Little Switzerland in Colombia

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March 17th 2021
Published: March 17th 2021
Edit Blog Post 14th March - La Choca in Pasto, Nariño: The Second Largest Lagoon in Colombia

in Nariño department, a place located in Southern Colombia, in between the Andes and the Amazon.

In southern Colombia, 250 miles north of the equator, high in the Andes at an altitude of 7,000 feet above sea level is the town of Pasto .

Just 12 miles outside of town is Lake Cocha or Laguna de la Cocha. It is one of Colombia’s largest and most beautiful lakes. It is also one of the Andean water reserves and a birthplace of the Amazon river.

The lake receives its water from several streams and rivers coming from glaciers located higher up. The water from the lake does not flow to the nearby Pacific Ocean, but travels through the Guamez and Putamayo rivers into the Amazon. La Cocha has been declared a Wetland of International Importance.

The village we visited is popular with Colombian tourists who come to enjoy the enchanting wooden chalets, narrow canals, rickety bridges and brightly painted boats. The village, El Puerto, sits on wetlands at the mouth of the river Rio
Encano in the Andean rainforest.

The village has been called Colombia’s Venice, due to the canals in town and also ‘ Little Switzerland‘ due to the affluence of Swiss styles chalets in El Puerto.

The painted wooden chalets have a unique history. According to the locals, 80 years ago the houses didn’t look like they do now. Then in the 1940s a Swiss expat by the name of Walter Sulzer arrived in town.

He was a Swiss was a cook who arrived in Colombia escaping the Second World War. Hired by a local hotel to build some cabins, he used local materials to construct typical Swiss guesthouses. It was a style that was later copied by everyone in town earning it the nickname, “Little Switzerland”.

One of the bridges we walked across was made out of bamboo, as we crossed a local boat man ‘Lanchero’ wanted to say hello.

Sadly at the moment there are no tourists for the boatmen to take to the island and other locations around the lake. Marcela our guide tried to negotiate for a free boat ride but the Lanchero wasn’t so obliging today.

We reached the lake which is full of rainbow trout, a great source for all the many local restaurant to add to the menus.

This was a beautiful little village which has a Paramos Eco system along the canals ensuring that the waters run freely.

A real treat to see this colourful and pretty location.

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