Recinto del Pensamiento is a great place to visit

I have mentioned the city of Manizales several times on this blog. The capital of Caldas is one of the best places to live in Colombia, and I really enjoyed my two years there. Even if you are a tourist, it’s worth spending some time in the city because there are plenty of things to do there. I highly recommend visiting the centre and going to the top of the cathedral via the Polish corridor. This activity is not for the fainthearted since it’s amazing and scary in equal measure.

Manizales is a great starting point for various trips because it is located close to Los Nevados national park with its impressive volcano Nevado del Ruiz. You can also stay at Hostal La Laguna and hike to a huge waterfall. Rio Blanco natural reserve is famous among birdwatchers. There are some amazing places within the city limits as well: I enjoyed visiting Ecoparque Los Alcázares, which is close to the city centre, and I was lucky to have a nice view of Los Yarumos from my apartment.  

Recinto del Pensamiento, Manizales, Colombia

Living in a Colombian city is usually a noisy experience, so it’s nice to have the option of going somewhere to unwind. As its name suggests, Recinto del Pensamiento is a place that is supposed to make you think. It sounds like a remote retreat, but it is in fact easily accessible and there are numerous facilities that include even a hotel. Recinto del Pensamiento’s allure lies in its beautiful natural setting.

Even though it is located just over ten kilometres from the city centre, Recinto del Pensamiento offers amazing sights that you would expect to see somewhere far away. You can go on a two-hour hike that will show you the beauty of Colombian nature. It is mandatory to go with a guide and an adult ticket costs 19,000 pesos. You can pay 15,000 more for a chairlift, which is very slow and looks rather creaky, so walking represents a better option. The first part of the hike is a little steep, but it isn’t really challenging.

Recinto del Pensamiento, Manizales, Colombia

The first stop takes place at a house where you can relax and watch birds. There are countless hummingbirds flying around and making brief stops to drink sugary liquid from plastic water feeders. In the meantime, your guide will tell you mind-blowing facts about this species. Hummingbirds are incredible animals, and the way they move their little bodies will never cease to amaze me. While hummingbirds attract everybody’s attention, there are in fact more than 150 species of birds in the area. If you want to spend more time observing them, you can also book a birdwatching tour.

Recinto del Pensamiento, Manizales, Colombia

The hike continues past a fish-filled pond, and then you walk up a path lined with bonsai trees until you reach another highlight of the trip. You will enter a large glasshouse which is a home to beautiful butterflies. Seeing various colourful species of these insects is an amazing experience. There are plenty of plants too, and if you get lucky, you can spot some of the butterflies in their chrysalis stage. After exiting the glasshouse, you will descend back to the main area through a forest in which beautiful orchids grow. The guides are knowledgeable and they are always happy to provide relevant information and answer your questions. You can find photos from the hike on Recinto del Pensamiento’s Facebook page.

Recinto del Pensamiento, Manizales, Colombia

As you can see, Recinto del Pensamiento is a great place to visit and you definitely won’t get bored there. I recommend going there in the morning because that’s when the weather is usually quite nice. Fortunately, going to Recinto del Pensamiento from Manizales is pretty easy; you can check this map for its exact location. Taxis are affordable and reliable, and you can also get there by bus from El Cable area. Look for a bus going to Maltería and make sure to ask the driver if you are going the direction. You will get to the main entrance after a short ride. Enjoy your trip!

Amazing hike to Laguna de Iguaque

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.

Laguna de Iguaque, Colombia

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.

Laguna de Iguaque, Colombia

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.

Laguna de Iguaque, Colombia

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.