Day-by-Day on the Colombian Highlands Region Tour
2020 Tour Dates - as of 2020, we are no longer accepting individual registrations. We will provide tours for groups. The following is a general outline of our tours, but groups can customize and dates are flexible.
This 13-day tour starts in the capital city of Bogota. Bogota offers so much to see and do that you could spend more time than the few days included in the tour. It has a population of approximately 9 million people. You will no doubt want to spend extra days exploring the city, visiting museums, and shopping. We will stay in Usaquen District – the cultural epicenter of Bogota - home to many artists and craftsmen. We recommend allowing yourself enough time to explore this area and the Candelaria Districk. You will enjoy the plethora of historic, cobblestoned streets, colonial buildings, museums, restaurants, bars, 300 year old homes, churches, and convents all tumbled together in this vibrant city - and of course, the coffee.
Bogota is located at 2625 m/8500 ft, so depending on where you live, you will likely notice the altitude. The tour spends 2 nights in Bogota to give you time to acclimatize. Temperatures in Bogota are often in the low 20’s (mid 60’s), perfect for starting your Colombian adventure.
DAY 1 – Bogota Arrival
Meet & Greet in the Hotel, Dinner
We will meet in the late afternoon on Friday, fit any rental bikes, and then, meet in the roof-top bar to introduce you to all of the staff. Over a cool beverage, we will distribute jerseys and Handbooks – a useful guide and memento of the route you will be following over the next 12 days. We will answer any inquiries you may have and explain how the tour runs and what is happening over the next few days.
You will have time to chat to your fellow adventurers then and over dinner in our hotel.
DAY 2 – Bogota
Breakfast, Guided Tour of Zipaquira Salt Cathedral (of Fruit/Flower Market), Lunch in local restaurant, Free Afternoon, Dinner
Our second day starts early with breakfast in the hotel and then a transfer by van to Zipaquira Salt Cathedral where you will be enchanted by this cathedral, carved by the miners, inside a salt mine. Your tour will be guided by an English speaking guide and take approximately 2 hours. You will then be transferred back to Bogota for lunch in a local restaurant.
For those who have already been to the Salt Cathedral because they have participated in the Coffee Region Tour also, we will transfer you to a local Fruit & Flower Market where you will be introduced to the immense variety of fruit and flowers available in Colombia. After approximately 1.5 hours, you will be transfered back to the hotel for lunch in a local restaurant.
Lunch will be a local specialty – ajiaco soup - a potato and corn based soup served with chicken, capers, cream and avocado.
You are then free for the afternoon to explore the museums, the neighbourhoods, and the shops for the rest of the day. We will meet up again at the hotel for a scrumptious tapas dinner in a local restaurant with entertainment.
DAY 3 – Bogota to Guatavita – approx. 60 km
You will not be getting a gentle introduction to this tour. After breakfast in the hotel, we start our cycling for the day by participating in Bogota’s well-known Ciclovia. Approximately 160 km of city streets are closed to motor vehicle traffic every Sunday and holiday and car-free days. On a good weather day, there can be up to 2 million people participating with all types of bikes. After only a few kilometres on relatively flat roads, we will join the group of Ciclovia riders who leave the roads which are closed and participate in the very popular route up Los Patios. Although this road is not shut down, so many cyclists do this climb on Sunday that motor vehicle traffic is very much reduced. Most of the other riders will turn around and descend when we reach the peaje (toll booth), but we will continue passed the toll booth after a brief stop for a refreshment. We get to descend as well, but we will continue north in the direction of La Calera and beyond. We will stop in a local restaurant for lunch.
Our route after Patios continues to be up and down through very scenic countryside. We pass by several lakes and small villages. We will see many fincas which are used as holiday homes and weekend get-aways by condo dwellers in Bogota.
Our destination after our first day of cycling is Guatavita, a very interesting small town. The original town was flooded in the mid-60s to allow for the construction of the Tomine Reservoir, and was totally re-built on higher ground. Occasionally, you can see some of the original buildings can be seen poking up out of the water. If you have visited the Gold Museum in Bogota, many of the artifacts were found in this area. There is a rich Muisca culture in this area.
If time permits (we must arrive before the last tour at 4pm), we will transfer by van to the Sacred Lake of Guatavita. Our visit involves a brief explanation of the Muisca people and the legend of the Lake by the local guide and then a hike to a viewpoint. The Lake is a Sacred place, and legend says there is gold in the bottom of the deep crater (or sink-hole). Our visit will last approximately 2 hours.
DAY 4 – Guatavita to Villapinzon – approx. 55 km (5-7 km gravel road)
Starting out from our hotel the next morning, we are treated to some lovely, quiet roads along the lake on our way to Sesquile. At the point, we cross to the other side of the highway to continue on quiet roads in the direction of Suesca, though we will veer off just before the town to climb up a ridge and descent into an almost hidden valley, lush and green, before arriving at our rest stop in Santa Rosita.
After our rest stop, we will encounter approximately 5-7 km of gravel on our way to Choconta where we will lunch in a local restaurant.
At Choconta, we join the highway and make our way to Villapinzon. This is our destination for the night, and after we have cleaned up, we can do a short hike (van drive to the start of the hike) up to the Paramo de Guacheneque, considered to be the largest paramo ecosystems in the world. This area is a national park and a biodiversity hotspot because it is the main source of water for the Bogota Savannah. Considered a sacred place for the Muisca aboriginal people, the Paramo is associated with divine forces of creation and the origin of mankind.
