Oh Boyaca! Colombia
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.
375 Mi.(604 KM)
% Rideable (time)
- Must Know
- 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.
- Tour agency specializing in trips around San Gil: colombianbikejunkies.com
- For the latest information on El Cocuy National Park: pnncocuy.com
- A brief background on the U’wa people and El Cocuy National Park: amazonwatch.org
- Hacienda La Esperanza, El Cocuy: facebook.com/HdaLaEsperanza/