Colombia Travel Guides for Backpackers

Hiking in Tayrona National Park in Colombia

In our Colombian tour, we got to the point when we headed to the Caribbean coast. Our first stop was Santa Marta, the oldest city in Colombia. The city itself is not a big deal but it’s at the ideal location: anyone who wants to discover the coastal area, could get a room here and move around. We wanted to do the Tayrona hike so it was a perfect spot. Arriving to Santa Marta We arrived from San Gil by a night bus. That seemed to be the easiest and cheapest option. It was not bad, we could get some sleep and we didn’t lose a day while traveling. We arrived to the Santa Marta bus terminal around 8 am. Turned out, that the terminal is quite far from the center. We weren’t prepared so we just started asking around about any public transport, but all we could find was taxis. (On our way back we went by public bus, so it’s doable.) We took a taxi then, who probably charged double, so be careful. As it was still really early, we couldn’t check in to our hotel, so we went to get breakfast and then took a walk around the center. There are various breakfast places and they are well prepared for tourists. You can find fruit vendors too. We walked around the coast and discovered the beach but it is not that nice during the day. Great spot for sunset though. As we were still a little tired after the night, and it was already very hot, we got a quick burrito lunch then headed back to our room for some siesta. In the evening we watched the sunset from the shore, got some dinner and went to bed early because we wanted to get up in time to avoid the crowds in Tayrona. Getting to Tayrona National Park To get to the park, you have to take the bus from the Central Mercado. It’s a little bit hectic, as everyone is selling something, but the bus can be found easily as there are people yelling Tayrona around it. We didn’t get breakfast at our hotel so we got some empanadas at the market. We didn’t want to enter at the main entrance because we heard that it could be crowded. There are several entrances, we took the one at Calabazo. We were the only ones there and during the hike, we only met with a few other people. This entrance is the one which is closer to Pueblito, the reconstructed indigenous village. Unfortunately, it was closed during that time (2019. October) when we visited. You can still meet with indigenous people who live in the park in small communities. The entrance fee was 114 000 COP (34 USD) for the two of us. The hike The most important thing is: take enough water! Seriously, it’s very important. The weather is very hot and humid and you will drink a lot. We ran out of water at the end […]

Bogota: A Guide to Colombia's Vibrant Capital City

With so many beautiful cities and national parks to visit in Colombia, some travelers might overlook Bogota, Colombia’s bustling capital city perched high in the Andes mountains. Although it lives up to its nickname of “the refrigerator of Colombia,” don’t let that turn you away from this gem of a city. With a growing foodie scene, fantastic nightlife, and surrounding natural wonders close by, Bogota is a city that you don’t want to skip on your trip to Colombia. What to Do La Candelaria La Candelaria is Bogota’s historic city center that has kept its charming colonial style intact. Walking around La Candelaria feels like being transported into the past, and the vibe is much different from Bogota’s posh, modern neighborhoods in the north of the city. Packed with colorful Spanish-style buildings and lined with cobblestone streets, La Candelaria is the perfect spot for an afternoon stroll and a delicious almuerzos (see more on this in the food section below). La Candelaria Plaza Simon Bolivar Located a few blocks from La Candelaria is Plaza Simon Bolivar, the city’s main square, which contains the National Capital, Palace of Justice, and the very Instagram-worthy Bogota Cathedral. If you’re craving a snack, don’t worry–the streets are lined with vendors selling everything from fresh mango to candy to homemade potato chips. Monserrate Perched high up in the mountains surrounding Bogota is Monserrate, a beautiful cathedral that offers spectacular views of the sprawling city. You have a number of options for how to get there: by tram, by cable car, or you can dare to ascend on foot–but if you haven’t acclimated to the altitude, a hike is not recommended. The tram or cable car will whisk you up to the beautiful grounds of the cathedral, which include stunning gardens and a number of elegant restaurants. At the church, you can enjoy a marvelous view of Bogota, and an abundance of photo-op worthy spots. Local’s tip: If you walk up behind the church, you’ll find a long row of vendors selling artisanal souvenirs, such as mochilas (traditional handmade Colombian bags), handmade hats and ponchos, and jewelry. Stroll even further back and you’ll find numerous food vendors. Stop by a stall and try a traditional Colombian arepa, paired with a chocolate santafereño–a hot chocolate with cheese. It may sound strange, but don’t knock it until you try it! Monserrate Usaquen Sunday Market If you happen to be in Bogota on the weekend, you can’t miss the Usaquen Sunday Market. You can buy almost anything your heart desires–from handmade clothes to sculptures and art; household wares, floral arrangements, even handmade pet accessories. The market stretches across several blocks and is surrounded by delicious restaurants and cafes, a mall, and a lovely park. There’s no better way to spend your Sunday in Bogota. What to Eat When in Bogota, you’ll want to try their delicious traditional dishes, from creamy Aijaico soup to crispy empanadas and savory tamal. However, Bogota is rapidly becoming more international, and you can find […]

Unmissable places to visit in rural areas of Colombia

I open the window to you, the window of a space which a lot of people have resided. A space I have lived and loved, a love that means try to be the best version of a Colombian woman, difficult. For that, this narrative keep printed a grade of hospitality; I am a person who usually does not invite everybody to its home. Then, on this love that I have for the country I born I would like that who come here could be charged with the necessary care that this home deserves. Taking care about the life that is configured in each place you visit. And that’s why I want to share my experiences in places I have visited, share my view and my since advises. Variety of pretty people living in beautiful places, I think that this has been the highest spot I have allowed me to arrive. People with richness in their heart and in their natural area, but also with basic needs to satisfy: “Although it is not a problem, it has a solution” Anonym. At the end of the day, Authenticity is that I most enjoy of every place. It is that reason which makes it unique such us I visit my grandmother in Huila region and we prepare “achiras”, a delicious cake done with a special flour, cheese and other ingredients which it is perfect to eat with coffee or chocolate (The most delicious achiras are made in “Altamira” town, let’s look for it). Well, I suppose it is a good beginning to start advising places to visit in my country, places awash of authenticity that in the first place is given through a strong relation with LOCAL TOURISM, especially in rural areas. Huila Region It was the time I went to “Tatacoa Desert” in the Huila region, my father’s land. We keep in touch with a local guide recommended by a lodge and we crossed the desert in “moto-taxi”. A natural pool was the natural beauty of this day; it did not have grids and it has been built little time ago due to the first built keeps full at every time, disproportionate tourism unable to measure the built capacity of a place (to visit let’s ask for local guides in Villavieja town). Boyacá region Walking in another direction, I went with my maternal grandparents to the place where the violence made they had gone to the city seventy years ago. The town is “El Cocuy” in the Boyacá region. There I walk steps of my previous generations, farms, lakes as the “Laguna Pintada” and of course a hiking excursion to the “El Nevado del Cocuy”. This last was a walk that started at 4 am with a big splash of stars agglomerated in the sky, it was as close as I have never seen up to know. At this time, the moon did not go down yet, a walk guided by the best companion: my cousin, who was quite incredible related my […]