DAY 5 – Villapinzon to Tunja (through the Samaca Valley) – Visit to Historical Monument – approx. 80 km
Our third day of cycling starts off on the highway as we continue north. We will encounter rolling hills as we head out of the Cundinamarca region into Boyaca. Along the route we will stop for the very tasty Boyaca style arapas which are made from cornmeal and stuffed with cheese. Not long after crossing into Boyaca and after our morning stop, we will reach the historic Puente de Boyaca, a small bridge crossing the Teatinos River. The Bridge and monument commemorate the Battle of Boyaca which granted independence to Colombia from the Spanish.
Directly after leaving the monument, we will turn off the highway onto a small, rural road and head up into the hills towards Samaca and the Samaca valley. The climb will be worth it because the descent into Samaca will leave you thinking that we are definitely going in the right direction on this road. Our lunch stop will be at a local restaurant in Samaca.
We will follow the valley floor and continue through Cucaita and over the hill to descend into Tunja, the capital of the Boyaca region, founded by the Spanish in 1539.
Tunja is an important education centre and tourist destination, famous for its religious and historical sites. We will stay near the historic plaza.
DAY 6 – Tunja to Paipa via Combita – approx. 55 km
We will be glad that we have a few days of cycling and hills behind us as we will feel prepared for the climb out of Tunja on the road to Combita. This is not our longest climb, but it is our toughest, but the quiet roads and the scenery make it all worthwhile.
After our lunch in Combita, approximately 1/2 way down our descent, we return to the descent and continue until the highway on which we will ride right into Paipa, in time to enjoy the hotel hotsprings before dinner.
DAY 7 – Paipa and surroundings – visit to Vargas memorial - approx. 30 km
On our flex day, we have several options - cycling to the Pantano de Vargas monument, staying at the hotel and enjoying the hot springs and other spa facilities, exploring downtown Paipa, or walking around the lake.
The Pantano de Vargas monument is a popular turnaround point for cyclists from Paipa and from Tunja. It memorializes the Vargas Swamp Battle, another battle against the Spanish to try and prevent them from taking Bogota and is very moving.
The area attracts many tourists because of the historic Casona del Salitre, a beautifully restored colonial era hacienda (where we are staying) and national monument and the Paipa Thermal Baths which cover approximately 5 hectares. The water comes from a subterranean lake whose waters come to the surface in this area.
DAY 8 – Paipa to Villa de Leyva – approx. 85 km (10 km rough road)
Our day into Villa de Leyva, we return along the highway to the turn-off to Combita and through Combita once more. Once at the top of the climb, we continue northwest, past the now famous home of Nairo Quinta before descending into Arcabuco for lunch.
From this small town we will take the backroads, some of which are quite rough and almost gravel. We are still descending but with a few ups and downs, through farmland. The final descent into Villa de Leyva provides us with a wonderful view to the south.
Villa de Leyva is considered one of the finest colonial villages in Colombia and plaze is a National Monument. The main part of the village is paved with large river rocks which makes for very rough cycling, so we do not recommend using your bike to explore the town.
We will have time to walk around the Plaza Mayor which is one of the largest town squares in South America and visit the town Church, shops, and ATMs.
DAY 9 – Villa de Leyva and surroundings – visit to Paleontology Museum, Mission, Vineyard - approx. 40 km
For our 2ndflex day of the trip, the area around Villa de Leyva is filled with lots of attractions and points of interest. There are also many crafts and other shopping opportunities in this small town.
Depending on what the group wants to do, we can visit El Fosil, or the Museum of Paleontology, a local mission, a local winery, El Infiernito - an archeological site – the list goes on - with the choice of travelling by bike or the van. Or you can try and short, but rough hike up the local mountains to a statue over-looking the town. There will be no shortage of things to see and do on this day.
DAY 10 – Villa de Leyva to Chiquinquira – approx. 45 km
We leave Villa de Leyva to head southwest through areas that are rich with craftspeople. We will have opportunities to see many examples of carving, pottery and basket weaving. And we will be travelling through farmland. The area is known for their chorizo sausage making and we will pass many roadside stands selling many different types of chorizo. We will stop at a local Tagua carving workshop. Tagua is a palm nut which when carved resembles ivory. The smallest chess set in the world is made from tagua. After leaving the workshop, we will visit the colourful town of Raquira for lunch and visit some of the local craft shops.
From Raquira, we climb up a ridge to enter into the town of Chiquinquira. Chiquinquira is a Pilgrimage town with a large cathedral and main square. Here you can buy hand-made guitars, items made from Tagua and many other crafts.
DAY 11 – Chiquinquira to Cucunuba – approx. 60 km (5 km gravel road)
Comparatively, our penultimate cycling day is relatively flat as we leave Boyaca and re-enter the Cundinamarca region. For part of the day we will be cycling along the side of Laguna de Fuquene. We will skirt arount Ubate before turning off the main road into Cucunuba.
DAY 12 – Cucunuba to Nemocon - visit to Salt Mine, transfer to Bogota – approx. 48 km (20 km gravel road)
Our final cycling day will be our most challenging because of the gravel roads. Cycling through beautiful wooded hills, we climb up and over a ridge before descending to another small lake. This is where the gravel starts and it continues up and then down into Suesca, our lunch stop.
From Suesca, we continue on mostly paved, but we do encounter another section of gravel and rough roads over another ridge to descend into Nemocon, a small town founded by the Spanish in 1537. Meaning “cry of the Warrior” in Chibcha language, Nemocon is home to the second largest salt mines in the country (second to Zipaquira) and it is where the film about the Chilean miners was filmed. We will take a guided tour of the salt mine while the rental bikes are loaded onto the van and transferred back to Bogota. Our luggage will be transferred with us by bus to the hotel in Bogota.
After getting cleaned up, we have our final dinner together at a restaurant close to the hotel.
DAY 13 – Bogota
We can have a leisurely start to this day as it is our final one together. After breakfast in the hotel, we will say our good-byes.