Tunja is the capital of Colombia's Boyaca department, north of Bogota. It was founded in 1539 by Gonzalo Suarez Rendon on the site of the Muisca settlement Hunza. Tunja is just three hours north of Bogota, connected by a very good highway. To the north, travelers typically continue on to Santander's San Gil (4 hours) or capital Bucaramanga (6 hours). Tunja, at an elevation of 2820m, is perhaps the coldest city in Colombia, but it's well worth a visit, especially if you enjoy history and colonial architecture.


Tunja is relatively small, at 180,000, and a fifth of the population is college students. It's laid out on a grid similar to Bogota and New York, where calles (streets) run east to west, and carreras (avenues) run north to south.

Just forty-five minutes away, as well, is Boyaca's tourism mecca, Villa de Leyva, as well as Raquira and Chiquinquira a bit further to the west.

Make your first stop here the Casa de Fundador Suarez Rendon, where you'll learn much about the city's history, and have a chance to see the spectacular paintings on the ceiling. Further north you'll find Parque Santander and Parque Pinchon, as well as the sprawling brick church Las Nieves (the snows).

On the city's northern end you'll find the cemetary, with its famous pronouncement "Aqui Terminan Todas las Vanidades del Mundo" (Here End All the Vanities of the World). Right across the street is the humorously named Ultima Lagrima (Last Tear) bar, where you can stop in and meet some interesting local characters who rarely have the chance to see a gringo. Be forewarned, though, that boyacenses (people from Boyaca) typically drink beer a clima (at room temperature), so ask if you would like your beer served cold.


The Plaza Bolivar in Tunja is quite impressive, and the city in general has done an excellent job of maintaing the city's traditional architecture. Tunja is also quite cheap compared to Bogota, Medellin, and Cartagena.


Just 14km south of the city you'll find the monument to the Battle of the Bridge of Boyaca (El Puente de Boyaca). It's well worth a stop if you're traveling in between Bogota and Tunja. It was here that Simon Bolivar and Francisco de Paula Santander routed the Spanish forces on August 7, 1819. On this date, every four years, the President of Colombia is proclaimed in the Casa de Narino in Bogota.

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