Paipa is a town in Boyacá very close to Bogotá that stands out for its beautiful landscapes, hot springs, exciting history, and renowned cheese. I spent a week exploring Paipa and its surroundings to share with you the best experiences and travel tips.
Paipa, the tourist capital of Boyacá, is located in central-eastern Colombia, only 3 hours from Bogotá.
Its location offers easy access not only to the Colombian capital but also to other colonial cities such as Villa de Leyva (1h30 min), Duitama (20 min), Tibasosa (30 min), and others.
This municipality is characterized by its tranquility, beautiful colonial houses, friendly inhabitants (about 32,000), and charming landscapes featuring hot springs, mountains, hills, and Lake Sochagota.
Paipa is also a destination for history lovers, as the penultimate battle for Colombia’s Independence was fought in its territory.
Best time to visit Paipa
To plan your trip to Paipa, I recommend you consider the many festivals held throughout the year and the seasons. Although even if you go during the rainy season (which will be the same throughout Colombia), you will be able to enjoy most of the excursions and the hot springs.
In Paipa, the climate ranges between 7 °C and 20 °C, with the nights and early mornings being the coldest. During the day it will be hot if the sun is shining.
December to February
It’s the dry season. The weather is fresh, but you will feel warm with the sun.
In December, the Aguinaldo Paipano is celebrated. The shows (music, comparzas, parades, floats) revolve around Christmas and the culture of Boyacá.
March to May
The rainy season is starting—it doesn’t mean it will rain all day long, but it will rain at least once a day.
The Festival de la Ruana, el Pañolón, la Almojábana, and el Amasijo are celebrated in May. You’ll be able to buy local handicrafts, eat typical gastronomy, dance, and listen to traditional music.
June to August
It’s a “half-dry” season. Rainy days are less frequent.
The Festival del Lago is celebrated in August: water sports on Lake Sogachota, cultural activities, and concerts.
September to November
The 2nd part of the rainy season.
In September (or October), Paipa’s most recognized traditional event takes place: the Concurso Nacional de Bandas Musicales (National Band Contest). It gathers the best traditional and symphonic bands in the country.
In November, el Festival de Antología de la música colombiana is held. Concerts and presentations of traditional Colombian music.
How to get around Paipa
Paipa’s small airport is called Juan José Rendón and is the only commercial airport in the Boyacá. It is a 10 min drive from the center of Paipa and has direct flights only to/from Medellín (daily) and Yopal, Casanare (twice a week), with Easyfly airline.
Paipa has two bus terminals ( an old and a new one), near the acoustic plaza, on Carrera 24.
There are buses from Salitre terminal in Bogotá (with Libertadores, Rápido Duitama – 3h – $40.000 COP), from Tunja (50 min. – 10.000 COP), Sogamoso (40 min), Duitama (20 min) and others.
To travel to/from other destinations such as Villa de Leyva (2h) or Yopal, Casanare (5h), you must first take a bus to Sogamoso, Tunja, or Duitama and then another bus to Paipa (or vice versa).
The average price of a cab ride downtown is $5,000 COP. And If you go out of town, expect to pay around $10.000 COP (like the hot springs). It is not always easy to find cabs, so I recommend you call thecentral cab officeto request one.
If you want to save time and travel more comfortably, you can arrange private transportation to Paipa from Bogota or Villa de Leyva with our local partner.
Things to do in Paipa
1# Relaxing at the hot springs
Many travelers come from Bogota to enjoy the delightful hot springs, which is one of the best things to do in Paipa.
To enjoy the natural benefits of the thermal waters, go to the Instituto Termal de Paipa. They have thermal pools, thermal SPA, and a hydromassage circuit (6 stops /2 hours).
I had a great time there. You’ll enjoy a private thermal water pool + different jets, a hydromassage bed, a jacuzzi, a sauna, and a mud bath.
Although the facilities are modest, the experience is very well organized. The result? A relaxed body and soft baby skin 😉
The other day-pass (3 thermal pools) is less organized and crowded with tourists during high season and weekends.
