A Colombian Day Trip to Lake Guatavita and Sesquile Uncover Colombia
Day trip to Guatavita


June 18, 2024, 7:39 pm

Mountainous, green terrain lined the road that led us away from the bustling capital city of Bogotá to the Guatavita Reserve. I rolled down my window and breathed in the cool, crisp air. Shakira’s unmistakable voice flowed through the car’s speakers as we made our way through small towns separated by sprawling farmland.

The Ride to Lake Guatavita 

Guatavita Reserve, where the famous Lake Guatavita is located, is about a two-and-half hour drive from Bogotá. We stopped for a traditional Colombian breakfast at one of the many small restaurants along the road. Minutes after ordering, steaming hot Colombian coffee appeared before me, along with traditional Colombian corncakes called arepas. These particular arepas were unique to this region of Colombia and were filled with gooey cheese. The families around me happily chatted in Spanish, many of them lived in Bogotá and were just enjoying a quiet Sunday away from the city.

Lake Guatavita and Gold-Hungry Explorers

After breakfast, we continued towards Guatavita as our guide told us about important landmarks along the way and interesting facts about Colombian history and culture. We arrived at the reserve and were immediately welcomed by a lush trail that would take us to the famous lake. The trail was not especially difficult to climb, but the high altitude left me winded after only a few minutes of walking. While catching my breath, I turned around and took in the amazing view of the mountains that rippled across the horizon. It felt as if I were standing inside a postcard.

There are three designated spots to view Lake Guatavita. Each time we approached a new spot, our guide revealed more information about the emerald-green body of water below. She told us the lake was an important ceremonial site for the indigenous Muisca people and the origin of the legend of El Dorado. We were told the Muisca chief coated himself in gold dust as part of an ancient ritual, then bathed and threw gold offerings into the lake. Once conquistadors from Spain got wind of the possibility of gold in the water, they drained parts of Lake Guatavita in hopes of getting their hands on the gold. It is said that some of these explores were successful in find gold artifacts in Lake Guatavita, which then piqued the interest of more Europeans.

It probably does not come as shocking news that I did not spot any gold in the water. I even squinted my eyes while peering down at the lake, but no such luck. The conquistadores must have snatched up the last bits.

Chowing Down on Colombian Lunch

Once we finished learning about Lake Guatavita, we headed to a traditional Colombian restaurant for lunch. Fake parrots hung from the ceiling and diners intently watched the award ceremony on TV honoring Nairo Quintana, the Colombian cyclist who won the Vuelta a España. The restaurant offered a variety of different traditional Colombian dishes. I ordered Bandeja Paisa, a huge platter consisting of beef, two types of sausage, rice, beans, an egg, an arepa and a plantain. I practically rolled out of that fine establishment.

Sesquile and the Muisca People

After we were done stuffing our faces with delicious Colombian food, we headed to a nearby settlement in a town called Sesquile. The descendants of the Muisca people created the settlement so their traditions and culture would not be forgotten. A man who introduced himself as the governor of the settlement showed us around and provided more information about the Muiscas. With the strap of a satchel crossed over his chest, and a black pony-tail gathered at the nape of his neck, this man led us to where ceremonies took place, talked about the Muisca way of life and told us about his people’s traditions. At one point, he handed us a leaf to chew on and said it was used to cure certain ailments. It tasted like a green apple and I wondered if the rest of the forest tasted just as delicious.

Back to Bogota

We said our goodbyes to our Muisca ambassador and made a stop in Guatavita La Nueva. The small town is located near Guatavita Reserve and seems to be untouched by time. Dapper old men wearing fedoras stood in front of houses with terracotta-colored roofs and white walls. People walked through the narrow streets and Salsa music oozed from the various stores and restaurants we passed. There was no denying the Spanish influences woven into the town. The sun set over the bullring and a church with an elegant steeple.

The ride back to Bogotá was a peaceful one. A crooning Prince Royce played over the radio. “I only want to give you a kiss” he sung in Spanish as our car made its way over the sloping Andes and back to the city.

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Anneliese Delgado

Anneliese Delgado

Anneliese Delgado is an American digital marketer and writer living in Bogotá, Colombia. Her mother is from the United States and her father is from Venezuela, giving her the unique opportunity to blend in on the streets of Colombia, while still viewing the country with the eyes of an outsider. When she’s not writing or traveling, she’s playing soccer, wandering around stores with no intention of buying anything and binge-watching Netflix.

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