What to Expect from the Trek to the Lost City of Santa Marta

Whether visiting Colombia for a few weeks or living in one of the country’s beautiful cities, the trek to “La Ciudad Perdida” (The Lost City) is an unforgettable experience. Located in the Sierra Nevada mountains of Santa Marta near Colombia’s Caribbean coast, the trek offers stunning vistas and lush foliage from start to finish. If, like I was, you’re itching to explore this hidden gem, read on to learn all you should need to know to make the best out of your trip. The Lost City of Colombia Planning Your Trip to Santa Marta Go With a Guide Not only would it be impossible to find your way through the jungle alone, but it’s also prohibited. Much of the hike crosses through indigenous land. In order to preserve the area and respect the homes of the indigenous people, all visitors must go with an organized group – however, this in no way felt like a downside. The tours are extremely well organized and lead by amazing guides. Our great Baquianos guides: Mono, Isidro, and Pedro Choosing a Company for the Ciudad Perdida Trek I personally went with a company called Baquianos (highly recommended) and had a great experience. The other companies have great reviews as well though and follow almost exactly the same itinerary. You can’t really go wrong. Once you’ve chosen a group, they’ll provide you with plenty of more specific information about logistics, payment information, etc. How Many Days to Choose Each company allows you to choose from either 4, 5, or even 6 days. However, the longer hikes don’t follow a different trail, nor do they really provide more sights to see; they simply go at a slightly slower pace and break up the harder portions of the hike into separate days. If you’re not in the best physical shape, the five-day hike might be the best option. However, the four-day option still accounts for plenty of rest time and chances to take in the scenery – making it the most popular choice by far. Many people who choose the 5-day, simply end up switching to the four-day while on the trek. Once you see the Lost City, your tired legs and stinky clothes are pretty eager to get back as quickly as possible even if it means pushing your physical abilities. Feeling very grateful for the walking sticksafter climbing one of the steepest hills! Arriving in Santa Marta All tours start at the company’s headquarters in Santa Marta, making it easy to arrive by either bus or at Simón Bolivar Intl. Airport. From there, you’ll be driven roughly two hours to a small pueblo where the hike begins. You return to Santa Marta in the same way at the end of the trek. Campsite storefront in the Wiwa community What to Bring on the Trek to the Ciudad Perdida Pack Light! Trust me, a light backpack will be a big blessing […]

Barranquilla's Carnival – Top Things to Do

Barranquilla has been known as the “Golden Gate of Colombia” for decades and noted for the world’s second-largest carnival proclaimed by UNESCO as a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity in 2003. For those interested in visiting the Carnival celebrated in Barranquilla, Colombia, with a two-three day trip, this is a quick guide to help you enjoy your trip to the fullest. Marimonda by Michele Mariana is licensed under CC BY 2.0 Attend the Official Carnival Concert The Friday before Carnival’s Saturday is not officially Carnival. However, since it’s Friday, every neighborhood is filled with joy and you will find street parties in every corner. My recommendation is to attend the traditional concert offered every year before the carnival starts, the Official Carnival Concert. The sooner you buy the tickets the cheaper they will be. Usually, if you’re in a group, the best thing to do is to buy a balcony; otherwise, you should buy a VIP ticket on the “grass” location where you will be close to the music and dance. The best advice: go in a group so you can enjoy more. Also, wear comfortable clothes because it will make the experience of a concert (rows, standing, sitting on the grass, dancing) better as you’ll be in warm weather. Official Carnival Concert (Concierto Oficial de Carnaval) Place: Estadio Romelio Martínez 2019 lineup: Marc Anthony and Silvestre Dangond. Other artists: Checo Acosta, Tropical Minds, and Peter Manjarres. Walk Inaugural Parade Saturday is officially Carnival’s first day and it begins with the best parade, the Battle of Flowers, that is filled with dance groups, floats, show business people, costumes, etc. For the parade you have two options: Spectator Be ready to be at 11:30 am in the balcony you previously bought and don’t forget to bring food. The parade begins at 12:00 pm and the best plan is to wait for the parade, drink alcohol, dance, be with friends, eat, and enjoy the show, the dancing groups, the colors, and the music. Parading I think this is the best option if you want to have a full carnival experience. You can participate in a “comparsa” or dancing group, paying the ticket to walk down in the parade. The price usually includes the credentials to participate in the parade, kits with group’s identifiers, water, and alcohol. For some dancing groups you have to wear the same costume and for others like “Disfrázate como Quieras”, you can dress up as you wish. You don’t need to practice any choreography, you only need to sign up and take all your energy to walk down, dance, make a joyful noise with your group and the spectators, and get drunk for approximately three and a half hours or until your body holds out. If you have always wonder what it feels like to parading in a carnival, this is your option. Photo by Ignacio Ramírez Torrado is licensed under CC BY 2.0 The Battle of Flowers is the main celebration of the […]

Experience the city of Cartagena

Cartagena is a wonderful city in the north part of Colombia. It is really easy to fall in love with Cartagena and the places to visit in this city. The sunset view is so romantic, the sea water so clear, the history so strong, and the people so warmth. To get the full experience of this Colombian city and visit the main places you will need a few days. The Cartagena experience City Tour in Traditional Chiva These are a wooden made bus original from Colombia, that goes around the main parts of the city. The tour starts from Bocagrande, the modern part of the city, surrounded by water you are able to see the Caribbean sea on one side, and on the other, there’s the bay. After that, the tour continues to Manga to watch one of the fortresses that were built to keep the city secure from invasion by sea. Then there is the San Felipe Castle, with a guided tour where you’ll learn about the history of planning the security in Cartagena on the Colonial days. The architecture is just so wonderful and was thought at a specific way in order to watch the city from the outside. The tour ends up with a nice walking tour of the Old town, where you will be able to see all the main Squares and Churches as a Catholic society. This part of the city is all surrounded by a great rock wall where every street is only a block and has its own name and story. Chiva Rumbera: The Party Bus Another way to watch the city by night is the Chiva Rumbera, on this bus, you get to pass through the main places while drinking Aguardiente, a typical alcoholic beverage of Colombia, listen to salsa live music inside the bus! Yes, there is a band playing live music and cheering the wheeled party. By the end of the tour, all the Chivas gather up next to an important sculpture called “Old boots” to share some typical Fritos and go to a discotheque to enjoy and dance at Latin rhythm with the Colombia locals. Walking around The Old Town There are some places to visit and walk around in old town, every one of them has their own beauty. The colors of the streets are amazing and represent what a cheerful city Cartagena is. If you want to take a great postal picture, then the best place to walk around is definitely San Diego streets, a hood inside Old Town. You’ll just be amazed by their windows, doors, and balconies. Another great place to walk by is Getsemaní, a more bohemian district that used to be separated from the city center, it was only connected by the entrance on the clock tower. This hood has really colorful streets with a lot of urban art and graffiti. At night you can go to “Trinidad Square” where you will find a lot of locals and foreigners sarin time, music and beers. […]

