Sunday, 18 January 2015

¡Viva Villeta!

When it comes to the main vacation times in Colombia, there appear to be three chief types of holidaymakers.

Firstly, you have the upper-to-middle classes, that is to say those with lots of spare cash at their disposal, who tend to escape the country and continent in order to rub shoulders with their ‘wealthy idols’ from the Western world.
Refreshing: The 'Seven Waterfalls' ('Siete Cascadas'), Villeta, Cundinamarca, Colombia.
A natural, refreshing shower on the 'Seven Waterfalls' trek in Villeta. (Photo: Pieter Immanuël Hupkes.)
Then you have those with slightly less disposable income, but not in too bad of a way, who stay within the country or at most visit neighbouring countries. The important thing is that they travel a relatively decent distance from their regular abodes.

Lastly, is the most popular group; those hard-pressed working classes whose holiday getaways generally amount to a short break in a nearby department or another town within the same department.

From a Bogotá perspective (and Colombia in general really), thankfully, those who fall into this latter category are pretty much spoilt for choice — the only thing missing is the sea, but there are plenty of inland waterways to partially fill that void.

Waterfall one, down-river, on the 'Seven Waterfalls' trek, Villeta, Cundinamarca, Colombia.
The view atop of the first of the 'Seven Waterfalls'.
One of those places that I had the pleasure of checking out recently, impromptu as it was, is Villeta, an approximate two-hour drive north-west from the capital. Anecdotally speaking, it still lags behind the likes of Girardot and Melgar as a destination hotspot for those looking for a nearby escape from Bogotá.

A big reason for this is that some wealthier types see it, so I’ve been told anyway, as a bit of a ‘ñero’ (Colombian word for, let’s say, not very pleasant types) holiday location.

So just up the Wrong Way street you might say — because, that is of course, this blog doesn't like to prejudge. ‘Altogether now’ and all that.

Anyway, ñeros or no ñeros, the place has enough going for it to entertain most, at least for a time.
At an altitude of about 800 metres, almost 2,000 metres lower than Bogotá, the climate is more than agreeable, unless you’re a polar bear type. You certainly don’t need your woollies at night, as you often do in the capital.

The village itself is quaint enough – Villeta does mean ‘little village’ in English – if not spectacular. It also has a little more of a modern feel to it than some other similar-sized places in Colombia.

Mini-trains: Villeta, Cundinamarca, Colombia.
The 'train' to Villeta's 'Iguazú Falls' ...
There are a host of hotels and mini-resorts equipped with swimming pools, from the elementary to the somewhat more elegant, allowing you the chance to both take in the sun and subsequently cool off in a modicum of tranquillity.

Better still, though, are the natural cooling-off spots. There are the easy-to-reach ‘mini Iguazú Falls’ (well they deceivingly resembled them from an advanced photo viewing), a nice 30-minute walk from the village. Or you can also take micro-train transport if you don’t feel like stepping it out in the heat.

Yet far more rewarding, in terms of sights, nature and exercise, is the ‘Seven Waterfalls’ (‘Siete Cascadas’) trek.

It’s not the most taxing, but if walking in nature is your thing, along with having the chance to bathe in cool freshwater to refresh from the tropical sun, it’s pretty enjoyable. The more adventurous types can also engage in some extreme diving (see video below). (I didn’t want to show up our very helpful accommodation provider-cum-guide Edwin, so I abstained from partaking.)

Outside of that, as you’ll find in most urban locations in Colombia regardless of size, the village itself isn’t short on lively watering holes. The only problem my Dutch companion and I encountered during our nights out was that the place was full of families and teenagers. There seemed to be a dearth of single women in their 20s to ‘converse’ with.

Perhaps it’s a sign of the rising Colombian middle class; these ladies holiday elsewhere. Or at least those who aren’t yet mothers that is.

Oh well, it just leaves more of Villeta (and the odd yummy mummy) for us.

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