El Salto del Tequendama Falls: Bogotá’s Hidden Gem

Are you looking for a cheap and easy day trip from Bogotá? Then El Salto del Tequendama waterfall has to be a strong contender.

These simply stunning falls are around 90 minutes from the city centre. And can easily and safely be reached by public transport.

The name Tequendama means ‘he who precipitated downwards’ in Chibcha – the language of the native Muisca people. And, it couldn’t be more fitting to describe this 400-foot waterfall that thunderously crashes over the cliff edge.

Despite its natural beauty and good transport links, the Tequendama Falls are not well-known by visitors to the city. And, finding up-to-date information can be difficult.

This complete guide has been curated to answer all your questions. That way, you’ll have a fun, easy and stress-free day out to the waterfalls and the nearby abandoned hotel…

The Salto del Tequendama falls on a clearer day, the different cascade levels are visible between the clouds
Photo by Haceme un 14 on Flickr, used under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

About the Tequendama Falls

Located just outside Colombia’s capital city of Bogotá, these waterfalls are some of the country’s most spectacular. What’s more, they’re easy to reach by public or private transport and can be seen directly from the roadside. No hiking is required!

With an impressive height of over 400 feet (132 metres to be exact), you might be surprised to learn that the waterfalls are seldom visited by tourists in Bogotá. In fact, many holidaymakers, backpackers and travellers won’t have even heard of Salto del Tequendama even after spending time in the city.

But, as a result, the viewing areas of the waterfalls are rarely busy. An exception is weekends with great (clear) weather.

So, you’ll have the chance of unspoiled views of this stunning waterfall surrounded by lush green nature. All without having to queue for photos, pay an entrance fee or feel rushed in your experience.

However, it isn’t possible to view Cascada Tequendama from its base inside the almost-vertical walls of the small canyon. And neither is it possible to swim in the plunge pool – although not that you’d want to…

The Bogotá River, on which the Tequendama Falls are located, is one of the most polluted in the world. Sewage and rubbish continue to contaminate the river despite attempts to improve water quality.

Because of this, the waterfalls are known to smell rather unpleasant.

I visited in 2022 and didn’t notice any smell at the waterfalls themselves from the viewpoints.

But, it was very noticeable slightly upstream where the road passes close to the river. Here, there is also clear foaming and pollution in the water, which is always sad to see.

The Bogota river - heavily poluted and foamy in places

What is the abandoned hotel next to the waterfall?

Also overlooking Tequendama Colombia is the striking five-storey Hotel del Salto. Perhaps most famous for being an abandoned hotel, the building was originally designed to be a train station.

The building of the train station – with a hotel – took place between 1923 and 1927 and that usage continued until the 1950s, connecting the waterfall with Bogotá.

The once-booming success of the railroads in Colombia was reduced to financial losses and poor returns on the large investment needed to construct them. By 1950, the railways ceased operation having failed to connect this vast country with any financial value.

From then, the building became known as Hotel del Salto – a restaurant and hotel for the wealthy Bogotanos. Sadly, from the 1980s until the early 2010s the building sat completely abandoned.

Tequendama Falls Museum

While looks can be deceiving, today, the building is no longer abandoned thanks to restoration work over the last 10 years. Now, the building is home to the Tequendama House Museum, which has exhibitions and a coffee shop.

On a misty day, you might be forgiven for still thinking this is an abandoned, haunted, old hotel. Especially since the museum is only open on Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays (9.00 am to 4.00 pm).

Entrance to the Hotel del Salto to learn about its history costs 12,000 COP, with children under 8 entering free. This price includes a self-guided audio tour that’s easy to follow by scanning QR codes throughout the museum.

Guided tours lasting 45 to 60 minutes are available and these start every 20 minutes, with the last tickets sold at 3.30pm. However, the tour is only available in Spanish.

No photographs are allowed to be taken inside the Tequendama Falls Museum.