Top Places And Treks To Do In The EJE CAFETERO: Colombia

The Eje Cafetero is one of the most important Coffee Producing Regions of Colombia. It was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO because it is the most representative area of this region for its landscapes and culture. If you are looking for Colors, Mountains, Trekking, Animals, Adventures, Culture, Nature, and even strange Insects, this place will surely surprise you. Getting there One of Colombia’s international airports is located in the city of Bogotá (Capital of the country). From there it is possible to take a 9-hour bus or a 1-hour plane to the city of Pereyra. The prices of both are generally similar or even cheaper by plane if a reservation is made with time (airplane ticket from 20 USD). From Pereyra, it is necessary to take another bus to the city of Salento, which is reached in 35 minutes (ticket 2.5 USD). Make Base in Salento Salento is a city with a very typical architecture, very colorful and surrounded by green mountains from where you can see a beautiful view of the entire city. It is full of hostels and hotels to spend the night and really good prices (from 8 USD for a bed in a shared room at night!). A mixture of culture, typical food, landscapes, and local and foreign people, makes this place a perfect place to sleep here while you know the surroundings. Coffee Farms You should visit the Coffee Farms because you will learn the process of coffee, the harvest and more about the Colombian culture. Take a full day if you have enough time and rent a bicycle. There are many rental shops and they usually give you a map indicating which farms are in each direction and what other places can be crossed thanks to the bicycle. You will be among the mountains and landscapes so beautiful that surround them. It is very easy to identify the road. It is also possible to do it walking, obviously, you will travel fewer distances, but you will be treading the earth with your feet. The farms generally charge an entrance that varies according to the size of the production and the type of explanation or activity that they offer to you to know the whole process of the coffee (from 2 USD entry ticket). The Cocora Valley Trek This is the most amazing place in this area. You must go there. It can be done for free, it is really very easy to reach. In the Plaza de Armas, there is a Jeep station, and there are people lining up to enter one of them, which takes about 10 people each. The trip lasts 30 minutes and ends at Base of the Valley (2 USD ticket). You should spend all day there. Two ways to know this place: Both are free! 1. Walking through the valley completely from the main entrance. A trekking will be waiting for you, approximately 5 quiet hours (depending on your pace), which will travel through the valley until it […]

10 things to do in Bogotá, Colombia

I was born and raised in Bogotá, the capital city of Colombia, but It wasn’t until I began traveling, that I realized how amazing my city truly is. Bogotá happens to be a city where history, art, (fast moving) modern life and culture lives. That means that one day you can go to La Puerta Falsa to drink a delicious cup of traditional hot chocolate with cheese and the next day you can go partying to the 85 street and dance Reggaeton with locals. That’s why I decided to create this little guide of 10 things that you must do when you visit Bogotá. 1. Go to Monserrate: This is the place that every Bogotano would tell you to go. It’s a church built on the top of one of the mountains that surround the city but don’t worry, it’s not a religious plan. Actually, Monserrate has one of the most beautiful views of the whole city, plus you can take a cable car to arrive there. Once you are up there you can find a restaurant, the church, and a tiny flea market. 2. Take a Graffiti tour: Something curious about this plan is that locals don’t do it because they take for granted the whole graffiti culture in the city. I didn’t even know about it until I talked with a foreign friend! Anyway, I tried it and it’s an amazing plan where you can walk around the city center, see amazing street art and take colorful pictures for your Instagram.  Ask in your hotel or hostel for a guided graffiti tour and they will give you detailed information. 3. Drink a craft beer in BBC: I’m not lying when I tell you that the craft beer from BBC is delicious. As a local, I want to give you two pieces of advice. the first one is to go to a Bodega, where the beer is the same but it’s cheaper only because you have to pay it first. The second one is to ask for the seasonal beer, it is usually the most amazing one. Also, you should try beer in other pubs, lately the craft beer culture has been growing a lot, and the options are amazing. 4. Visit the gold museum: If you want to know a little bit more about the history of the city, this is definitely a place that you need to visit. This museum is one of the most popular places for tourists. There you can see beautiful gold pieces crafted by the native people of the region: the Muiscas. It’s important to have in mind that those pieces are from the prehispanic period and tell the stories of the people that used to live here. 5. Go partying with locals: If you are in Colombia, you cannot leave the country without going to dance the whole night with locals. Did you hear me? Here people love to dance. Besides, the people from Bogotá are not the best dancers in the country so you won’t look too bad dancing with us. […]

5 reasons why you should visit the Tatacoa Desert

The Tatacoa desert is a hidden gem located 280km (174 miles) to the south of Bógota. With its interesting history, lunar and dramatic landscapes, incredible stargazing, and various activities, adding this destination to your Colombia itinerary is a must! Here is a little background, 5 reasons why should visit this place, and some tips. Background The Tatacoa desert is named after a reptilian creature similar to a rattlesnake, which used to inhabit the area when the Spanish conquistadors discovered the site. Unfortunately (or not!), the tatacoa does not exist anymore, but you can find many scorpions, snakes, spiders, lizards, turtles, wildcats, cacti and more than 70 species of birds in the area. The desert covers about 330km² of land and is considered an important geological site. Technically, the Tatacoa Desert is not a “desert”, but a “dry forest” as locals call it. Evidence confirms that Tatacoa was once a tropical rainforest, home to several rivers and a freshwater lake. In some parts, multiple lines of evidence of the water flows can still be observed. In spite of this fact, in the eye of the “un-expert”, this dry and dramatic landscape definitely resembles a desert. Why visit the Tatacoa Desert? 1. Well-kept secret The Tatacoa desert is a well-kept secret in the region of Huila in the heart of Colombia. Travelers are drawn to the dreamlike desert landscapes and outstanding stargazing, away from the hustle and bustle of the big, well-known cities. As such, a visit to the Tatacoa desert is a truly magical experience where you can find peace in your natural surroundings. The area receives some tourists, but these are nothing compared to the highly-tourist ridden parts of Colombia. Accommodation and tours around the desert are very affordable, which makes it an ideal place for the budget traveler! 2. Unique & distinct landscapes The Tatacoa desert is unique as it has two distinct zones: the Grey and the Red Desert. Both look very different and are especially appealing to nature and outdoors enthusiasts who will dig exploring the various landscapes and rock formations. The Red desert features intense red and orange scenery which is absolutely stunning. There are several jaw-dropping vistas which offer gorgeous sunset views. You can also follow a trail on foot between the rocky slopes of the eroded landscape. The trails are well-marked with different colors and can usually be walked within two hours. On the way, you will encounter many goats, birds, cacti and sometimes even snakes! Red Desert In contrast, the Grey Desert is more like a moon-like, surreal landscape. This area is much bigger and therefore home to more diverse activities. In addition to several short and longer hiking trails between the grey rock formations, you can also find various “natural swimming pools”. The water in these pools directly comes from the springs and is therefore very fresh and refreshing! Sitting in the grey desert hills, the natural swimming pool of Los Hoyos is the most popular one. However, there are plenty of […]

