27 May 2012

Back on the road! Raquira, Sutamarchan, Villa de Leyva, Tunja

Posted in Blog

The scouting team of Uncover Colombia was out on the road again. 

This time we went to the region of Boyaca, a place renowned for the warm hospitality of its people, its well-preserved villages portraying colonial architecture and the stunning natural beauty of its mountain landscape.

As we have explained in a previous post, our idea is not to ferry people from A to B and let them take nice photos from a mini-bus. We are convinced that you have not truly experienced the best of Colombia until you had a chance to mingle with the locals, try their food, walk their paths, stay at their homes, laugh and party with them. We want our tours to let you see the most beautiful destinations in Colombia but we also want travellers to remember their trip as a warm and all-friendly experience. We want people to leave Colombia wanting to come back for more.

Boyaca is a county located north-east of Bogota. Tunja, Boyaca’s capital city, is situated at 2 hours drive from Bogota through a reasonably well-maintained road (a good portion of it is dual carriageway). Most tours to Boyaca will take you straight into Tunja from Bogota and from there to Villa de Leyva, the most touristic place in Boyaca thanks to its impressive and well-preserved Spanish colonial architecture.

But we decided to take a different route.

The road to Raquira

The road to Raquira can be a bit narrow but the scenery compensates a little. Copyright Uncover Colombia


We headed north on the main highway until we reached Chia, where we took the old road that crosses through all the towns and villages in the region. We passed Zipaquira without stopping, and took the route 45A. We passed Tausa, Sutatausa and Ubate, stopping briefly at “Laguna de Fuquene” (Fuquene Lake) to stretch our legs and enjoy the astonishing view provided by this lake located at an altitude of 2,543 meters over see level. This place could well be a destination on its own for people who like Eco-tourism, bird-watching or even for those who enjoy water sports.

But we had to continue our trip so we pressed ahead into Boyaca entering Chiquinquira, famous for its Basilica, home of Our Lady of the rosary of Chiquinquira (declared patron saint of Colombia since 1916), leaving the 45A and taking a secondary road to Tinjaca, where we took a narrow path to the town of Raquira.


Town church - Raquira

Town church - Raquira. Copyright Uncover Colombia

Raquira has always been a place where artisans produce pieces of pottery and wool, its name literally means “City of pots” in the native American Chibcha language. The place is full of colour with all the houses, streets and the central square adorned with an infinite variety of pieces made of clay.

Raquira. Copyright Uncover Colombia
Raquira. Copyright Uncover Colombia

After taking a few photos we continued in our quest, retracing our steps on the same road from Raquira and at the Tinjaca junction we continued north to Sutamarchan, our final destination for the day.

Sutamarchan is famous for two things: Tomatoes and longaniza.

The tomato is the main product produced in Sutamarchan and exported to the rest of the country. Tons of the fruit are shipped every year from here to Bogota and other cities. From a few years ago, people in Sutamarchan have been celebrating the festival of the Tomato during the first week of June. Celebrations include music, a beauty pageant to crown the “Queen of the tomato”, the competition of the biggest tomato, and the all-important “tomatina” (or tomato fight) a recreation of a similar event that happens every year in the town of Bunol (Spain).

We missed the tomatina but had a chance to sample the famous, internationally acclaimed longaniza of Sutamarchan (a form of sausage originally from Spain), accompanied with the rest of components of the Boyacan fritanga (essentially every organ and piece of meat you can take from a pig). It’s definitely not low in cholesterol but utterly delicious!

We take our job seriously
Fritanga en Sutamarchan. We take our job seriously!. Copyright Uncover Colombia

All in all, it was a nice day in the office.

The following morning we spent some time walking around “el infiernito” a pre-Columbian Muisca site located in the region where archaeological work is still taking place. Some photos of the place can be seen below.

El Infiernito
El Infiernito. Copyright Uncover Colombia
El Infiernito
El Infiernito. Copyright Uncover Colombia

After a stop in Moniquira, famous for its sweets made of guava and milk, we finally entered Villa de Leyva. There is no need to go on and describe the place. Probably better to share some photos:

Villa de Leyva
Central square - Villa de Leyva. Copyright Uncover Colombia
Villa de Leyva
Villa de Leyva. Copyright Uncover Colombia
Vllla de Leyva
Vllla de Leyva. Copyright Uncover Colombia
Villa de Leyva
Villa de Leyva. Copyright Uncover Colombia

We eventually (and reluctantly) left Vila de Leyva and continued our journey heading east towards the city of Tunja, the capital of Boyaca. Tunja is located at 2,820 meters above sea level, almost 300 meters higher than Bogota. This may not sound like much but it is enough to make breathing that tiny bit more difficult and the temperature slightly colder than Bogota’s. Tunja still conserves much of its original colonial buildings including many old churches adorned with exquisite detail. Well worth a wander around the city centre.

After spending a few hours in Tunja, we finally started out journey back to Bogota. This time we took the ‘fast’ route (highway 55) to close another scouting trip full of interesting options that might end up as part of one of our tours.

Now it’s over to you: Mr or Mrs Reader, we would like to hear your thoughts.

Which places listed in this article would you like to visit?

What activities would be your favourite?

Feel free to leave your comments below or in our Facebook page.

Yours truly,

The Uncover Colombia team.


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