Start by taking the bus to Choachí from Parque Tercer Milenio in Bogotá. (Confortable seats, costs 9000 pesos, leaves every 15 minutes, takes 1 h 10 minutes.) Enjoy the varying view of high land páramo, mountain sides and valleys along the road.
Arrive in the village of Choachí and start with a Piquete lunch at any piqueteadero restaurant in the village. Sometimes also called Picada, it’s a mix of grilled ribs, longaniza (homemade sausages), homemade morcilla (blood sausage), potato, yuca, plantain… You choose if you’ll have a fresh-made juice with it or the Colombian beer Poker. I’d recommend the latter.
Don’t select your piqueteadero for its coziness, instead follow the crowds to the one with the tastiest homemade sausages and cheapest beer. Quite suitable even for a backpacker budget. For 15.000 pesos you’ll get food for three people and a beer costs 2000 pesos. If you’re a vegetarian, you’ll find a better option at the end of this post!
Take the 10 minutes 1500 pesos bus from the village to Santa Monica thermal baths. Go through the entrance (17.000-25.000 pesos depending on weekday), put on the silly bathing cap that’s being handed to you, and start enjoying.
There are several pools of different temperatures between 25 and 40 degrees, jacuzzis, saunas, Turkish baths and a natural steam sauna where the hotspring below ground warms up a room with panorama window of the baths and mountains. (This one smells of sulphur of course.) Don’t forget to bring your bathing suit, towel, sunscreen, plenty of water to drink and flipflops (no one ever walks barefoot in Colombia).
Important advice: If you’re not confortable about sharing the baths with hundreds of other people, don’t visit the baths during the Colombian public holidays called puentes, (when the Monday following on a religious holiday becomes a public day off) and masses of Colombians take the chance to go to Choachí.
Take the bus back to the village and head for an arepa and something refreshing or a hot chocolate to drink. If you’re not familiar with the arepas, it’s those amazing maize buns typical for Colombia and varying depending on which Colombian region you’re in. The arepas that you eat in Choachí are said to be among the best, since they’re filled with cuajada cheese and eaten fresh from the stove.
Get on the bus to Bogotá and you’re back before it’s dark, ever so relaxed and promising yourself you’ll return soon.