Howe to: Find the legend of ‘El Dorado’
Laguna de Guatavita is one of the most mystical places I visited in Colombia. It is one of many things to do when staying in Bogotá. The lagoon is full of legends and tales of a hugely complex confederation. The Muisca people were one of the biggest and most advanced tribe known in South America. They were discovered by the Spanish in 1537 after the tale of ‘El Dorado’ led them to Guatavita. They battled through the dense jungle and over the Andes mountain range all the way from the Caribbean coast.
In the Museo de Oro in Bogotá, you will see an abundance of gold and emeralds that were excavated from Laguna de Guatavita. They are all showcased in La Sala Ofrenda on the 3rd floor. I would recommend coming to this museum after you have visited Guatavita. This is so you can envision the tales about all of the gold on display here. Find out more about the 5 best museums in Bogotá and see why this museum is my favourite.
You can take a tour to visit Guatavita, which many hostels will sell. But if you are like me and prefer to do things independently, then you must follow my instructions on how to get to Laguna de Guatavita for a much cheaper and more flexible way.
Things you need to know before you go to Guatavita
First step: Purchase a tarjeta tulave to use the Transmilenio
- You can only travel on the Transmilenio (Bogotá’s version of a metro) if you have a tarjeta tulave.
- You cannot purchase a tarjeta at many stops, such as Av. Caracas or Universidades B-3. You can purchase and top up the tarjetas at portals or certain shops, all listed here. After that you can use it on the Transmilenio.
- I asked for 4 journeys when I purchased my tarjeta at the Portal Norte. Each journey costs $2200COP. I was then given a tarjeta to enter the station and use on the trains.
Second step: How to get to Portal del Norte
- To get to Guatavita, you need to first get to Portal del Norte. You can take the Transmilenio B74 from Av. Caracas/Calle 72. This is the closest stop from El Chapinero/Zona G district.
- If you are travelling from La Candelaria, the easiest way would be to walk to Universidades B-3 and you can get the Transmilenio B74 directly to Portal del Norte.
- On the day we did not have a tarjeta tulave. Therefore, we got an Uber from El Chapinero to go to Portal del Norte. This cost $16.000COP between the two of us.
How to get to Guatavita from Bogotá
- Once you enter Portal del Norte with your tarjeta, do not leave. Head to the far east side of the portal (where’s east? You ask. Don’t worry it’s clearly signed).
- Here you will see the infamous ‘chicken buses’. They will have signs on the front screen vibrantly advertising “Guatavita” for $9.000COP one way. You will need to pay en efectivo (cash) for this bus and it takes 1.5-2 hours to get to Guatavita village.
Option 1: Bogotá to Guatavita village
- You can take the bus all the way to Guatavita village, where you will be greeted by someone selling transfers to the lagoon in the main square.
- We arrived in time to take the 1pm group bus for $25.000COP each. This included return transfer to the lagoon and back to Guatavita village.
- There is a guided tour explaining the history of the pre-Colombian Muisca people and their shamanic rituals and beliefs. The entrance and tour is $17.000COP each. It is in Spanish but there are English options available but are less frequent. You walk over the hills overlooking the lagoon and surrounding countryside. This takes 1.5-2 hours.
- When you return from the tour, I would recommend you to take a walk around the charming Guatavita village. Then you can get the bus back to Bogotá’s Portal del Norte for $9,000COP.
- From Portal Norte you can then take the Transmilenio using your tarjeta back down to Avenida Caracas and get off at Calle 72 to return back to El Chapinero/Zona G. And Universidades B-3 for La Candelaria.
Option 2: Bogotá to Guatavita lagoon entry
- Alternatively, you can take the same chicken bus to Guatavita from Portal del Norte and ask the driver to stop at the entrance of the lagoon (la entrada de la laguna). It’s quite a walk from where the bus drops you to reach the entrance but it avoids the cost of the return transfer ($25.000COP). Meaning you only have to pay the entrance fee of $17.000COP.
- You can catch the bus back to Bogotá for $9,000COP where they dropped you. However, be aware that the closer to 4-5pm it gets, the bus fills and it’s a long journey back with plenty of traffic. So a seat is ideal.
The benefit of doing this yourself is that are able to take your time and really explore Guatavita and delve into the fascinating stories of the Muisca people. Also, Guatavita village is a quaint town; one where you will find cake shops, plazas and beautiful countryside. You can easily pass an afternoon here. Read my post about the history of the Muisca people to find out more about the legend of ‘El Dorado’.
The surrounding scenery lets you imagine the harsh journey the Spaniards would have faced in order to find the legend of El Dorado and his jewels. It’s amazing to think that the lake has been drained so many times to reveal these gold offerings. It makes you wonder how much still lies beneath.