“And just behind the town, we have a look-out point over the Sogamoso valley called UFO Hill,” remarks Andrea Villamil, a tourism official with the municipality of Nobsa, Boyacá. As I stare at a map illustrated with fluffy sheep, bicycles and flying saucers, our time in this small community is limited to streets decked with ruanas and clothing accessory that puts this town at the epicenter of the country’s artisan radar.
Arriving at the central square just days after Nobsa celebrated its annual Ruana Festival (June 30), the town is basking under blue skies and receiving the weekend with games for children in the central square. Facing the small park is the town’s architectural gem, the San Jerónimo Church, finished at the end of the 19th century and unique for having a high belfry tower made from yellow stone.
Easily accessible along well-paved roads that connect Sogamoso with Duitama, Nobsa is an obligatory stop when exploring one of the department’s most picturesque regions, the Sugamuxi province, whose capital Sogamoso is also known as the “City of the Sun.” The abundance of direct sunlight during the day and cold temperatures at night mean the land produces an abundance of fruit and vegetables, among them the tubular-shaped green feijoa, used by locals in juice, as jam, and ice cream. Just across the valley from Nobsa is colonial Tibasosa that hosts every year its own festival dedicated to the feijoa. Another delicacy made from this bitter-sweet fruit is Sabajón, and a cream liqueur given to visitors in tiendas as a welcome drink.
As one of many places in the Sogamoso valley where Simón Bolívar stayed during the 1819 Independence campaign, Tibasosa effuses charm and tranquility, and joining the many colonial buildings facing the square is Our Lady of the Rosary Church, dating back to 1571 and typical of the religious buildings that dot the landscape.
From Tibasosa it’s a quick hop to Punta Larga, the name given to an elongated strip of antique shops and carpentry workshops specializing in furniture and a popular stop-off point for travelers in search of hardwood cabinets, a colonial-style desk, and old picture frames.
But Punta Larga is also known for grapes, harvested on a sun-washed hill by Marco Quijano Rico, who adopted the name “Marqués of Punta Larga.” Having established the winemaking tradition in the region since 1982, Quijano Rico is a former aerospace engineer who discovered that the climate of the Sogamoso valley was ideal for growing Reisling, and ever since the first bottles were handed-over to friends as gifts, his hacienda has become an obligatory stop for wine connoisseurs.
The Laguna de Tota is the region’s star natural attraction located at 4,200 meters a.s.l and reached also from Sogamoso on a good – yet steep – road. As Colombia’s highest inland lake, the Laguna de Tota offers visitors plenty of outdoor activities, from kayaking, trout fishing excursions, horseback riding and exploring the mountain trails that weave their way through onion fields into the high altitude wetlands. For the beach lover, there’s Playa Blanca, and as its name suggests (in Spanish), the white soft sand is perfect for extending your towel, before taking a dip in the lake’s cold, yet very clear, waters.
Given that the region serves as a gateway between the Eastern Cordillera and Eastern Plains, many of the old haciendas that once belonged to the Spanish colonizers have been turned into hotels, such as Hacienda Suescún, set among towering eucalyptus groves and family house that has preserved for more than 400 years its graceful character.
The Sogamoso valley is a destination that caters to every kind of tourist, from outdoorsy types in search of a great hike, to fishing enthusiasts, and honeymooners curled up before a roaring fire. And if the valley of the Sun God becomes known as the Roswell of the Boyacá, the sky literally is the limit to your adventures.