We tried the hike to Laguna Iguaque near Villa de Leyva, one of the most beautiful colonial towns in Colombia. But things didn’t go as expected.
When we started on our road trip around Colombia, it was pretty clear that one of our goals was to hike as much as possible and enjoy nature. But, above all, we wanted to prove to ourselves that we still can do this kind of adventures, baby and all.
So we planned to go hiking on every main stop of our road trip. When we were in San Gil, we did a hike on the Camino Real from Barichara to Guane. And in Villa de Leyva, one of the most beautiful colonial towns in Colombia, we decided to do the hike to Laguna de Iguaque.
Santuario de Flora y Fauna de Iguaque
The lagoon is located in the Santuario de Flora y Fauna de Iguaque, a protected area just 10 km away from Villa de Leyva. The park covers an area of 67,5 square kilometers and is home to hundreds of different plant and wildlife species. One of the most peculiar is the frailejón, a shrub typical of the highlands. This area also includes one of the largest concentrations of oak trees in Colombia.
In the Muisca mythology, the Laguna de Iguaque is considered to be the cradle of humanity. According to the legend, the goddess Bachué emerged from this small lagoon carrying a baby boy in her arms. When he grew up, they married and populated the earth with their children. And when they grew old, they became serpents and returned to the lagoon.
The Hike to Laguna de Iguaque
Once we arrived at the administrative center, we registered our details and paid the entrance fees. The park rangers seemed amused at us attempting to do the hike to Laguna de Iguaque with our 16 months old baby. And, admittedly, at that point, this was the hardest hike we had ever tried to do with her. But we still felt confident that we would manage.
The trail starts at about 2,800 m.a.s.l. and climbs up to 3,650 m.a.s.l. on the point where you find the lagoon. One of the most interesting things about this hike is seeing the change in vegetation as you climb up and the many birds you can see along the way.
We started the climb up slowly but surely. We were happy to enjoy the scenery and just to be hiking again. The trail to the Laguna de Iguaque is divided into ten sections. There are signs at each station that tell little facts about the vegetation in that area. We thought that was pretty neat.
The trail is mellow enough up until section 7, that’s when it gets steep. The altitude reaches 3,346 m.a.s.l. and it’s about 1.5 km till the lagoon. The ascent was pretty grueling, especially under the bright morning sun. When we were about 3/4 of the way up this section, Ayla started to cry and be uneasy. We thought it might have been the altitude, but we could not tell for sure. We decided to have a break so she could calm down.
After a quick snack and some rest, we started to get ready to continue; but Ayla didn’t want to go in the carrier again. She was crying, kicking, and screaming. That had never happened before. As her screams got louder, we became more anxious and considered our options.
We were worried that if she was uncomfortable with the altitude and we pushed on, she wouldn’t calm down. And she was so persistent that in the end, we decided to turn back. It was not an easy choice; because we always like to finish our hikes, no matter how hard. But this time it was not only about us, so we chose to play it safe.
The ironic thing is that, after just about 10 minutes walking downhill, Ayla fell asleep. So we wondered if had we kept going up, would she have also fallen asleep? M
So that was our experience with the hike to Laguna Iguaque. When we were almost past the hardest part and only needed to go on for one more kilometer till the lagoon, we decided to turn around because our baby was crying. It was quite anticlimactic. Still, we enjoyed the way there and back very much. And if we are ever back in this area, we will definitely try this again!
Getting There From Villa de Leyva
The Santuario de Flora y Fauna de Iguaque is located just 10 km away from Villa de Leyva. However, getting to the trail’s head can take some time because of the state of the road.
For our Colombia road trip, we rented a car; so we didn’t have to rely on public transport. Still, the way to the Carrizal Administrative Center (where the trail starts) was quite rough at some points, especially the last stretch. We had to take it slowly.
Another thing to consider is time. Visitors are only allowed to start on the trail from 8:00 to 9:00 in the morning and there is a limit of only 50 people each day. So it’s best to get there early.
Using Public Transport
From Villa de Leyva, take the bus that goes to Arcabuco at 7:00 am and ask the driver to drop you off at Casa de Piedra. From there, you need to hike about 3 km to the visitor center. Also, keep in mind that you need to be back at Casa de Piedra by 4:00 pm in order to take the last bus to Villa de Leyva.
- It can get cold when you reach the páramo, so don’t forget to bring a jacket.
- Wear good hiking shoes.
- If you are visiting during the rainy season (April-May, October-November), the trail will probably be slippery and a bit more challenging.
- They might ask you for insurance at the visitor center.
- Don’t forget to bring your ID.
Colombian adults: $17,000 COP
Foreigners: $44,500 COP
Children (5 – 12 years old): $9,000 COP
Children younger than 5 and Colombian adults older than 65: Free
The only accommodation inside the park is a lodge. So spending a night in the park could be a good option, if you miss the bus or can’t get there on time to start the hike. The lodge also offers several eating options (breakfast and packed lunches for hikers, for example). In any case, it’s best to contact them in advance to check availability.
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Plan Your Colombia Trip
- Are you traveling to Villa de Leyva? Find more things to do in the area.
- Other interesting attractions in this area include the Casa Terracota, a house made entirely out of clay, and Ráquira, a colorful town famous for its pottery.
- If you just want to relax, these are the best beaches in Colombia.
- For more tips on hiking with a baby in Colombia, check our experience hiking from Barichara to Guane.
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This post was first published on March 18, 2017 and last updated on May 18, 2019.
Have you been to Colombia? Which other hikes would you recommend? Share your tips with us in the comments section below!
Bianca is a world citizen who spent almost four years traveling around South America and Europe. Her passions include photography, street art, outdoor sports, and cooking exotic dishes. She’s now based in the Netherlands where she lives with her partner and young daughter. She still enjoys traveling, on her own or with her family, and is always looking for an opportunity to see new places.