áColombia is an up-and-coming tourist destination just waiting to be discovered, and there are many unique destinations and quaint villages that lie off the beaten track. Colombia’s capital Bogotá is in a fairly central location within the country: there are a large number of beautiful destinations between 1.5 and 5 hours’ drive from the city. In a short trip you can find yourself in a city that’s completely different from the capital: one with tropical climates and flat plains that contrast the capital’s mountainous and slightly cooler climate. These landscapes can feel completely different to the capital’s, and sometimes feel as if they are in a different country all together. Here’s our guide to the country’s best long-weekend trips.
Prado is located four hours’ drive or 212 kilometres (131 miles) southwest of the capital, in the Tolima department. This quaint countryside village is unique and traditional, but Prado’s magic lies just outside of the village. A short drive will take you to a huge lake and a dam system where you’ll find a large number of small rivers and lakes surrounded by luscious green tropical mountains, ideal for climbing, trekking and discovering untouched places. The lake itself provides many opportunities for water activities such as waterskiing, wake boarding, kayaking, swimming, cliff jumping and boating. Prado is located in a low altitude area, which gives it a year-round tropical climate with an average temperature of 30°C.
Los Llanos is around three hours’ drive, or 124 kilometres (77 miles) from Bogotá and is down the mountains in the flat plains of Colombia. The largest city in the Los Llanos region is Villavicencio: this countryside city is home to a large number of hotels, villas, resorts, and boutique hotels. Villavicencio is the perfect location for a large number of outdoor activities, including horse riding trails, ecotourism, and is home to a large number of endangered species of wildlife.
Girardot is a popular destination for Bogotanos to visit for a relaxing weekend away in a hot environment. Located around three hours’ drive or 140 kilometres (86 miles) down the mountains southwest of Bogotá, it is a good distance for a weekend trip away in the tropical 30°C climate. Girardot offers a large number of outdoor activities, such as skydiving and a waterpark, and has easy access to a number of national parks where you can get in touch with nature. The city is also home to many historical landmarks.
Villeta is located around two hours, or 90 kilometres (55 miles), northwest of the capital. It is situated low in the mountains, which gives the town a year-round 30°C climate, while still creating endless picturesque mountain views. Villeta is a quiet place with a large number of villas and hotels to stay in while discovering the amazing views and colonial plazas.
The village of Guasca is located higher in the Andes mountains than Bogotá, which gives it a fresh and cool climate. The village is located around an hour’s drive, or 58 kilometres (36 miles) east of Bogotá, up and over the mountains. The village of Guasca resembles a typical Colombian colonial countryside village, with a plaza and small home-cooked-meal restaurants. Guasca lies on the edge of Colombia’s unique ecosystem, the páramo. The páramo is an ecosystem that lies between the end of the tree line and the start of the snow line, and is home to a number of endangered plants. The páramo features a large number of plants that help to bring water down to the earth from the sky. This water then flows down the mountains in streams, and becomes drinking water for the city of Bogotá.
Melgar is located in Colombia’s Tolima department, which is around two hours’ drive or 116 kilometres (72 miles) from the capital, low in the mountains. It is often referred to by locals as the ‘city of swimming pools’ because it has over 5,000 individual pools. Bogotanos enjoy visiting the city to relax in the hot environment, swim, or participate in adventure activities such as whitewater rafting.
Villa de Leyva
Villa de Leyva is a colonial town located just under three hours or 162 kilometres (100 miles) northeast of Bogotá. Villa de Leyva is famous for its whitewashed buildings with orange roofs, cobbled streets and colonial plazas. Villa de Leyva is a beautiful town to explore, and is a great place to learn about Colombia’s history and culture.
Zipaquirá is located 45 minutes’ drive or 53 kilometres (32 miles) north of Bogotá. The town is quaint, and filled with colonial buildings and culture. Zipaquirá is home to one of the most popular attractions in the vicinity of Bogotá, the Salt Cathedral, which was first constructed as a salt mine in 1816 and is still a working mine today. This tourist attraction has many activities on offer: a tour of the mine, a light show, a 3D movie, a museum and a climbing wall. Zipaquirá is home to a small number of restaurants and B&Bs.
Paipa is located in the Boyacá department, and is two and a half hours or 181 kilometres (112 miles) northeast of Bogotá. This town is home to the Sochagota lake, hot-spring baths and the Pantano de Vargas monument. As it is situated at the same altitude as Bogotá, it offers a cool, fresh climate all year round. There are many activities available on the Sochagota Lake, including kayaking, waterskiing, and boat trips. The surrounding area is perfect for horse riding and cycling.
Choachí is located an hour’s drive or 54 kilometres (33 miles) southeast of Bogotá. This colonial historic town is home to Colombia’s tallest waterfall, La Chorrera. The waterfall has a mysterious feel due to its height and the mist that’s regularly to be seen at the top. It can be discovered at the end of a mountainous 15-kilometre (9-mile) hike, past creeks, diverse plant species and six smaller waterfalls.