Beaches and Restaurants in Cartagena de Indias, Colombia

I had the marvellous opportunity to live in the gorgeous city of Cartagena de Indias, Colombia for 6 months, and it was truly amazing. This time I would like to share with you some of the top beaches and restaurants I met while living there, and would recommend to any traveller. Best beaches in Cartagena One of the reasons that make the “heroic” city fo Cartagena de Indias, Colombia, one of the most attractive touristic destinations in Latin America, is the weather. Its average temperature is 27 ºC and it’s regularly sunny, like the city of the eternal summer, which makes pretty much every day a good day to go to the beach. Also, Cartagena has 19km of beaches in the metropolitan area, nearly 100km of beaches heading north and the island archipelago, Islas del Rosario, which gives you plenty of diversity when thinking about exploring the beaches of the area. Some of my personal favourites are: Islas del Rosario Photo by: Catalina Santos Ruiz This is the island archipiélago located by the Atlantic coast of Colombia. These islands are home of multiple coral formations that inspired the creation of the National Natural Park “Islas Corales del Rosario y San Bernardo”. They are located by the same latitude as the Barú peninsula and hold without a doubt some of the most splendid beaches you will find around. Playa Blanca Playa Blanca is the most known beach paradise outside of the city. It is located in Barú Island. There I recommend especially the Scooba diving experience with the Scooba diving centre El Pez León, ask for its owner, Helmer Torres, I’m sure you’ll have a lot of fun diving with him and you’ll be safe. I also recommend visiting Playa Blanca in low season, because in high season you will find many visitors and vendors. Fenix Beach Fenix Beach is a super nice beach hotel located in Punta Arena, which is one of the nicest spots of one of the most famous islands in the Rosario islands, Tierra Bomba. It’s 15 minutes far from the city of Cartagena by boat and it’s super easy to find a boat that takes you there. I personally love it because I spent there one of the loveliest, most calm and delicious beach days I’ve had in Cartagena, and also for one of the best parties ever, which was the Corona Sunset Party that took place there. That means this is a very complete spot to visit during your vacations in Cartagena; comfortable, stylish, with awesome facilities and really nice staff. Private Beaches There are special tours with certain hostels like Republica Hostel Cartagena, that are designed for the travellers who want to spend a natural style beach day in a private virgin beach in Barú island or in any other island among the Rosario Islands, this is like a day trip, you go to the island very early in the morning and return around 3 pm, not later because the wind gets stronger by the end of the afternoon […]

Tayrona National Park: a paradise come true

For sure you have heard about Colombia, but trust me, nowhere as majestic like this national park: El Tayrona name given by the ancient people who lived there. What to know about this place The indigenous people of the Sierra: The original owners of this land are the indigenous people of the Sierra. They are divided into four important tribes: kankuamos, Koguis, Arahuacos and the Wiwas, all living on the incredible Sierra Nevada de Santa Martha (the closed mountain snow peak to the sea in the world).  Each group has their own culture, but what unites them, is that they are the guardians of mother earth, our creator. In their own terms: they are the big brothers, keepers of nature, born from this sacred mountain and ordained to maintain and protect it. Under this logic, we are the younger brothers and their mission is to teach us how to care for our mother earth. About this tribes.  If you have the amazing opportunity to visit this land please be respectful, it is not just a beautiful place, is sacred for its people. If you are attent, for sure you will feel the special energy given by the contrast between the mountain and the sea. It is unique for its indigenous people, their culture, and their daily exchange with the modern government and tourism. How to arrive at El Tayrona Your first stop is in the city of Santa Martha, to arrives at the park you should ask for the local buses that take you to “El tayrona”. The buses are in the transport terminal, ask for in spanish like:  “amigo, ¿dónde encuentro el bus que me lleva al Tayrona?”. Maybe, you will be indicated to take some bus towards  “La Guajira” (another department). Make sure to tell the bus driver to notify you when it arrives at the entrance of the park.  From Santa Martha to the park, it will take about an hour and the cost should be like $ 10 USD, depending on the season. On the other hand, you have another option: take a taxi from Santa Martha to Taganga. A town better known for its party tourism. Look for a boat to “Cabo San Juan”, the most incredible beach in the Tayrona Park. For this trip, the locals will charge you like $ 20. My advice is that you should take the bus on the way to the park and do the bote ride on the way back.  To have the full experience it is better when you enter the park on foot. Make sure you enter by the main entrance called “Zaino”. What to know before: Your first journey inside the park is approximately a two hours walk with your backpack inside the tropical forest, but don’t worry, it will be beautiful.  During this walk, you can appreciate all wild animals like birds, monkeys, anteaters, and many more. You will have the full jungle experience with wild sound and feelings taking into a different world submerge in the raw nature. Before starting the journey […]

Cartagena: sunset and night life

Cartagena de Indias is without a doubt one of the most visited destinations when it comes to travel to Colombia. It is a perfect mix of history and the development of modern cities, this combined with the friendliness of its people gives, as a result, an unforgettable experience. This magical city is located on the north coast of this Caribbean country and is also known as “La Heroica” among its inhabitants due to a historical event. How to get there This city has an airport right by the sea, which makes the landing a little scary and at the same time fun, as you can feel you are actually landing directly on the water! If you are traveling from abroad, you can take a flight to Bogota and then a connecting flight to Cartagena, or Panama city – Cartagena is also another option. The airport is close to the tourist areas, so you can have a nice walk along the beach or get a taxi, and then start your tour! Departing from any region of Colombia If you are already in Colombia, depending on the region of the country you are in, you can either travel by air or by land. If you are not on the north coast both options would work well, but have into consideration that if you decide to take a bus from Bogota, for example, it’s a 23-hour trip! Departing from the north coast of Colombia If you are already on the coast, for example, in Barranquilla like it was my case, I would say that it is very easy and fast to get to Cartagena, you have two options: you might depart from the passenger terminal, which is located in the very south of the city, this can be a little far from the north maybe one hour by car, there you can take a bus to Cartagena which will leave you far from the tourist areas, so you will have to take a taxi, which can be a little expensive. For these reasons, I don’t recommend this option. Or you might depart from any of the private bus terminals located in different parts of the city. The most popular ones are Berlinas and Marsol. Both have similar prices and the service they offer is very alike, nonetheless, I prefer Berlinas because, in my opinion, the customer service is better. The bus will leave you very near the tourist places, close to the beach, so you can have a 25-minute walk or take a taxi and then you will get to the walled city. In both cases, the trip from Barranquilla to Cartagena takes 2 hours. What to do There are so many things to do in Cartagena, but definitely, the first thing you must do is to tour the city up on the wall and watch the colorful traditional houses from above, enjoy the view and the wind. I recommend using sunscreen and maybe a hat because after a few minutes walking your face can turn very red! After that, you can go […]

