Colombia Off the Beaten Path

Most people who visit Colombia stick to the big cities of Bogota and Medellin, or the shining coastline. But in order to get the true experience of Colombia, it is worthwhile to escape the crowds, dig deeper and find the hidden delights of this wonderful South American country.

Colombia has such a unique blend of culture and landscape – from the majesty of the Andes to the rugged pounding shores – come see why Colombia should be savored in all of her flavors. If you are adventurous, you will be rewarded.

It is important to note that Colombia off the beaten path is not convenient. Often you will be traveling by bus over rough roads and scenic lands. However, it is part of the experience and you will be gifted with fond memories to keep with you forever.

 

Mongui

About three hours by car northeast of Bogotá, Villa de Leyva is a well-known tourist town. But another 2-hour drive past there is the charming town of Mongui. Founded in 1601, it is an official Heritage town of Colombia. Explore the cobblestone streets, the old colonial buildings with their terracotta roofs, and friendly residents. The town centers around the prestigious Basilica of Our Lady Mongui, a colonial church, is as impressive a stone building as any other.

Paramo de Oceta Espeletia Frailejones Mongui Boyaca Colombia

Monqui’s claim to fame is manufacturing footballs (soccer balls to the Americans!) and you can tour the manufacturing plant here. The town sits higher in elevation in the Andean highlands, so much of the town has beautiful views of the valley. Because of this, the weather is cooler.

How to get to Mongui?

Getting there: If you have a car, go through Tunja on the road to Sogamoso. Then head east and take the Mongui-Mongua Road. If traveling by bus: from Bogota, take the bus to Sogamoso. Travel time is about 4 hours and costs 25,000-35,000 pesos (USD8-11). From here take a mini-bus to Mongui (a 30-minute ride) for about 3,500 pesos (roughly one US dollar.)

Where to stay in Mongui?

La Nueva Maria Auxiliadora

Double room from 23 €

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Portal de la Cascada

Double room from 17 €

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Hostal Villa San Juan

Dormitory from 9,28 €

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Mocoa

Located on the fringes of the Andes and the Amazon in southern Colombia, Mocoa is a great home base for incredible jungle treks and some of the best scenery in the world. This area has some killer waterfalls, such as Ojo de Dios, Hornoyaco and Fin del Mundo. Ecotourism is the word of the day here, and this area does not disappoint, with epic birdwatching opportunities.

Colombia Mocoa Off the beaten path

How to get to Mocoa?

Getting there: There are several bus services running from Bogota with large and comfortable rides running about 69,000-75,000 pesos (USD22-24). The journey takes roughly 12 hours. Be sure to check with the company you choose – some of them make stops to other towns and the trip may take longer.

Where to stay in Mocoa?

Huaca Huaca Hostel

Double room from 14 €

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Posada EtnoArtística Achalay

Double room from 13 €

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Finca Vaguara

Tent from 6 €

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La Playa de Belen

This very pretty village tends to get overshadowed by the more popular Barichara, in the Santander region. But La Playa de Belen boasts the same delightful cobbled streets, whitewashed buildings and red mud-tiled roofs, with none of the tourists. In a town of less than 1,000 people, they are eager to welcome visitors and you can truly unwind for a few days. The gorgeous Estoraques Nature Reserve, with its unique rock formations, is just outside of town.

Playa de Belen

How to get to Playa de Belen?

Getting there: There is no direct route from Medellin to La Playa de Belen. A bus from Medellin to Bucaramanga will take 9 hours and about 40,000 pesos (USD13.) From there you can get a direct bus to Ocana, another 5-hour trip for about the same price. Of course, if you have your own car, this is the most convenient way, as the trip will take roughly 9 hours.

Where to stay in Playa de Belen?

Doña Maria Hotel Boutique

Double room from 30 €

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Jardin

This is a little easier to get to, which means slightly more visitors, yet equally beautiful. Jardin is a mere 2.5-hours’ drive south of Medellin (by bus rather 4 hours). Nestled on a mesa among mango and banana plantations, this is the perfect getaway from the hustle and bustle of the big city. It is one of the best-preserved colonial towns in the country. The neo-gothic grand cathedral, Templo Parroquial de la Inmaculada Conception, will leave you gawking. People-watching in Principal Park is a good activity.

Jardin Antioquia

For those seeking more adventure, take the rickety old box of a cable car up to the mountains for panoramic views. Or visit Cueva del Esplendor, a crashing waterfall inside a cave that will leave you breathless.

How to get to Jardin?

Getting here: It’s easy! Take public transport for a 3-hour trip at about 27,000 pesos (about USD9.) By car is a little faster and will only a couple of hours.

When planning your off-the-beaten-path holiday, consider either Bogota or Medellin as a hub, then go on a 2 to 3-day trip to any of these incredible destinations from your ‘home base.’ You will see a side of Colombia few visitors do.

Where to stay in Jardin?

FAMI-HOTEL LA POSADA

Double room from 23 €

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Orillas del Pizano

Double room from 23 €

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