diverse. In addition to frailejones, you will also find a waterfall, beautiful flowers and plants, unusual rock formations and sculptures from the time of the Indian tribe Muisca.
Hiking in Colombia to Páramo de Ocetá
Now páramo is always spectacular, but the páramo in Ocetá impressed even more. The hike to Ocetá begins in Monguí. Later in this article you will read all the practical information you need for this hike.
From Monguí to Ocetá
Because we come on the weekend, there are a little more tourists than usual. Funnily enough, only French people. And we are told that also mainly only French people come. Why is not clear. Anyway: when the group is complete, the six of us + guide leave for Páramo de Ocetá. From Monguí, it is about a 3-hour walk to the entrance. A punchy stretch uphill. Along the way we encounter sculptures in large stones with images from the Muisca culture.
Climbing a piece of rock
After about 3.5 hours we arrive at the big rock that everyone wants to stand on for an amazing view. We are in the middle of nature so there are no stairs to climb up. Going up was still possible by helping each other, going down was a different story. But first on top of that, enjoy that beautiful part we’ve already walked. We still have to go higher to see the frailejones, but this is already fantastic! And then we had to go down again and that rock turned out to be much higher from above than from the ground. With instructions on where to put our hands and feet we managed to get back on our feet.
The first frailejones in sight
Walking up is becoming increasingly difficult at this altitude, but when the first frailejones come into view, we all want to see those thousands of special plants as soon as possible. How beautiful it is here!
Thousands of frailejones: spectacular!
And then finally: those thousands of frailejones! I have seen many in all these years, but this remains fantastic. And really I promise you: if you’ve never seen páramo then this is seriously amazing. Not inferior to Tayrona, not at all. Only the temperature, by the way…
After a pretty tough climb, we arrive at 3,854 meters in altitude. What a relief! And what a beautiful view from here. With our coats tightly closed against the cold, we sit here for a while, eating and drinking and enjoying the impressive nature around us. Also, of course, this is the place to take a fun selfie.
Down through the rocks
Literally so. Páramo de Ocetá is known for its extraordinary rock formations and you can “walk” through them. In quotes, because there is no normal walking path. It is so narrow that even I have to hold back my belly to get through. Everything is wet and once we get past the rocks we end up in the mud. Only very careful walking keeps us from falling into the mud. An unexpectedly fun adventure during this already unforgettable hike.
Cascada de Penagos: the waterfall
Before we walk the final stretch back to Monguí (another 2.5 hours or so from here), we take a break in a wooden house. Handy for when it rains. This is also the place to view the waterfall. Beautiful, like this among the frailejones. Never seen it before…
Back to Monguí
The last 2 hours are fairly easy to walk. Except for the very last stretch on the paved road to Monguí. Up is really tough because it is so steep, but down you can hardly walk normally. Not a good idea if your knees hurt.
Once in Monguí, we immediately plop down in a nice cafe to have a drink and something to eat. It was a great hike in Colombia! For years, Páramo de Ocetá had been on my list and now I finally got to see it with my own eyes. Ab-so-lutely recommended if you are going to travel through Colombia.
Hiking in Páramo de Ocetá: practical information
How to get to Monguí?
From Bogotá, buses go to Sogamoso, taking about 4 hours. There you transfer to the bus to Monguí. Are you coming from somewhere else in Colombia? If so, travel to Sogamoso first. Even if you stay there, you can easily get to Monguí by bus in half an hour.
We ourselves have been to this region many times and as always came by car. The departments of Cundinamarca and Boyacá are perfect for traveling by car. Read more about driving + road trips in Colombia here.
Where to stay.
There are many hotels and hostels in Monguí. But if you want to stay a little closer to your follow-up route, you can also stay overnight in Sogamoso, for example. We ourselves stayed in a fantastic hostel in Sogamoso: Hostal La Cazihita. Very nicely located in a quiet area among the street art. The hostel is perfectly clean, has hot showers and a nice indoor garden. The owner helps with everything and is very friendly. Also ideal for digital nomads.
How do you arrange a hike to Páramo de Ocetá?
We arranged this hike at our hotel, where the owner contacted Maria Tours. You can also arrange it yourself very easily with Maria Tours. Especially off weekends and high season, hardly anyone is here. On weekends there are more tourists, but not so many that immediately everything is fully booked. We booked only 1 day in advance on the weekend.
There are many other places where you can arrange a hike through Páramo de Oceta. For example, look here:
- Mongui travels
- Caminatas al Aire Libre
- Ecoglobal expeditions (multi-day trip from Bogotá, with this organization I walked Los Nevados)
It is not recommended to do this hike by yourself, there is no clear route.
How much time do you need for the hike?
You spend a whole day on this hike. It took about 8 hours.
Hiking in Páramo de Ocetá is pretty tough. You walk up a lot of pretty steep hills and, of course, you’re at high altitude. Personally, I always find that hard to do, but I don’t suffer from altitude sickness myself. If you have just come from a lower altitude area, it is better to spend a few nights acclimating to the altitude before starting this hike. And even then it will be hard, depending on your fitness level.
At Maria tours, we paid 30,000 pesos per person. Are there only two of you? Then you pay 40,000 pesos per person. Now, in 2023 the costs will have increased. In addition, it depends on the organization you go with.
In the mountains, the weather is quite extreme. One moment the sun can be shining, the next moment it is raining. Only to transition back into the sun after half an hour. It is also very windy. All this affects the temperature: if there is sunshine, it is nice, and if you walk up it can get hot quickly. But if the sun disappears and there is also wind, it gets quite cold within a few minutes. I myself always put on and take off my coat and sweater many times on such a walk.
What to bring
Water and food are the most important things to bring. Needless to say, there is NOTHING on the entire route to buy food or drinks. Because it is a tough hike uphill, it is advisable to bring energy-rich food. Like chocolate bars or cookies. Also, don’t forget to bring your own lunch.
In addition to food and drink, this is recommended to bring:
- Sturdy (preferably high) walking shoes;
- Do this hike in long pants, preferably one that dries quickly and is allowed to get dirty;
- A raincoat;
- A backpack with a rain cover;
- A warm sweater and a t-shirt: the weather can turn quickly. Layers are most functional;
- Your camera;
- Sunscreen: in Colombia, and especially at this altitude, there is a sun strength of about 15 (by comparison, in the Dutch summer it is always warned of strong sun strength of 7) and so you burn quickly;
- Your sunglasses and a hat or cap;
- A plastic bag to put trash in.
Further travel through Colombia
Monguí fits perfectly into this travel itinerary off the beaten path in Colombia. But even if you do the highligts, you’ll be fine with a trip to Monguí. You can then travel on to:
Or of course go further explore the beautiful region around Lago de Tota .
Do you love hiking and spectacular nature? Then don’t skip Páramo during your round trip Colombia.
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