Norte de Santander 5 Escapes for a Weekend Adventure
Immerse yourself in five captivating scenarios where you can capture stunning photographs, relax, and learn some history while trying intriguing culinary delights. Don't hesitate any longer—embark on an unforgettable journey to Norte de Santander and prepare to be amazed.

Norte de Santander: 5 Escapes for a Weekend Adventure

Norte de Santander stands as a historical, natural, and tranquil gem that invites visitors to immerse themselves in a distinctive experience. Nestled in the northwestern region of Colombia, this department presents a rich variety of attractions. Within this article, you’ll uncover five towns perfect for a weekend getaway, each promising its own charm.

La Playa de Belén: a big scale Catholic Nativity Manger

It has been declared as the most beautiful pueblo in Norte de Santander. Here, you will be able to see the conservancy of the colonial era, with well-preserved architecture, cobblestone roads, and clay roofs. Similar to Villa de Leyva, La Playa de Belén is one of the seventeen Colombian heritage towns, recognizing these locations as national cultural assets.

La Playa de Belen a big scale Catholic Nativity Manger
La Playa de Belen a big scale Catholic Nativity Manger

However, the main attraction in La Playa de Belén is Los Estoraques, a natural region where you can stroll amidst giant petrified figures formed by sand, water, and wind. These sand sculptures are the result of millennia of mountain erosion, creating a desert-like landscape where you’ll find figures open to interpretation. Additionally, other sites offer caves with evocative names like “Skeletons,” “Lovers,” and “Lost City,” inspired by local legends.

For an exciting delicacy, be sure to inquire at the local grocery stores for manioc ice cream—a unique way to savor this tuber and add a tasty treat to your visit.

Cácota de Velasco, A Tranquil Mountain Haven

One of the most picturesque towns in the southwest, Cácota offers a highly appealing destination where one can escape the hustle and bustle of noisy cars and city crowds. Renowned for its tranquil ambiance, this town captivates many with its mountain landscapes and colonial architecture, perched 2,400 meters above sea level.

Cácota Lagoon captivates with its mountain landscapes
Cácota Lagoon captivates with its mountain landscapes

Two principal attractions beckon visitors: Firstly, the main park boasts ceramic figures representing the region’s natural clay richness, showcasing the craftsmanship of local artists who skillfully shape the material into vessels, churches, houses, coffee cups, and various animals. This park serves as a charming blend of tourists and locals, interacting amidst figures depicting country folk life. Adjacent to the park stands the Nuestra Señora de los Dolores church, a Catholic pilgrimage site.

Cácota de Velasco - Ceramic figures representing the region's natural clay richness
Cácota de Velasco - Ceramic figures representing the region's natural clay richness

Venturing into Cácota’s rural areas, visitors encounter the Cacique´s Lagoon, a natural gem ensconced amidst mountains and characterized by its chilly temperatures averaging 10°C. The majestic lake is a muse for painters, writers, and environmentalists alike. Exploring the surroundings, one can enjoy leisurely walks around the lagoon, partake in picnics, and even camp near the water’s edge. The site’s photogenic allure is enhanced by its diverse birdlife, native species, and stunning landscapes.

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Pamplona: the Mithrada City

Named after the installation of the Archdiocese of New Pamplona, this city boasts a wealth of historic, cultural, and religious attractions. With its colonial architecture and bustling main square where locals gather, Pamplona offers a glimpse into the traditions of Norte de Santander. The Santa Clara Cathedral, with its impressive structure, serves as a picturesque destination for photographers and tourists alike. During Holy Week, the city comes alive with traditional activities such as parades and pilgrimages.

Pamplona offers a glimpse into the traditions of Norte de Santander
Pamplona offers a glimpse into the traditions of Norte de Santander

Additionally, in Pamplona, you can savor its excellent climate, ranging from 10-15°C, and indulge in its renowned cuisine, including the beloved “pan de agua” bread, Genovas (popular small sausages in a circular shape), and a comforting cup of hot chocolate served with almojabanas. Some Colombians have the tradition of adding a few cheese cubes to their chocolate, enjoying the melted cheese after finishing the drink.

