When walking through the picturesque streets of this town, it’s easy to forget what country you’re in. The beautiful buildings within this relatively new settlement bear little resemblance to those of their drowned predecessor.
The entire town looks like a small slice of Spain that was carted across the ocean and plunked in Colombia. White houses topped with reddish clay tiles featuring arched entrances line the streets. The town even has its own traditional-style bullfighting ring. The homogeneous architecture is a bizarre, yet aesthetically pleasing, surprise within a country rich with vibrant styles of design.
Guatavita “La Nueva” (the new one) was built in 1967 in the Spanish colonial style after its predecessor was intentionally flooded by a new reservoir. On a dry day, when the water level recedes, locals claim you can see the old bell tower poking above the surface. The local museum tells the story of the displacement and relocation of the people who once called the old Guatavita home.
Even before it was flooded, area around Guatavita has had strong ties to water. A strangely circular lake, once a sacred spot for the native Muisca people, lies within the landscape. There, new rulers covered themselves in gold dust and floated out to the center of the lake as part of a ritual. The leader would then drop precious gold treasures into the lake as an offering to the gods. It’s believed the lake was the inspiration behind the famous El Dorado legend, which over the years morphed from being about a golden king to being about an entire empire of gold.
Know Before You Go
The GPS coordinates and address lead to the local museum. Go to the north bus terminal in Bogota and use public transportation to get to the town. No need to book a tour.