Weekends shouldn’t always be used to stay home and sit on the couch. There are many options close to Bogotá where one can enjoy some personal relaxation while experiencing some of what Cundinamarca has to offer other than this metropolis where many of us live.
One of those options is the beautiful reservoir of Neusa, located 78 kilometers from the capital, which offers breathtaking landscapes surrounded by a pine forest and shows the nearby countryside in all its glory. While a lot of people prefer to come and just spend a few peaceful days in contact with nature, it’s more common to have a barbeque and go camping.
Many also utilize the site to fish for rainbow trout, which you can find in several of Neusa’s rivers and streams. And if you like a some adrenaline adventure it’s a recommended place to go skydiving, paragliding and hang gliding.
The region has that charm that locals are looking for when they just want to unwind and spend time with the family. “It’s a pretty relaxing place to go,” says Jhon Rojas, a products development director. “When you feel like you want some time-off from the city, it’s the best place to visit.”
Though the temperatures are even colder than Bogotá’s, the charm of Neusa makes up for it. The park has approximately 3,300 hectares, 900 of which cover the reservoir and the remaining native forests have pine and grasslands as well as communal areas. Most importantly, people can do this trip on a budget, and the whole place can been seen in a day if you’re short on time.
As you head south back to Bogotá, you’ll hit some other well-known spots for tourists like the Salt Cathedral of Zipaquirá. Only about a 20-minute ride from your previous destination, it is well worth the trip. Salt miners started work on the big project in 1950, years after building an underground salt church to pray before starting a day’s work. Following a shutdown in 1990 because of safety concerns, a brand new cathedral was built and opened in 1995. Its caverns are impressive to say the least.
Several sanctuaries were made through major additions to the caves left behind by earlier mining operations. Visitors are known to test the structure by rubbing (and sometimes tasting) the salty walls so they can see the residue on their hands. It’s well lit inside and people can view an illuminated cross built into the wall. “The way they set up the light inside the mine is impressive especially where the cross is located because it looks like it’s floating,” says Claudia Campo.“It’s great especially for the tourists because it’s something unique.”
Taking your religious “retreat” to Zipaquirá to a next level, the Cathedral holds a daily mass and the centerpiece of the ceremony is the white, solid salt altar. The on site park allows visitors a chance to observe local art, the history of the mining venture, geology and educational exhibitions about sustainable development and a 3-D film about how the cathedral was constructed.
The town of Zipaquira is also a good place to eat lunch and visit some museums. Tourists enjoy this mini trip because it’s so close to the capital. Also near Zipaquirá are the smaller salt mines of Nemocón, nestled in the western Sabana de Bogotá. The photo opportunities alone provide tourists with a good reason to stop by and visit.
The mine is small but several of the little shafts are filled with water, forming pure reflections so convincing that visitors trick themselves into believing that they’re peeking into other caverns. “It’s an amazing sight to see,” says Maria Corredor,” a communications director. “The presentation of the place has been so well thought out and is really worth seeing.” Aside from the mines, the locality of Nemocón has a picturesque square with some restaurants, giving it the feel of a typical Colombian town. So guests will enjoy the culture as well as the tourist sites.
Getting to the place can provide an adventure as well. The Sabana Train (Turistren) that starts in Bogotá at the Central Terminal and makes a stop to pick up passengers on the Calle 116 in the early morning, passes through both Zipaquirá and Nemocón on weekends and gives travelers a great experience.
Local papayera bands keep you entertained and play their music while the train moves, providing a party-like atmosphere to your trip.The train drops passengers off then comes back for them later in the afternoon. So as Bogotá provides us with its own charm, many don’t realize just how impressive the outskirts of the city can be. And while Neusa, Zipaquirá, and Nemocón are not the only places to go for a weekend adventure, they’re a great way to start appreciating life in the green plateau known as the Sabana de Bogotá