Pamplona is the birthplace of Eduardo Ramírez Villamizar (1922-2004), an important Colombian painter and sculptor. His legacy resonates through generations, and the Modern Art Museum showcases the significance of his contributions, being recognized in Norte de Santander as an essential venue for sharing the region’s rich cultural heritage.

Pamplona is recognized in Norte de Santander because its architecture
Pamplona is recognized in Norte de Santander because its architecture

Chinácota: a fantastic place to be relaxed

Escape the urban hustle and bustle with a weekend retreat to Chinácota, a favorite destination among locals seeking respite from city life. With its temperate climate, diverse dining options, and breathtaking landscapes, Chinácota promises a rejuvenating escape. Sample culinary delights at acclaimed eateries like Sabor a Mí, Hacienda Santa Helena, Quinta K, and Entre Flores, or indulge in traditional desserts such as arequipes (caramel candies) and obleas (wafer cookies) in the central park.

Ocaña: Where History Comes Alive

One of the most important cities in Norte de Santander is Ocaña. It is recognized for its historical significance because it was the epicenter of the Ocaña Convention, an assembly that aimed to reform the 1821 Constitution. Simón Bolívar stayed there many times. An excellent option to stay a weekend is the Hotel El Príncipe.

One of the most important cities in Norte de Santander is Ocaña
One of the most important cities in Norte de Santander is Ocaña

Ocaña is home to the Agua de la Virgen sanctuary, its most traditional place to visit. This sacred place holds pilgrimage significance, and almost everyone goes there to connect with the Torcoroma Virgin.

Ocaña is home to the Agua de la Virgen sanctuary
Ocaña is home to the Agua de la Virgen sanctuary

However, the best experience in Ocaña is to try the most popular food: Ocaña-style arepas. Very popular throughout Norte de Santander, they are made with corn, and tradition says you can top them with shredded cheese, avocado, fried eggs or serve them plain in a soup.

You have to TASTE

Arepas Ocañeras (Corn Arepa)

It has become a desired dish by visitors, who can not help but eat their arepita when passing through the region. Its preparation arouses particular interest among scholars of the history of the typical foods of El Catatumbo. It comes from the Hispanic and indigenous heritage and has been maintained until today.

Mute Santandereano

"Mute" means "corn" in Quechua. It originated from a chickpea stew called adafina, popular among Spanish and Portuguese Jews until the 15th century. The dish was modified to avoid persecution by the Inquisition and "Christianize" it. Our ancestors brought the dish to America, where it evolved into what we know today.

Getting There: Navigate Your Weekend Adventure

Cúcuta serves as the gateway to Norte de Santander, with the Camilo Daza International Airport welcoming visitors from Bogotá, Medellín, Bucaramanga, and Venezuela (because the city is located on the border with the Bolivarian country). Flights to Cúcuta are very common, and the airstrips receive popular airlines such as Avianca, Latam, Copa Airlines, Clic Air, and Jetsmart.

From Cúcuta, embark on your journey to these enchanting destinations:

Cúcuta – Ocaña – La Playa de Belén

This route offers breathtaking views but is the longest option, taking approximately five hours to reach your destination. Head out on the road to the Caribbean Route, and as you approach Ábrego town (about 40 minutes before reaching Ocaña), veer towards La Playa de Belén on the way to Hacarí town.

Cúcuta — Pamplona — Cácota

This scenic drive takes around three hours. Start by taking the road to Bucaramanga, reaching Pamplona first. From there, exit the city and continue on the Arauca highway, turning right at the Lejía sector. Follow the road until you reach Cácota, just an hour away from Pamplona.

Cúcuta — Chinácota

This is the closest option, only an hour away from the capital of the Norte de Santander department. Take the same road to Pamplona, but turn left at the Wye sector at La Donjuana (Bochalema) to head towards Chinácota.

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The Bottom Line: Norte de Santander, Five Escapes for a Weekend Adventure

Norte de Santander is a dynamic territory nestled in the northwest of Colombia, bordering Venezuela. With its rich cultural, natural, and historical treasures, the department offers numerous experiences waiting to be explored. Cácota, La Playa de Belén, Pamplona, Chinácota, and Ocaña are just a few of the destinations where you can enjoy a perfect weekend getaway.

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