Last updated on August 21st, 2023 at 11:57 am
My name is Frank and I run a travel agency in Bogota, Colombia. Have fun while reading!
If you are looking for an adventure in Colombia, you might want to consider hiking the Lengerke Trail. This is a historic route that was built by a German engineer and entrepreneur in the 19th century to connect the Andean region with the Magdalena River. The trail passes through stunning landscapes, diverse ecosystems, and charming villages. It is one of the best hikes in Colombia, and in this guide, I will show you how to do it.
What is the Lengerke Trail?
The Lengerke Trail is named after Georg Ernst Heinrich von Lengerke, who was born in Germany in 1827 and died in Colombia in 1882. He emigrated to Colombia when he was 25 years old and settled in the department of Santander. He became a wealthy businessman and a skilled engineer who developed transport routes for his trade. He used some of the paths that were already used by the indigenous and pre-Columbian civilizations, but he also improved them with stones and bridges.
Today, the Lengerke Trail is a hiking route that follows some of these historic paths. It goes through the following villages:
- San Vicente de Chucuri
- Guane and Barichara
- Los Santos
The trail covers a total distance of about 53 kilometers (33 miles) and can be done in four stages. It crosses three Andean cordilleras and descends into the spectacular Chicamocha Canyon, one of the deepest canyons in the world. Along the way, you will see amazing views, diverse flora and fauna, and cultural heritage.
How to Hike the Lengerke Trail: A Stage-by-Stage Guide
To hike the Lengerke Trail, you will need a good level of fitness, proper equipment, and some planning. The trail can be challenging due to the altitude changes, the weather conditions, and the terrain. You will also need to arrange transportation and accommodation along the way. Here is a detailed guide for each stage of the trail.
Stage 1: San Vicente de Chucuri to Zapatoca
Distance: 18 kilometers (11.2 miles)
Elevation gain: 1,300 meters (4,300 feet)
Elevation loss: 1,000 meters (3,300 feet)
Highest point: 2,450 meters (8,000 feet)
Lowest point: 700 meters (2,300 feet)
San Vicente de Chucuri is a small village about two hours away from Bucaramanga, the capital of Santander. It is known as the cocoa capital of Colombia, so you might want to arrive early the day before and try some of the delicious products made from cocoa. You can also visit a cocoa farm and learn about the cultivation process.
You should start hiking early in the morning and get a transport (motorcycle or 4×4) to take you up to the ProAves bird sanctuary, where the trail begins. The first part of the trail goes through an agricultural zone with cows, then it enters the forest of the Serrania de los Yariguies National Park. The trail is well-marked and easy to follow, but it can be muddy or slippery depending on the weather. You will also have to climb over some fallen trees or avoid some plants with sharp spikes.
The trail climbs up about 1,000 meters (3,300 feet) through a tropical forest with lots of ferns and birds. The temperature is pleasant and cool. After reaching the highest point of this stage, you will enter a coniferous forest that looks very different from the previous landscape. The trail then becomes more open and offers great views of the valley and the mountains.
The descent is more relaxed and comfortable on a good path. The climate changes again and becomes warmer and drier. You will see cacti and other plants typical of a steppe-like environment. The trail ends at a small river where you can refresh yourself. From there, you can get a motorbike to take you to Zapatoca.
Zapatoca is a pretty village at around 1,700 meters (5,600 feet) above sea level with about 9,000 inhabitants. It has a colonial architecture and a pleasant climate. You can explore the village and visit some attractions like the Guane viewpoint or the Galan House Museum.
Stage 2: Zapatoca to Barichara
Distance: 17 kilometers (10.6 miles)
Elevation gain: 770 meters (2,500 feet)
Elevation loss: 1,500 meters (5,000 feet)
Highest point: 1,850 meters (6,100 feet)
Lowest point: 450 meters (1,500 feet)
The second stage of the Lengerke Trail starts at the Zapatoca airfield, where you can get a transport to take you. The trail goes along the airfield and then turns left, down the hill. After crossing the road for the first time, you will find a dangerous section that is very steep and slippery. It is better to take a detour and walk along the road instead.