Another less-known option is the thermal pool of Hotel Hacienda Salitre (2h). The environment is nicer.
2# Enjoy Lake Sochagota and its scenery
Sochagota is a beautiful man-made lake popular with tourists because you can practice nautical activities such as kayaking, pedal boating, paddle boarding, wake boating, cruising, or water skiing.
If you are interested, go to the Club Nautico, where you will also find a delicious restaurant with magnificent views of the lake.
You can also enjoy the scenery of Sochagota and the countryside of Paipa with a walk along the boardwalk (20 min) or biking or walking around the lake (2h). Part of the trail follows the road, but there is little traffic. My favorite section is near Paipa, going to the right when you have the town in the background. You walk in the shade of the trees. It is enjoyable.
Around the lake, you will find more hotels and restaurants to eat at while enjoying the view.
Where: 10 min. by cab from the center of Paipa.
3# Learn about the history of Colombia’s Independence in the Pantano de Vargas
In 1819, the penultimate battle of Colombia’s Independence occurred in Paipa, in a field called El Pantano de Vargas.
For this reason, the largest monument in Colombia was erected in honor of the 14 lancers who initially joined this decisive battle. It’s a bronze monument showing the 14 horsemen on their horses.
Nearby you will find the Pantano de Vargas museum, some restaurants, handicraft stores, and cafes.
How to get there: Take a bus from Paipa with the Tax Turístico Paipa fleet. ($10.000 – 15 min.)
4# Travel back to colonial times at Hotel Hacienda El Salitre
The liberator of America, Simón Bolívar, slept there on August 3 and 4, 1819, to rest after the decisive Battle of Pantano de Vargas.
Hotel Hacienda El Salitre is also the only hotel in Paipa that actually has a hot springs pool (other hotels only have heated pools).
Stay overnight at the hacienda to fully enjoy it. If it’s over your budget, you can still buy a day pass to spend 2 hours at the pool. (about $40.000).
Where: 10 min. from downtown Paipa by car or cab ($10.000 COP).
5# Cycle like a Boyacense
Paipa’s roads and trails are ideal for cycling tours. In fact, Paipa is one of the favorite towns among Colombian cyclists, and several of Colombia’s top international cyclists are from the department of Boyaca (Nairo Quintana, Miguel Angel Lopez, etc.).
There are options in Paipa for those who want to enjoy an easy bike ride and those who are aficionados. You can rent a bike or book a tour with a guide.
6# Eat delicious food on La Ruta del Queso (Cheese road)
Queso Paipa is the best semi-mature cheese in Colombia and one of only two cheeses with “a denomination of origin” in the country.
It is similar to Parmesan cheese, and believe me; it is delicious—take my words, I’m French 🙂
So if you are a cheese lover, you can take a tour to discover its artisanal process.
With a guide, you will visit an artisan with whom you will milk cows and make and taste cheese while sipping a glass of wine.
How: Ask for a guide’s referral at the tourist office in Paipa (diagonal to the Parroquia San Miguel)—that’s what I did. Keep in mind that although the experience is good, it is still not very organized, and it may last 6 hours even if the guide tells you it is only 3 hours.
Another option is to book through our local partner.
7# Discover the replica of the seven Boyacenses villages
El Pueblito Boyacense is a private neighborhood in Duitama that was designed as a replica of the architecture of 7 towns in Boyacá: Villa de Leyva, Tibasosa, Tenza, El Cocuy, Sáchica, Monguí, and Ráquira.
The Barrio is beautiful, with something of each town: its gastronomy (restaurants and cafes), handicrafts (stores), and architecture.
Although it does not replace the experience of visiting each original town, it is a good option if you have little time.
To enter, you must pay $6.000 COP + $4.000 parking if you go by car.
How to get there: Take a bus from the bus terminal in Paipa to Duitama ($4.000 COP – 30 min). Then take a cab to Pueblito Boyacense.
Tip: Avoid going during rush hour. The trip will take you more than an hour.
8# Visit the most beautiful town in Boyacá: Tibasosa
The cobblestone and colonial streets, gardens, and beautiful houses with flowered balconies make Tibasosa a charming town that is only 30 minutes away from Paipa.