La pastora, Risaralda: A place you have probably never heard of

La pastora is located in the Ucumarí Natural Regional Park. This place is the visitor center of this natural reserve, where hundreds of tourists and locals come yearly to disconnect from technology and take a break from their busy lives. If you are looking for a quite place to spend some days hinking, chasing waterfalls, resting and enjoying a beautiful view this is the perfect place for you. (I know, I always say that but it’s true. There is a perfect place for everyone somewhere) La pastora Transportation options To start, let me tell you how to get there. It is about 4 hours from Pereira, Risaralda (1 hour by car or bus and 3 hours on foot). Well, the 3 hours on foot depends on your physical condition and hiking skills. I personally took 2.5 hours to get to the refuge, making some stops to take pictures and to rest. I am not the best hiker I have to admit but I thought it was going to be worse, so I am pretty sure you can do it too! You can take a chiva bus (the Colombia’s artisan rustic bus) from ciudad victoria square or plaza ciudad Victoria. The chiva runs every two hours during the weekends, at 7 am, 9 am, 11 am, 1 pm and 3pm but the schedule is different during the week (Just be aware of that). The chiva will take you to el Cedral, where the trail to la pastora starts. There are two options, you can hike or you can go by horse but that has an extra cost of course. I have never ridden a horse to get there (probably 1.5 hours) but honestly I recommend you to walk and enjoy the journey, the trail is not that long. This area of the coffee region is beautiful as the other ones so you won’t regret the little hike. The trail to La Pastora As I said before, the trail starts in el Cedral. You will find a map of the park and all the information related to the distance and places (where to camp and where to find cabins if you don’t have camping equipment). Also, you will be able to see the different paths and rivers that you are going to pass. The map will show you that there are 6 km from el Cedral to la pastora. The path is very muddy and rocky so I strongly recommend you to wear rain boots or a good pair of hiking shoes. I also suggest you to bring a light jacket or a rain jacket in case it rains. The weather is very unpredictable around this area. Along the way, you will find signs that show you the progress. They will indicate if you are at 0% (beginning), 15% (1km), 30% (2km), 60% (4km) and 90% (5km). Accomodation at the visitor center The living room and the fireplace at the visitor center At the […]

The route of Salsa in Cali

Cali “La capital de la Salsa” (salsa capital) Also called “La sucursal del cielo” – The sky brand, Cali is the third bigger city in Colombia and its a city located in the Valle del Caucadepartment, southwest of Bogotá. And Its well is known as the city of the salsa dancers. The icon type of music that we dance in Cali its a mix of a different kind of music from the Caribbean part that was made in New York and was called “Salsa.”  Salsa its the combination of many things, imagine its the flavor that put savor to your food or the ingredients that is missing in your lunch, Salsa for us is the topic that makes the life perfect. So, why Salsa Capital? Even though it was from overseas, every time that a singer like Celia Cruz went to Cali, the people responded amazingly to their songs and made the singer plays music that no even them remembered. It was like traveling to the past with surprises from the future for each artist, so they developed a special feeling that the world could not ignore it and that position us as a salsa city. Particulary way to dance. Sometime in the past, the Caleños (Way to call Cali people) went to afternoon parties named “luladas,” and they used to have the costume to increase the speed of the music. So people start to dance faster with the rhythm, and this is the reason we have a particular way to dance salsa that is different from all the rest of the world (even inside the Colombia). So, if you want to learn how to dance like many of the world champions of Salsa with fire on your heels and a big smile always, don't think twice to spend time in Cali. The Protection Back in the past, the French and other people from overseas though that Cali people was a kind of monster because we wanted to dance “more explicit” than the rest of the world and our movements were passionals. Due to this, they gave us gifts to send away the “devil” that was inside our bodies and be calm again. The gift is a three cruces “El cerro de las tres cruces”- Three Cross Hill,  in one of the biggest mountains that you can see from the city and time after they gave us the Jesus Christ “Cristo rey” to protect us as well. Move and to release all the stress. DANCING! Music everywhere. We learn how to dance even before we were born, we are used to the loud music and to have a different type of music playing to a high volume in the same street. BE ready to enjoy the great adventure of the music here. Part of your Salsa learning will be to educate your ear to the melody and the rhythm; it will not difficult in the city because everybody is playing music along the day. If it's not, so put the radio and listen […]

Cabo de la Vela: La Guajira Colombia

This is not like any other trip … the one that you are going to find scrolling down. 1117 kilometers indicates our old map located on the wall of our bedroom. This map showed us and it is going to show you as well, how to get to Riohacha in La Guajira, Colombia from our start point Pereira, Risaralda. It is there where our feet meet the hot sand, salty water, peaceful wind and magical sun. Our trip starts in Pereira, Risaralda nevertheless we are going to give you more details on how to get to this spectacular place from different cities. By Plane If you decide to take a plane to the Caribbean coast of Colombia you have two options. One is to get to Cartagena and from this city to el cabo de la vela is approximately 6 hours by bus or car. The other option is to arrive in Santa Marta which is closer and then you will need to take a bus that will take you to el cabo de la vela in approximately 3 hours (with some stops of course). By Car/bus From Cartagena or Santa Marta to el cabo de la vela there are some stops that you need to make and we are going to explain them in detail. Route 1 Bogotá (the capital of Colombia) – Riohacha, la guajira –Uribia – cabo de la vela From Bogota you can take the route to the coast and in this way you can avoid entering to Santa Marta. You can take a shortcut and get to Riohacha (16 hours approximately), once you are in Riohacha follow the steps that you are going to find bellow. Route 2 Medellín – Cartagena – Barranquilla – Santa Marta – Riohacha – Uribia – Cabo de la vela From Medellin you can get to Cartagena passing by tolu, cobeñas and many other cities like barrancabermeja and Valledupar. You will notice that this trip is also very long (16 hours approximately). Once you are in Cartagena follow the steps that we are going to mention next. Continue reading … Route 3 – The details Cartagena – Barranquilla – Santa Marta – Riohacha – Uribia – Cabo de la vela From Cartagena you will need to take public transportation to santa marta passing by Barranquilla. Once you are in Santa Marta you will need to get to Riohacha, the capital of La guajira. From Riohacha, where we recommend you to buy some water and snacks for the trip or any other personal items that you might need in el cabo de la vela because up there everything is more expensive, you can take a vehicle from the terminal that will take you to the town of Uribia which is cataloged as the indigenous capital of Colombia; this trip will cost you around $17.000 per person which in American dollars is $6.00 approximately and it will last 2 hours or so; once you are there you will need to take a […]

