Laguna Guatavita, or Lake Guatavita, is a sacred lake where the ancient Muisca peoples worshipped the goddess, Chie, and was considered their religious capital. It is also the site of the El Dorado legend, which caused many a conquistador to search for gold in the lake, often at a high cost. During our visit to the lake, we learned that according to legend, the Muisca chief would be carried to the lake naked, covered in gold dust along with gold treasures from the community. After throwing the throwing the treasures into the lake as a symbol of adoration to Chie, the chief would immerse himself in water.
The new chief is often the nephew of the current chief. If there are no nephews, then six boys are chosen at the age of nine as the candidates. They are sequestered inside a cave for nine years, where they can only talk at night. Once the nine years are over, one of the boys is chosen to be the new chief. Tradition also states that six girls are also sequestered in a cave, but they’re allowed to come and go during the day. These six girls are the candidates for the chief’s wife.
Located at about an hour and a half by car from Bogotá, it’s the perfect day trip for visitors looking to get some fresh air and see some nature. We arrived via hired car around 11am and were told the next tour left at 11:15am. The tours are required in order to go up to the lake and are only conducted in Spanish. For the two of us, it cost 41,000 COP, which is roughly $10 USD. It is cash only, so make sure you bring your pesos!
The tour is super informative, if you can speak the language. We learned about plants and herbs that have medicinal value and what they were used for during the ancient times. We also learned a ton of lore surrounding the lake, which I summarized above. Our guide told us that no ne actually knows how the lake formed, as there are no volcanoes in the area and meteors do not fall vertically.
Once you reach the lake, the guide sticks around to answer any questions and then leaves the group for you to make your own way down at your own pace. There are several different viewpoints for the lake, so make sure you take your time before the descent. The entire hike takes about one hour, maybe one and a half hours depending on how large your group is. It’s a pretty high incline, so I would recommend taking this hike later on during your trip to Bogotá.
Pro tip, they also do not allow plastic water bottles on the hike, so make sure you bring a reusable water bottle.
Pro tip #2, there bathroom are only bathrooms at the beginning of the hike, so make sure you go beforehand.