I enjoyed many places in Colombia during my trip, but I probably should have read this site before visiting Tabio. It would have saved me pretty much a wasted trip. The people were not as friendly as those encountered in other small towns visited. The artesian shops were disappointing. Those who wrote here about the stadium being a noise polluter were correct. I never found such a terrible thing in other town. Except for a coffee and empanada, there was nothing in the town worth purchasing. We were told to avoid the thermal baths as they did not clean it enough. The town did offer some descent views of surrounding mountains and feature an interesting chapel up on a hill. But that did not make up for the rest. While we took our coffee at a place about 3 blocks from the square we eavesdropped on a conversation by two ladies at a nearby table. They also said that under the last two alacaldes (mayors) the town was getting bad including more youth problems and drugs. They blamed it on the influx of mafiosos.
Five years ago when visiting Tabio it was a beautiful quiet little town with wonderful shops for tourists to shop for arts and crafts. This trip I looked forward to seeing it again, but was highly disappointed. While other small towns in Colombia have taken advantage of the increased security in traveling the roads and the increase in tourism to make their towns more attractive for the tourist, Tabio seems to have done the opposite.
Craft and artisian shops are slowly being replaced by beer drinking joints. One resident commented that the local plannacion will give permission to anyone to open a questionable establishment who bribes them with enough money. A quiet town square where I remember relaxing and enjoy an obleja and gave me a wonder view of the mountains has now transformed into a noisy playground for youths and young adults skateboarding, playing soccer, drinking beer and just delinquently hanging around. The view of the green mountains has been obliterated by huge plastic sided, metal roof monstrosity of a building. The peaceful weekend evening was broken by inebriated youths with huge car audio systems blasting music that can easily be heard more than 3 blocks away. And it continued for hours. A 19 year resident of the town said, it was never like that before the last to town alcaldes (mayors).
I first noticed the difference when driving in from the North of Bogota. The before peaceful street now clogged with rowdy people. Many could be seen sitting at outside tables filled with empty beer bottles while others with bottles in hand hung around. The owner of a nearby shop told me of more than once finding drunk people still sleeping the next morning with their backs against the building wall and bottles nearby. An elderly long time resident told me they had spoken with a recently transferred police commandante about it. According to the resident, the commendante stated that with the town mayor allowing the drinking establishments to operate so late in such a manner that it was difficult for them to keep up with policing the drunks and associated problems. A young officer said the mayor had instructed them not to enforce some laws.
There are still many craft shops open around the town square, but their quality and uniqueness seems to have dropped since my last visit while the prices have risen.
This is not to say there are not a few gems of places to visit in town. One block over from the town square is a beautiful coffee shop/bakery called Don Hornero. It was the cleanest place of its kind in town. The husband and wife owners even speak English. For a true Colombia food experience I enjoyed a restaurant called Don Olerios. It is located about 2 or 3 blocks from the town square going toward the church on the hill. Do not expect anything fancy or even a menu. Mostly open only on weekends the food for breakfast and lunch is excellent featuring ajiaco, Tamal, and three meats with yucca and platano. For a taste palate treat of Colombian food with a little more atmosphere you need to take the road that goes to Rio Frio before getting to Tabio. There approximately a couple miles past where the road forks you will find a hidden driveway to a place called La Dalia. It is well-decorated featuring tasty dishes in the 12,000 to 16,000 pesos range. Again an added benefit is owners who speak fluent English.
While I would have recommended a stop in Tabio before, now for a pleasurable time and good shopping a tourist is better off to pass Tabio and go to Raquira or Villa de Leyva.
The manicured town square spreads out peacefully with a few good craft shops and is well known locally for its great desserts. The old church has a great view and just down the hill around the corner you'll find a well tended old cemetary that's worth a visit.
The town has a major portion of its reputation as a tourist destination based on its thermal baths that are municipally run a short walk from the downtown square. Ask any local and they will point the way.
