At the cool height of 2900 metres above sea level the village of Mongui feels a world away from Colombia's Caribbean coastal cities and concrete jungles of Bogota and Medellin. Taking the slow winding mountains roads that lead up to the village gives you time to take in endless landscape of rolling hills and mountains.
Arriving in Mongui really gives you a sense for Colombia's diversity. The quiet green and white village has a relaxed atmosphere and the crisp air at this altitude means the poncho is the clothing of choice with the locals wearing their varied styles and patterns.
Mongui's plaza is dominated by the Basillica and Convento de los Franciscanos, a monastery which dates back to 1694.
One of the most noticeable characteristics of Mongui is that the plaza is still the heart of the local community unlike some of the other more famous towns you will find in Colombia - where the plazas are lined with tourist restaurants, cafes and tour agencies.
Although the basilica dominates the square in terms of architecture it is La Cascada Cafeteria & Panaderia, the local cafe & bakery, that dominates the square in terms of the life.
The cafe seems to have no written menu but serves up breakfast, lunch and empanadas well into the evening. Spending time here is addictive, not only for the tintos (coffee), food or fresh empanadas, but for watching the community pass in and out throughout the day to meet friends and families or to just take a break.
A few hours hike from the main plaza will lead you into the heart the Paramo de Oceta in the eastern ranges of the Colombian Andes. As you reach altitudes of 3950 metres the landscape is covered with 'frailejones'. These plants are vital parts of the Paramo ecosystem as their trunks capture the water vapor from the clouds and direct it through their roots to the soil creating sources of groundwater at high altitudes that can help form lakes and supply rivers.
The paramo - and the trail - leads to the neighboring pueblos of Mongua and Topaga, or you can return to Mongui for a tinto at La Cascada Cafeteria & Panaderia.