The small town of Guaduas, about two hours from Bogotá, was the birthplace of one of Colombia’s revolutionary heroes, Policarpa Salavarrieta. It’s also one of Colombia’s prestigious Pueblos de Patrimonio, filled with small colonial buildings.
A popular respite, Guaduas is compact and full of small boutique hotels and restaurants catering to weekenders from Bogotá. It has a pleasant main plaza with a whitewashed colonial church and a few palm trees. At the center is a statue of Salavarrieta, or “La Pola”, as she’s affectionately known by Colombians.
On the plaza lies one of the town’s two Casas de la Cultura, where tourists can get maps and information about what to see in town and nearby. When we visited, there was also a small display of artifacts from archaeological digs in the area.
The Casa de Policarpa Salavarrieta was located about a block from the main plaza but was under renovation during our visit. Its contents were moved to the town’s other Casa de la Cultura around the corner.
The other Casa de la Cultura included a free talk by a local guide about the history of the town and the significance of La Pola. Some of her surviving personal effects, such as her bed, were on display in one of the rooms. It was understood that everything would be moved back to the Casa de La Pola once renovation is complete. Inside the entrance, there is a huge mural of important figures in Colombian history.
Among other sites to visit are the Patio del Moro, which played a small roll in Colombian independence and now houses a small local craft workshop, and the Convento de la Soledad, built in 1610. Both are located about a block from the main plaza in different directions.
An interesting colonial building a few blocks from the main plaza is the Casa Real. Built in the 18th century, it was said that La Pola and her Spanish lover Alejo would often meet there. Its courtyard now serves as a café, Pola y Alejo Café-Bar.
For lunch, we ate at Al Carbón del Virrey. The set menu was COP$10,000 per person and included a choice of soup and either fish, chicken, or beef. The tomato soup was excellent as was the meat dish. We enjoyed sitting in the beautiful courtyard.
Guaduas turned out to be a nice day trip and is recommended for an overnight stay. We found the town to be nice and relaxing with friendly people and a good climate. For those with more time, there are a few interesting natural sites nearby. The people at the Casa de la Cultura on the plaza can direct you to them.
To get to Guaduas, there are several buses passing through the town between Medellín/Manizales and Bogotá. From Honda, shared taxis leave from the bus station and take less than an hour. Getting out of Guaduas going west towards Medellín and Manizales can be tricky (we waited over an hour for a bus with seats to stop for us), but bus companies will sell tickets to Bogotá.