Perfect low budget tips for 3 days in Medellín

Perfect low budget tips for 3 days in Medellín What is the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about Medellín, Colombia? Right. I am afraid that it has something to do with white powder. That is probably the result of the popular Netflix series Narcos. However, when driving towards this beautiful city I was soon to be overwhelmed by its size (it – is – HUGE) and the hundreds of modern skyscrapers. Add to this that it is situated in the Aburrá valley, nestled in the foothills of the Central Cordillera, and you get a wonderful, dynamic Colombian city. Put this city on your wish-to-visit-soon list. Let me tell you what you cannot miss. The best part: it is low budget! FREE WALKING TOUR IN DOWNTOWN MEDELLÍN Costs: Tip for the guide When literally every fellow backpacker you meet tells you about this amazing free walking tour, you must be out of your mind to ignore it. At least, that is what we thought. That is why we looked up the website of Real City Tours Medellín, for a free walking tour on either Friday, Saturday or Sunday. However, joining this tour is not that easy since it is really popular. Please note the following facts (and remember them!): There are no free walking tours on Sunday nor Monday! (Monday is a public holiday) You can sign up for the free walking tour 1.5 day in advance from 6:15 PM The tour is extremely popular, so set your alarm. Want to book for Thursday, go online on Tuesday at 6.15 PM. Got it? There are Morning Tours and Afternoon Tours from Monday till Friday 8:54 AM at Poblado Metro Station or 9:14 at Alpujarra Metro Station 2:19 PM at Alpujarra Metro Station There is a Saturday Morning Tour Leaves from Alpujarra Metro Station at 9:49 AM The tour takes about 4 hours The tour doesn’t focus mainly on the drug-cartel history! It is really nice to learn that there is way more that makes Medellín such an interesting city. Unfortunately, we were already too late to sign up for tours on Friday and Saturday. On top of that, we didn’t know there was no tour on Sunday nor Monday (I guess travelers only remember what to do, and not what conditions apply to the tour). No panic! After we checked in at our hostel on Thursday afternoon at 12:30 PM, we quickly bought some lunch and went to Alpujarra Metro Station. We got there around 1:50 PM. At 2:00 PM Daniela and her colleagues showed up in their red t-shirts. She was so kind to put us on the waiting list. After waiting for about 30 minutes, we got great news: we were in! The walk led us to and through historic squares, buildings and parks. The personal stories of Juan made it an extremely good and eye opening tour. Definitely a must do, and the good news: it is based on tips, so you can decide what to […]

Medellín – “The city of the eternal spring”

MEDELLIN – COLOMBIA Well, perhaps you have heard about my city a lot, because of that show on Netflix and some soap operas that have been quite successful in the media, but I have news! It is all preconceptions. I want to tell you about the “Medellín” I know, I want you to see it the way I see it and want you to fall in love with “The city of the eternal spring”. It is located in Latin America (Colombia) and it has all the culture and resources related to this region that you will definitely love! [single_map_place] Medellín [/single_map_place] THE PEOPLE The people that live in Medellín are known as “Paisas” because they are part of the department of Antioquia.  The Paisas are commonly recognized for their hospitality, kindness, and happiness. If you get to know a Paisa you will certainly have a friend for life. They like to help other people and if you visit a “Paisa” Mom you will probably walk away with your stomach full and with some food for your journey (LOL). THE FOOD In Colombia, you can find a wide variety of dishes and typical food.  When you visit Medellín, make sure you try this food before you leave, you will really like the diversity of options we have to delight your palate: Arepa: It is the favorite food for people from Medellín. The original arepa is similar to corn cake and you can eat it with the ingredients you want to put in it. But we also have a variety of arepas: cheese arepa, Yellow corn arepa, Mote’s arepa, etc. Paisa people can eat arepa for breakfast, for lunch and also for dinner, as they can eat it with any ingredient on the top. My favorite one is White Arepa (known as “arepa tela”) with some butter and salt on the top; hope you like it!. Bandeja Paisa: It is our typical dish. It is eaten for lunch and it has a lot of ingredients: Rice, beans, sausage, fried egg, pork rind, Ground beef, ripe plantain, avocado, salad, and arepa. This dish is usually accompanied with Guandolo (brown sugar with lemon), natural juice or mazamorra (milk with corn). Other food you should try in Medellín: Empanada Buñuelo Pandequeso Oblea Solterita Natural Juices Mango with salt and lemon THE WEATHER Medellín is not known as “The city of the eternal spring” in vain!  Here we do not have stations, therefore it is never too cold and it is never too warm. The temperature in Medellín is between 17°C on the cold days and 32°C on the hot ones. The weather in Medellín is quite amazing because it is really unpredictable. It can be a really sunny day in the morning and a rainy one in the afternoon.  So, you may bring a couple of short pants, but also a slight sweater with you. And get ready to be impressed by deep blue skies and beautiful rainbow sceneries.     WHERE TO STAY When I have visited […]

My life experience in a little town called Tauramena Casanare

Great to be there!! Tauramena is located on the Colombian Eastern Plains. A few years ago, this was the richest municipality in Colombia due to the oil royalties. This royalties caused it to go from a small town, with electrical energy generated by portable power generators, without pavement streets, without adequate water supply system, to have tall buildings and a great infrastructure. When I moved to Tauramena, in 1996, its streets were dusty and sun-dried. At the same time, it was full of many people coming from different parts of the country. They all came looking for the opportunity to work in oil companies which got there for the “black gold” oil. These companies generated many jobs and progres for the municipality. Before the oil season came, Tauramena had a low population density, which based its economy on agricultural activity, especially livestock, rice and, in an incipient, oil palm. With the oil bloom, its population tripled. Over time, the development was noticeable all over the town the streets were all paved and health and education were improved too. The climate’s town is hot, its average temperature is 26 degrees and can reach up to 36 degrees. The advantage is that by being away from mountains, there is a lot of breeze; this helps bear the heat. On the village sidewalks, people are used to take out their chairs and rocking chairs at night to refresh themselves with all their neighbors. The town plains are bathed by dozens of rivers. Tauramena Casanare map What to do in Tauramena? I can say that this town is very folkloric for all the festivities it performs each year. One of the festivities is the International Rodeo Festival, which emerged as a need to take advantage of the great artistic talent that exists in the region. This became little by little one of the most important events in the region. In this festival you can see the following autochthonous activities of the region: The joropo, which is what is called the music from the plains per excellence. The bandola llanera, a musical instrument. The contrapunteo, a musical expression that consists in that two singers improvise verses to the rhythm of the music. Couples dance. To clarify the joropo is a dance that has some degree of difficulty to learn, since I tried without success. Afternoon of Coleus: it is the main sport of the man llanero (man of the plains). It is conformed by the trilogy between man, horse and bull. The goal: the rider must knock down the bull by pulling him by the tail, not only the rider has to have the skills but also the horse so that its speed can exceed that of the bull. It tests the skill and strength of the llaneros to mount and dominate the cattle. This sport is practiced on a track called “Manga de coleo” Another activities: Night llanera with the best artists of Colombia and Venezuela, the voices set the pattern and announce that […]

