Colombia is the perfect country to explore off the beaten path. There is so much more to see than the highlights Colombia, yet almost all travelers stay on the popular itinerary. I myself love traveling off the beaten path, and so here on BESABINE I regularly share great tips for traveling off the beaten track. But how do you combine these destinations with your itinerary through Colombia? How much time do you need for it? And what does such a route look like? In this new series, I give you ready-made travel itineraries Colombia off the beaten path. To make it even easier for you to discover the real Colombia. I’ll kick off with the department in which I myself live: Cundinamarca. You will be surprised at how much there is to see and do here and how easy it is to combine with the highlights. Itineraries Colombia off the beaten path #1: from Bogotá to Honda.
From Bogotá to Honda: discover Cundinamarca
Without a doubt, one of my favorite departments in Colombia: Cundinamarca. A department that has very much to offer and is home to many different landscapes and climates. On this route you will travel through two climate zones and go from very high to very low. Here you will visit beautiful lakes and ecosystems, you can go paragliding and rafting, and sun lovers will also enjoy here. Discover a part of Colombia that almost no one sees!
1. Bogotá – Sopó (altitude: 2600 meters)
In just 1 to 2 hours you will travel from Bogotá to Sopó. Popular among Bogotans due to the, in my opinion overrated, Alpina farm. Sopó has much more to offer than Alpina. And not only the village itself, the surrounding area also lends itself to a true exploration of uncharted Colombia.
What is there to do in Sopó?
- Street art in Colombia is not just in Medellín and Bogotá: you will be amazed at the graffiti in Sopó!
- Visit the old church in the central square
- Great food (La Burger House = highly recommended!).
- Visit to the shrine
- Walk through Pionono and enjoy impressive views of the valley of Sopó
- Go paragliding over Embalse de Tominé (spectacularly beautiful)
- Wander for a day through Parque Jaime Duque (also great fun for kids)
- Relaxing in Parque Puente Sopó
What to do in the area?
Sopó is a perfect base for exploring the area. In fact, there is so much to do that you can easily stay there for 5 days without getting bored. The salt mine and Suesca are also easily accessible from Zipaquirá.
- Go rock climbing in climbing village Suesca
- High altitude hike in Chingaza National Park
- Visit the salt mine of Nemocón
- Discover the beautiful Lake Neusa (note: accessible only by car or cab)
- Wander through the white village Guatavita
- Go prospecting for gold at Laguna de Guatavita
- Visit Dutch cheese dairy HolaAndes (Very off the beaten path, not accessible by public transportation)
- Go in search of FARC ruins and black bears in natural park Vista Hermosa
(Very off the beaten path, not accessible by public transportation)
Where to stay.
Sopó has some very nice and beautifully located hotels. Also in the mountains around Sopó you will find fantastically beautiful hotels far away from civilization. My recommendations are Jardín Colibrí, Tu Casa and Casa Agrreste (recommended!). The latter is perfect for backpackers seeking conviviality. From there you can take guided hikes past waterfalls, among other things.
How to get there.
By bus: take the transmilenio to Portal Norte or cab to Estación Satélite in the north of the city. From there, look for the bus to Sopó. Cost: 4,400 pesos. Duration: 1 hour depending on traffic.
By car: drive out of Bogotá via autopista norte (this is a toll road), after the toll keep in the direction of Tunja and turn off at Sopó.
2. Sopó – Zipaquirá (altitude: 2650 meters)
From Sopó, a direct bus will get you to Zipaquirá in 45 minutes. In this town you will find the famous salt mine and salt cathedral, interesting museums and good food. Also be sure to wander through the cozy old streets and visit the beautiful historic square with the large church towering over everything. Read all about Zipaquirá here!
Nearby, you can go to Lake Neusa, climb in Suesca or go to the salt mine of Nemocón.
3. Zipaquirá – San Francisco (altitude: 1520 meters)
From the bus station in Zipaquirá, buses go directly to Honda. Along the way, you’ll pass by San Francisco. A wonderful stop that I can definitely recommend. And here’s why:
- High in the mountains in cold Zipaquirá you get on the bus, in San Francisco you get off in 25 to 30 degrees.
- Here you will find a totally different climate and environment, with orange trees and bunches of bananas.
- In San Francisco you can take beautiful walks
- And you’ll find a special hummingbird garden here
- Want to camp? In San Francisco you will find a fine campground right by the water.
- Resting in a hotel with a pool is also possible.
What to do in the area?
