Two of the things Colombia is better known for are its coffee and its vast biodiversity. What many people don’t know yet, is that Colombia also grows and produces some of the finest and tastiest cocoa grains in the world. In 2018 Colombia produced 56.000 tons of cocoa, which were exported mainly to Canada, Malaysia, México, and the European Union. Out of the 20 regions that produce cocoa, the department of Santander leads with 38,9% of the national production.
Bosques de Cacao Yariguies is a farm located in the department of Santander, in the municipality of El Carmen del Chucurí. Before colonial times, this whole area was inhabited by a group of natives called Yariguies, hence its name.
El Carmen del Chucurí is a hot town with temperatures that reach up to 35°c during the day and go down to 28°C by night. This is a beautiful 4.000 inhabitants town, where you can stroll through the streets while meeting friendly and smiley locals. There are a few waterfalls nearby that you can hike to, and places to practice rafting. To get there, you can take a bus from Bucaramanga (it takes about four hours) or from Bogotá. But this is only the starting point for a bigger adventure.
Bosques de Cacao Yariguies is more than just a farm; it is the story of a family and a dream that came true. It was founded in 1960 and is now to the service and benefit of many. They are part of a farms network, and they aim to go beyond just being a farm that produces cocoa and promotes tourism in the region. They want to make a positive impact on the community and the region. For this reason, they created a local network of twenty farms that grow, especially cocoa. They have implemented programs to teach and guide farmers on the proper and best way to produce it while taking care of the soil and environment. They are part of an environmental preservation network called SATOYAMA that enforces the sustainable practices to protect the environment and take care of the natural resources. Bosques de Cacao Yariguies is also part of a national communitarian tourism group that was created with the help of the Tourism and Commerce Ministry in 2018. There are around 52 projects in the whole country; this is so far the only one in the community of Santander.
The cocoa grains produced in these lands have an extraordinary and specific taste that brings to mind berries, caramel, and dried fruits. This taste results from the type of soil and many external factors- that are taken into account while cultivating and producing the grains. The process of developing this taste is very delicate; it starts with the appropriate care of the grains, then the drying and of course, the fermenting process.
Only 3 kilometers away from the farm is the border with the National Natural Park Serranía de Los Yariguies. Right now this park is not open to tourism, but only for researchers. The farmers are trying to create optimum conditions for some of the species to start spreading in the surrounding forest and farms. This National Park is the most important natural reserve in Santander, with about 60.000 hectares in preservation, 500 bird species, 900 trees species and plenty of biodiversity.
Visiting this farm is a form of tourism that is ecological and experiential. This strategy was created to invite more people to learn about the whole cocoa business. Nowadays, you can either visit as a tourist for one or two days, or you can spend a couple of weeks as a volunteer on the farm and immerse yourself in this cocoa culture. There is also a workshop that visitors can participate in, where they learn how to get to refine chocolate from the bare beans.
Going up this mountain, before getting to Bosques de Cacao Yariguies, there are other farms that you can visit; one of them is Mirador Catleya that specializes in orchids, Colombia’s national flower. Another one is Finca La Carola with stunning views and a camping site. And there is one closer to the town, Finca El Placer that offers one day passes for you to see and explore, or overnight options as well.
This is a region with a tremendous amount of biodiversity, a place full of stories and history, where some of our strongest ancestors lived years ago. Take the chance to visit this fantastic place and fall in love with its sweet taste and all its nature.
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