Paradise of a Unique Kind in Medellin, Colombia

For many, the vision of paradise involves tropical beaches, palm trees, sipping an exotic tropical cocktail, and watching the sunset beyond the waves. Others prefer to escape the salty air, sweating, and sand chafing for a more refreshing clime and the prospect of eternal springtime; for this latter group, Medellin, Colombia is a paradise of a unique kind.   Gone from Medellin are the days of Pablo Escobar and the drug cartels which held this mountain paradise in its grip. In their place, as though the hardy people of the Aburra Valley found their wings and took flight, is a modern, thriving city, which is growing at a breakneck pace. Enriched by its history, its culture, and its tranquil beauty, the City of Eternal Spring is no longer a locale to avoid, but a place to embrace.   A Brief History of Medellin The Aburra Valley in which Medellin is located was discovered by Spanish explorers in the 1540’s and settled shortly thereafter by Spanish Jews fleeing the Spanish Inquisition. Though it was originally a Jewish settlement, Catholicism found its way to the Aburra Valley and applied a name of its own to the settlement and along with the establishment of a church here in 1675. We are very fortunate that Medellin’s name was shortened to what it is today, because it was a mouthful; Villa de Nuestra Señora de la Candelaria de Medellín.   The Last Stand in Colombia's Struggle for Independence Because of its rugged terrain, the area around Medellin was among the last hide-outs of the Spanish during Colombia’s struggle for independence. A group of Colombian revolutionaries were led by an area native, Jose Maria Cordoba (for whom Medellin's international airport is named), to hunt for and eliminate the last Spanish resistance in the Aburra Valley. Their particularly ruthless task gave the Batallón de Casadores (Battalion of Hunters) a place of honor in Colombia’s military history.   Antioquia and Antioqueños Labeled according to the name given to the department or province, Antioquia (Antioch), the residents became known as Antioqueños. Antioqueños, by sheer necessity were mountaineers who lived a simple, independent lifestyle calling for simple innovations. It is a mindset which has not died out entirely with modernization.   The Silleta and Silleteros Isolated from the rest of the country by a geography, which includes steep slopes with thick vegetation, the Antioqueños developed a unique culture and colloquial language referred to as Paisa. One of the most unique cultural elements of Medellin’s cultural history developed out of simplicity and necessity; the silleta. A silleta is, quite literally, a silla or chair, which was and is carried on the back of a sillatero. It was used to transport people or altered slightly to transport goods or produce.  The silleta and silletero is still celebrated in Medellin today.   The Celebration of Culture in Medellin Pasias, as they are more commonly referred to today, are very proud of their heritage. Not only do they not stray too far from it, but […]

Filandia: Hidden Gem of Colombia

Most travelers that are familiar with Colombia have visited or at least heard of Salento, the town most visited by foreigners in Colombia’s coffee region. Unfortunately, Filandia is typically overlooked by backpackers when planning their trip through the Zona Cafetera. At first glance, the two towns appear very similar with their brightly colored buildings around a beautiful central plaza. But when you take a deeper look, you’ll notice that there hardly any foreigners in Filandia, while Salento can seem overrun with tourists at times. Although Filandia’s tourism industry is beginning to attract more foreigners, it is still the perfect town to visit for those looking for a more authentic feeling; who enjoy being surrounded by locals and Colombian tourists. And don’t worry- Salento’s most famous attraction, the wax palms in Corcora Valley, are an easy day trip away from Filandia. If you’re like us and enjoy doing things slightly off the beaten track, then head to Filandia! Freshly picked coffee beans. About Filandia Filandia is a picturesque little town that is located on the edge of Colombia's coffee district. Known as “La Colina Iluminada de los Andes” (The Illuminated Hill of the Andes), the town boasts beautiful colonial buildings and is surrounded by rolling, green hills. It is a popular destination for Colombians who want to escape the hustle and bustle of city life and relax in the peaceful and temperate climate. Surrounding the plaza are hoards of jeeps that serve as the community's taxi transport service. Bohemian coffee shops and bakeries are easy to come by around the plaza, but as you go one block away from the plaza in any direction you can find plenty of traditional and international cuisine for an affordable price. The main “supermarket” is located right on the plaza next to the cathedral on the corner. There is another store that appears more like a traditional open veggie and fruit market a block away from the plaza, if you want to go and compare prices to get the best deals. Due to its location, the produce and vegetables in Filandia are abundant and very cheap. The locals around here are known to be friendly to foreigners, so engage them in conversation to get a little Spanish practice. How to Arrive From Armenia: At the central bus station, you have to buy a 4,600 peso ticket and you will enjoy a scenic 45-minute drive that drops you off right downtown. From Pereira: You can find direct buses here as well, so the trip is virtually the same as far as distance and price. The drive is very beautiful so make sure to get a window seat. From Salento: The process is only one step more complicated even though the two towns are only 10km apart from each other. You must take a bus headed to Armenia and tell the driver you would like to get off at “Los Flores”. Once you get off, cross the street and wait for a bus […]

How to move in Bogota: handy information for your next trip

  So, if you're coming to town soon, you'll find this information useful. It can save you some time, money, and even a few headaches to know more about how to transport yourself in such a large city. ARRIVING Let's start with the obvious. It is very likely that you arrive at a recently renewed El Dorado airport, which is located on the west side of Bogota. Depending on how tired are you, the size of your luggage and the time of your arrival, there are a few options to consider. Taxi (or cab) is the most common here, and you'll find a line as soon as you cross the doors in order to get an authorized service. The cost should be around $30.000 to $50.000 Colombian pesos (which would be around $ COP 10-20). The good news is that you can also take buses that will take you to the main public transport system, Transmilenio, right outside the airport as well. It might be crowded sometimes, especially during rush hours, but if you're traveling on a low budget, go ahead! A green bus with the Transmilenio logo and the route 16-14 called “Aeropuerto” (Airport), will take you free of charge to “El Dorado”, one of the Transmilenio's Main stations, where you'll be able to buy a card for $COP 3000 (a bit more than a dollar), and charge it with the amount you think you'll need. Each trip costs $COP 2200 (around $US 0,75), and you'll also be able to pay SITP (blue regular buses) with it. If you think you'll take the adventure of traveling by bus, I strongly suggest to charge it with more money that you'll use for the first trip, since it's not always easy to find a place where you'll be able to do so besides Transmilenio Stations. There are other options, such as Dual or Hybrid buses, which are smaller red versions or Transmilenio articulated buses, and even an SITP route, but both will require you to have your card recharged prior to your arrival (which is pretty unlikely to happen, so just let's move forward) HOW TO USE TRANSMILENIO Transmilenio is the main public transportation city here in Bogota, and it started running in 2000. It's one of the fastest ways to move around the city, and it covers a large part of it, with 12 lines that can take you through some of the main highways and avenues avoiding traffic jams. Despite speed is a huge pro, the biggest con is definitely comfort. During rush hours, there are always long lines outside stations to enter (and struggle to try to get out as well), and usually, there are also lines and even crowds inside trying to reach the route they need, so my advice is to avoid it from 7 to 9 am, and from 4:30 to 7 pm. It's known that this system is not going through its best time, basically because of the lack of infrastructure since the number of users has been growing exponentially, but […]

