Lake Cocha – Colombia’s Little Venice

In southern Colombia the town of Pasto lies 250 miles north of the equator, high in the Andes at an altitude of 7,000 feet above sea level. Just 12 miles outside of town is Lake Cocha or Laguna de la Cocha.

Small buses Leave Pasto taking people to the port on the lake where small motor boats ferry visitors to the island ‘El Encano’ which is a national park.

The port town is popular with Colombian tourists who come to enjoy the enchanting wooden chalets, narrow canals, rickety bridges and brightly painted boats. The village, El Puerto, sits on wetlands at the mouth of the river Rio Encano in the Andean rainforest.

The village has been called Colombia’s Venice, due to the canals in town and also ‘ Little Switzerland’ due to the affluence of Swiss styles chalets in El Puerto.

The town is touristy with almost every home along main street serving up lake trout either caught in the lagoon or raised in neighboring trout farm lakes. The trout is either fried or grilled but the best version is trucha ahumada (smoked trout).

The town got its unique Swiss architecture from a Swiss carpenter who came here in the 1940s – a refugee from the war. He was hired by a hotel to build a few cabins which he built in simple Swiss chalet fashion – a style that was later copied by everyone in town.

Author: Jon McInnes

Jon McInnes is a journalist who has been traveling to Colombia since 1972. He travels to Colombia and other parts of South America yearly and writes for newspapers, food, wine and travel publications. He currently lives between Colombia and Detroit. You can also follow him on facebook and contact him via email at:

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