Colombia, an Emerging Travel Destination

For years, Colombia was considered unsafe, and travelers were told to stay away.  But that is no longer the case.   Amazing transformation has occurred in this country.  I don’t want to get into how this was accomplished, as I will leave that to the historians, but what I do want to share is that you can now go to Colombia and experience all the different regions without any fear or concern.  The options in this country range from cultural experiences, to nature, to the well known coffee coming from the coffee region.  I recently visited three different regions of Colombia – Bogota, the Coffee Triangle, and Cartagena.  Let’s journey through Colombia.

Bogota, the capital city of Colombia, has experienced remarkable tourism growth from its popular attractions. You can’t beat the weather, as it is comfortable year round. Bogota Market 10Located centrally in the country of Colombia, it is the hub to all the spokes of the country. Due to the geography, it is best to travel via air service, which is quite good with the airline Avianca, along with other domestic carriers. You have plenty of airline options to go to Medellin, Cartagena, Cali and many other secondary cities throughout the country of Colombia, as well as neighboring countries. While in Bogota you can tour the city with a fabulous Gold Museum or the Botero Museum located in the Candelaria section of the city. I do suggest walking this area to really get to see and enjoy the local sites and experience all the unique urban art. Bogota has taken street art to a new level I have not seen in any other city – no matter what area of the city you are in, you will find both unplanned graffiti as well as organized urban art. Bogota Grafitti Indigenous Another highlight in Bogota and surrounding areas is Monserrate. I do recommend a visit to the top to get spectacular views of the city of Bogota and get a true feel for this magnificent city. This mountain top location is accessible by a tough hike, or a Funicular or sky tram. Just under one hour from Bogota is the Zipaquira Salt Cathedral which is visited by just about all that come to Bogota. The one kilometer trek into this salt mine has been transformed into a pilgrimage of the stations of the cross, ending at a beautiful cathedral. From a distance, the cross looks cylindrical but as you get closer you will see it is quite different. Zipaquirra 2This day trip to Zipaquira can be combined with a hike to the Gutavita lake if you have the ability to hike. I get asked about the altitude issues while in Bogota. It is over 9000 feet , so drink lots of water and avoid alcoholic beverages for the first 24 hours, and you should be fine, but always consult your doctor prior to travel if you are concerned.

If you are a coffee lover, you should include a trip to the “coffee triangle” region which is just a short 30 minute flight over the Andes from Bogota to Pereira . The altitude is lower than Bogota and perfect to grow coffee. There are many coffee plantations throughout the region, but there is also a little known experience here – the national park “los Nevados” outside of Salento. If you want to see the condor, this national park is about your best chance. You will also find the tallest type of palm tree in the world here, which is the national tree, the “Palma de Cera”. But the hike can be a bit tricky, so you can do it via horseback if hiking is not your cup of tea. No vehicles are allowed on the trail. After the hike, head to the town of Salento. Here you will see the famed “WILLIE” jeeps.IMG_9258 You can hire a driver to take you around the town or just take a picture. Visit this little coffee shop called “Café Jesus Martin” to experience one of the best coffee shops worldwide (or so they say). Whether you do or don’t love coffee, make sure to partake in a “cupping” and you will get such a clear picture of what coffee is all about. IMG_9251The unique flavors vary depending on the different soils and plant types, harvesting and roasting techniques which remind me of wine vineyards. You really learn to appreciate coffee when you watch the pickers standing on the side of hills picking the beans from the plants for 8-10 hours a day, then bringing them in to be weighed to earn their pay. This gave me a whole new appreciation for hard labor. There are really no big name hotels in this region, but why would you want to stay at one when you can stay at some of the different lodges located throughout this region. The folks here are so friendly and accommodating. Coffee tasting 2Even though this area butts up against the famed drug regions, those days are long gone and you will not have any feeling of the past.

I ended my Colombia adventure in Cartagena. I have been here three other times, two of them just for the day from a cruise ship, and one for a trade event. This time, I took the time to explore Cartagena and found the hidden gem of Getsemani. This was once known as the undesirable area of Cartagena but has been transformed into cutely painted small homes, great urban art and clever boutique eateries and shops. IMG_9319Do this as walking tour. One particular street was covered by colorful umbrellas, others with colorful flags draping across the tight cobbled streets. Take in a cooking class to learn how to make ceviche or empanadas or even a full on local cuisine dinner cooking experience. IMG_9342Also take the time to walk the walled city with a good guide as there is so much history about the old city and the buildings. This UNESCO site and the restoration take you on a historical journey of how they were able to preserve this area. If you love rum, take in a rum and chocolate tasting at the beautiful Sofitel hotel that was once a convent. The options for accommodations are endless in both the modern city and old city. If you like boutique hotels, then stay in the old walled city or some new boutique options in Getsemani. Since Cartagena is on the ocean, but the beaches are not so good, we recommend a day trip out to an island. Another great option for day trip is to visit one of the many Rosario Islands. Daily there are public boats that can take you to one of the many islands. If you want a more personal beach experience, then you can buy a day pass to Las Islas – a 5* day trip. But if budget is more of a concern, then do the public launches to the other Rosario islands.

These three destinations are just a sample of the experiences you can have in Colombia. I recommend at least one week, and if you can do 10 days you will be able to do and see so much more. As a travel supplier specializing in Latin America, I am happy to help you arrange a stress free trip to Colombia. Contact info@condortoursandtravel.com or call us at 770-339-9961. You can also visit our web site at www.condortoursandtravel.com.

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