When our church announced a day trip to Cascada La Chorrera, we jumped at the chance to leave Bogota and check off an item on our Colombia bucket list.
Tip: Googling “La Chorrera” gives you a town on the opposite (west) side of Bogota that is NOT associated with the waterfall. Try Cascada La Chorrera or Choachi to get the correct one – just past the eastern mountains of Bogota.
La Chorrera is the tallest waterfall in Colombia and 6th tallest in South America. It is 1950 feet tall, about 7 “layers”, and often the top cannot be seen because it is in the clouds. (For context, Niagara Falls is 188 feet, and Angel Falls is 3200.) It’s about 1.5 hours from Bogota, and the last few kilometers are on a dirt road much more suitable for a 4×4 than my poor Honda Civic. (Most of the group took a bus, but we were late to register and had to drive instead.)
Upon arriving, we met up with our group and took turns using the rickety bathroom that cost us $500 pesos ($0.17 USD) for the toilet paper. I’ve gotten a lot of practice squatting over toilets in Colombia since they are often missing a seat or without toilet paper.
We walked about 2 km from the parking lot to the entrance of La Chorrera – all of this on private, family owned land. The welcome area has a few amenities plopped in the middle of fincas (country homes) and farmland with cows, pigs, and chickens all observing the newcomers. This area includes a small bathroom and shower area (for overnight campers a permit costs $3.50), an enclosed fire pit area and an yurt-style hut where you can buy your entrance (about $12,000 COP), order lunch (ours was $20,000 and we shared) and buy locally-made souvenirs.
From the entrance to the base of the waterfall, it takes about 1.5 hours. Some parts are incredibly steep, and I was definitely out of breath for quite a bit of it. I blame pregnancy at this altitude.
The trail makes its way through fields in between cow pastures and farmland into the rain forest. The first waterfall, El Chiflon, we arrived at is NOT part of La Chorrera, but you can walk behind the cascade and they have also built a small restaurant and a pavilion area for visitors to enjoy the views and have something to eat. Note that many blogs and travel guides say that you can swim here – but there are lots of signs and caution tape up (maybe recent?) prohibiting this. It is also freezing cold, so I am not sure why you would want to!
After seeing this waterfall, some of the older members of our group and a few with younger children opted to stay here while the rest of us went on. From here we climbed through the jungle and emerged into more cow pastures. We entered a second rainforest area and continued climbing over the wet stone and dirt paths until we reached the base of La Chorrera.
After taking pictures and getting soaked in the spray, we hiked back in between light rain spurts and arrived fairly wet and cold at the restaurant area for lunch. After waiting an eternity, those who had ordered lunch (you can also bring in your own food) got their typical Colombian Ajiaco soup or asada (meat with various carbs – yucca, arepa, potato). We stayed for a bit talking to some old and new friends before we finished the last bit of the hike back to the parking lot and drove home.
For those thinking about making the trip…
If you don’t have a car or a friend organizing a trip, there are buses that will take you from Bogota to a stop near the entrance to the dirt road. However, getting from there to the entrance is about 8km – so it is not a short hike. This is definitely the cheapest option, but not necessarily the most convenient or time sensitive if you are in a time crunch.
If you are willing to spend a little more, I would advise hiring a private driver to take you there and back. My experience has been great with private drivers and they are often cheaper than or the same price as renting a car. I also read a blog post by another expat who hired an uber driver to take them to the entrance of the dirt road from Bogota. Uber is really inexpensive here, but the downside to this is that they had the 8km hike to the entrance and then had to catch the bus back to Bogota – which I am sure could be tricky.
While some people brought their pre-k and elementary school age kids, I think the hike would be tough for young kids to do on their own. As I mentioned before, these families mostly hiked just to El Chiflon (totally doable) and then spent the rest of the time there. Some of my friends have taken their little kids in carriers and had success with that. We might have done that but our 18 month old does not love to be in a carrier (or car rides longer than 15 minutes!) and we felt it was better for her to stay home with the babysitter than make the trip miserable for all of us.
All in all, I definitely recommend making this a day trip for anyone visiting or living in Bogota. It’s really beautiful and like much of Colombia – untouched!