Walking the Royal Road to Guane

If the sights and sounds of peaceful Barichara are all a bit too much for you, don’t despair. A glorious 10km hike along the historic El Camino Real, or Royal Road, brings you to the picture-perfect and pocket-sized hamlet of Guane – a quintessential colonial village where you really can leave the world behind.

The hike itself is spectacular. It starts on the edge of the escarpment where Barichara ends, drops down the escarpment into the valley floor and undulates through beautiful countryside, offering fabulous views down the length of the valley, before finally arriving in tranquil Guane. The route is predominantly downwards and even on a hottish day is very enjoyable. You also have the knowledge that you’re passing along an historic route used for hundreds of years.

El Camino Real in Barichara, Colombia

El Camino Real in Barichara, Colombia

A shrine at the start of El Camino Real, Barichara, Colombia

A shrine at the start of El Camino Real, Barichara, Colombia

El Camino Real between Barichara and Guane, Colombia

El Camino Real between Barichara and Guane, Colombia

El Camino Real between Barichara and Guane, Colombia

El Camino Real between Barichara and Guane, Colombia

El Camino Real between Barichara and Guane, Colombia

El Camino Real between Barichara and Guane, Colombia

Except for a lot of birds and butterflies, the only animals you’re likely to see in this farming country are cows and goats, but the peace and quiet of the route make it all worth while. We passed only three or four other people along the whole route.

El Camino Real between Barichara and Guane, Colombia

El Camino Real between Barichara and Guane, Colombia

El Camino Real between Barichara and Guane, Colombia

El Camino Real between Barichara and Guane, Colombia

El Camino Real between Barichara and Guane, Colombia

El Camino Real between Barichara and Guane, Colombia

Arriving in Guane is like time-travelling back into history. The day we arrived there weren’t any vehicles, a young boy was driving cows down a cobbled street and a few people hung around the main square chatting. That’s pretty much it as far as sights are concerned, but the village is absolutely beautiful – more cobbled streets, whitewashed houses with red tiled roofs and a lovely plaza sporting a colonial-era church.

Guane, Colombia

Guane, Colombia

Guane, Colombia

Guane, Colombia

Guane, Colombia

Guane, Colombia

Guane, Colombia

Guane, Colombia

Guane, Colombia

Guane, Colombia

We sat in the plaza and had a drink while watching nothing-much happen. There is a bus service between Barichara and Guane and we’d arrived with just enough time to rest our weary legs and have a cold beer before hopping on the bus for the short journey back to Barichara – which suddenly seemed cosmopolitan by comparison.

Guane, Colombia

Guane, Colombia

Guane, Colombia

Guane, Colombi

Guane, Colombia

Guane, Colombia

However, just as we were about to get on the bus we noticed a small shop on one corner of the village square. The shop wasn’t open so I couldn’t investigate the validity of their advertising claims, but I thought people might have some insight into them?

Extolling the virtues of goats milk, Guane, Colombia

Extolling the virtues of goats milk, Guane, Colombia

Extolling the virtues of goats milk, Guane, Colombia

Extolling the virtues of goats milk, Guane, Colombia

Whether goat’s milk is the new, natural viagra or not I can’t tell you, plus I’m unlikely to ever find out – I hate goat’s milk.

Stepping back through history, the delights of colonial Barichara

Barichara has a dream-like quality – a fabulously preserved colonial village that feels about a thousand years away from the hustle and bustle of Bogota. A few days spent eating delicious pastries and sipping good coffee on the tranquil plaza, visiting colonial churches and wandering down peaceful cobbled streets is a real pleasure. Spend too much time here and it may be difficult to tell dreams from reality.

The modern world hasn’t passed Barichara by, although its not so intrusive that you’d really notice. It has a number of lovely hotels in old colonial buildings predominately catering to wealthy Colombians, who come here from Bogota for the peace and refreshing climate.

The cathedral in Barichara, Colombia

The cathedral in Barichara, Colombia

Barichara, Colombia

Barichara, Colombia

Barichara, Colombia

Barichara, Colombia

Window in Barichara, Colombia

Window in Barichara, Colombia

It really is like stepping back in time. So well preserved is the village that it has been the film set for numerous Spanish-language films and soap operas, although thankfully there were no telenovela histrionics while we were there. The colonial charm of the village is not the only thing that is special about Barichara; it is located on the top of an escarpment that has magnificent views over the vast valley below, where you can watch eagles and vultures soaring.

Valley or the Rio Suarez, Barichara, Colombia

Valley or the Rio Suarez, Barichara, Colombia

Valley or the Rio Suarez, Barichara, Colombia

Valley or the Rio Suarez, Barichara, Colombia

Tradition is big in Barichara. Life revolves around the beautiful main plaza, which features the splendid Catedral de Inmaculada Concepcion – a church that couldn’t be more Spanish on the outside if it was actually in Spain. Leading off in every direction from the plaza are lovely cobbled streets lined with whitewashed houses with red-tiled roofs.

Barichara, Colombia

Barichara, Colombia

Barichara, Colombia

Barichara, Colombia

Barichara, Colombia

Barichara, Colombia

Wandering the streets is a pleasant way to get to know the geography of the town. Before too long you’ll have managed to find your way to two or three other colonial-era churches and the fascinating and atmospheric cemetery. The view over the village from near the Iglesia de Santa Barbara is spectacular.

View over Barichara, Colombia

View over Barichara, Colombia

View over Barichara, Colombia

View over Barichara, Colombia

Barichara has good restaurants, although most were closed when we were there – the one downside of a small village in the middle of the week in the off season. The village is also the centre of a disturbing culinary tradition, the eating of a local delicacy – large brown ants. We decided we’d try the ants, when in Rome etc, but they are only in season in the Spring so we were spared an ant taste test. Although we did see them on sale along the roadside when we were on the bus.

Capilla de Jesus Resucitado, Barichara, Colombia

Capilla de Jesus Resucitado, Barichara, Colombia

Capilla de Jesus Resucitado, Barichara, Colombia

Capilla de Jesus Resucitado, Barichara, Colombia

Cemetery of the Capilla de Jesus Resucitado, Barichara, Colombia

Cemetery of the Capilla de Jesus Resucitado, Barichara, Colombia

Cemetery of the Capilla de Jesus Resucitado, Barichara, Colombia

Cemetery of the Capilla de Jesus Resucitado, Barichara, Colombia

Cemetery of the Capilla de Jesus Resucitado, Barichara, Colombia

Cemetery of the Capilla de Jesus Resucitado, Barichara, Colombia

At night there is little to do but have an early dinner then sit around in one of the several shops that are on the plaza…which also double as drinking dens…pull up a seat and watch the world not go by in the plaza.

Cathedral at night, Barichara, Colombia

Cathedral at night, Barichara, Colombia

Shop and drinking den, Barichara, Colombia

Shop and drinking den, Barichara, Colombia

Shop, Barichara, Colombia

Shop, Barichara, Colombia

Shop and drinking den, Barichara, Colombia

Shop and drinking den, Barichara, Colombia