Chingaza National Park is located in the Eastern Cordillera of the Andes, northeast of Bogotá, Colombia in the departments of Cundinamarca and Meta.
The Chingaza National Natural Park, just over one hour away from the big capital, Bogota, is a uniquely beautiful site of luxuriant vegetation, characteristic fauna, abundant water resources and solitary misted landscapes.
Chingaza might be regarded as a genuine water production area, given the great number of bayous, glacial lakes (around 40, prominent among which are the three of Siecha and that of Chingaza, the largest of all and one of the most representative and of greatest cultural significance for the area, located in the south-west sector of the Park at a height of 3,250 metres), rivers, rivulets and the presence of the great Chuza reservoir, which supplies the capital with 80% of its high-quality drinking water. Indeed, the water from The Park springs is perfectly drinkable.
The reservoir belongs to the Chuza River basin and constitutes the centre of the Chingaza system of the Empresa de Acueducto de Bogota. 99% of the area is in the Orinoco River basin and 1% in that of the Magdalena.
In the western area the paramo predominates, with a major presence of lakes and wetlands. As we go down latitudinally, we come to the Andean and sub-Andean forests. Other ecosystems present are temperate and cold forests and the subparamo. The Park is home to some of the endemic species of Colombian flora. In the immediate vicinity of Lake Chingaza no fewer than 383 plant species have been registered, and it is reckoned that the total number of plant species in the Park may be greater than 2,000, outstanding among which are the Colombian pine, valerian and eight species of moss, associated with several native vegetation communities of Chingaza and of extraordinary ecological importance when it comes to maintaining atmospheric humidity, since they are able to absorb up to 40 times their own weight in water.
The Chingaza Park is home to a number of species in danger of extinction in Colombia, such as the Andean condor (Vulturgryphus), the cock-of-the-rock, the Andean bear, the puma, the red deer and the most noteworthy of all, the white-tailed deer (Odocoiteus virginianus), whose numbers have been drastically reduced due to poaching. It is the largest deer in the country, although its habitat extends from Canada to Bolivia via Central America. It is normally found alone or in small groups in rainforests, paramos and savannahs, both in cultivated and protected areas. It is a herbivore, feeding on bushes, leaves, fruit, many species of grass, fungi, lichens, nuts and tender shoots. It grows to a length of between 85 and 210 centimetres and a height of between 55 and 114. Its body colour ranges from grey to reddish brown.
As regards the rest of the fauna, there are approximately 180 species of birds, six species of reptiles and 16 of amphibians, some of which are endemic and in danger of extinction, such as certain kinds of frog.
At present there are no indigenous communities in Chingaza. The population in the vicinity of the Park is of entirely rural origin, forming communities of peasant farmers with their own systems of organisation and cultural patterns that distinguish them from peasant farmers in other regions of the country.
- Established: 1977
- Area: 76,600 hectares
- Altitude: Between 200 and 4,100 metres above sea level
- Climate: Warm – temperate – cold
- Average temperature: Between 4°C and 21.5°C metres above sea level
PLANNING YOUR VISIT
- LOCATION: The Park lies in the Cordillera Oriental of the Colombian Andes, north-east of Bogota, in the departments of Cundinamarca and Meta.
- HOW TO GET THERE: Two kinds of overland route lead to the Park:
- 1.- By road: Both end at the Centro Administrative Monterredondo, The first departs from La Cal-era, passing through Pledras Gordas. The second departs from La Fomeque and passes by the Chingaza Lake. Be sure to fill your petrol tank in La Calera and carry reserve fuel with you to cover your programmed itineraries.
- 2.- On foot: Both end also in Monterredondo. The first departs from La Calera and lasts 7 hours while the second, which departs from Fomeque, lasts 8 hours.
- WHERE TO STAY: The Park has a camping area with a car park, electricity, hot and drinking water and health services.
- WHERE TO GET MEDICAL ATTENTION: The nearest health centre Is in La Calera and the nearest hospital in La Fomeque.
- WHERE TO EAT: As there are no restaurants in the Park, we advise you to bring a camping stove and, for one-day excursions, provisions that do not need to be cooked.
- HOW LONG TO STAY: You are allowed to stay in the Park for one day to visit the Siecha lakes (this is enough, if you make an early start). You may also camp at the Monterredondo administrative centre to visit the Piedras Gordas area and Monterredondo (one overnight stay is sufficient). The number of daily visitors is restricted.
- WHEN TO GO: It is best to visit the Park in the dry season, that is, between December and March. The rest of the year is very wet.
