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Tunja, Colombia - City of Colonial Churches & Food Culture

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Map location: Tunja, Colombia
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Colombia travel blog by Mark Berman - May 2018 September 2020   » View Photoset (37 Photos)

Mark Berman, South America backpacker for over 12yrs!
I headed north from Bogota (3hrs 30mins by bus) to get to Tunja on my way to Villa de Leyva. I wanted to have a good look around the city and not just pass through. Tunja has a nice array of colonial buildings highlighted by a number of churches. You'll no doubt discover that Tunja also has some interesting street food, some good restaurants and street corners selling fresh fruit and creamy sponge cake. Bring your woolen hat because it's a little cold here at night!

Plaza Bolivar & Around

Tunja is centered around the very large Plaza Bolivar where many important and beautiful historic buildings are located! A distinctive plaza with white facades, red-tiled roofs, wooden balconies and many streetlamps. The stone cathedral - Cathedral Basilica of St. James the Apostle stands proudly on one side beside museum - Museo la Casa del Fundador Gonzalo Suarez Rendon. On another side are the government buildings and the tower - Palacio de la Torre. Around Plaza Bolivar are shops, cafes, shoeshiners and pigeons. In the block around the plaza are other significant buildings including college - Colegio de Boyaca and university - Universidad Santo Tomas. Half a block from Plaza Bolivar you'll find museum - Museo Casa Del Escribano Real Juan de Vargas, a colonial museum located inside a mansion with gardens.

Many Colonial Churches

Churches from the colonial period are dotted all around Tunja. Apart from the cathedral I saw Parroquia de San Francisco, Parroquia Nuestra Senora de las Nieves, San Agustin Cloister, Iglesia de la Compania San Ignacio, Temple San Laureano and Iglesia de Santa Barbara. There is something like 15 churches in Tunja. Luckily it was a Sunday while I was here so most of the churches were open. Sunday also brings people by the dozen to the cemetery where afterwards the locals enjoy drinking large amounts of beer out in the streets!

City Parks

4 blocks from Plaza Bolivar are 2 public parks - Republica Forest (Bosque de la Republica) and Independencia Park. Republica Forest has some Pre-Columbian stone figures, some large trees, flowers and walking paths. Independencia Park has some gardens and the small church - Temple San Laureano. About 3 blocks from Plaza Bolivar in the other direction is Pinzon Park where you'll find church - San Agustin Cloister (Claustro de San Agustin) built in 1578.

Food in Tunja

I found Tunja to be a better place for food than many other of the smaller cities in Colombia with more variety and more creative spirit! From the lady selling breakfast sausages, the man selling cheese and fruit squares to passing cars, the man making gooey caramel cups, fresh good quality fruit, creamy sponge cakes, cheese nachos and fresh lemonade from a restaurant and the man selling specialty foods from the back of his car. There are some good health shops in Tunja also, some specializing in Guanabana or Soursop, an exotic fruit with claims made that it cures many types of cancer and other illnesses. The Boyaca region in Colombia is onto something with food that many other places in Colombia haven't caught onto yet. I didn't see fried chicken left, right and center - that's nice!

Bus to Villa de Leyva

From Tunja I travelled the short distance of 38kms westward to Villa de Leyva by local bus (1hr 15mins), road travel can be slow in Colombia sometimes.


View all photos in the Tunja Photoset

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My Hostel & Hotel Reviews for Tunja, Colombia:

Hotel Suite Imperial, Tunja, Colombia - Large Photo
Hotel Suite Imperial, Tunja, Colombia (September 2020 - 1 night) - Hotel Suite Imperial in Tunja is located a block or so down from the main plaza and has nice rooms with private bathroom and comfortable beds. At around $23USD for 2 people it is good value. Cheaper rooms are available if you choose not to have a room with a balcony. However, if you have a balcony you can see the back of the cathedral with lights at night. The hotel is very secure as they take your details and life story when you check in. The doors are always locked for security too. TV, wifi etc. The staff are friendly and helpful. Recommended.
Hotel La Casona, Tunja, Colombia - Large Photo
Hotel La Casona, Tunja, Colombia (May 2018 - 2 nights) - Although the lady owner was nice and made me peach tea each day and in theory the place was ok. In reality the bed was really bad, the place had too much light coming into the room and the cleaning lady talked so loud in the morning that it wasn't particularly great. The bedroom had a private bathroom and cost $40000 pesos. Located in the center of the city.

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Tunja, Colombia - City of Colonial Churches & Food Culture. Stop in Tunja on your way to Villa de Leyva to see a city with many historic churches from the colonial era and to try some of the interesting street food!