Besides that, the town is known for its Feijoa (a kind of guava) crop. You can find several products based on this exotic fruit: sabajón (alcohol), desserts, arequipe, and ice cream.
How to get there: A bus from Paipa to Duitama or Sogamoso and then another bus to Tibasosa.
9# Taste delicious handmade desserts in Iza, Boyacá
One hour from Paipa, this beautiful colonial town is known for its delicious handmade desserts.
Every weekend, you can find dozens of dessert stands in the main square. Don’t worry if you go during the week; you’ll still find plenty of desserts and almost no tourists.
Tip: I recommend the desserts at Café Isabella. You have the option to buy a dessert with two different flavors.
10# Buy handicrafts in Nobsa
It seems that every town in Boyacá has a specialty. Nobsa is no exception.
This colonial town, only 40 minutes from Paipa, is known for its wool weavings. Among hats, gloves, and dolls, the ruana is the most outstanding handicraft—a very typical poncho of Boyacá to protect you from the cold.
Here you will meet the artisans directly (without intermediaries), so you can buy a ruana at a reasonable price—a perfect souvenir of Boyacá.
11# Visit La laguna de Tota
Laguna de Tota is the largest natural lagoon in Colombia and the third largest in Latin America, also known for allegedly having been a sanctuary of the Muisca Indians.
In addition to enjoying breathtaking views, you can do activities such as boat rides, jet skiing, or walking around.
In the past, you could stop at Playa Blanca (a natural sand beach), but for the last 2 years, it has been closed to the public.
How to get there: 1h40min from Paipa. 1 Bus from Paipa to Sogamoso and then another bus to Aquitania. I recommend you go by private car or on tour.
12# Visit the most famous town in Boyacá: Villa de Leyva
Villa de Leyva is one of 17 pueblos Patrimonios de Colombia and the most visited town in Boyacá.
Thousands of national and foreign tourists visit it yearly, attracted by its cobblestone streets, colonial houses, and romantic atmosphere.
There are several activities in Villa de Leyva, such as visiting museums, admiring its main square (the largest in Colombia), and walking or biking through its streets.
With our local partner, you can book a tour to Villa de Leyva for one or several days from Paipa or Bogotá.
13# A Tour to visit several towns in Boyacá
Boyacá is perfect for planning a road trip, thanks to its incredible landscapes and colonial towns.
The trip includes private transportation and a driver who is also a local guide who knows the culture and history of the region very well.
During this tour, we visited Pantano de Vargas, Tibasosa, Iza, Cuitiva (the smallest town in Boyacá), Laguna de Tota, Nobsa, and Pueblito Boyacense (Duitama).
The guide’s explanations are on the way to each place, which means that in each town you will have some free time to visit, shop or eat (not included in the tour price).
Without a doubt, one of my favorite tours in Paipa.
Where to stay in Paipa
You can easily access restaurants, shopping, the main square, and local life by staying in the downtown area.
What is most appealing about theHotel Hacienda El Salitreis its colonial architecture from the XVI century (The liberator Simón Bolivar slept here in 1819), delightful hot springs pool, and rural atmosphere. A 10 min drive from downtown and 5 min from the airport and Lake Sochagota.
Hotel Estelaris your best option if you're looking for upscale accommodations. Located on the outskirts of Paipa and right on the shores of Lake Sochagota, you'll enjoy a peaceful stay with beautiful views and water activities. The hotel accepts pets, has a spa, jacuzzi, sauna, and pool, and provides exceptional service.
Hotel San Marcos is a great budget option if you want the best value for your money. It offers an included breakfast, 24-hour front desk, parking (surcharge), and much more. This 6-story building (no elevator) is centrally located and a 10-minute drive from Lake Sochagota.
ApartaSuite ARGUS are excellent furnished apartments above a small green hill. They are very well equipped: comfy king-size bed, TV, refrigerator, sofa, and more. There is bread, eggs, and milk for you to prepare your breakfast. 5 min drive from downtown
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