In my previous post, I mentioned we were country hopping over the summer. Before heading to Ecuador, we made a short stop at Colombia. I decided to write this post in two parts. The first part was about tips and ideas on how you can spend a day in the colorful, eclectic city of Bogotá, the Colombian capital. The second part is about a day trip to La Chorrera, Colombia's tallest waterfall.
I did a lot of research about trips from Bogotá. Seeing as how we just had two days in the country, the trip had to be short but exciting. This one was the best fit trip that was within reasonable distance from the city.
What attracted me most was the fact that this place wasn't touristy - just what I was looking for.
Best time to visit
From June to September - when the temperatures are mild. Their busiest period starts from July when the U.S. and Europe enjoy time off from school but the temperatures are slightly higher too. Avoid the rainy December season.
Flights and Visa
We chose to fly with Avianca within South America. The flights were spacious, with good in-flight entertainment and courteous service.
Visa on arrival for Indians who hold a valid USA visa. Just carry your return ticket with you for immigration purposes.
Spanish is the official language in all Central and South American countries. Mr. A and I are quick to learn languages. We enjoyed learning a few useful Spanish words. Buenos Dias (good morning), adios (bye), hola (hello or hi), Si (yes), cuanto (how much), salida (exit), entrada (entrance), caliente leche (hot milk) and numbers from 1 to 10.
Travel and Medical Insurance, Currency
Travel Insurance is always recommended. Colombian Peso (COP) is the official currency. Note: they don't accept any other currency in the country, so be sure to carry enough cash in local currency.
Where we stayed
We stayed at the sustainable Biohotel Organic Suites in Bogotá. The room was spacious and beautifully designed. I chose this hotel for its eco-friendly operations. They are powered by solar energy with water-saving systems and even have a vegetable garden using vertical agriculture.
The breakfast spread was good with fresh bread, cheese, yogurt, fruits and pastries and of course, amazing Colombian coffee.
Pro tip: I would recommend saving yourself the trouble of haggling for a cab at the airport. When you book your hotel, make sure you ask for a pickup service from the airport. It should cost no more than $25 to get to the city.
Cost and getting around
Like anywhere in South America, taxis are cheap. However, given the situation in the country - taxis can be risky. I have read that taxis are pretty safe in Colombia, but our driver warned us against flagging a cab on the street. Apparently, you could be driven to ATMs, and be made to withdraw large sums of money.
PRO TIP: Stick to UBER or hotel taxis to get around town
There is lot of preconceived notions about Bogotá. Drug wars, gangs, violence and overall sense of the city being "unsafe". To be honest, we didn't feel particularly safe while roaming the streets without our driver guiding us but I felt that the government has realized the issues with the rise of tourism.
Yes, there were drunk people on the streets but there were also cops on every corner. If you are naive, you will be easy prey so be mindful of your belongings at all points of time. Stay clear of dicey looking streets after 8 p.m. That being said, if safety is your main concern, you are better off avoiding Bogotá altogether.
Since we just had one day, we could not try all the delicious fruits. We managed to grab dinner at a vegan cafe Caballete & Berenjena just around the corner from our hotel. We tried the smoothies, the burgers and nachos. It was seriously good food.
What to pack
We traveled in June so the days were bright and sunny. So bring sunscreen, caps/hats, and sun glasses. I would recommend packing a rain jacket and a light cardigan to keep you warm if you are planning to take trips outside of Bogotá.
Getting to La Chorrera Waterfalls You can take a tour up to the falls (can be arranged by your hotel). Alternatively, you can also use public transportation. The bus station can be found at the corner of Calle 6 and Carrera 14. Make sure to get on to the bus to Choachi. The people are friendly, so just be sure to let the driver know you want to get off the "La Chorerra" stop. We took the private taxi from our hotel. It was simpler and cost us 50,000 Colombian Pesos (around $17) for the three of us.
The bus will drop you off at the beginning of a small street that leads to the entrance of the park. There is a steep trail that will take you to the entrance (took us around 30 minutes to do this part).
Entrance and trek
After you walk up this 2 mile stretch, you will come across a marshy farmland. Keep walking down the path and to your left, you will find the entrance. A small hut with two people collecting the entrance fees of 15,000 Colombian pesos ($5) per person. We decided not to pay an additional charge for the guide but they offered to send him along with us anyway (free of charge) since it was a rainy day and the trek was going to be tricky. You can also rent rain boots if you need them.
We started our hike with the guide, one other local couple and of course, a cute little dog. It was not the bright clear day we had hoped for but the leering dark skies did not deter our spirits.
The hike begins in grasslands, soon you will be hitting rocks and sporadic steep climbs. After about 20 minutes into the park you’ll get to El Chiflon falls. We did not stop at this place on our way up.
It's a real treat walking through the cloud forest. You will come across different species of birds (we also saw something that looked like a snake slither into the bush), beautiful wild flowers and plantations.
The lush green just blew our mind. We could have spent hours just soaking it all in.
You will also get periodic glimpses of the waterfalls at a distance (yes, even on cloudy days you can spot the huge waterfall). The sight is magnificent and builds up the anticipation of getting up close. As the trail gets steeper, you will start to hear the falls getting louder.
You will come across rocky formations and smaller waterfalls - plenty of time for photo ops and breaks. The entire place is so picturesque.
After about an hour and half of up and down trails you will finally reach the La Chorrera (with a clear sign).
Nothing prepares you for being in front of the sheer power of nature. I am forever fascinated by it.
Watching the 590m drop is just awe-inspiring. We loved every minute of it - not even being drenched by the cold freezing water stopped us from having the best time.
As you head back to the base, don't forget to visit the El Chiflon falls that you passed.
This is a much smaller falls compared to the La Chorrera. If you have the energy, I recommend spending some time here.
There are three trails that you can take once here. One will take you behind the falls, one will take you to the base, and one will take you for an aerial view of the falls. We did all three and the views were worth freezing our hands off for!
Pro Tip: On a rainy day, the path will be slippery. Make sure you carry your rain jacket, a dry towel and most importantly, wear sturdy waterproof hiking boots.
I am glad we decided to do this little day trip. We had never heard of this place but this is a little hidden gem that hasn't quite made it to the tourist radar.
On hindsight, I am glad the guide accompanied us. There were quite a few hitches along the trail like locked doors and fallen branches that we may not have known how to bypass. I would recommend having the guide, especially if you are traveling in uncomfortable conditions.
If you can just do one trip from Bogota, make sure it's this one.
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