Choachí & La Chorrera, Colombia’s tallest waterfall just outside Bogotá
Despite only being an hour and a half from Bogotá, Choachí and the hike to the nearby La Chorrera waterfall are rarely mentioned by tourists. However, it’s easily made our list of best day-trips from Bogotá. At a height of 590m, La Chorrera is actually Colombia’s tallest waterfall, so it’s not to be missed. It doesn’t take long at all to get out of the city and into the fresh air of the countryside, so it’s the perfect day or weekend break from the smoggy high-rises of Bogotá. The town is peaceful and the surrounding valley almost entirely farmland, so it can be easy to forget that you’re so close to the capital. We were told Choachi is quite a popular town for Bogotá natives to visit on the weekends, but during our weekend there we barely saw any tourists – domestic nor international.
If you want to get away from Bogotá for a little while but haven’t yet decided where to go, check out these other easy Bogotá day-trips and weekend breaks:
How to get the bus to Choachi & La Chorrera waterfall from Bogotá
You need to get yourself to Transoriente’s terminal (not the usual bus terminal) in Bogotá. On the Transmilenio system, get off at Tercer Milenio, or simply get an Uber down to Calle 6 with Carrera 14. Some blogs have reported that the terminal is opposite the big police station, but it’s in fact on the same side of the road, a few buildings down (crossing the road to the street opposite actually puts you in a pretty sketchy area, as we discovered). Due to the police presence, do not get an Uber directly to or from the Transoriente bus terminal.
As you get closer to the Transoriente terminal, you’ll see bunkers of minibuses and will have people shouting ‘Choachi?!’ at you. There are no departure times to Choachi; just head to the desk, buy your ticket, and wait for the bus to fill up before it leaves. You’re not able to buy a return ticket due to the colectivo nature of the buses to Choachi, so it’s a flat 10,000 COP each way (last updated August 2019).
The bus journey to Choachi itself is fairly epic. Get yourself sat with a window on your left to take advantage of the incredible views as the landscape changes from colourful barrios to forest to misty cliff-face and then lush valleys.
The bus will drop you off at the intersection of Carrera 3 and Calle 1, which is where it leaves from on weekdays, but to get the bus back to Bogotá on a weekend or public holiday you’ll need to go to the terminal just down the road from there on Calle 1a Sur and wait for the colectivo spaces to fill.
If you only want to see La Chorrera waterfall and not Choachi town, leave early in the morning to do this as a day trip from Bogotá. During rainy season, it’s a lot less likely to rain in the mornings, too!
Visiting La Chorrera waterfall – Colombia’s tallest falls
Although the trail is more difficult when muddy, we urge you to save this visit for rainy season – or if you must go in dry season, choose a day just after some heavy rain. We went after a few weeks with no rain (‘perfect!’ we thought) and then turned up to find Colombia’s tallest waterfall to be little more than a dribble. For us, it was still worth going, but standing under the falls and not even feeling in the slightest bit wet was a tad underwhelming. Our second attempt after a few nights of rain was much more exciting!
Along the trail, you’ll first come to a smaller waterfall, El Chiflon, but local rangers will tell you to continue to La Chorrera waterfall and visit El Chiflon last. It’s still a fairly impressive waterfall, which you can walk behind and rappel down. Continue up from there, and about 2.5 miles later you’ll end up at La Chorrera. There’s the option to take a detour to visit the monkey cave – which unfortunately does not have any monkeys – on the way there. It’s not too epic but it provides a different view of the waterfall.
How to get to La Chorrera waterfall
You access La Chorrera from the main road between Choachí town and Bogotá, so jump on the bus from either direction and ask the driver to be dropped off at the entrance to the road to La Chorrera waterfall. You then have 4.5km of hilly, dusty road to contend with before even starting the hike, so we recommend you try to grab a taxi or hitchhike from the point that the bus drops you. Even better, head all the way into Choachi town and hire a 4×4 to take you all the way to the beginning of the trail (non-4x4s can only take you part-way there after the main road).
