My journey to the El Cocuy National Park in Colombia was marked by awe-inspiring natural beauty and a sense of adventure. Known for its towering snow-capped peaks, shimmering glacial lakes, and a diverse range of flora and fauna, this national park is a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts. El Cocuy National Park, nestled in the Eastern Cordillera of the Colombian Andes, is a feast for the senses. Its rugged mountainous terrain, sprawling across 306,000 hectares, offers some of the most challenging yet rewarding hiking trails in South America. The local U’wa indigenous people, guardians of this land, add a layer of rich cultural history to the area.
1. Arrive in El Cocuy
My journey began with an arrival in the quaint town of El Cocuy, the gateway to the park. The town, with its cobbled streets and colonial architecture, seemed to have an old-world charm. The locals were friendly and welcoming, their warm smiles a comforting introduction to the upcoming trek.
2. Organise our hike
Preparation is key to any successful hiking trip, and we spent our second day organising the hike. We checked in at the park office, sorted out our permits, and acquainted ourselves with the park’s rules and regulations. Our plan was to tackle the trail leading to La Laguna Grande, a pristine glacial lake nestled amidst the mountains.
3.We missed a day of hiking as the park was at max capacity! (not part of the plan)
Despite meticulous planning, our trek faced an unexpected hurdle. We learned that the park had reached its maximum capacity, and our plans to begin the trek had to be delayed by a day. The setback, while initially disappointing, only added to our anticipation.
4.Hike to La Laguna Grande in El Cocuy National Park
Our spirits undeterred, we finally set off on our journey on the fourth day. The trail was challenging, navigating steep inclines and rocky terrain. But as we hiked through verdant forests, crossed bubbling streams, and ascended rocky outcrops, the sheer beauty of the landscape kept us going. Upon reaching La Laguna Grande, the sight that greeted us was nothing short of mesmerizing. The shimmering waters of the lake, surrounded by majestic snow-capped peaks, was a sight I’ll cherish forever.
5. Return to Villa de Leyva via Tunja
Our adventure in El Cocuy National Park ended, and we made our way back to Villa de Leyva via the city of Tunja. The journey was filled with quiet contemplation, as we reflected on the incredible experiences we had in the park.
6. What to Wear in El Cocuy National Park?
Layered clothing is your best bet considering the park’s varying temperatures. Waterproof hiking boots, thermal base layers, a warm fleece, rain jackets, and sunscreen are essential. Don’t forget a sturdy hat and sunglasses for sun protection.
7. How to Hike in El Cocuy
High-altitude trekking can be challenging, so acclimatize in El Cocuy for a day or two before setting out. Stick to the marked trails to avoid damaging the fragile ecosystem and be prepared for unpredictable weather conditions.
8. Best Places to Stay in El Cocuy
Options range from local guesthouses to eco-lodges. The “La Esperanza” is a popular choice for its cozy rooms and breathtaking mountain views. For a more immersive experience, “Cabañas El Portón” offers rustic cabins nestled in nature.
9. Best Places to Eat in El Cocuy
For local cuisine, try “Los Pinos”, well-known for its delicious trout dishes. “Cafe Restaurante Sierra Nevada” offers a fantastic selection of Colombian coffee and local pastries.
10. Do I Need to Book my El Cocuy Trek in Advance?
Due to the popularity of El Cocuy National Park and the limited number of visitors per day to protect its unique ecosystem, it is strongly recommended that you book your tour in advance. This ensures you get a spot, especially during peak tourist season when spots fill up quickly. Lodging near El Cocuy National Park may also be limited due to its remoteness and limited infrastructure. To avoid the risk of not finding suitable accommodation, it is advisable to book your accommodation in advance to ensure you have a comfortable place to rest and recharge after a challenging day of hiking.
El Cocuy National Park is truly an unforgettable journey, an epic expedition that is much more than a trek. Every step through the rugged mountain trails, and every breath of crisp alpine air, revealed a new facet of the park’s natural wonders and enriched my understanding of its cultural heritage. The real magic lies in the unexpected moments: a glimpse of a rare Andean condor soaring in the sky, the sound of a distant waterfall echoing in the silence, a chance encounter with the Uva people sharing their stories and their warm smiles. Each of these experiences added depth to my journey, weaving together memories beyond the physical footprint. I have had the privilege of witnessing the U’wa people’s harmony with nature, their deep respect for the land, their traditions and beliefs, which are as much a part of El Cocuy as the mountains themselves. These interactions serve as a powerful reminder of the importance of preserving these unique cultures and their wisdom. So when I say goodbye to El Cocuy National Park, it is with deep gratitude.