Oh Boyaca! Colombia

  • Distance

    375 Mi.

    (604 KM)
  • Days

    14

  • % Unpaved

    70%

  • % Singletrack

    0%

  • Difficulty (1-10)

    5

  • % Rideable (time)

    100%

  • Total Ascent

    54,495'

    (16,610 M)
  • High Point

    13,553'

    (4,131 M)

Contributed By

Dean and Dang, bikepacking

Dean and Dang

Guest Contributor

Dean and Dang are Toronto dirtbags bikepacking from Alaska to the south of nowhere. Follow their trip on Instagram or their blog, poweredbyadobo.wordpress.com

Overshadowed by the immensely popular Sierra Nevada del Ruiz, one would never think much of Boyacá. It's a department of Colombia in the mountainous region of the Eastern Cordillera. To its right lies Venezuela and to the left is San Gil, the so-called adventure capital of Colombia.
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Internet research yields scarce information about the route from San Gil going east since most transcontinental bike travelers arrive in Colombia from the north in Cartagena and ride south. In some respect, I was glad not to find anything I was looking for online. It adds some element of surprise to the route on top of the vagaries of mountain weather.

This route connects the town of San Gil to the dirt road loop in Sierra Nevado El Cocuy/Parque Nacional Natural El Cocuy(PNN El Cocuy) and finishes in the colonial town of Villa de Leyva. We were pleasantly treated to endless seldom-used dirt tracks, overlapping mountains(read numerous passes) and páramos.

The first 200 kilometer section is an appetizer to a steady main course of at least 3000ft climbs. The entire route is rideable passing through cobbled small colonial towns where you can restock with food and bocadillo, the instensely-sweet guava pulp and my preferred riding fuel.

  • Highlights

  • Must Know

  • Camping

  • Food/H2O

    💧

  • Colombia’s serene colonial towns
  • Milk farms along the route
  • Paramo – high tropical montane vegetation only found in Colombia and Northern Ecuador
  • Colombia’s proximity to the equator keeps regional temperatures stable throughout the year but in the Andean region, the driest months, are from December to March and July to August.
  • The conflict between the Indigenous U’wa people and the Colombian Government resulted in the temporary closure of PNN EL Cocuy on March 2016. I recommend contacting Guillermo, the owner of Hacienda La Esperanza for the latest on road closure near the PNN El Cocuy.
  • The route is rideable with a touring set-up but the lighter your load, the better and the more fun you’ll have on this route.
  • Most Colombian villages, shops included, along the route shuts down around siesta time (1-3pm) save for the restaurants/comedor. Ask around town, someone is always willing to prep a meal for a hungry cyclist for a few peso.
  • There are numerous dirt road sidetrips in San Gil if you have some time to spare.
  • If you are coming straight from sea-level, I can’t emphasize enough how important the need to get acclimatize when you ride above 10,000ft, Everyone reacts differently to altitude but it is always advisable to give yourself enough time to adjust and acclimatize.
  • Tons of camping opportunity. We never felt in danger at any one point along the route when we were camping.
  • Better yet, ask the Police stations in the villages to tell you where the prime camping spot is in the area.
  • As for lodging, affordable accommodation (hospedajes) abound even in the smaller towns.
  • You can resupply on almost every small village along the route.
  • Make sure to try Agua de Panela con Queso (sugary water dunked with a chunk of local queso) on one of the small comedores
  • Try the local delicacy “hormigas culonas” or big ass ants in San Gil.
  • In case you’re not a vegetarian, ask for Bandeja de Paisa, a typical Antioquian dish consisting of beans, rice, plantain, meat, meat and more meat.

Additional Resources

Terms of Use: As with each bikepacking route guide published on BIKEPACKING.com, should you choose to cycle this route, do so at your own risk. Prior to setting out check current local weather, conditions, and land/road closures. While riding, obey all public and private land use restrictions and rules, carry proper safety and navigational equipment, and of course, follow the #leavenotrace guidelines. The information found herein is simply a planning resource to be used as a point of inspiration in conjunction with your own due-diligence. In spite of the fact that this route, associated GPS track (GPX and maps), and all route guidelines were prepared under diligent research by the specified contributor and/or contributors, the accuracy of such and judgement of the author is not guaranteed. BIKEPACKING.com LLC, its partners, associates, and contributors are in no way liable for personal injury, damage to personal property, or any other such situation that might happen to individual riders cycling or following this route.

  • Brian Mulder

    Already loaded ‘er up, buddy. Thanks for formalizing it.

  • Lee Vilinsky

    Great photos and route, Dean and Dang!

    Funny enough, we cycled nearly the same route in January 2016 and probably missed you by a few months. We hiked through PNN El Cocuy while it was still open, though we did hear talks of it being closed indefinitely.

    For others interested in bypassing the Northeastern part of the route through El Cocuy, you can head South from La Uvita towards Jerico via a long climb and great descent (we saw only a few cars the whole day). Rather than head towards Chita, the road splits about 10km before the river crossing with one heading towards Chita and an old mining road heading Southwest towards Cheva. We took the route to Cheva, which was really steep and in disrepair (though still possible on say, a Long Haul Trucker). A river ford is required, but in January it was only about knee-deep. The climb from the river all the way to Jerico is a steep one!

  • Ovniowner

    Thanks for nice photos. What brand is the rear rack you are using?

  • We both used the Tubus Logo 26″ version. It’s a remnant of our rear pannier set-up when we started a couple of years ago back in Alaska. It’s a pain to install on a 29+ bike plus it barely clears the tires.

  • Brian, I’m sure you’ll breeze past thru this. This route will be your last Andes ride as you head north so slow down and savor it.

  • Too bad about PNN El Cocuy shutting down. I think we we’re one of the last to hike inside the park. We plan to sneak and hike the whole loop but the Lagunillas entrance was already closed, so we decided to continue riding up to La Esperanza, stashed the bikes in the hostel and basecamped high in Laguna Grande de la Sierra. We camped there for 3 nights, just hiking around and listening to the calving glacier from a distance. I must say that was one of the highlights of Colombia for me.

  • William Pinto

    lindas fotos ! … en poco tiempo haré parte de la ruta con unas pequeñas variaciones. Les contare después como fue el viaje!

  • gerwyn

    awesome trip ! your report is very helpful and i will be hopefully will be going to Columbia next year and would like to do this trail thank you