When Jimmy had to go to the US for a few days for work, it was a perfect time to go out on my own again. I booked a cottage at a coffee finca in a village near Bogotá, and left for the bus station at 5 a.m. on Saturday. 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 the most beautiful mountain scenery ever, I arrived at my destination. Welcome to San Francisco: a different world just outside Bogotá.
San Francisco: off the beaten track
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 nearly 4,000, San Francisco is ideal for resting among beautiful green mountains and lovely flowers in a temperature close to 30 degrees. Because with the 1000 meters I’ve dropped in altitude since Bogotá, the temperature rose 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 discoverColombia 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
One of the reasons why you should really 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 12,000 pesos (€3.50; May 2016). 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. That’s where I wanted to go! Since I didn’t know the way, I didn’t think it was a good idea to go alone. Fortunately, the owner of the finca where I was staying wanted to go with me. It seemed very far away, but from the finca to the top was only a 45-minute walk. Chatting pleasantly about the village and its surroundings, we walked up through the green mountains at 4 o’clock in the afternoon, with increasingly beautiful views. Once at the top, I was silently enjoying all the splendor Colombia has to offer. It is so beautiful, so wonderful, so paradisiacal. I really need to get out of town more often, I thought. By another route we descended back to civilization.
My stay at a small coffee finca: Aire Libre Cabañas
I wanted a weekend of rest in nature, and I found it at one of the most beautiful fincas I’ve been to in Colombia. Located along the road to the village, this finca is a valhalla of peace, nature and coffee. To visit a coffee plantation you don’t have to go directly to Zona Cafetera, you can just drive an hour outside Bogotá. Pretty special. The finca is not big and the coffee they produce they sell only to guests. I, of course, brought some for Jimmy. A few cottages have spectacular views of the finca and the mountains beyond. 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.
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 down the road from 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 had I seen this. 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.
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.
Practical: how to get to San Francisco.
Are you in Bogotá and want to take a nice day or weekend trip? Then San Francisco is a good choice. 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. There, look for the Flota Santa Fé booth and buy a ticket directly to San Francisco (14000 pesos (€4; May 2016)). 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.
I so loved getting away from Bogotá again: I’m going to do that more often. Just a day alone or a night if Jimmy has time. 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!
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