Bogota: big, bold and beautiful!
Was I nervous heading to Colombia in April? Well, it is no secret that Colombia has a reputation as being a country that is unsafe and rife with conflict. But after decades of civil war, Colombia is back. Check your preconceived notions at the door, because the only risk in going to Colombia is never wanting to leave!
Bogota is the fast paced capital and largest city in Colombia: 7 million people call it home. La Candelaria is the city’s main historical district and is dominated by the looming mountain of Monserrate, rising 10,341 feet above sea level. If you make the peak, you can join pilgrims and visit the shrine for the Fallen Lord, as well as enjoy panoramic views of most of Bogota. La Candelaria is also home to the Botero Museum, which contains works by figurative artist Fernando Botero, as well as the Gold Museum, which hosts over 36,000 pieces in gold, wood, shell and stone.
In Bogota, you must take advantage of the delicious restaurants. We all indulged in locally made empanadas – fried pastry stuffed with different types of meat, cheese or a combo of both; ajiaco soup – made with chicken, slices of corn still on the cob, potatoes and herbs; and arepa – deep fried plantains which came with every meal. Want to try something different? How about hot chocolate mixed with cheese? In Colombia it is quite popular for hot chocolate to be serves with a side of soft cheese that is broken up and dropped into the hot chocolate. The cheese melts and gives the hot drink a very distinctive taste. Yum!
We got the chance to walk around the older part of Bogota in our free time and blend in with the locals taking in the sights, sounds and culture. Street vendors selling their famous hot chocolate and cheese on the street; watching the changing of the guards (a daily event at the Presidential Palace); Bogota did not disappoint. The Colombian Government has taken great strides to make this city safe, inviting and clean. Take the time to get lost in this large city and take in all the cafes, emerald shops and museums, or just sit on the steps of the Archbishopric Cathedral of Bogota in Simon Bolivar Square, feed the birds and people watch.
Bogota was only the start to an eye opening small group journey of the beautiful country. From Bogota you can travel an hour and be in a new, completely different and awe inspiring part of Colombia. Interested in walking tours, shopping and history? Then fly to Cartagena where you will be welcomed with a warm blast of tropical weather. Sit on the beach and enjoy the sand and surf. Take a quick cab ride to the walled Old City and get lost in a maze of shops, restaurants, sidewalk vendors and beautiful historic buildings. Hop on a Chiva (Party) bus and sing along with the performers singing and playing traditional instruments. Make your way to the upper part of the Old Town and dance under the stars to the beautiful Latin music. Interested in a hike and all things nature? Hike Tayrona National Park and make your way to Cabo San Juan. Here you can nestle in a hammock and sleep under the stars. Take the time to hike to the Publito Ruins, a challenging two hour hike up through the jungle where you might spot monkeys, poison frogs, over 150 different types of birds or blue crabs. At the top, you are welcomed to a beautiful set of ruins that are largely untouched. Want to get lost with the locals? Spend time in the small fishing village of Taganga where you can take in all of the colorful boats, eat some local seafood and just enjoy some time to yourself walking up and down the streets.
We traveled with G Adventures, and our Chief Experience Officer, Henry, made the experience absolutely amazing, and opened our eyes to beautiful and accessible Colombia. I’d love to help you be one of the first to get back to this underappreciated destination!
Contributed by Carolyn Vinet from our Travel CUTS University of Manitoba Office
email Carolyn to find out more about Colombia at CVinet@travelcuts.com