2 weeks in Colombia

I truly didn’t know what to expect when my boyfriend told me that he had to travel to Colombia for work and that his project ended around Christmas. To be honest, like most people around me, the first words that came into my head when thinking about Colombia were FARC, violence, drugs and kidnapping.

When preparing my trip, I discovered that the situation in Colombia had actually improved in the past 15 years. The army and the police now have much more control over the territory partially thanks t the peace process between the government and FARC rebels. However, in addition to the FARC, the rebel ELN (smaller) movement is still active, especially in remote areas.

Before leaving

Actually, there’s nothing special to do. No mandatory vaccines, unless you are travelling from Angola, Brazil, Democratic Republic of the Congo or Uganda.

Here are the advice from the Belgian Ministry of Foreign Affairs :

  • Do not carry valuables or a large sum of money
  • It is better to carry a photocopy of your passport in your pocket and leave your documents in the hotel
  • Be on your guard when strangers speak to you in the street and especially do not accept any drink or cigarette from these people
  • Be on your guard when you withdraw money
  • Avoid taking a taxi in the street (I ordered Ubers most of the time, even if not legal in Colombia)
  • Do not walk in areas where there are few tourists and more generally in the slums of big cities
  • Avoid tap water

2 days in Bogotá

I took an early KLM flight from Brussels, stopped for few hours in the Amsterdam airport and after being smelled by cute dogs at the gate, off I went to Bogotá!

Things to do:

  • Free tour in La Candelaria: The Heroes tour is very interesting to discover the history of the country. We visited all the landmarks in the centre, tasted some nice local fruits and even played tejo. Tip whatever you would like at the end!
  • Botero Museum: the Botero Museum is located in a very nice colonial house in the centre. Many sculptures and paintings from Fernando Botero but also artwork from international artists. And good news, it’s free!
  • Museo del Oro: this is the biggest museum dedicated to pre-Columbian gold. Entrance is only around 2,5€. More than 50 000 pieces, from diadems to ceremonial objects, spread on 3 floors. Don’t miss the circular room at the end!
  • Nature Trail San Francisco – Vicachá : a nice hike on the hill behind the Candelaria and not far from Montserrate. Plan several stops as your European heart is probably not used to so much exercise so high up!
  • Cerro de Monserrate: you can reach the basilica at the top of this sacred hill by foot, cable car or funicular. Beautiful view from 3 152m!

More information and pictures here

2 days in Cali

I took a short flight from Bogotá to Cali: only about one hour trip. Perfect timing!

Things to do:

  • Free tour of the city: nice way of discovering the city with a true caleño. The tour takes place every day at 10.00AM and passes by La Ermita Church, El Museo de La Merced, El Gato del Rio
  • Salsa caleña lesson: I really recommend a super nice hostel: Viajero Cali Hostel & Salsa School! Swimming pool, organised tours and free yoga and salsa lessons!
  • Salsa club: after perfecting your moves, time to head to THE club where all the travellers go: Topa Tolondra. But don’t worry local guys will come and get you to dance!

Good restaurants in the San Antonio neighbourhood: Pao pizza bakery cafe and El Buen Alimento.

! Be safe: don’t go out alone, especially at night time. A girl in my hostel got her phone stolen in scary circumstances.

3 days in Salento

I took 2 buses: one to Pereira and then one to Salento. Quite a long trip: 6 hours (if everything goes right…)

Things to do:

  • The Cocora Valley: you cannot miss this lovely trek staring at super tall palma de cera (between 40-60m!), walking on broken bridges and exploring the tropical jungle like Indiana Jones
  • Visiting the city: two viewpoints on the colourful city made of pink hotels, yellow shops and blue houses and the stunning countryside with Río Quindío at the bottom
  • Horse rides and visiting a finca

More information and pictures here.

3 days in Medellin

The bus ride from Salento to Medellín was quite long and tough. I felt a big sick when I arrived at the Hotel Dann Carlton Belfort where my boyfriend was staying for work.

Things to do:

  • Comuna 13 Graffiti tour: I booked the best rated tour of the Comuna 13. The young boys and girls running the tour are actually from the Comuna 13 and have interesting stories to tell about the bad times of once the most dangerous neighbourhood of the city, where gangs and cartels were ruling the place
  • Tour in the centre: Plaza Botero with all of its statues, Museo de Antioquia with more Botero and work from many other artists, Parque Bolivar and the catedral. Shopping in Carrera 49.
  • Go up the telecable for a stunning view on the city

Recommended restaurants: funky avocado recipes at Lavocadería, delicious steak at BÁRBARO, a typical Colombian dish at Hatoviejo.

Recommended bars around Parque Lleras: quirky Woka, hipster Burdo, on cut trunks at 37 Park Medellin.

1 night in San Andres & 3 days in Providencia

For the first time in my life, I was travelling abroad – and in a sunny part of the world – on my birthday (also Xmas day). I decided to spend it the best way I could: in the Caribbean!

We took a flight from Medellín to San Andres and then a baby plane to Providencia on the next day.

Things to do:

  • Boat tour: the small boat tour shows you the main landmarks of the island like Morgan’s head or El Pico. We then stopped in Cayo Cangrejo (Crab Bay), a tiny island famous for its 7 different nuances of turquoise and its 3 turtles. We finished with a lunch on the largest beach of the island: Playa Suroeste.
  • Tour of the island on a scooter: We started with the small but lovely beach of Almond Bay, we then stopped in the “capital” Santa Isabel  to cross a funky bridge to the green island of Santa Catalina. Nice walk in the mangrove to a small beach right after Fort Warwick. We then watched the sunset on Playa Manzanillo, a Caribbean beach just like in movies.

More information and pictures here.

2 days in Santa Marta

We took a rather quick flight from San Andres to Santa Marta. Bloggers seem not to really enjoy the city, quite busy and not interesting historically. However, after 4 days on a quiet island, we didn’t mind the vibrant vibe and the place is a great base for several excursions.

Things to do in Santa Marta

  • Minca: Lovely lunch at the Lazy Cat staring at birds. We then headed to Pozo Azul with a local motorbike driver. The site is pretty but the water is pretty cold and there’s not a lot of place to sit down. Tip: cover yourself with insect repellent before going. Sandflies killed us.
  • Tayrona National Park: beautiful national park between jungle and wild beaches. Tip: make your booking before going to jump the queue and to be sure to get in (there’s a limited amount of tickets). If you don’t take your insurance at that time, there will force you to take one at the entrance (even if you have a private one).

More information and pictures here.

2 days  in Cartagena

We took a shuttle from our hostel to the final destination if our Colombian trip: Cartagena. Nice views along the coast.

Things to do:

  • Free Walking tour: we did a nice tour in the centre of the city with a guide from Beyond Colombia. We walked from Paseo de los Mártires to Plaza de los Coches, we learnt more about the beautiful houses of the centre and the meaning of the drawings on the doors, we continued to Plaza Bolívar and the cathedral.We finished our tour at the bottom of the Muralles.
  • Getsemani: this area is so vibrant with so many colourful houses, tags, and little restaurants, it’s just impossible not to fall in love!
  • If I hadn’t been sick: I had planned an excursion to Las Islas de la Rosario  and to have sunset drinks at Café del Mar

More information and pictures here.

Time to fly back to cold Brussels 😦

If I had more time, I would have also gone to the desert in Neiva, visit Popayan and St Augustin, do an excursion to Caño Cristales, spotwhales in the Chocó department on the Pacific coast, spend two days in Guatape and explore the Guajira peninsula.

Hopefully I will go back one day! Hasta luego Colombia!

*prices from December 2018

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