Laguna Verde Volcán Azufral is a breathtaking (quite literally, at times!) hike situated in the southwestern corner of Colombia, near the Ecuadorian border. The hike includes spectacular views of the surrounding landscape, a lookout of the green lagoon (laguna verde) from above, and a chance to walk down to the lagoon and over to the Azufral volcano. This hike is unlike any other hike I’ve done in the United States and Colombia, so it’s well worth a day trip from Pasto or Ipiales.
We started our day by catching an early bus from the Pasto bus terminal to Túquerres, a small town located two hours away from Pasto. The bus ride through the lush, green mountains towards Túquerres is stunning. The actual town of Túquerres is not very touristy itself, but the main draw for tourists to stop in the town is for the hike to the lagoon/volcano.
Getting to the entrance of the hike is easy, as there are lots of guys waiting to greet you as you step off the bus from Pasto, offering their services to drive you to the hike entrance and pick you up once you’re done. It’s very informal, so don’t feel worried if you agree on a price with a guy and he leads you to his regular, everyday car on the other side of the block. All of the drivers we saw going to and from the hike entrance with tourists were just townspeople in their own cars. That being said, the price is negotiable. In fact, if you know even a little bit of Spanish, try to lower the price. You are a tourist, after all…and they will take advantage of that. Our driver offered us $50,000 pesos roundtrip for us three girls, which works out to about $17,000/person ($6 USD/person). After negotiating a bit, we got the price down to $40,000 pesos total ($13,000 pesos or $4.50 USD/person). It may not seem like a big difference, but if you’re backpacking or traveling for an extended amount of time, you’ll realize just how easy it is to negotiate and save a bit of money each day. And if you’ve been in Colombia a while, you’ll also know that a difference of $4,000 pesos can go a long way (i.e. – you can get breakfast at a local restaurant/cafe for that price)!
The ride from Túquerres to the entrance of the park was only about 15 or 20 minutes, but it was uphill on a rocky dirt road. It was pretty chilly when we got to the entrance, so we decided to go into the little store and ask if they had hot drinks. The woman there served us aguadepanela and bread for a small price–the perfect way to start out a chilly morning hike!
We started the hike around 9:45am and reached the peak of the hike about 1.5 hours later. From the start of the hike to the peak, you can see gorgeous views to your left and right of the surrounding mountains and towns. This part of the hike was fairly easy. The trail was uphill, but the incline wasn’t too steep and the trail itself was pretty wide and void of rocks.
The top of the peak has a stunning view of the green lagoon. At this point, the altitude might catch up with you, so make sure to pay attention to your breath and drink lots of water! I’ve done quite a few hikes at high altitudes in Colombia without feeling sick or getting a headache from the altitude, but I did get a headache once I reached the top. Nonetheless, the views were so beautiful that it took my mind away from the altitude headache I had. 😉
Once we were at the top, we decided to walk down the steep decline to the green lagoon. This was perhaps the most challenging part of the hike. Luckily it didn’t rain too much while we were hiking, but the trail was narrower and also a bit muddy, making for a slippery decline.
Nonetheless, this part of the hike only takes about 25 minutes, and then you’ll be rewarded with rotten egg-smelling sulfuric lagoon water and chalky yellow/white rock below your feet… 🙂
But in all seriousness, I was absolutely enthralled by the views and yes, even the smells. I’ve never been to a sulfuric lake and I’ve never seen a volcano in my life before, so I was amazed by my surroundings as we relaxed at the base of the lake and ate our fruit, vegetables and crackers. Some families were swimming in the lake, but we decided not to (we got colder as we sat). However, the sun came out just at the right time and we were able to enjoy our afternoon picnic lunch on the rocks by the lagoon.
After our lunch we decided to walk to the volcano. The volcano is at the side of the lake, so it’s easy to access and only takes about 20 minutes or so to hike up it, explore it a bit, and then walk back down. It wasn’t the most impressive volcano in the world, but it was pretty cool to walk on a volcano and get another view of the lake from the top.
Unfortunately, this hike isn’t a loop, so you walk back to the entrance of the hike on the same path you started on. The walk back down from the top of the peak to the park entrance only took us about 1 hour. It started to sprinkle a little, so I recommend coming prepared with a raincoat or an umbrella.
Once back at the park entrance, we waited for our driver (with whom we agreed upon a pick-up time once we got to the park). Our driver came after 20 minutes and drove us back to town, where we then treated ourselves to some hot chocolate and bread at a bakery by the bus terminal.
Total distance hiked: 12km
Total time (hiking, taking pictures, relaxing): Almost 5 hours
Total cost from Pasto to hike and back (bus-car-bus): $35,000 pesos / $12 USD per person
Total day trip time: About 10-12 hours (We left Pasto around 7:00am and got back to Pasto around dinner time)
How to arrive:
1. From Pasto, go to the bus terminal and take a bus to Túquerres (2 hours, $10,000 pesos/person).
2. Once you get to Túquerres, you will find people offering to drive you to the hike entrance. Make sure to negotiate and confirm a price before getting in their car. Also confirm whether or not they are offering to pick you up after the hike, and make sure to agree on a time for pick-up.
3. Take one of the cars up to the park entrance (15-20 minutes, ~$13,000 per person round trip). Once at the entrance, confirm pick-up time with your driver. At this point we did not pay the driver. We paid once our driver picked us up and brought us back to the town.
5. Wait for your driver at the park entrance and make your way back to the town of Túquerres. Pay the driver.
6. From Túquerres, take a bus back to Pasto if that’s your destination for the night (2 hours, $12,000 pesos/person).
What to bring:
Bring all the hiking necessities and be prepared for chilly/rainy weather. This includes:
– Appropriate hiking shoes (boots or tennis shoes)
– Scarf / hat / gloves (I only had a scarf and I was happy to have it while we sat by the lagoon)
– Umbrella (I brought mine in case it rained but luckily we only ran into sprinkles on our way back down)
– Food (fruit, vegetables, nuts, bread, etc.)
– Ibuprofen (My travel buddy was smart enough to have some ibuprofen with her, which I took when I felt sick from the altitude)
– Camera or phone for pictures
– Cash (to pay for buses and in case you want a hot drink or snack before/after the hike)
Happy hiking! 🙂