WHAT TO DO IN THE PARK:
The main activities are hiking and observing the wild fauna and flora. We recommend that you follow the environmental interpretation trails, from which you may observe the unique paramo flora and the highly varied fauna, as well as taking pictures or filming videos. Since it is often foggy, you would be advised to carry exploring lights or a torch. The most J interesting sites include the lakes of Siecha, the lakes of Buitrago, Laguna Seca and Laguna Verde, the landscapes of Los Cerros de los Gigantes, the Suasie trail in Monterredondo, the La Arboleda trail, the Chingaza Lake and the landscape of the Serrania de los Crganos. To obtain most benefit from hiking, however, we recommend that you follow these inner circuits:
- The Lagunas de Siecha trail: A signposted route that takes us to a set of three big lakes and several smaller ones, all of glacial origin, in the midst of craggy mountain formations known as Cuchilla de Siecha, inside Chingaza National Natural Park. The smallest lake, called Laguna Te-usaca, stands 3,591 metres above sea level, followed by Laguna de Guasca, at 3,609 masl, and lastly by Laguna Sagrada de Siecha, at 3,629 masl, of major importance for the Muisca community. In 2007, the Suasie NGO and the municipal authorities of Guasca fostered construction of the trail to the lakes, which thereby became the country’s first high-mountain interpretive trail
- The Lagunas de Buitrago trail: An itinerary of approximately 2,5 hours that takes us through a paramo ecosystem to two lakes of glacial origin.
- The Laguna Seca y Verde trail: This is an excellent itinerary for those engaged in research and environmental education, since it provides opportunities to view the characteristics of the paramo and the water cycle. It is supplied with route aids and is interpreted. The trail lies 40 minutes by car from Monterredondo and approximately 1 hour is needed to complete the itinerary
- The Suasie trail: This trail runs through high-Andean forest and provides opportunities to observe birds and different species of flora, particularly Clusia multiflora, locally known as gaque or cucharo. The path leads to a vantage point from which to observe the Chuza reservoir.
- La Arboleda trail: Ten kilometres from Monterredondo (20 minutes by cart), on a short, easy itinerary this 300 m-long trail shows the transition from high Andean forest to paramo. Hard by stands the Mirador de los Condores.
- The wayside plants trail: While following this trail, visitors may observe major geological formations such as the Alto del Gorro, the Serrania de los Crganos, the Laguna del Medio falls, the Frio River and the Laguna de Chingaza, all of which are of glacial origin. High-Andean forest vegetation may also be observed and, at some points, piramo vegetation. It is a pass for several animal species: white-tailed deer and fox prints may be found, It also constitutes a path for guinea pigs and mountain pacas and a rooting place for coaties. It is the ideal place from which to observe species and native and migratory birds, such as the black-chested buzzard eagle, the bananaquit, the blackbird, the hummingbird, the caica parrot, ducks, Bogota rails and, occasionally, the Andean condor. The trail borders one of the bodies of water of greatest importance for the region, a Ramsar site and a water source for 12 million people.
- The Park has three vantage points, also ideal for fauna and flora observation: the first, near La Arboleda, offers a magnificent view of the entire mountain region; from the second, La Ye, you may enjoy a superb view of the entire extension of Chingaza Lake; while the third, El Mirador de los Condores is very close to the site where these birds were set free as part of the species’ repopulation programme. With luck, on a clear day, you might be able to observe them.
Practical information about Colombia: Climate – How to get to Colombia – Visa, Customs, Documentation and Taxes – Embassies and consulates in Colombia – Health and vaccination – Emergency numbers – Culture of Colombia – Measures and Electricity – Currency of Colombia
Tourist Information about Colombia: General Information – Practical information about Colombia – Adventure Colombia – Hotels and accommodations in Colombia – How to Get to Colombia – Gastronomy in Colombia – Colombia’s Best Festivals and Carnivals – Tourist Attractions in Colombia – Foreign Embassies and Consulates in Colombia – Tips and advice for travel in Colombia – Top 10 Colombian Travel Destinations – Natural regions of Colombia – Cultural Tourism in Colombia – UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage Lists – UNESCO Heritage Sites in Colombia – Top 10 amazing places to visit in Colombia – Colombian Cuisine – Tourism of Nature
Travel Guide of Colombia: Colombia Travel Guide – Amazonas – Antioquia – Arauca – Atlántico – Bolivar – Boyacá – Caldas – Caquetá – Casanare – Cauca – Cesar – Chocó – Córdoba – Cundinamarca – Guanía – Guaviare – Huila – La Guajira – Magdalena – Meta – Nariño – Norte de Santander – Putumayo – Quindio – Risaralda – San Andrés y Providencia – Santander – Sucre – Tolima – Valle del Cauca – Vaupés – Vichada