Home The surroundings of Bogotá San Francisco: heat, hummingbirds, beautiful nature and hiking just outside Bogotá
Flora and fauna Colombia

San Francisco: heat, hummingbirds, beautiful nature and hiking just outside Bogotá

by Sabine
Published Last updated on
Languages / Talen

One Saturday at 5 AM I left the bus station in Bogotá for San Francisco. In Colombia, that is. It is such a shame that so few travelers visit the surroundings of Bogotá, because really: here you will find a true paradise. After a 1.5-hour drive through beautiful mountain scenery, I arrived at my destination. In this article you will read all about this beautiful village as well as a great hotel tip: Aire Libre Descanso. A hotel where I stayed for the second time in 2024. Welcome to San Francisco: a different world just outside Bogotá.


San Francisco: off the beaten track in Colombia

55 kilometers outside Bogotá, among high mountains, you will find a typical Colombian village: San Francisco de Sales. Located at an altitude of 1,500 meters and with a population of about 4,000 people, San Francisco is perfect for resting among beautiful green mountains and lovely flowers in a temperature close to 30 degrees.

Because with the 1000 meters you drop in altitude from Bogotá, the temperature rises by over 10 degrees and it’s suddenly tropical, all after only a 1.5-hour drive.

In the central square you will find a beautiful blue church and a few fine restaurants. San Francisco is truly a quiet village, where the children can safely play outside and the doors are just open. The few village policemen seem to have nothing to do. Few foreign tourists visit this area, so perfect for when you want to discover Colombia off the beaten track. I immediately felt right at home in this natural setting and with all these lovely people. That promises to be a good weekend.


Jardín Encantado: a hummingbird garden near Bogotá

One of the reasons you should visit this village if you are in the area is for the Jardín Encantado. A small garden with a terrace where you can spot many hummingbirds.

Years ago, the owner established this garden out of a great love for birds and still cares for the hummingbirds as if they were her babies. The garden is not enclosed, so the birds just come flying out to the world, to drink sugar water.

She has 32 trays hanging, which she has to refill every 4 hours. The spot is perfect for birdwatchers and photographers, who can indulge themselves with the camera for two hours for 22000 pesos (March 2024). Never have I seen my favorite bird from so close.

The hummingbird is not found in Europe, so extra special to see this. During my two-hour visit, I took 500 photos and learned a lot about these beautiful creatures. In this article you will find all kinds of fun facts about the hummingbird and the best pictures.


A hike up the mountain: Alto de la Virgen

From anywhere in the village you can see the small church with the large statue of the Virgen at the top of the mountain. Also called Alto de la Virgen. A beautiful place with an even more beautiful view of the village and its surroundings.

From Hotel Aire Libre Descanso to the summit is only a 45 to 60-minute walk. Bring plenty of water and because of the bright sun and heat, don’t go in the middle of the day, but early in the morning or from 3 in the afternoon.

Once at the top, I was silently enjoying all the beauty Colombia has to offer. It is so beautiful, so wonderful, so paradisiacal. This is really a must-see if you are in San Francisco de Sales.

Click here for Alto de la Virgen on the map.


The 2 best restaurant in San Francisco de Sales

1. Mi Pequeña Alemania

In San Francisco, Colombia, you will find a true German restaurant in Colombian style. The owner is a German who has lived here for almost 40 years. His restaurant is a mixture of German and Colombian and a great experience.

The food (also vegetarian) is incredible delicious, the owner is fantastic, it’s in the middle of nature as well as in the village. It could hardly be any better.

If you’re in San Francisco near Bogotá, don’t skip this restaurant. And if you like chocolate: ask for the chocolate dessert. Really: you’ve never eaten it this good.

Here you can find Mi Pequeña Alemania on Google Maps. And click here for the restaurant on Tripadvisor.

Please note that this restaurant is only open on weekends and holidays.


2. El Alguito

You can’t leave San Francisco without having been to El Alguito. An alternative restaurant with an Indian touch. Many colors, fine music, a small store where you can buy local coffee, panela and cocoa, and delicious food. And if you crave good bread: they have it here. And for the book lovers among us, here you can swap books that you take right out of the fridge.