The trail then continues on a good path that climbs up slightly. The climate is dry and hot, so make sure to bring enough water and sunscreen. You will have amazing views of the Chicamocha Canyon and the bridge that you will cross later.
The bridge is a good place to take a break and enjoy the scenery. You can also take a dip in the river if the water level is low enough. After the bridge, the trail ascends to Guane, a small village with a rich history and culture. You can visit the archaeological museum, the church, and the main square.
From Guane, you have two options: you can either hike on the Camino Real to Barichara, a beautiful cobblestone path that takes about two hours, or you can get a vehicle to take you there. Barichara is one of the most charming villages in Colombia, with its white-washed houses, stone streets, and colonial churches. It is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a popular destination for tourists.
Stage 3: Barichara to Jordan
Distance: 12 kilometers (7.45 miles)
Elevation gain: 100 meters (330 feet)
Elevation loss: 1,100 meters (3,600 feet)
Highest point: 1,500 meters (4,900 feet)
Lowest point: 450 meters (1,500 feet)
The third stage of the Lengerke Trail begins in Villanueva, a village near Barichara. You can get a tuk-tuk to take you there and then drive a bit more to get closer to the Chicamocha Canyon. You can also start from Villanueva itself, but the hike by road is not very attractive.
The trail descends into the canyon on an original stone path that was built by Lengerke. The incline is not too steep and the path is in good condition. The views are stunning as you go deeper into one of the deepest canyons in the world. The canyon is about one kilometer deep and has a diverse flora and fauna.
The descent ends at Jordan, a small village at the bottom of the canyon. There are two hotels where you can stay overnight: Hotel Shangrila, which offers hammocks for backpackers, or Ecolodge El Tamarindo, which offers more comfort and amenities. You can relax and enjoy the nature and tranquility of this place.
Stage 4: Jordan to Los Santos
Distance: 6 kilometers (3.7 miles)
Elevation gain: 900 meters (3,000 feet)
Elevation loss: –
Highest point: 1,350 meters (4,400 feet)
Lowest point: 450 meters (1,500 feet)
The fourth and final stage of the Lengerke Trail goes from Jordan to Los Santos. Before you start hiking, you should visit the historic bridge that crosses the river near Jordan. It is an impressive structure that was also built by Lengerke.
The trail then goes uphill all the way to Los Santos. The trail has been recently restored and has many lookout points and benches along the way. However, you should be prepared for a lot of heat and sun exposure as you climb up from the canyon. The temperature can be well over 30 degrees Celsius (86° Fahrenheit) and there is not much shade.
Once you reach Los Santos, you will have completed the Lengerke Trail. You can celebrate your achievement and enjoy the views of the canyon from above. You can also find bus connections to Bucaramanga or other destinations from Los Santos.
What to Bring for Hiking the Lengerke Trail
Hiking the Lengerke Trail requires some preparation and equipment. Here are some recommendations for what to bring:
- A light backpack with only the essentials
- A machete or a knife in case you need to clear some vegetation or obstacles
- At least one liter of water per day
- A swimsuit for swimming in the river
- A hat and sunscreen for protection from the sun
- Long pants and a long shirt for protection from plants and insects
- A second pair of shoes in case your first pair gets wet or muddy
- A rest day in between stages to recover and enjoy the villages
Hiking the Lengerke Trail is an amazing experience that will show you some of the best landscapes and cultures of Colombia. It is not an easy hike, but it is definitely worth it. If you are looking for an adventure in Colombia, you should give it a try.
Activities and Tourist Destinations in Colombia
Dear reader, below you will find a list with incredible activities and tourist destinations to do in Colombia:
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- Instagram Colombia – The 17 Most Beautiful Places for Photos
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