28 July 2013

Rural Tourism in Colombia

Posted in Blog

Rural tourism is an ideal way to spend some time getting closer to nature and life in the countryside. It is a way to escape from the big cities or beach resorts and have a different experience during your holidays. It is also a way to get closer to the culture and traditions of a region or country.

On the matter of rural tourism, Colombia has plenty of options to offer travellers a great rural experience, a unique opportunity to visit rural towns and villages, lakes, woodlands, mountains, or staying in farms.

The departments of Cundinamarca and Boyaca, the Coffee Region, Santander and the Eastern Plains are some of the regions in Colombia where rural life still retains its ancient authenticity and where you can get closer to the Colombian culture. You can spend time in a local farm, get involved in their daily activities and learn about the local gastronomy, traditions and music.

1. The departments of Cundinamarca and Boyaca in the central area of the Andes:

Near Bogota, in the department of Cundinamarca, you can visit some of the most popular places like the salt Cathedral in Zipaquira or the Lake Guatavita, but apart from that you can also visit some other towns, less popular but great for rural tourism, such as: La Calera, Sesquile, Guasca, Fomeque, Cogua or Suesca.


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Typical arepas (corn pastries) in La Calera

Agriculture (mainly dairy farming) is very important in these towns and many of the farms in the area have been operating for many years with their owners witnessing the changes and progress of the region through generations. When visiting theses towns, you could visit some of the local farms, have a traditional lunch and get involved in the daily farm activities, like making cheese or milking a cow.

However, if you are not very much into visiting farms, these towns also offer other options like rock climbing or rafting in Suesca or the possibility of visiting an indigenous settlement in Sesquile, where you can see how the descents of the ancient Muiscas are trying to maintain their culture and traditions amid modern life.

The department of Boyaca is called the farm of Colombia, as you will also find many farms in the area as well as very picturesque towns that still maintain their colonial architecture. From Bogota, you can travel by land to Boyaca (3 hours approx) to visit towns like: Sutamarchan, Arcabuco, Nobsa, Aquitania, Tibasosa, Villa de Leyva or Raquira. You will be surprised by the customs and hospitality of its people.

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A local farm in Sutamarchan

2. The Coffee Region:

The landscape of the Colombian coffee region was declared World Heritage by Unesco in 2011. Generations of coffee farmers in the departments of Caldas, Quindío, Risaralda y Valle del Cauca have built this marvellous heritage on the basis of hard work and entrepreneurship in the difficult geographic conditions of the mountains of Colombia. In every part of the coffee region you will have the opportunity to meet the arriero (or peasant from this region), stay at a coffee farm and learn everything about the coffee-making process from planting the coffee beans to the final steps of harvesting and roasting. The region also has a number of natural parks of which the Valle de Cocora is perhaps the most famous. There is no shortage of breathtaking views, picture-perfect landscapes and local flora and fauna around the towns and paths that connect them across the mountains. This is definitely a good mix of rural tourism and ecotourism.

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Coffee Region, Salento, Colombia

3. "Los Llanos" or the Eastern Plains:

This beautiful natural region located to the east of the Andes is crossed by many rivers and lakes turning this vast plain into a spectacular mix of landscapes, flora and fauna (including pink dolphins). "Los Llanos" is also recognized by its extensive hatos (ranches) where you can stay overnight, learn about their lifestyle and enjoy stunning sunrises and sunsets.

"Llaneros" is the name given to people from this region. They love to display their skills in "coleo" competitions, where cowboys try to rope cows by grabbing their tails and dragging them to the ground. An opportunity for immersion in cowboy culture is to go in January during the agricultural fair in Villavicencio.

Villavicencio is the gateway to the plains and it is very easy to reach from Bogota, it will take about 2.5 hours by bus. From here you can travel to other areas in the region like Puerto Lopez, where you will find many hatos to stay.

3. The department of Santander:

In Santander, you will find the Cañon del Chicamoca park, and Barichara one of the most beautiful towns in Colombia because of its architecture that uses tapia pisada (compressed mud) an bahareque (mud sandwiched between sheets of cane) in which, there is a predominate use of white and the windows, doors and balconies are painted of blue and green.

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Chicamocha National Park

You can also go to Parque el Gallineral in San Gil, where you can practice extreme sports like rafting or kayaking.

Santander is definitely a great destination in Colombia for adventure sports, rural and ecotourism.

As you can see, there are different options for rural tourism in Colombia, just decide where to go and enjoy as much as you can the particular landscapes, traditions and activities of each region.

Happy travels!

The Uncover Colombia Team.