How is it possible that it’s already November? Seems like yesterday that we wrapped up our epic road trip through southeastern Colombia. Through the month of August, we drove almost 2,500 km primarily through Santander and Boyacá departments, with additional stops in Cundinamarca and Tolima. We spent several days each in Barichara, Monguí, Villa de Leyva, and Honda – four of Colombia’s most beautiful and well-known Pueblos Patrimonios (officially designated heritage towns).

So many other picturesque Colombian towns and villages caught our attention, even if we were just driving through or making a lunch stop. Here are just a few.

USUAL NOTE: Most of our photos are in galleries. Just click on the first one to click through larger versions of each.

Zapatoca: The Quintessential Colombian Town

Heading south from Bucaramanga, we reached Zapatoca after a morning drive through a northern reach of the dazzling Chicamocha Canyon. (We visited the Canyon again later during our stay in Barichara.) This turned out to be one of the most beautiful drives on the entire trip.

IMG_3633-1024x768 Colombian Towns Worth a Visit: Road Trip 2021 Colombia
Stunning canyon views were around every curve. That’s the Sogamoso River.
IMG_3637-1024x768 Colombian Towns Worth a Visit: Road Trip 2021 Colombia
Looking back at the road we’d just traveled

As Colombian towns go, Zapatoca is a gem – a small-ish, high-altitude village that draws a sizable crowd of weekenders from Bucaramanga, but is otherwise off the tourist radar. Like just about every colonial town in this region, Zapatoca traces its European roots back to the early 1600s and boasts a lovely main plaza/church and many other historic buildings.

Although we only spent a few hours in Zapatoca, we enjoyed our visit to this colorful and art-filled town. While wandering the streets, we stumbled upon the quirky Museo La Casa del Quijote, a gallery/museum created by artist Rodrigo Espíndola Chaparro that is (mostly) dedicated to the story of Don Quixote by Cervantes. This turned out to be a BIG highlight – Sr. Chaparro gave us a personal tour, and we were blown away by his imagination, talent, and vision. Over a couple of decades, he’s assembled a huge body of work that he proudly displays in a beautiful old colonial villa.

We also toured the Cueva del Nitro, an interesting attraction just south of town. The guided tour of the cave takes about an hour.

Socorro: A Heritage Town That “Breathes” History

After our week-long stay in Barichara, we continued south – stopping for lunch in Socorro before reaching our next overnight destination, Guadalupe. The bustling town of Socorro has been designated a Pueblo Patrimonio primarily for the key role citizens played in Colombia’s struggle to become an independent republic. The first big uprising against Spanish rule took place here in 1781, centered around excessive taxation and other oppressions (think Boston Tea Party with a Spanish accent). Socorro was also briefly the capital of the new republic and was the location of one of Colombia’s first democratic elections.

In Socorro, we learned about two important heroines of Colombia’s war for independence. Manuela Beltran helped ignite the 1781 uprising by tearing up and stomping on the Spanish tax edict. Antonio Santos played a huge role in several important battles against the Spanish a couple of decades later. Together withPolicarpa Salavarrieta (see Guaduas below), these women paid for their patriotism with their lives – and collectively they’re referred to as the mothers of Colombian independence.

Guadalupe and the Rio Las Gachas: A Natural Wonder

After our lunch stop in Socorro, we arrived in Guadalupe for two nights. Our objective was to visit the Rio Las Gachas, one of Colombia’s most interesting and beautiful natural attractions. But the town itself is also pretty charming in its own right.

Guaduas: Another Beautiful and Historic Heritage Town

The Pueblo Patrimonio of Guaduas was another lunch stop as we made our way from Zipaquirá (and its fabulous Salt Cathedral) to Honda near the end of our trip. Guaduas is best known as the hometown of Policarpa Salavarrieta, a local heroine who gave her life for Colombia’s independence. To this day, the Day of Colombian Women is celebrated on the anniversary of her death.  

The Road to Lago Totá 

After visiting Monguí, we decided to take a small overnight detour to visit Lago Totá, Colombia’s largest and highest-elevation lake at 3,000 meters. (Side note: Totá is also the second-highest navigable lake in all of South America, the first being Peru’s Titicaca – which we visited in 2018.)

Driving south from the gritty mining city of Sogamosa, the road was studded with one pretty little Colombian town after the other: Firavitoba, Tibasosa, Iza, Cuitivá, Totá.

Up Next: White Sand Beaches and Warm, Clear Water!

PIN IT!

2021-Pinterest-Pins-683x1024 Colombian Towns Worth a Visit: Road Trip 2021 Colombia

31 Comments

  1. Your pictures are worth a thousand words, or so they say. I scrolled through your post and looked at every picture and they told the stories of your trip. Of course I went back and read the content, and yep, your pictures nailed it. I love the woman sitting in the doorway sipping her coffee, and I love the picture of those natural pools in the river. How fun is that? Was the water warm(ish)? And, the mural of the chef peeping over the wall, along with the two old guards playing chess. Such a fun collection of photos, thanks for sharing!