To explain a bit better, think of the way to La Chorrera waterfall like this:
Main road from Bogotá or Choachi; access by bus, car or 4×4 (yellow)
4km of dusty road to the car park; access by car, 4×4 or foot (purple)
0.5km of extremely steep, muddy road from car park to start of trail; access by 4×4 or foot (green)
90 min trail to La Chorrera waterfall; access by foot (orange)
Choose wisely based on the time you have available and your fitness level! Note that this map is extremely rough and should in no circumstances be used as an accurate map during your trail! Ask locals for directions, they will all be happy to help.
Needless to say, we took the 4×4 option from Choachi town (arranged by our AirBnB for us – please message us and we can share the drivers’ details). At 60,000 COP or £15 each way, it was the most expensive £/km transport we’d taken since the bus down from Machu Picchu, but when we saw how much of the walk we skipped before the trail even began, we were ever so thankful for making that decision. Also, cows. Cows everywhere.
Parque Aventura La Chorrera Tourist Centre
When you get to the entrance of the park (to start leg 4), you’ll find the Parque Aventura La Chorrera Tourist Centre on your left, which is run by the local families who own the land La Chorrera sits on. You need to register with your passport number (don’t bring your actual passport!), watch a short briefing video and get a wristband at this centre for 15K COP. You can camp here if you wish, and pre-order lunch here for your return after the hike to La Chorrera, but our recommendation is to instead eat Ropa Vieja and a mojito at the Chef Cubano restaurant next to the very start of the park’s trail – the guy who runs it is an absolute character!
How easy is the hike to La Chorrera waterfall?
If you’re not doing the full walk from the main road, it’s not too deathly. We saw toddlers and pensioners alike walking it, though they were slow (and old, greying Colombians seem to have similar fitness levels to spritely European athletes). There are a lot of steep ups and downs with uneven footing, so people with joint or stamina issues may struggle to do the La Chorrera hike. Our calves hurt for days afterwards!
Bring plenty of water and sun-cream for hot days as there are a few stretches with little shade, or appropriate clothes & shoes to deal with a downpour in rainy season. The Parque Aventura La Chorrera tourist centre has wellies to rent for 2000 COP. On a weekend, there are rangers at various points to direct you along the right path and answer any questions (though we didn’t test their English). If they’re not there, the trail is still fairly obvious!
Visiting Choachi town
If you have the time, we would say definitely take a bus down to the main town. It’s quaint and unpretentious; expect some of the locals to stare or giggle at you. It lacks a dedicated coffee shop, but you can grab a cheap café con leche (or beer!) at most small convenience shops. You’ll probably also have the simple joy of sitting next to a group of old men in traditional cowboy-style vueltiao hats sipping a beer and having a small town gossip. After church on a Sunday, you’ll see small bars full of these men, nattering away and playing the guitar.
There are thermal springs near Choachí, which you can swim in, but these are best done in the late afternoon as the temperature is a few degrees hotter than Bogotá. Go to Termales Santa Mónica, just out of town; they have different services on different days, so check here before going.
To the edge of town, at the end of Calle 4, there is a giant arch (Alto de La Virgen) with the mother Mary on top; it’s not exactly an attraction but it’s a fairly interesting bit of architecture.
If you’re a meat-lover, head over to Piqueteadero El Oriente at the top of Carrera 3, where you can order a giant platter of different meats for barely the price of a burger in the UK. It looks like a car park with tables in it but the food is fantastic.
Where to stay in Choachi
There aren’t a huge number of accommodation options in the centre of town; most places for tourists are more retreat-style lodges that take advantage of the valley’s incredible hillsides.
We stayed at a breath-taking place called the Unkai tiny house as part of La Minga project. This was Andy’s Christmas present and it was not a cheap stay – £133 for 2 nights on AirBnB – but it was oh-so-amazing. Having a lodge like this to yourself (complete with a bedroom on the mezzanine floor and a wood fire for us to use at night) in the middle of the forest is just insane after over a year of living in hostels.
The staff at La Minga, who kept themselves to the roundhouse downstairs, were eccentric but hugely welcoming. There are dorms there which seemed less awe-inspiring, but worth it for the views and peacefulness. The only downside was the walk up the hillside to La Minga, which almost broke us. We’ve never seen a hill quite so steep!
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