Yopal

Yopal from the Cerro Venado

Yopal is located about 4.5 hours from Tunja and 4 hours from Villavicencio. The capital of the department of Casanare is the green gateway to the infinite Llanos plains, where cowboys herd zebu cattle and the most spectacular sunsets dip the plains into pastel color palettes. With about 150.000 habitants Yopal has a little airport that operates direct flights to and from Bogotá (50 mins) and Bucaramanga

Hugged by the Andean foothills to the west and north and spreading out into the prairies to the south and east, Yopal, albeit not the most spectacular city itself, has certainly got a spectacular setting with plenty of hiking and mountain biking treks all around and natural sights that provide a first glimpse into the Llanos fascinating ecosystem. The evenings are filled with the screams of parrots and the mornings with the shatter of chachalacas.

Yopal is a paradise for birdwatchers with a whopping 600 avian species in the department of Casanare. Many can be spotted near Yopal on trails and fincas, so pack your binoculars!

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ATTRACTIONS, ACTIVITIES AND VISITS
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Yopal’s Parque Central is nice for a stroll and to purchase a freshly squeezed orange juice from the street vendors. Watch men playing cars in the shade of the trees or head over to the Museo 8 de Julio to learn about the young city’s history.

The Mirador de La Virgen is Yopal’s humble answer to Bogotá’s Monserrate. Yopaleños walk or bike the winding road up to their virgin every morning or evening of the week. From the tall white Madonna figure one enjoys views across the city, Rio Cravo Sur and the endless Llanos plains. 

Rio Cravo Sur Outside Yopal

If you are in for a proper hike, continue from near the Virgin on a hiking trail (a pilgrimage trail) that leads up to Cerro El Venado, Yopal’s summit. The hiking trail winds through lush jungle teeming with butterflies and interesting flora and the summit provides fantastic views of the Andes to one side and the Llanos to the other. Take plenty of water and start early. 

A lighter hike but equally spectacular starts near the village of El Morro, about 30 minutes north of Yopal. Ask for the trail to La Virgen de la Peña, which leads past mossy rocks, waterfalls and little creeks and offers spectacular views across the valley of Rio Cravo Sur

El Garcero is the wild sleeping place of hundreds of white cattle egrets, located 8 kilometers south of the city. It consists of a group of trees lining a small lagoon, to which egrets have been returning for decades to spend their nights. From the road you can enjoy the spectacle from about 40 meters distance.  Even capybaras may join the scene. Opposite El Garcero is a lovely restaurant and bar where you can enjoy a sundowner. Make sure to try their delicious arepas. 

Fancy a wild swim or refreshing bath in crystal-clear waters? Head to La Calaboza, a natural pool complete with a waterfall and surrounded by lush jungle just 5 minutes north of Yopal. Take a taxi to La Puente de Cabuya and just before reaching the bridge turn left onto an unpaved road that winds up into the mountains. You’ll soon find La Calaboza on your right-hand side.

La Aguatoca is another beautiful swimming pool surrounded by forest, rocks and framed by some waterfalls. It is located 20 minutes from Yopal en-route to the village of El Morro. There are plenty of other swimming spots along Rio Cravo Sur in the months of December through to March – just follow the locals.

Authentic Llano horse rides and “Llanero Days” are a great way to experience both natural sights and wildlife and the distinctive culture. For horse treks, safaris and herding cattle you might want to get in touch with Aventurecotours, a local agency run by a German-Colombian couple specialized in authentic adventures near Yopal.

Are you in for a Colombian coffee experience off the beaten coffee path? Casanare has some fine beans in its Andean foothills and the prettiest town to marvel at coffee cultivations, soak in the aroma of roasting beans and meet some lovely villagers is the colonial town of Tamara, 95 kilometers northeast of Yopal. Catch a local bus to get there. If chocolate is more your thing you’ll enjoy Nunchia, about 50 km from Yopal in the same direction as Tamara. Coffee and cacao are cultivated here. Ask around to find the Premium chocolate factory. 

...=> Yopal Travel Guide Part 2: Hotels, Restaurants, Nightlife, Getting There

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