Monday, 27 May 2013

Cañon de las Iguanas

This Sunday we went with one of the 16 walking groups in Bucaramanga through the Cañon de las Iguanas (Canyon of the Iguanas!). The walk starts on the road from Girón to Zapatoca just before it drops down into the Canyon of the Sogamoso river. You can see the GPS track here Wikiloc track of Canyon de las Iguanas

Apart from a few small farms near there top, the canyon is empty of people, and it´s pretty hot so we needed lots of water for this 11.5 km walk. The route drops about 500m and in places the path is very narrow with sheer drops which I hate. Other parts have steep descents (or ascents if you want to suffer more by going the other way). Once along the small river, much of the walk is over large boulders so all-in-all pretty hard work!

The vegetation is mostly desert-type plants with many spines and stings to catch the unwary on the overgrown path. There are several types of cactus, a type of nettle Cnidoscolus urens I think (nettles are called pringamosa or ortiga in Colombia) and many bushes with thorns including uña de gato (cat´s claw) with wicked hooks. The small trees do however provide plenty of shade, just beware of touching anything!

Usually, there isn´t a massive flow of water through this canyon as the area is fairly arid but there are many pools, some are big and deep enough to swim and dive in. The clean swimming holes are an excellent way to cool off from the heat of the canyon. The water is just the right temperature and warm winds can dry you off quickly when you get out. Elena even fell in fully clothed, but not too much harm done apart from a grazed knee and a wet camera, which I think we managed to save. Swimming holes are very popular here and people dive in from impressive heights - rather them than me!

I didn´t see any Iguanas on this walk, just one large lizard. Snakes are common here though we didn't see any this time perhaps because we were in a large group. I didn´t see many interesting birds on this walk though no doubt there are a few there. One species in particular is worth looking for here, the endemic Chestnut-bellied Hummingbird (Amazilia castaneiventris) which is classified as endangered and only occurs in a few places in this part of Colombia. With almost no flowering plants or trees in sight, I didn't have much hope of seeing one. I´ve now been to 4 of their known locations and not seen one yet!

The walk ends as the small river from the canyon joins a larger river which itself then into the big, fast-flowing Sogamoso. The last part of the walk is about a mile or so on a dirt road back to the main road not far from the bridge. This area will soon be flooded by the Hidrosogamoso dam project (about 10 miles downstream on the Sogamoso) in the next year, so perhaps this walk will be lost or at least the final part of the route changed. The construction of a very high new bridge to carry the road to Zapatoca is well underway so things are changing. It will soon be very different. At least the canyon of the iguanas itself will remain. I was a great walk, though tough, and one which I could never have had in Britain.


  1. the sheer drops you found during the walk were dangerous?

  2. There are only some parts of the path with big drops, most is scrambling over big rocks.

    I'm afraid of heights so perhaps my opinion of what is a dangerous drop is clouded by that. No doubt a slip on some narrow parts of the "path" could result in a serious fall, and medical attention is a long way away.

    In any case, I've noticed most Colombians are less concerned about such risks than most British are!


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