Mystical Laguna Guatavita

About two hours north of Bogotá lies the mystical, perfectly circular laguna Guatavita. As I mentioned in my last post, the name Guatavita describes three different places in the area: the old town, covered by the waters of the reservoir Tomine, the new town built on the slopes above the reservoir, and about half an hour up the mountains, at more than 3.000 meters of altitude, the laguna.

There are dozens of legends and myths concerning the laguna’s history and origin. Since the lake is circular, the first thought is  a volcano crater.  This part of the Andes is not volcanic, however, the rock sandy. So there are several other theories: the most likely is that it is an ancient saline washed out over the centuries by the rain. Or a meteorite impact. Or a UFO landing pad.

In addition, the lake is the origin of the El Dorado legend. The Muisca, the indegenious people who lived in the area, were said to have sunk tons of golden artefacts in the lake as sacrifices. As the Spaniards got wind of this, they tried to drain the water from the lake. Not so easy. With use of many indigenous slaves they managed to finally beat a notch in the ridge. It is said that they found more than ten tons of gold. Much of it can still be seen at the Museo de Oro in Bogota. Sixty years ago an English team tried its golden luck at the lake and blew a tunnel into the mountain to drain the water. Many people died, and they found only a few pieces of gold in the meter-thick mud at the bottom of the lake. Fortunately the mud closed the tunnel off again and the lake filled with water.

Today, the lake and the area surrounding it is a beautiful nature reserve, with a stunning view over the surrounding valleys. Go there if you’re ever in the area! Just don’t believe any of the stories!


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