I did Tabio as a day trip, but once I got there wished I'd made arrangments for a much longer stay. Although only an hour north of Bogota, its peacefully tucked in a valley between the mountains with lush green views in every direction.
The seductive smells wafting out the door from the exhibition bakery entice you in. Pastry delicacies the glass case tempt the eye and then delight taste buds. The smell of full flavored coffee completes the allure.
Only a block over from the town square (parque principal), located on Calle 6 in Tabio, Don Hornero’s offers a clean environment and quality products. The husband and wife owners go to extremes to present the best in town. Oscar mans the bakery department starting his creations with only the best ingredients while his wife handles the rest. Tables are always cleaned immediately upon a patron leaving and everything is kept freshened. The couple searched Colombia before deciding to only offer Café Brisal to their customers. Coming from a limited production of a small farm, the owners of the plantation control quality in everything from the plants to the roasting of the beans. At one of the three round blue tables patrons can enjoy the ambience while watching passersby on the cobblestone street or conversing with others coffee and pastry enthusiasts.
Food delights include a variety of cookies (including many with chocolate) muffins, empanadas and seven-grain bread. The small bread referred to as pancito is so popular in town that people line up in the morning to get it fresh from the oven. To satisfy all tastes they also carry fruit drinks, soda and ice cream.
I noticed the friendliness in the place and that the clientele included the town notary as well as prominent business members of the community. Conversations cover many subject including angels as the baker, Oscar, has published two books including a university textbook on the subject. And don’t worry about your Spanish when visiting. It seems to be the only coffee shop in town whose owners speak English.
Don Hornero’s is on my recommended list to go when in Tabio and you can’t go wrong by adding it to yours.
Favorite Dish: Arrive at about 10 AM to get the 7-grain small bread fresh from the oven.
The best way to get there is by car, Taxi or bus.
From "Autopista Medellin" turn right headed to Cota/Chía at Siberia and then direchtly left to Tenjo/Tabio.
From "Autopista Norte" follow signs Zipaquirá/Cajicá. In Cajicá turn left at the bus "terminal" for Tabio.
There are buses from Transmilenio "Portal de la 80" via Tenjo.
From "Portal del Norte" take a bus to Cajicá and then to Tabio.
A comment on a blog site led me to Tabio. The blogger had of a small town with many craft shops, but mentioned the town had built a stadium that broke several laws and constantly put noises into a residential neighborhood. I caught a flota bus out of the Portal Norte terminal in Bogota and took the 45 minute ride. The bus passed through a town called Cajica that I added to my list of places to walk around. When it entered Tabio the bus bumped over cobblestone streets. Tiel roofed homes and business sported bright colors in interesting combinations. I arrived on a Friday a little after 7 AM and asked about a place to eat breakfast. A person waiting for a bus pointed in the direction of the center of town. There I found a beautiful church and a town square, not with a statue of Simon Bolivar, but a gazebo, but no place open to eat. But sticking out like a sore thumb and rising behind what I found out later were the city offices, was the ugly steel roof and plastic sided monstrosity mentioned by the blogger. While walking on a side street music began blasting from the stadium. At first I thought it was coming from the other direction as it bounced off the houses. No one in the neighborhood for at least a couple blocks needed an alarm clock. The sound level was almost painful. Going to the next street over I saw the front of the stadium with one side abutting farmland. Indeed the blogger was correct in saying that it was ugly and much different than the other buildings and homes in town. I walked almost 4 blocks away and could still easily hear the music from the stadium. This was still before 8 in the morning. Walking more of the town and away from the stadium I found a lovely small chapel up a hill a few blocks away. The view from there was amazing. But I wanted to see the arts and crafts in the shops. I was told most of the shops, that I was interested in, were in the area of the town square and open around 9AM or 10AM. I chose to leave rather than listen to the racket from the stadium until the shops opened and caught a bus to Cajica
Like in many places in the Sabana, Tabio has many flower farms. Nearly every farm offers you to stop and look/buy its flowers.
This is also the chance to talk with the owners.
Did you know that most flowers are exported to Miami?