A 15-minute drive from San Francisco is La Vega. This even warmer village is immensely popular among Bogotans who come here to celebrate their weekends in the heat. La Vega, unlike San Francisco, is much busier and more touristy. There are some nice walks to do, but if you are looking for real peace and quiet, San Francisco is your place.
How to get there.
As mentioned, the bus from Zipaquirá to Honda passes by San Francisco, but not in the village itself. In fact, from the main road it is a short drive to your hotel or the small center. Ask the bus driver to drop you off at the entrance to San Francisco and wait there for another bus. If you are by car, simply take the exit for San Francisco.
4. San Francisco – Tobia (altitude: 750 meters)
The next stop is Tobia: the extreme sports mecca of Cundinamarca. Here you can include ziplining, rafting, canyoning and abseiling. Tobia is also great for relaxing by the pool. Due to its lower elevation among the mountains, you will find warmer temperatures here. I have been there twice myself and if you like sports this is really a great place. Read all about Tobia, what to do and where to stay. Note: Check the opening hours of extreme sports providers carefully; there is limited availability on weekdays.
How to get there.
Just like to San Francisco, for Tobia you have to ask the bus driver to get you off the bus at the entrance to the village. From here look for transportation to Tobia. You can also arrange a hotel in advance and ask them to pick you up.
5. Tobia – Honda (altitude: 225 meters)
From Tobia return to the main road where you catch the bus to Honda. From here it is still about two hours of travel on a truly nauseating road. Do you get carsick easily? Then prepare well for this and take pills and extra bags with you.
Along the way, you will pass through the white village of Guaduas. The ideal place for a stopover or even to stay overnight. Read all about Guaduas here.
Once in Honda, you can fully rest. Nothing reminds you more of the cold and high-altitude Sopó. In fact, Honda is heart-stoppingly hot and more like a Caribbean city. That while this town is really in the middle of the country among the mountains. Wander through the colorful streets, cruise on the famous Río Magdalena, discover the interesting museums and take a city walk to the old train station, among other places. Honda is fantastic fun and highly recommended for your trip through Colombia. Don’t manage to do this itinerary off the beaten path? Then visit Honda directly from Bogotá.
Here you can read all about the remarkable Honda. A must-see off the beaten path in Colombia!
The itinerary on the map
Summary: What will you find on this itinerary?
The route from Bogotá and Honda has much to offer and there is something for everyone. Travelers with children in Colombia will also genuinely enjoy themselves here. If you drove the route in one day, you would go from 2,600 meters of altitude and 15 degrees to 225 meters of altitude and 30 degrees in 6 hours. That promises something!
- High mountains, beautiful lakes and the ecosystem páramo
- Many day trips include a cheese farm and salt mines
- The white village of Guatavita
- Extreme sports (including climbing, paragliding, mountain biking and rafting)
- Tropical temperatures and pools
- The famous Magdalena River
- Special hotels
- And much more!
How much time will you spend with this route?
As you have seen, there is a lot to do on this route. You can go through it fairly quickly in about 8 days, but in 1.5 to 2 weeks you can see much more and travel more slowly. Just what you want and how much time you have.
Who are the off-the-beaten-path itineraries for?
This itinerary is meant for travelers who really want to discover a different side of Colombia, want to do things a little differently than usual and have the time. If you are only in Colombia for two weeks, the highlights are more obvious. The route is also great for if you have 1.5 weeks and want to explore part of the country in an easy way from Bogotá.
What do you bring?
The great thing about this route is that it takes you through different climate zones and landscapes. You start high in the mountains in a colder climate where it rains regularly and you end very low in a valley where it is hot. So bring at least long pants, a warm sweater, a raincoat, summer clothes, walking shoes, sunglasses and hat/cap and sunscreen. In short: clothing for hot and cold weather.
How do you travel?
This itinerary is very convenient to do by car. Especially for the part around Sopó, a car is very useful. Read all about car rental in Colombia here. However, it can also be done perfectly well by bus. There are direct buses from Bogotá to Sopó, from Sopó to Zipaquirá and from Zipaquirá to Honda where you pass San Francisco and the entrance to Tobia. The destinations around Sopó can be done by bus or cab. For details, see the individual articles associated with the destinations.
Further travel through Colombia
Once you have followed this route, you can do two things: take a direct bus from Honda back to Bogotá or explore the rest of the country. And let that be just that easy! In fact, Honda is the transportation hub of Colombia. From here, buses go everywhere. Whether you go to Santa Marta, Medellín, Salento or Popayán.
Are you also a fan of traveling off the beaten path? Then this trip is for you! Soon more travel itineraries Colombia off the beaten path, so stay tuned! Rather travel along the highlights Colombia? Find 16 travel itineraries here.
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