As part of our trip to Bogota, the city among the mountains – we knew we wanted to venture outside the city some to see some of Colombian’s famed Coffee Plantations and even get a glimpse at the lush mountain range. Thanks to my comrade’s diligent research, we were able to find a day trip outside of Bogota that would do just that!
Through Tours of Colombia, we found a full guided day trip that would take us to an authentic coffee plantation about 2 hours outside of Bogota and then end at what appeared to be an incredibly gorgeous waterfall. Coffee plantation tours and a waterfall to boot? YES PLEASE! The cost was a little pricy, at $145 per person (which truthfully is more than you would pay if you were to book a trip there) but we didn’t know the area, the rest of our trip was incredibly cheap and we figured, we’re really paying for safety and the guarantee. We wouldn’t know how to get out to the waterfalls otherwise – so it was worth it.
They picked us up at our hotel at around 9am and we were surprised to find that we were the only people on this tour. Not a problem though, our guides were great. We had a Colombian born lad our age that grew up in the United States and then returned back to Colombia to start the tour company. So not only was he fluent in English, but he really knew the history of Colombia which was incredibly fascinating. He also had a guide-in-training with him. She was sweet as well, but spent the majority of her time taking selfies while on tour – so we were happy we had the main guide with us!
First stop: the coffee plantation. We stopped at this little place, Hacienda Casa Coloma, a small but active coffee plantation that has been owned and operated by the same family for decades. There we toured the plantation and learned about how coffee was grown. Interesting fact: due to the corruption in Colombia and the manner in which the government seems to exploit everything – the best coffee grown in Colombia has to be exported, so the people in Colombia only get the 2nd best coffee their own country can grow. It’s still great coffee, but I found that to be amazing! The tour itself was great for just learning about Colombia and the export industry overall – but we found the plantation itself to be a little touristy. It wasn’t what we expected but it was still enjoyable. At the end of the tour we were able to purchase coffee, but more importantly, take this incredible photo that looks like we are two hippie lovers on vacation – plotting a life of growing coffee in remote villages while taking in stray cats. Behold:
I have since placed this photo in a cat frame and it now hang’s on Corinne’s wall. Or so she tells me.
Ahem.. moving on. After our lovely little coffee tour we began the drive up to the coveted Tequendama Falls. The view while driving to these falls, was absolutely spectacular! Yet it was a little nerve racking as we were winding through a lot of mountains and FOG. You couldn’t see 5 feet in front of you and I had a near panic attack. However, we did arrive in one piece to the majestic fall setting.
As we pulled in, our guide properly informed us to ‘mind the smell’ and ‘don’t worry you’ll get used to it’. Ummm.. what??
Apparently Tequendama Falls are the most polluted falls in all of South America. No joke. People have been dumping their garbage and sewage here for decades! So the water is toxic. Of COURSE we would go out to see the smellest waterfall in the world. Sigh… if you hold your nose, you’re actually in for quite a view:
Not only are the falls gorgeous in an incredible cliff setting, they have a fascinating history. Native Americans would have rituals here, bless their new leaders and have them emerge out of the water covered in material that made it look like they were shimmering in the sun and holy – it had to look divine to the natives there. Early settlers thought that gold was hidden at the bottom of the river and thought it could also lead to El Dorado. The stories and legends go on and on – which made it a popular destination for visitors. As a result, the French built a hotel there, Hotel del Salto, that overlooks the falls. It was meant to be luxurious, with breathtaking views for all the visitors that were attracted to the area. Yet as the river and water became more polluted, people began to lose interest and the hotel was abandoned. Now it’s being restored into a museum, but it’s thought to be haunted as the falls are also a popular destination for people to commit suicide (eh, yea there’s a dark history there too…).
Overall though, while standing there and taking all the sights (and smells), we felt incredibly blessed. The area is magical, represents so much history, and really makes you think about those that were there before us. That’s what I love so much about traveling, it opens your mind and gets you out of your comfort zone. I never knew a place like that even existed and now it’s one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen. South America has hundreds of places like that, just waiting to be discovered. Right then and there, I vowed to explore more of the continent.
In conclusion, while I wouldn’t necessarily recommend the particular coffee tour we did, I would suggest getting out of the city to see more of the natural beauty of the country. Because it truly is incredible. Also, Tours of Colombia, while pricy, had some great story tellers and guides that really helped to explain the culture, governance, politics and history of the country, allowing us to understand and appreciate it even more.