Picturesque Town of Guatapé, Colombia

Picturesque town of Guatapé, Colombia Have you been wondering where your next destination should be in Colombia? Have you been following Narcos or know of Pablo Escobar, the notorious king of Medellin cartel? Do you like being surrounded by beautiful landscape? Then I suggest you to consider taking a trip to the colorful town of Guatapé, which is located just outskirts of Medellin. Having been to different regions of Colombia, I don’t hesitate to say that Guatapé was one of my favorite places to visit. After visiting Bogota, Medellin and various cozy towns at the Carribbean coast, I was ready to have a peaceful break from the crowd and just take it easy for a few days.. Guatapé turned out to the best place to relax for a few days, breath in the nature.. and to see one of Pablo Escobar’s blown up lake house mansion! How to get to Guatapé? Worried about how to find your way to Guatapé? Don’t! Getting into Guatapé is more convenient than you think! You can easily take the direct bus from Medellin to Guatepé (at Terminal de Norte) choose from various bus companies, and reach the gorgeous destination in less than 2 hours. Once you get on the bus, you are usually asked about your drop off location. You can either get off at the town center or at El Peñón de Guatapé (described below) and head to the town right after an unforgettable experience. From El Peñón de Guatapé you can easily catch a colorful  tuk-tuk to the town center or to your accommodation. Tuk-tuk Once you are in Guatapé, you can select from wide range of activities to start your trip. El Peñón de Guatapé But first, let’s start with El Peñón de Guatapé or La Piedra ( the Rock of Guatapé)…  El Penon de Guatapé is a 10 million ton rock that is more than 650 feet/ 200meters above the ground. In order to get up to the summit for the panoramic view of Guatapé, you have to climb numerous number of stairs, 659 to be exact. However, you will not regret climbing those 659 steps once you reach the view point tower. From the summit, you will get an idea of the landscape of Guatapé and admire the mesmerizing view of the surrounding lakes, green islands, and the town of Guatapé. Whichever direction you choose to look, you will be astonished. At the summit, you can reward yourself for all your hard work with a beer while enjoying the view. Or, if the weather is nice, why not also have some ice cream or take a nap? 🙂   View form the summit Pablo Escobar's Island People who know about Pablo Escobar, are a fan of Narcos, who are fascinated by Colombia, and for those who enjoy playing paintball this one is for you: Take a trip to Pablo Escobar’s island, his lake house/mansion! You can get there by boat, and this is a great way to explore the lake and […]

Salento and the Valle de Colombia: Colombia's Coffee Region Gems

Colombia is often talked about for it’s ‘magical realism’. A place so beautiful, enchanted and alive it seems surreal. When I walked through Salento’s colourful streets and trekked the misty hills of the Valle de Cocora that’s certainly how I felt. After four perfect days in and around this little town I can say, with certainty, that this is a part of Colombia not to be missed. Salento While many foreigners go to Salento purely for Cocora, the town itself is packed with colour, music and plenty of places for tourists to eat, drink and be merry. As a result of its toy-town charm, stunning surrounds and excellent food and coffee Salento has become the biggest tourist destination in Colombia’s coffee region. Naturally then, prepare for the myriad of gringos, the tourist stores peddling poor-quality ponchos and huge crowds of Colombian tourists who arrive every weekend and fill the streets. Despite this, especially if you arrive mid-week, it’s definitely a beautiful spot to spend a few days. Salento has plenty of charm to keep you entertained for as long as you’d like but, a few charms in particular made our Salento trip unbeatable. The Local Trout Once in Salento, everybody is almost required to taste the local trout and the huge patacones. Trout is the famous local dish of Salento and stars on the menus of almost all the restaurants in town. It’s almost impossible to avoid, and worth giving in to. Most restaurants will charge between 10,000 and 20,000 COP for a serving of fresh fish. Walks Outside Town Another great option for Salento is to take a stroll outside town. Many hostels will have a secret track they’ll let you in on if you are looking for a nice walk around town. Our hostel owner guided us in the direction of a great little short walk up the hill where you can sit on the grass and look over the entire town. Instead of taking the steps up to the Mirador at the end of the main street, take the little road to the left and follow that up for as far as you’d like to. An indiscreet gap in the fence along the way will lead you out to a grass patch on the edge of a hill where you can sit and admire the town from above. For those who want to explore the surrounds with their feet off the ground, it’s also possible to hire bikes or horses inside Salento. Salento's Coffee Farms Being that you are in Salento, the number one destination in the coffee region, it’s not a bad idea to visit a coffee farm. If you haven’t already been through one of the farms on your travels and tasted some fresh-off-the-tree coffee, Salento is a good place to do it. There are plenty of farms that are walking distance from the town centre and prices vary depending on how in-depth a tour you decide to take but start at around 8,000 COP. All […]

8 things you probably didn't know about small town Colombia

In the past ten years, Colombia has become a popular tourist destination. The country is leaving behind it's reputation of drugs and violence, and is now part of the well-trodden backpackers path in South America. Colombia has become so popular because it has so much to offer; if you're looking for culture, impressive architecture and night life, visit Colombia's two biggest cities, Bogota and Medellin respectively; if you've come for beautiful beaches and clear Caribbean ocean, explore Parque Tayrona or go open-water diving in Taganga; if history and the heat is your thing, don't miss Cartagena's old town. And if you are a coffee-drinker (or addict…), head to Salento and Minca to visit coffee farms and learn about the growing process from bean to cup. Capurganá, a small beach town a short bus ride and boat ride from Apartadó. Another experience you might want to try during your stay in Colombia is stepping away from the typical tourist destinations to explore one of Colombia's many small, non-touristic towns. Last year I spent a month living with a Colombian family in the small town of Apartadó, volunteering as a teacher assistant at their English language school. Here are 8 things I learnt about small-town Colombia during my time there. 1. Monkeys stealing bananas is an actual problem here Apartadó and the surrounding area of Urabá Antioquia is a massive banana producing region. On two separate occasions I had students tell me they had seen monkeys on banana fincas (farms) who had obviously shown up to snack on some of the produce. One student found a large, aggressive monkey in the back of a banana truck which couldn't be approached until he had eaten his full! Bananas being weighed at sorted at a banana farm just out of Apartadó. 2. Barber-shop culture Small-town Colombia is a great place to get your hair or nails done. Because these activities are popular with the locals, there are a lot of Salons and barbershops, and it's cheap! A fellow volunteer got a beautician to visit the house and do her nails for the equivalent of $5USD. Apartadó particularly has a real barber-shop culture. Each day I would pass at least 6 barber-shops on my short walk to the English language school. And they always seem to be full, especially in the evenings. The demand for such a prevalence of barber-shops seems to be the fashion for guys to get the edge of their hair line shaved straight across the top (reminiscent of Spock from Star-trek) with some groovy patterns shaved around the side and backs; these styles obviously need a lot of maintenance. If you're in Apartadó, and you're after a local haircut, visit “Nigga's Barber-shop”. While the name of their shop is incredibly politically incorrect, it looked like the hip place to hang out, and get a fresh, slick cut. 3. The unofficial uniform of blue jeans Despite every day reaching temperatures in the mid-thirties (celsius), […]
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