The Hotel del Salto on a foggy day in Bogota

Best Time to Visit Tequendama Falls

Perhaps one of the reasons that few people make the day trip from Bogotá to the falls, is the ever-unpredictable weather in and around the city.

At 2600 metres of elevation and the world’s fifth-highest city, Bogotá’s weather changes quickly. It can go from blue skies and sunshine to torrential downpours and sad, overcast days at the drop of a hat.

And, with its location inside a steep canyon, El Salto del Tequendama Falls really are susceptible to thick clouds being carried up the valley. As a result, sometimes, you’ll travel all the way there just to have no view.

Trust me, I speak from experience! Luckily, I did get a few breaks in the clouds to see the waterfalls and snap a few quick pictures (see below). But, overall, it was a wet whiteout.

Although it can be hard to predict what the weather is going to be like at Tequendama Colombia. The best time to visit is on a relatively clear day. Low clouds and rain in the city are good indicators that Cascada Tequendama might not be visible today.

Technically, Bogotá’s driest months are December, January and February. However, these still all have at least 10 rainy days on average. Meaning around 1 in 3 days will see rain.

Additionally, mornings generally have better weather in Bogotá. Try to visit early in the day for the best chance of seeing the waterfall!

The Salto del Tequendama waterfalls on a foggy day, cloud is covering the top part of the falls
The base of the El Salto del Tequendama Falls, with most of the water obscured by fog

Where are the Salto del Tequendama Waterfalls?

The falls are around a 30 km drive southwest of Bogotá – located in the Soacha province in the Cundinamarca department.

The nearest towns are El Charquito, San Antonio del Tequendama and Pradilla. View the location on Google Maps here.

How do I get to Tequendama Falls from Bogotá?

Getting to the waterfalls from Bogotá by public transport is pretty straightforward. The quickest route is via the Transmilenio bus to San Mateo and then a local bus towards Soacha. Or from the north of the city, you can take the local bus direct from Terminal Salitre.

The journey is safe and comfortable as it’s mostly city roads rather than windy mountain roads.

The slower but simple option is to take the bus from Terminal Salitre all the way to the falls. This is the most direct option, but getting to the terminal from the areas where tourists typically stay is less easy. And it can take a long time, particularly with rush-hour traffic.

The second option is to travel from La Candelaria and surrounding areas using the Transmilenio network and then change for the bus to the waterfalls. Both are explained below…

From Terminal Salitre

If you’re staying near the airport, around the botanical gardens or in El Chapinero, then travelling via Terminal Salitre will probably be the most convenient and time-efficient.

  • Take a taxi to the terminal. I recommend using Cabify for the fastest pick-up and good pricing. Avoid flagging yellow taxis as you’ll have to pay the meter price, which can go up quickly in traffic.
  • At Terminal Salitre, head to Module 1 (colour-coded yellow) and buy your ticket to El Salto del Tequendama from the desks of either Cootranstequendama or Flota La Magdalena.
  • Once you’re on the bus, let the driver know you want to go to El Salto so they can drop you off at the right place. Although, it’s always a good idea to follow along with GPS on your phone. Then, you can always ask for ‘aqui’ (meaning here, pronounced ah-key) when you’re in the right place.

Expect there to be slow-moving traffic between the terminal and the city limits. As a result, the journey time is likely to be between 60 and 90 minutes but could be more.

The buses run every 15 to 30 minutes before 9.30 am. After this time, you could be waiting up to 90 minutes for a bus, so make an early start.

From La Candelaria

As Bogotá’s most popular tourist district, this is where most people will travel from. This route requires you to take the Transmilenio network – think buses that look like trams – and then the bus to the waterfalls.

