Between Present and Past – Colonial Villages and San Vicente del Chucurí

San Vicente del Chucurí, Boyaca | Santander

During this trip you will leave the capital and travel through history. You will discover some wonderful colonial villages and in San Vicente, surrounded by cocoa plants, you can experience a mix between Colombia´s present and past.

Highlights
– Saltcathedral in Zipaquirá
– Colonial villages Villa de Leyva & Barichara
– San Vicente del Chucurí

Day 1 Bogotá – Villa de Leyva
You drive from Bogotá to Zipaquirá, which depending on the traffic can be reached after 1.5 hours. The nice colonial old town of Zipaquirá gathers numerous buildings of the 18th century. Marvel at the imposing underground salt cathedral, a complete church inside a salt mine and learn more about the religious significance of the place and the importance of the salt for the region and its history. The cathedral is an important religious place and the same time a unique architectural work. Afterwards you take the main road to Tunja and stop at the Sisga dam, where you can take a break and enjoy a fresh trout (food not included). If you are interested in history, quickly stop at the Puente de Boyacá, which is the place where in 1819 Simón Bolívar won the last and decisive battle against the Spanish colonial rulers. From there it’s only a short ride to Villa de Leyva, a village which in colonial times used to be a “summer residence” of the bishops from the cooler Tunja and gathers spacious and beautifully preserved churches. Walk through the cobbled streets and end the day at the Plaza Mayor.

Day 2 Villa de Leyva
If you like walking, you can start with an easy two-hour hike through the hills of Villa de Leyva, from where you can enjoy a beautiful view over Villa de Leyva and surroundings. Visit the monastery of La Candelaria, an Augustine convent of the 17th century and admire how the abundant fossils have been integrated into the architecture of the buildings of the area. A special highlight is the garden of the monastery. Afterwards you can make a short stop in Ráquira, a small town that lives traditionally by the pottery. Visit the numerous souvenir shops, with all kinds of crafts from all over Colombia and take the chance to buy a souvenir of the region. If you fancy you can learn more about the ceramic items and the handcrafted pottery. On the way back to Villa de Leyva, you have the opportunity to visit a fossil museum in which, among other things an 8-meter-long ichthyosaur found in the region is exposed.

Day 3 Villa de Leyva – Barichara
The journey slowly leads from the highlands to warmer region. The road from Villa de Leyva first passes through lush green pastures. From Arcabuco the road winds through a narrow gorge, which opens in the direction of the Río Suárez. On the slopes of Suárez Valley, at an altitude between 1’000 and 1’500 meters above sea level, the way leads from Barbosa to San Gil. Along the way there are numerous opportunities to stop at, for example to look at a traditional sugar mill or to taste the typical Guava mousse. Don’t miss to taste the Cuajada con Melao, a cheese cream with sugar molasses. The Caseteja at Oiba is known for this specialty. From San Gil it’s a half hour drive to Barichara. This perfectly preserved village was declared as the most beautiful village of Colombia. The town, located at an altitude of 1’300 m above sea level offers a pleasant temperature of about 26°C.
Day 4 Barichara
Explore the region while an easy downhill hike from Barichara to the quiet village of Guane. Along the way, you’ll pass tobacco fields and cow paddocks, enjoy the view over the Valley of the Río Suárez and the powerful Cordillera de Cobardes. Don’t miss the little museum of fossils and relics of the indigenous Guane tribe in Guane. Drive back to Barichara by car.
During a leisurely walk, you discover Barichara with its whitewashed houses and cobbled streets. In many small galleries and craft workshops there’s always something interesting to discover. From the small chapel of Santa Barbara, you have a beautiful view over the village and the valley of the Río Suarez. Take your time visiting the artisanal paper mill where you can watch (or do it yourself) how paper is being made of agave and pineapple fibres.

Day 5 Barichara – San Vicente del Chucurí
From Barichara you will drive to the Canyon of Chicamocha and then continue to San Vicente. If the weather is good enough, you can cross the canyon by cable car and enjoy the fantastic panorama view of the deep canyon.
A visit in San Vicente offers an exciting mix between nature experience and immediate contact with the actual political situation of Colombia. The younger history of this village, which is unofficially the capital of cocoa, was influenced by the civil conflict. That is why you should visit the civil war memorial in the afternoon. Soldiers built in their free time an impressive museum and are telling how they, their families and the whole region witnessed the civil war.

Day 6 San Vicente del Chucurí
On this tour, everything is about chocolate. You will start with a walk through the cocoa plantation with many different cocoa trees. They all have up to 25 cm long fruits that can be red, yellow or brown. After peeling and washing the beans are fermented and toasted which gives them their typical taste. Subsequently the beans are ground and the chocolate is produced. You will make your own chocolate to take home. Back in San Vicente you will see the cocoa trading sector of the village.

Day 7 San Vicente del Chucurí – Bucaramanga
The lake created by the recently built Hidrosogamoso hydroelectric power plant is characteristic for the drive from San Vicente del Chucurí to Bucaramanga. Impressive bridges provide great views. In Bucaramanga your driver will bring you to the airport. Another option is to travel to Barrancabermeja or Mompox.

Services included:

Transfers in private car from/to the airport
Overland transfers in private car according to the program
Excursions with English speaking local guides according to the program (incl. entrance fees) (other languages on request)
Meals like indicated
Accommodation in double room
On loan Colombian prepaid phone

Services not included:

International flight to Colombia
Tip and local taxes (e.g. airport or port taxes, none apply as of May 2017)
Domestic flights