In Colombia, cycling is more than a sport, it’s a way of life. With Colombian Egan Bernal’s triumphant win at the 2019 Tour de France – not only the youngest winner in 110 years but also the first-ever Latin American to win – alongside Colombian Daniel Martinez’s recent victory at the Criterium du Dauphine, the world is now wondering what Colombia has to offer.
Offering diverse topography and climates, Colombia provides riders with a huge variety of routes, from mountainous climbs at high altitude, to humid rainforest routes and cool coastal circuits. As the perfect sport to practice safe social distancing, cycling is more popular than ever, and with the Tour de France beginning on 29th August 2020, what better time than now, to plan that next cycling vacation to the South American heart of bicycle tourism.
With 38 key training trails in the country that meander through national parks and heritage villages, ProColombia – the government agency responsible for promoting international tourism, foreign direct investment, and exports – shines the spotlight on five of the best.
The Coffee Route
Weaving through Colombia’s Coffee Belt, a region declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2011, this route is ideal for a road or mountain bike and it makes a great three to five-day bicycle tour, offering challenging yet enjoyable trails. What makes this route even more rewarding is the opportunity to revel in the breath-taking landscapes that engulfs the tarmac and ending each day with well-deserved rest on a coffee farm or in therapeutic hot springs.
The Colonial Villages Route
This five-day trip passes through some of the country’s most picturesque surroundings and the best preserved colonial villages in the regions of Boyacá, Cundinamarca and Santander. Follow in the trails of escarabajo Nairo Quintana, who grew up in Boyacá and utilised the surrounding mountains to become one of the best climb cyclists in the world. However, this route offers riders a surprisingly comfortable tour of the Andes and is ideal for cyclists who do not necessarily consider themselves athletes.
Bogotá & Bernal
Those looking for a little less strenuous cycle, visit Bogotá, the country’s municipal and cultural capital, which is overflowing with excellent restaurants and has more kilometres of cycle routes than anywhere else in Latin America. Every Sunday between 7 a.m. and 2 p.m., more than 100km of roads are closed to motor vehicles, allowing cyclists full reign to enjoy the streets of the city.
A one-hour trip from Bogotá is the hometown of 2019 Tour de France winner, Egan Bernal. Boasting impressive architecture, culinary hot-spots and an archaeological museum housing more than 1,400 artefacts belonging to 14 indigenous cultures, Zipaquirá is a must-visit before embarking on neighbouring steep climbs that Egan trained on himself, such as La Calera or Cajicá, Chía, Nemocón and Tunja.
The Heroic Tour
This is a trip reserved for only the most advanced cyclists, it is over 1,000 kilometres long, traversing the breadth of the Colombian Andes’ and passing some of Colombia’s most spectacular landscapes. It also includes the ascent to the mythical Alto de Letras, where some of the best cyclists have trained, and which, due to its altitude, is one of the most challenging routes worldwide.
Colombia’s Caribbean Coast
If one would like a ride at a more casual pace, without the inclines found in the Colombian Andes, then take a cycle along Colombia’s Caribbean coast from Barranquilla to Ciénaga and admire the sea and palms while you pedal. Cyclists can enjoy a cooling coastal breeze while soaking up the warm Caribbean sun, with the opportunity to stop at the beach along the way and take part in sport fishing or scuba diving.
“Cycling is woven into the fabric of life and culture in Colombia,” explains Flavia Santoro, president of ProColombia. “There is a searing passion for the sport and the country continues to produce the best riders in the world, which has led to it challenging football as the top sport in the country.
“Not only does Colombia have the escarabajos, (meaning beetles, which is a nickname for Colombia’s greatest cyclists) and some of the best cycling fans out there, but Colombia also has routes that will truly astonish and challenge visitors. Due to Colombia’s equator location, riders can experience a variety of beautiful landscapes and altitudes in just a four-hour cycle ride; from the cold and endemic paramos, to the lush, high Andean forests and humid, tropical rainforests.
“In Colombia, we have the infrastructure in place to welcome visitors who want to come and train in any form of cycling and I’m delighted to say that our cycling tourism continues to go from strength to strength.”