Wednesday, March 04, 2020

How to reserve a ticket to Chingaza Parque from Bogota

Chingaza Nacional Parque is beautiful and only a 1.5 hour drive from Bogota. Information about how to gain entrance and hike in the park is conflicting even from official sources. With much effort and a bit of luck we managed to have an awesome trip there - and in this post I'd like to explain how you can too.


Getting in to Chingaza:

There are two entities interacting with tourists in the park:
  • Parques Nacional, they control reservations for entrance to the park, and also the entrance to the park. They have offices in Bogota where you can visit and get a free map of the park and marginally accurate information.
  • Corpochingaza runs the hostel/hotel in the park, and arranges for (expensive) guided hikes.
To get into the park, you need to have either a reservation with Parques Nacional or a reservation with Corpochingaza. If not - you will be turned away.

To create a reservation with Parques Nacional: create an account on this website, choose a random hiking trail "tourist attraction" with availability because according to folks at the gate you are allowed to hike on any trail.
The website states clearly that you need to make your reservation 15 days in advance, and I heard this repeated by Parques Nacional at the gate - but it is definitely possible to use the website to make a reservation fewer than 15 days in advance. You will receive information about how to pay with banco-colombia, but it seems possible to pay with cash at the gate.

To create an overnight reservation with Corpochingaza: there are various phone numbers floating around, but you seriously just want to send an email to ecoturismocorpochingaza@gmail.com with the following information:
  • Fechas (dates): Entrada (checkin) **/**/**. Salida (checkout) **/**/**
  • Nombre: full names of everyone in your party
  • Pasaporte: Passport numbers for everyone in your party
The Corpochingaza hostel/hotel is at Monte Redondo and they have shared dorms and two private rooms. To confirm your reservation - Corpochingaza will reply to your email with a vague bill and payment instructions with an impossibly short deadline. But there seemed to be no communication between Parque Nacional a the entrance, and Corpochingaza further inside the park. So despite not missing the deadline to pay and therefore not having a truly confirmed reservation - we told Parques Nacional at the gate that we had a reservation for the night with Corpochingaza and they let us in (after paying the entrance fee). It was possible to confirm the details with corpochingaza and pay cash on site. It turns out that there were zero other guests that Sunday night in February.
Dorms are $55.000 COP and private rooms are $150.000 per night.

Lagunas de Siecha. Photo credit: trekcolombia
One of the main attractions is the Lagunas de Siecha (shown above), three glacial lakes nestled in the mountains. To get there from Bogota you go to the Piedras Gordas gate and visitor center. I recommend you rent your own car instead of taking an organized bus tour, since you will want to get out and take pictures along the way. We rented from this AVIS location for about $100.000 COP/day. An economy car should get you there - I wouldn't recommend a mini because of the potholes.


Hiking in Chingaza:

There are only a few trails on the official Chingaza map, the ones labeled as "tourist attractions" on the reservation website - but there are numerous well marked trails surrounding the official ones. The park requires you to hire a guide from Corpochingaza for some of the longer trails - but the prices are exorbitant ($40usd/person) - and you apparently hire them by messaging the same gmail email address (ecoturismocorpochingaza@gmail.com) which given their slow and unclear responses makes me think it would be difficult to organize. They don't seem to police the trails though - and despite the website making it very clear that only 40 people can go on a trail per day - at the gate we were told that once inside the park we can go on any hikes that don't require a guide (and if not too late in the evening). But when we went it was super foggy - so they might be better about stopping folks from walking on the guide-only trails when you can actually see more than a dozen meters ahead.

Here is a quick description of the trails:

  • Sendero Lagunas de Siecha: This is a short, 3 hour hike to the 3 lakes. The trailhead is in the less convenient Siecha entrance.
  • Sendero Cuchilas de Siecha: This is a long 5 hour hike with a trailhead at the Piedras Gordas station. I highly recommend this hike - including a hike all the way around the largest lake, which follows the ridge and includes a few short bouts of serious climbing. Google maps doesn't have the trails marked, but the trail follows those marked in openstreetmap fairly closely. This trail is supposed to require a guide, but it is super easy to follow in the red zone, and a little trickier to follow in the blue zone (shown below)

  • Sendero Lagunas de Buitrago: This is a long - but not difficult 2 hour hike and it doesn't require a guide. It definitely connects to the Sendero Cuchilas de Siecha and I think making a big loop out of it would probably be really nice (though very long).
  • Sendero Laguna Seca: This is one hour hike in a pretty nice flat-ish area, very pretty but it is in kind of a valley so the views are not as sweeping.
  • Sendero Suasie: 1.5 hour hike for the short loop, and a longer loop with unknown distance. The longer loop is supposed to require a guide, but there isn't anyone there to stop you from going on the longer hike. The short hike is very well marked and goes through some spectacular low-lying rainforest.

More pictures:

Pictures below are from the Sendero Cuchilas de Siecha.


This was the best view we got of the lake! The sunny picture above is from another source (see the credit).

The views along the ridge must be spectacular outside fo the fog, but it was spectacular in a different way in the dense fog.

Below is a picture from the Sendero Laguna Seca.

Below is a picture from the Sendero Suasie.


The plants here are absolutely the coolest. The leaves on these Espeletia (commonly known as frailejonesare extremely soft and fuzzy, it feel almost like fur.



Below is a picture of the official map - as you can see there are no details of any of the trails outside the official ones - so downloading the openstreetmap to your phone before you lose reception is almost essential. I also recommend pre-loading the terrain map from google maps, which combined with the open street map makes navigation possible. Google's offline downloaded maps do not include terrain - so you'll need to open it up on your phone with wifi to preload it before you lose connection in the park.


In summary, getting into and around Chingaza takes just a bit of effort and some planning, but it is absolutely worth it for the surreal beauty and pleasant calm of getting out of the city. Below is a picture of that city from the road on the way back.

I'm happy to help anyone with questions about Chingaza or the process - just leave your question as comment!