Last week’s post about my stint in Boyacá made me feel a little nostalgic. I have so many amazing memories from living in a small town and teaching my first classes there. Sadly, I haven’t had a chance to visit my former students since then because my work has taken me to other parts of the country. When I was going through my photos from that time, I decided that I should write a post about a magical place that made a great impression on me.
Villa de Leyva is a major tourist destination, which receives lots of visitors from Bogotá every weekend. You can get a direct bus from the terminal, but it doesn’t run that frequently, so it’s easier to travel to Tunja and then catch a local bus to Villa de Leyva instead. There are many things to do in and around the town, and you can find numerous blog posts with good advice. If you like hiking, you shouldn’t miss Mirador El Santo Sagrado Corazón, which offers a nice view of the town. I also enjoyed a hike to Cárcavas de Ritoque, an amazing location full of strange natural formations. Villa de Leyva is usually pretty busy, so it was nice to go to a place that isn’t visited by many people.
The ultimate hiking trip in the whole area leads to Laguna de Iguaque. Getting there isn’t that easy, though. The national park is called a flora and fauna sanctuary and there are restrictions in terms of number of visitors. You have to make a reservation by e-mail in advance, and apparently you also need to get an insurance policy in advance from one of three companies. You can find more information here. Fortunately, I was taken there by a group of my students who happened to be the park’s employees, so I didn’t have to worry about that stuff.
If you are travelling by car, everything is easy because you can drive right to the entrance. However, there are no direct buses to the park. You need to get up early in the morning, catch a bus from Villa de Leyva to Arcabuco and ask the driver to leave you at casa de piedra (see this helpful map). Then you have to walk around 3 kilometres uphill to the park entrance. This budget option is a bit inconvenient, but it’s perfectly doable. Just don’t forget to plan your return journey in advance! Villa de Leyva is 12 kilometres away from casa de piedra, and you’ll be in no mood to walk that extra distance after an exhausting hike.
The trail starts in a forest, where you can see various birds and maybe even some other animals if you get lucky. When you climb above the tree line, you will enter an ecosystem called páramo characterised by plants from the Espeletia family. The hike up to the lake and back usually takes around 6 hours and it will provide you with some really impressive views. The whole area is considered to be sacred by the Muisca people, so please treat it with respect if you go there. There are signs describing the legend of Laguna de Iguaque along the trail.
The path is clearly marked and divided into 10 stages, so you always have an idea how far you’ve walked. I really enjoyed the hike, but I have to admit that it wasn’t easy. Páramos are known for unstable weather, so you have to wear proper hiking boots and a warm jacket. It was rainy and foggy during our trip, which explains why I don’t have any good photos of the actual lake! The weather made our descent tricky because of low visibility and uneven slippery ground. If you feel that you are running out of time to reach the lake, you should turn back because getting stuck on the trail when it gets dark can’t be a pleasant experience. It’s crucial to start the hike early so that you can enjoy it in its full beauty.
It seems visiting Laguna de Iguaque has become a little more complicated since my trip back in 2017. The facilities at the park entrance can’t be used anymore and you have to enter the hiking trail before 10am. There is no possibility of hiring a guide. As you can see, going to the lake requires quite a lot of effort from your side and the trip is challenging for various reasons, so it probably isn’t for everybody. However, If don’t mind a bit of discomfort and decide to go to Laguna de Iguaque, you will be rewarded with an amazing hike in a beautiful location.