  • Use the Transmilenio to get to San Mateo Station. The best station to start from around La Candelaria is Las Nieves (rather than Museo del Oro), because of the way the lines run. The journey time is around 1 hour.
  • Alight at San Mateo Station and walk over the pedestrian footbridge towards the large Gran Plaza Soacha shopping centre and then down to road level.
  • Cross the first part of the highway to a small grassy central reservation. Here, you’ll need to flag down a blue Tequendama bus that has ‘Mesitas’ on the front. Don’t worry, you won’t be the only person waiting here.
  • On the bus, ask the driver for ‘El Salto’. The fare is fixed at 8000 COP and is displayed inside along with all the other destinations. A ticket officer may board and you can pay them the fare, or pay the driver before you get off. To be doubly safe, follow the GPS on your phone to make sure you’re dropped off right by the waterfalls. The journey typically takes around 30 minutes.

Using the Transmilenio Network

To ride the Transmilenio, you’ll need a card that you preload your fare onto. The card costs 7000 COP and can be bought from any station on the network.

The good thing is that you don’t need a card per person. If you’re travelling as a couple or group, just buy one and then load enough money for each person to travel. As you pass through the barriers, pass the card back for the next person to use.

A one-way fare on the Transmilenio network is 2950 COP for any distance assuming you don’t exit through barriers along your way.

Additionally, use the Transmilenio app to work out the best route to get to you to San Mateo Station from where you are staying. However, the way the lines work, I found that the most convenient station to start from was Las Nieves, which is just a few minutes walk from the Gold Museum.

The bus stop location opposite the shelter at the Tequendama Falls

Returning to Bogotá from the Waterfalls

Getting back to Bogotá is even simpler as you can take any passing bus because they’re all going to the city.

Buses heading to the city will be coming from your right-hand side as you look at the road from the waterfall viewing platforms. Simply flag the first passing bus and get on.

The bus stop is the ‘P’ sign opposite the roadside shelters pictured above.

Although, it’s fine to flag from the other side of the road as you’ll have a better line of sight of the approaching buses.

Once you’re on the bus, you can either get off at San Mateo and change to the Transmilenio or travel all the way to Terminal Salitre for onward connections.

Roadside shelter next to the Tequendama Falls

Facilities at the Waterfalls

  • Parking: Freely available along the roadside next to the waterfalls
  • Toilets: Only available inside the Hotel del Salto (if open)
  • Food & drink: Available for purchase from the various vendors located along the roadside. The food is typically grilled or boiled on the open-fire pits and includes items such as arepas, empanadas, meats and corn on the cob. Beers and soft drinks are also sold.
A variety of snacks available from the food stalls, pictured include arepas, empanadas, corn on the cob and sausages. Colourful soft drinks line the top shelf

Are the Waterfalls of Tequendama Worth Visiting?

At the quickest, a day out to the Tequendama Waterfalls will take 3 hours for the round trip.

If you’re visiting the museum, you can add on another 60 to 90 minutes – including time admiring the waterfall. If not, you’ll likely spend no more than 30 minutes at the waterfalls – less if it’s foggy.

So, it’s definitely a journey-heavy outing. But, the buses are simple to use so the journey isn’t stressful.

For me, even though I barely got to see the waterfalls through the cloud, I still enjoyed the day out.

By going early, I was back in Bogotá by early afternoon. So I still had plenty of time to do other things that day.

Whether it’s worth visiting based on journey time and costs (these are low), will vary from person to person. If you’re a city lover, then you’ll probably find activities more suited to you in Bogotá.

But, if you want a no-exercise-required trip out to a stunning waterfall, then I’d definitely recommend visiting El Salto del Tequendama Bogotá (on a sunny day)!

If you’re undecided, you could also consider a trip to Cascada La Chorrera, another impressive waterfall just outside of Bogotá. At an astounding 590 metres tall, this waterfall is Colombia’s tallest.

If you have any questions or want any more information drop a comment below and I’ll get back to you!

Prices and offerings mentioned are correct as of April 2023 but are subject to change in future.

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Visit Bogota's most mysterious waterfall, Salto del Tequendama

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