Often visited as a combined day trip with nearby Zipaquira, Guatavita Lake is famous for being the birthplace of the Legend of El Dorado, a tale originating during the Spanish conquest of South America regarding an ancient lost city of gold. The Muisca indigenous people who once inhabited this region used the perfectly round mountain lake to make offerings of golden figures to their gods and, in one especially remarkable ceremony, a priest covered in golden powder would immerse himself in the lake. Stories of these ceremonies at Guatavita supposedly gave birth to the El Dorado legend, and no one with an interest in Latin American history can afford to miss the chance to see this legendary spot with their own eyes.
La Chorrera Waterfall
Colombia’s highest multi-step waterfall, with a total height of 590 metres (1,936 feet), La Chorrera is reached by a lovely hike through pretty rural scenery and stunningly preserved cloud forest. Getting there involves a lovely drive of less than two hours over the eastern mountains of Bogota, passing through surreal paramo high-altitude moors; it’s amazing how abruptly the mountains curtail the development of the city and give way to small rural dwellings and farmland. The hike is moderately difficult, but is a wonderful way to experience nature on a day trip from the city. Lucky visitors can spot toucans, and the waterfall itself is stunning, falling from a high, misty mountain into the jungles below. Bogota & Beyond offer excellent day trips to the falls and come highly recommended.
Zipaquira and Nemocon Salt Mines
These two huge salt mines to the north of the city are very similar but distinct at the same time. While both are cavernous, underground salt mines, Zipaquira is far more well known and contains giant religious figures, which has given it the name of Salt Cathedral. It is closer to Bogota and easier to visit, but a touch pricier than nearby Nemocon, which is stunningly illuminated and much less popular with crowds of tourists. Either trip can be arranged easily through any Bogota tour company.
This fantastically biodiverse natural park lies just a couple of hours to the south of the city and offers some of the best wildlife watching in the region. Bird-lovers will be particularly enamoured of Chicaque, as it is home to several endemic and semi-endemic bird species, including the breathtakingly beautiful black inca and golden-bellied starfrontlet hummingbirds. Patient and observant visitors might also be lucky enough to spot a lazy sloth hanging in the tree branches above. With myriad hiking trails and a comfortable lodge and restaurant – not to mention tree houses and a huge zipline – Chicaque can also be an excellent long-weekend trip. However, for nature lovers with only a few days in Bogota, it’s probably also the best day trip available.
El Jardin Encantado
This magical little garden in the warm town of San Francisco to the west of Bogota is a wonderland for hummingbirds. The owner of the house has been feeding the magical little birds for years, and now counts over 50 different hummingbird feeders in her gardens, which are visited by at least 10 species of hummingbird, including the gorgeted woodstar, one of the world’s smallest birds at just 6 centimetres (2 inches), and the sparkling ruby topaz. It’s easy to get to the town by bus, and there is a pleasant main plaza where you can enjoy a cold beer after some peaceful birding.
Coffee Tour in Tibacuy
Bogota-based tour company Andes Ecotours offer this excellent full-day tour to the coffee region south of the city, an excellent opportunity for coffee enthusiasts to discover the culture of Colombian coffee if they don’t have time to visit the more famous Coffee Triangle. But this tour is far from a consolation prize: a fully immersive experience, it gives visitors the chance to learn firsthand from a pioneering coffee collective, dedicated to environmentally friendly coffee, in the stunning environs of the Quinini Hills and surrounding cloud forest. The area is also home to numerous indigenous petroglyphs, so this trip will please history buffs as well. This tour is definitely one of the most recommended day trips from Bogota.
Chingaza National Park
This beautiful national park to the northeast of the city is a paradise for nature-lovers and hikers. It is a paramo ecosystem – a type of high Andean tundra-like environment found only in northern South America – and is also one of the region’s most biodiverse spots. Hikers in the high moorland of the park might be lucky enough to observe wild spectacled bears or Andean condors, and hardcore bird-lovers will be delighted by the chance to spot the rare and endemic green-bearded helmetcrest hummingbird. Outdoor enthusiasts will love the excellent hiking opportunities that Chingaza offers, particularly the lovely trek to the beautiful Siecha Lakes.