Our visit to Colombia was full of fun, entertainment and friendly locals. Colombians are passionate people and like to talk about everything including their colourful history, their culture and of course wonderful food, music and dancing. Tourism is just starting to take off in this country so now is the perfect time to visit you won’t regret it.
There are several ways to get to Colombia from Australia. We flew from Brisbane to Los Angeles then onto Panama City and a short 50 minute flight to Cartagena where we were met by our daughter who is now living in Colombia. It was great having a “local” to show us around.
Cartagena is Colombia’s 5th largest city, and one of its most popular travel destinations. The old city (“ciudad amurallada”) is made up of stunning colonial architecture, vibrant shops and restaurants, and narrow cobblestone streets.
As you walk around this beautiful old town you will see the colourfully dressed Las Palenqueras of Cartagena. These Fruit Basket Ladies come from the small village of San Basilio de Palenque. This village has a rich history and was founded in colonial times by runaway slaves. It is now a UNESCO world heritage site.
Whilst wandering around the old town you are never far from an amazing array of cafes, restaurants and bars. Our favourite spot was Cafe Del Mar where EVERYONE goes to watch the sun set. The mojitos were delicious (A$7.50) and a local beer called Aguilara was (A$3).
Only an hour’s bus ride from Cartagena is Playa Blanca (the white beach) a popular spot for both tourists and locals alike. It boasts beautiful turquoise water and white sandy beaches.
Most people visiting Playa Blanca book a half or full day tour from Cartagena. These tours are sold by many locals on the streets which is where we bought our tickets but you can also book through your hostel or a travel agent. You can either go to Playa Blanca by boat or bus or private vehicle.
We decided on the bus which cost A$50 pp and included a delicious lunch of locally caught fresh fish and salad. If you want to sit under an umbrella then you will have to pay A$5.
Unfortunately it has become a bit of a tourist hotspot and can get quite crowded at times. There are plenty of beach shack restaurants and bars as well as lots of hawkers selling everything from massages to beer and cocktails.
Santa Marta (where our daughter lives) is just a 4 hour bus ride from Cartagena and is the oldest remaining city in Colombia. The town has a vibrant yet cosy feel about it. Lots of cafes in little laneways where at night the street performers entertain you and the food is fresh and tasty and costs vary from around A$5pp to A$15pp for a very good steak. The beer and cocktails are cheaper here too A$2 for a large Aguilara (beer) and 2 Mojitos for A$7.50 …. bargain!
There is no shortage of adventures to be had in and around Santa Marta. El Rodadero and Taganga are just two beaches nearby and the famous Tayrona National Park, is about an hour’s drive from Santa Marta. From here you take a boat to Playa Crystal another beautiful beach. You can also trek to Colombia’s legendary Ciudad Perdida, or “Lost City,” hidden deep in the dense jungle. A real Indiana Jones-style adventure.
Another amazing place is Palomino a mere 2hr. bus ride at a cost of A$5. Beautiful rainforests, water falls, rivers and villages border the road such an untouched paradise.
We stayed in a hotel right on the beach a great place to chill out for a few days. Once again lots of things to do around here.
My favourite part of our holiday was hopping on the back of a motor bike and going up into the mountains to one of the local indigenous tribes, the Kogi. Around 700 people live here in mud huts set amongst the Sierra Nevada mountains. They cool off in THE most amazing creek with beautiful waterfalls and all so natural. Food is grown and tendered to by the families. The children are just beautiful and all so welcoming. A wonderful experience.
Back to Palomino and a swim in the waters of the Caribbean Sea then a float down the Rio Palomino again past awesome scenery from the jungle to the sea. Another great day trip was to Valencia about 1/2 hr. by bus from Palomino. We walked to the waterfalls through the rich thick jungle it was quite hot after clambering up rocks to the swimming hole. So refreshing. Another incredible spot.
Just a short 45minute drive from Santa Marta is Minca. A small town set 600 meters high in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. A visit to the La Victoria coffee farm is not to be missed. This is where coffee is processed by traditional equipment and methods from the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. A fabulous 4WD trip up the mountain through some magnificent scenery. On the way back call into Pozo Azul to cool off in the cold cold waterfall. It’s about a half hour hike down a hill or if you don’t want to walk you can hop on the back of a motor bike for a thrilling ride.
As you can see Colombia is a little different from what you may think. No longer is the country ravaged by the drug cartels and violence that it was known for in the past. Since the signing of the Peace Agreement it has become one of the most popular destinations for travellers and locals alike. In fact it was named by Lonely Planet as the 2nd best country to visit in 2017.
Our visit was arranged by Cosmo Dorado a local travel agent in Santa Marta, Colombia. They organised all our travel and accommodation from Cartagena to Santa Marta and the day trips as well as a lovely few days in Palomino. Why not visit Colombia now before it gets too touristy contact Cosmo Dorado for a quote.