So in El Alguito you can buy very fine souvenirs, but also just good lunch or dinner. I have been there many times and sometimes for hours just to sit there reading with a tea.

El Alguito is open every day from 1PM to 9PM. You can find the restaurant on the map here.


Staying at a small coffee finca: Aire Libre Cabañas

Aire Libre Descanso is one of the most beautiful fincas I have been to in Colombia, with the kindest people who receive you. Located along the road to the village, this finca is a valhalla of peace, nature and coffee. On this finca I have now been for the second time in March 2024 and it is still fantastic after all these years.

So to visit a coffee plantation you don’t necessarily have to go to the Colombian coffee region, you can just drive an hour outside Bogotá. Pretty amazing.

The finca is not large and the coffee they produce they sell and serve only to guests. You have breakfast in the owner’s house, in a patio with big windows overlooking the beautiful garden and mountains. There are also a few bungalows on a small hill with spectacular views of the finca and the mountains beyond. That’s where you sleep when you book a room here.

My room is on the second floor of one of the cottages with a huge balcony 5 meters wide, a small kitchenette with some plates, cutlery and cups, a microwave, coffee maker, a pot of coffee and a refrigerator. It is SO nicely decorated and incredibly clean: I could stay here for a long time.


Traveling in Colombia: how beautiful the surroundings of Bogotá are…

Standing on my balcony I not only look over the beautiful mountains and see the church I walked to, but I also see bananas, coffee beans and in front of me hang oranges and limes. Surrounded by dozens of butterflies in all colors of the rainbow (who just don’t want to be photographed), I enjoy the peace, clean air and nature.


The owners of this finca are extremely friendly. I am received so warmly that it almost brings tears to my eyes. So nice. I eat breakfast in the cottage on the finca, where I drink delicious hot chocolate and chat with the friendly owner and two friendly Bogotans staying here.

Walking around after breakfast, I also find fish in the pond and very impressive exotic “flowers” for sale in Bogotá as decorations. Never saw this before. Unfortunately, I have to leave after a few hours, but one thing is for sure: I want to come back here as soon as possible. Eight years later, the time had come: I was back in this beautiful place!


I stayed in Aire Libre Cabañas, where you can book a single room as well as a family room or a double room. Highly recommended for anyone who wants to enjoy nature and the kindness and hospitality of the Colombians in a peaceful environment. Also a perfect place to explore the beautiful surroundings.

Here you will find Aire Libre Descanso on the map.


San Francisco practical

Are you in Bogotá and want to take a nice day or weekend trip? Or spend your last days before leaving Colombia just outside Bogotá? Then San Francisco is a good choice.

How to get to San Francisco from Bogotá?

By bus from Bogotá

I always recommend leaving early. And by early, I don’t mean 7 a.m., but 5 a.m. at the latest. At 6 a.m. the city shut down with traffic and you spend hours getting somewhere. Waste of your time. So at 5 o’clock take a cab to Terminal de Transporte de Bogotá (the bus terminal) and go to Módulo 2. Look for the Flota Santa Fé booth there and buy a ticket directly to San Francisco. Does this bus not leave for a few more hours? Then ask for a ticket to La Vega and catch the bus there to San Francisco.

By car

By car, of course, is even easier, but also costs more to rent a car. If you have a car follow the route on the map to Aire Libre Descanso.

How to get to the village from the hotel?

From Aire Libre Descanso, it is only about a 15-minute walk to San Francisco. If you have a car you will be there in a few minutes.

The climate in San Francisco de Sales

However this village is only a 1 to 1.5 hour drive from Bogotá, the temperature here rises considerably. In Bogotá, you leave with 15 degrees, only to arrive in 25 degrees after that short drive. San Francisco is therefore the perfect place to escape from the cold in Bogotá, or to enjoy some warmth before flying back home.

In the night it cools off wonderfully, making air conditioning unnecessary. But neither are long pants. The perfect climate.


I so loved getting away from Bogotá again. The environment of Bogotá is so incredibly beautiful, I recommend it for everyone to go and explore. I consider myself lucky to live on such a heavenly piece of earth: I ♥ Colombia!


For more inspiration for traveling off the beaten path in Colombia, click here!

An affiliate link was used in this article. Click here for more information.

More to read!

Leave a Comment

error: Content is protected!