Beyond Iza the road rises sharply through pastures rich in wild flowers, passing through Cuitiva and the indigenous village of Tota. Here, the landscape changes to páramo or moorland, the graceful curves of its hills tinged with traces of purple, pink and red, before the road drops down to the steely blue waters of Lago de Tota. At 15 km long and 10 km wide, this is the largest natural lake in Colombia. The indigenous campesinos who populate its edges cultivate tidy patches of onions right up to the water’s edge. There are reeds and algae all along the shore and few beaches, the notable exception being Playa Blanca, on the southwest corner of the lake, a beach of white sand with milky green water at its shallows, backed by pine-clad hills. The sight would not look out of place on the Caribbean, but at 3015 m, the water is cold. There is camping and a restaurant serving trout. At weekends Playa Blanca fills up with Colombians but is generally quiet otherwise.
Aquitania, on the eastern shore, is the principal town on the lake. There are plenty of food shops, and restaurants including Luchos, Tunjo de Oro and Pueblito Viejo together on corner of plaza, and a bright, restored church with modern stained glass windows. Above the town is a hill (El Cumbre) with beautiful views. The road eventually does the round of the lake and heads back toward Sogamoso.
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