Iguaque National Park in Colombia.

Iguaque National Park in Colombia. Photo © Luis Alejandro Bernal Romero, licensed Creative Commons Attribution & ShareAlike.

Travel map of Boyacá and the Santanderes , Colombia

Boyacá and the Santanderes

One of the country’s most accessible national parks is about 13 kilometers from Villa de Leyva. The Santuario Flora y Fauna Iguaque (COP$37,500 non-Colombians, COP$14,000 residents in Colombia, COP$7,500 children and students) is an excellent place to experience the unique landscape of the Andean páramo (highland moor) as well as dry tropical forest. The protected area extends for some 6,750 hectares. It is also a park of several lagunas (mountain lakes). The Laguna Iguaque in particular is known as a sacred lake for the Muisca Indians who predominated in the area. According to their beliefs, the goddess Bachué was born out of the blue-green waters of this lake, giving birth to humanity.

Most day-trippers based in Villa de Leyva visit the park to make the climb up to the Laguna Iguaque. The climb, which takes you through three ecosystems—Andean forest, sub-páramo, and páramo—begins at the Centro Administrativo Carrizal at an elevation of 2,800 meters (9,185 feet) and ends 4.6 kilometers (2.6 miles) later at the Laguna Iguaque (3,650 meters/11,975 feet). The enjoyable hike takes about 3-4 hours to make. Along the way you may be able to spot different species of birds and perhaps some deer or foxes. At the mist-shrouded Laguna Iguaque, you’ll be surrounded by hundreds of frailejones, an unusual cactus-like plant found only in this special ecosystem.

It is best to make the hike during the week, as the trails get crowded on weekends. You do not need a guide for the hike to the Laguna Iguaque. During particularly dry spells the threat of forest fires forces the park to forbid entry to visitors. That is most likely to occur in January or August. Ask beforehand at your hostel or hotel to find out if the park is open to visitors.

If you are interested in exploring other paths in the park, consider overnighting at the Centro de Visitantes Furachiogua, the park’s basic accommodations facilities (catering mostly to student groups). Seven rooms have 6-8 beds each (COP$38,000 pp), and the restaurant is open to day-trippers as well. This is about 700 meters beyond the Centro Administrativo Carrizal. There are camping facilities near the cabins (COP$10,000 pp). To inquire about accommodations or to make a reservation contact the community organization Naturar-Iguaque (cell tel. 312/585-9892 or 318/595-5643, naturariguaque@yahoo.es). A guided walk to the Laguna Iguaque costs COP$80,000 for a group of 1-6.

Buses serving the town of Arcabuco from the bus station in Villa de Leyva can stop at the Casa de Piedra (8 km from Villa de Leyva). The first bus leaves at 6am with another departing at 10am. From there it’s about three kilometers/two miles (about an hour’s walk) to the east to the Centro Administrativo Carrizal visitors center.

Excerpted from the First Edition of Moon Colombia.