Las Gachas is a lesser known gem in the center of Colombia. Closest to the quaint town of Guadalupe, Santandero (~5-6 hours away from the next largest towns, Bogotá or Bucaramanga) and a little bit difficult to navigate to and from, this natural wonder and its sweet nearby town is mostly untouched by the hordes of tourists that I’ve grown accustomed to when traveling.
Because I had so much trouble navigating here, I wanted to consolidate all that I’d learned, but sharing the sentiments of the other blogs that I’ve read, I do want to urge everyone who visits to leave this place better than you found it such that future generations can continue to enjoy its natural beauty!
Cities visited: Guadalupe (primary)
Dates: Apr. 21-23
(Note: All cost estimates listed below are in USD.)
In this post…
- How To: Getting to Guadalupe from Bogotá
- Las Gachas
- How To: Getting to Bucaramanga from Guadalupe
- References: Other Links that Helped Me
How To: Getting to Guadalupe from Bogotá
At our hostel in Bogotá (Fátima Hostal), we were told that buses from Bogotá to Bucaramanga leave every hour between the hours of ~7:30am and 10:30pm. We decided to eat breakfast in the morning and play it by ear. We departed from our hostel around 9:45am and were able to catch a bus at 10:30am.
- Get to Terminal de Transporte, Salitre. From Bogotá, we called an Uber to take us to Terminal de Transporte, Salitre. (~$2)
- Find a bus to Bucaramanga. We went to Terminal 3 (it was the red one) and asked a gentleman at the information station directly to the right of the entrance which bus to take to get to Bucaramanga. (Bus: ~$19)
- The info man took us to one bus company and they told us the next bus left at 4:30pm, too late for our liking. He then took us over to another bus company; this bus was leaving in 30 minutes. Winner!
- Note: The blogs that I read said to find a bus to Bucaramanga and then tell the driver that we wanted to get off in Oiba. I think that we possibly could have asked the ticket master for Oiba and it *may* have been cheaper.
- The bus took off along the route with occasional stops to let other folks on/off. We eventually stopped in a small town and the driver instructed us to get off because he had to use the bathroom. We asked him how long the stop was and he just kept saying “baño”. Other folks were getting food, so we ordered as well. All in all, I think the stop was about 40 minutes to an hour.
- Hop on a 4×4 in Oiba. We were dropped-off in Oiba at a bus station. We found a man selling tickets (read: written receipts) in front of the ticket windows — he was selling tickets to Guadalupe for a truck leaving in 5 minutes. We paid and, shortly after, they called us over to start loading up our stuff. (~$2)
- The truck fit 10 adult passengers and 2 children, large bags went up top. 4 adults sat in the front of the truck, the other 8 of us sat in the bed of the truck which had been outfitted with two benches along the side of the truck bed.
- Arrive in Guadalupe!
Total cost to get to Guadalupe: ~$23
Guadalupe was a small, sweet town. Everyone was so pleasant and wonderful. The town had a slow and carefree ranchero feel. Many friendly dogs, brahmin cows, horses/donkeys!
Another blog mentioned that “kids were hanging out in the main square (without their parents) well after dark.” This was indeed the case! It was so refreshing to experience such a strong feeling of confidence and safety amongst the community.
Because the town is so small, I would recommend not trusting Google Maps for assistance. We used Booking.com to book a stay at Atrapasueños and the location on Google Maps was way off base. We arrived late at night, in the rain, and needed the assistance of many locals to guide us up the hill and to our accommodation.
Hiking to Las Gachas
From other blogs, I learned to reach out to Jose Navarro to request his help in guiding us to Las Gachas. (He speaks mostly Spanish, but when speaking verbally, he does a really excellent job of speaking slowly and clearly, using elementary-level Spanish so that it is easier for Spanish n00bs like me to keep up.) Via text, he let me know that he was planning on leading a bike tour in the morning, weather permitting (it was raining pretty hard at this time).
In the morning, Jose ended up cancelling the bike tour since the rain had not let up. He advised us to swing by his hostel anyway and we could talk (which stresses me out because my verbal Spanish is not excellent).
Eventually the rain did stop, so we swung by and he walked us through a map that he had drawn that instructed us on how to get to Las Gachas and ensure that we see the best parts.
With the elevation and the prior rain, the hike was a little more difficult than I’d anticipated. It was approximately 3km on a very rough, cobblestone path that would occasionally vanish and make way for deep, thick mud.
Swimming in Las Gachas
Once we arrived, we were greeted with such a unique experience! Though it had just rained and the water was a bit muddy, the sight was impressive. There were only a couple of groups of people that were enjoying the river.
Jose advised that we wear socks so as to not slip on the rocks. I wore my Crocs and they worked just as well. At one point, I decided that I wanted to take my Crocs off so as to not lose them when I was sliding into the pools with the force of the water, and I immediately slipped and slid down the river into a “jacuzzi”. Lol.
Serves me right. Definitely keep your socks/sandals on.
If you’re going to come here, even if the water is cold (BTW, cold water is my #1 arch nemesis), you should go for a slide into the “jacuzzis”! I wasn’t sure it would be, it looks kind of meh, but I had so much fun anyway. 🙂
How To: Getting to Bucaramanga from Guadalupe
In Jose’s hostel, there was a sign posted with a schedule for the buses going to and from Guadalupe, direct. Though I was hoping it was wrong, it was pretty simple to decipher.. we had to catch a bus at 4am to head up to Bucaramanga where we would then catch a flight to Santa Marta. The door to the right of Jose’s hostel was the bus station and we were able to purchase a ticket for the following morning.
I would advise buying the ticket further in advance, if possible, since our bus was nearly fully booked by the time we purchased our tickets.
Fast forward. We hopped on the bus at 4am. The road was so windy and full of potholes that, within the first 20 minutes of the ride, I found myself stumbling up to the front and exclaiming, “No me siento bien!” to which the driver promptly stopped the van. ..to which I hopped out and promptly threw up. Whoops.
Another 5 hours of windy roads to go. It was certainly not the most fun I’d had in 5 hours, but I survived.
Total cost to get from Guadalupe to Bucaramanga: ~$10 (+ my morning stomach.)
All In All
Even though it may not look like much, the journey to Quebrada Las Gachas was so unique and awe-inspiring. I haven’t been able to find sufficient explanations on how Las Gachas was formed — if you know/find one, please @ me!
I highly recommend the journey. Definitely spend some time in the adorable town of Guadalupe and chat with some of the locals!
Total cost to get to and from Guadalupe/Las Gachas: ~$33 (food in Guadalupe was ~$2-4 per meal!)