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Thanks so much, Patti! For John and me, it’s always about the pictures, and sometimes they just take themselves 🙂 John gets the photo cred for the lady drinking coffee (I love the parallel image of the “gordita” in the picture behind her). The Gachas were a little cold at first but not too bad – it was a really warm morning, so the river was quite refreshing. Glad you enjoyed the post!
      – Susan

  2. We didn’t visit any of these towns. They all look wonderful with great architecture and surrounded by gorgeous nature. Looks like we need another trip to Colombia! Maggie

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Absolutely! Come back to Colombia – we’d love to show you around 🙂
      – Susan

  3. Amazing road trip, you have captured it very well indeed. Such lush landscapes and the towns look so charming. Loving all your photos.

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Thanks, Gilda! Enjoying your new “road trip” pics as well. Recovered from the Camino?

  4. I guess you picked Colombia for a reason🙂 So many beautiful vistas, the canyon is breathtaking!!
    Love all your pics!! xx

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Thanks, Christie! We do love this amazing country.

  5. It seems like wherever you go in Colombia, you’ll always find beautiful, atmospheric little towns with so much history. And your photos really make me wonder how much time should I allocate for Colombia when I go one day. How are you doing over there? I read that the political situation is rather tense lately.

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Thanks, Bama! I would give Colombia at least a month, for sure. We are great! I’m not sure what you mean by the political situation, but the protests that rocked the big cities earlier this year have mostly died down. That said, presidential elections are coming up next May, which might be problematic depending on who’s elected. Just like a lot of other countries, people here are tired of wealth inequality and corruption, and covid has just exacerbated things. All is muy tranquilo here in El Retiro, however!

  6. Hi, Susan and John – I needed a good dose of travel right now. Thank you for taking us along with you. Like others, my favourite photo (very hard to choose) is the one of the woman drinking coffee in the doorway. Very striking.
    See you at the White Sand Beaches!

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Hi Donna! Hope you can get out traveling soon. John gets the photo cred for that picture of the lady – I really love how he captured that little moment. Have a great week!

  7. Thanks for the introduction to some interesting off-the-beaten-path Colombian towns and natural wonders!

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Thanks for reading, Henry! Hope you’re doing A-OK. Sending big hugs from John and me.

  8. It looks like we really, really need to return to Colombia for visits to these gorgeous places. Thank you so much for showing us your lovely part of the world.

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Promises, promises 🙂 We would love to show you our little corner of the world. Hope you can come back soon!
      – Susan

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Thanks so much! There are so many hidden gems in Colombia.

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Colombia is right here waiting for you 🙂 Hope you can make a trip here soon.

  9. I so enjoyed this tour of Columbia. Great pics. What a wealth of charming towns there are, plus that canyon! And the river with the hot tubs! What a fabulous natural attraction that is.
    Alison

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Thank you, Alison! We saw so much on this trip that it was really hard to boil it down to a few blog posts. Each of these towns could have had its own post – but it’s time to move on! Glad you enjoyed the post 🙂

  10. The Chicamocha Canyon looks absolutely breathtaking! Though I think I’d be incredibly carsick after that ride. These small Colombian towns are full of such charm – love the architecture and street art that you find on your trips. Also, the Rio Las Gachas looks like the perfect stop in summer – it looked so refreshing.

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Thanks, Becky! The canyon drive was pretty twisty, for sure – not for the carsick-inclined. Glad you liked the post and hope you’re doing well!

  11. This is a super interesting series! I’m saving your posts.

    Colombia has so many gems and the longer I follow your blog and the more people I meet or communicate with who visited the country extensively (like the truck camper couple that was stuck in Colombia for 18 months during Covid!), the more my curiosity grows to revisited the country. And it is in our future now as we have the right rig for South America. Now, it’s pandemic-related whenever we can come say hi. More than likely in 2022. 🙂

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Hi Liesbet! So glad you like the “road trip” posts. And how exciting that you’re planning to bring your rig down here! We look forward to having you pop up on our doorstep one of these days. Yay!

  12. I’m craving something different in the midst of our gloomy Pacific Northwest November, and you have carried me away to pretty towns and those very inviting natural hot tubs. Would love to see these places in real life one of these days.

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      I really hope you’re able to get out traveling again soon, Caroline! I remember those Pacific Northwest Novembers well, from when we lived in Portland. Wishing you sunshine soon!

  13. I wonder at your energy and curiosity. I also note that each town you visit IS different in some way. What memories you will have accumulated to look back on when you are my age. Ha, ha. Enjoy each day. Muriel

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      I’ll bet you have many wonderful memories too, Muriel! Hope you’re doing well and enjoying life 🙂
      – Susan

Your comments rock our world!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: