Colombia Travel - San Gil, Colombia's Adventure Capital

San Gil maybe a small city, but there is no shortage of action here. The former colonial town is now the pride and joy of adventure lovers chasing adrenaline surges, making it one of Colombia's top highlights. Famed for everything from white-water rafting to mountain-biking, rapelling down waterfalls and soaring through canyons on a paraglider, there are plenty of activities and places to see in this outdoors capital of Colombia. A local Colombia expert can help you plan an entire trip around San Gil alone, or make it a part of your larger itinerary. How to get to there:You can reach San Gil from pretty much anywhere in Colombia, and it’s an ideal destination to lay-over for a few days between any of the major cities. Bucaramanga (the closest airport) is probably your best bet to reach San Gil quickly; it is easily accessible by all main cities, and a further 2 and half hour bus ride will get you there.Where to Stay:Editorial Copyrights: oporfavorIn terms of accommodations, San Gil has limited options to choose from; few of them are in the main city and some on the outskirts of the town. They range from budget accommodation to quaint boutique properties; there is nothing uber-luxurious here, but clean,spacious rooms, well equipped kitchens and excellent laundry services are pretty much the norm. And almost all properties provide perfect opportunities to explore the town, and give you access to the outdoor activities like rafting, biking, canyoning and hiking.Things to do:White Water RaftingEditorial copyrights: Brett Allen You haven't really experienced San Gil without doing the whitewater rafting offered here. It's the signature activity in town and there is no surprise that many travel operators organize this particular excursion.Editorial copyrights: Brett Allen Ride the thrilling rapids of the Suarez River and Rio Fonce, located just an hour from San Gil. During the expedition, your chosen rafting instructors will run the best section of Class III, IV and V rapids, depending upon your skill level. If there are any unexpected wipeouts, don't worry, there are plenty of pools at the end of each rapid which ensure the safety of the rafters.Rafting companies also provide great riverside service. Paddle and plunge through the frothing waters, enjoy the gorgeous scenery and look out for the exotic native birds in the region. Enjoy a nutritious riverfront meal before you head back to San Gil.Mountain BikingEditorial Copyrights: Jonathan HoodEditorial Copyrights: Jonathan HoodMountain biking is a great option to cover the length and breadth of San Gil. Biking tours run through the Chicamocha Canyon and the beautiful colonial town of Barichara (both key highlights of Colombia). Your chosen travel experts will connect you with the best biking companies in San Gil, where your biking adventure begins. And since the town is small, you cover all the major highlights in no time. Editorial Copyrights: Jonathan HoodEditorial Copyrights: Jonathan HoodEditorial Copyrights: Jonathan HoodThe tour can take the better part of a day, and the distance to be covered is around 31 miles. The journey downhill is a massive challenge for rookie bikers, but then is no fun without a bit of challenge. There will be a short lunch break to recharge your batteries, and qualified guides will ride with you every step of the way, carrying any equipment that may be required to fix bikes on the road, including flat tires. Once you’re done with the journey, help yourself to a beer that will taste so much better after the enduring challenge.Paragliding the Chicamocha CanyonEditorial copyrights: arigerdesThere are few things as much fun as strapping yourself to a parachute and taking flight over mountains and cliffs, relying mostly on thermals to send you soaring through the air and soaking in staggering views below.Editorial copyrights: Brett AllenHands down, the best place to do this is in the nearby Chicamocha Canyon. It’s also the best way to see the highly picturesque canyon and its nearby landscapes. The scenic flight will take you high up over the flat plains of tobacco plantations, with distant views of the ridges and valleys of Chicamocha. As a bonus, you may catch rare close-up views of the magnificent Andean condors.If you’re touring San Gil, make this experience a priority. Tandem or solo, seasoned travel experts can tailor multiple options for your family and kids.Caving and CanyoningEditorial copyrights: londineseFor those who don't know what canyoning is, it's basically crawling, rapelling, hopping and skipping down slippery rock-faces and boulders. It can be intimidating at first if you have a fear of heights, but expert guides and instructors will have you doing it in no time at all.Editorial copyrights: Santiago Salazar CruzOn this tour, explore the nearby Curiti canyon, where you can challenge yourself by climbing, rapelling and jumping off; and ultimately descending massive waterfalls and cliffs that are as high as 130 feet.Editorial copyrights: Niki SehmiEditorial copyrights: Liam and NatIn addition to canyoning, explore the La Cueva de la Vaca (The Cow Caves), which were once used by the local indigenous population to hide from the invading Spaniards. You can even rappel down an 80-foot rock face and plunge into a beautiful natural pool at its base which is perfect for swimming.Visit Barichara Once you’ve had your fill of adventure, go ahead and try something different, something a bit more relaxing. If you did a bit of mountain biking, you would end up in the beautiful town of Barichara. Here, you can wander the paved streets, past whitewashed houses with red tiled roofs and beautiful colonial architecture. Editorial Copyrights: HanumannEditorial Copyrights: Sol RobayoTake some additional time out and have the pleasure of eating scrumptious Colombian food at the famous Shanti restaurant; sample traditional liquors like Sabajon or Chica at local bars.Editorial Copyrights: 43bluedoorsThe town may be small, but take your own sweet time to walk around. There are a few hidden gems that you will stumble upon like the little paper factory called Fundación San Lorenzo; ideal for kids, you can tour the factory and learn more about the production of paper, jewelry, lamps and cute picture frames created from organic plants. At the end of your tour, we recommend you pick up cool souvenirs as bonus.Hike Camino RealEditorial copyrights: John MeckleyAfter finishing off a tour of Barichara, plan a 6 mile hike along the Camino Real in Guane. Originally used by local Guane tribal people to transport goods between villages during the Spanish colonial era, the historic stone walkway is undoubtedly one of the best places in San Gil for a scenic and serene walk. Soak in the stunning views of the Chicamocha Canyon and beautiful farmlands as you follow the trail that will ultimately lead you to a small town of Guane.If you can spare some additional time after reaching Guane, opt to visit the Guane Museum. Located near the town’s central plaza, the museum exhibits some rare artefacts from the native Guane tribes as well as a Guane mummy that was recovered from a nearby cave.Parque El GallineralEditorial copyrights: momentcaptured1If you’re looking to escape the bustle of San Gil, take a stroll around the mystical Parque El Gallineral. It’s only about a 10 minute walk from the main plaza.Editorial copyrights: momentcaptured1You can lose yourself in the peace and quietude of Barbas de Viejo (trees with enormous bearded branches) that stand firm in the 4-hectare park set on a triangle-shaped island between two arms of the Quebrada Curití and Río Fonce. The park also has a natural pool connected to the Rio Fonce which is ideal for a swim.Note: The Park is closed on Tuesdays.Eat at Gringo MikesAfter trying out all these adrenaline pumping activities, it’s probably a good idea to get some tasty food in as well. There are tons of Colombian options, but if you’re missing your favorite western food like burgers, fries, pasta  and American style tacos, then San Gil’s very own McDonalds called Gringo Mike’s is THE place to eat.Owned by an eccentric American expat named Mike (of course), it is the best American-style restaurant in all of Colombia. Chefs ensure that everything here is fresh, sufficiently greasy and oh so delicious.We can go about San Gil forever, but this guide should help to get you started on planning a customized itinerary around this adventure-crazy little Colombian town.  

Colombia Travel - Medellin City Guide (Things to Do and Places to See)

After covering things to do and places to see in the the capital city, Bogota, we quickly turn our attention to Medellin, another highlight of Colombia travel. Travelers who visit quickly realize that Medellin has transcended beyond its cartel and criminal past; nobody associates the city with Pablo Escobar anymore; it’s all about design, art and innovation.Explore this vibrant and scenic Colombian city on a private tour with a Colombia travel expert. Beautiful hillsides, a thriving arts scene, eco-friendly parks, a variety of adventure activities, and plenty of pulsating restaurants and bars to keep you entertained, that's what Medellin is all about these days, so make sure you include it as a part of your larger Colombian itinerary.OverviewOnce considered to be the most notorious city in the world, Medellin has emerged strong from its dark past of criminal unrest. In the past 20 years, the city has gone through a major transformation which has opened doors for travelers worldwide. Its change has been so extraordinary that mayors from all over the world come to Medellin to learn how to successfully transform a city.Apart from the eradication of drugs-related violence, the government also signed a peace treaty with the Marxist forces (after 5 decades of conflict!) in 2016; the city has now become an attractive hotspot of tourism, with its beautiful mountains, super friendly locals, excellent weather and a vibrant culture.When to goNo matter where in Colombia you visit, the weather is usually perfect and consistent, and Medellin is no exception. The city sits perfectly in the Andean region of Colombia at an altitude of 5000 feetr, where the weather is cool and dry throughout the year, with a profusion of blooming flowers wherever you look; it is precisely due to its pleasant spring-like climate that Medellin is called 'La Ciudad de la Eterna Primavera' ('The City of Eternal Spring).We recommend you visit Medellin during the Festival of the Flowers in August; this is probably the most colorful, vibrant and important event of the city; visitors can enjoy parades with colorful floats full of flowers, vintage cars exhibition, beauty pageants and musical concerts.How to get aroundTravelling in Medellin might seem a little intimidating; Colombia’s second largest city is a pretty big metropolis, but getting around is very easy. In actual fact, Medellin has one of the most complete, economical and supremely efficient public transport system in all of the Americas which includes busses, a metro, tram, public bicycle service and the metro cable service.Taxi: Like Bogota, hired taxis and local cabs are, for the most part, the most trusted and safest option. It’s always sensible to book a taxi in advance, and in general, chances of you getting ripped off are quite minimal.Bus: The bus network in Medellin is same that operates throughout Colombia; either you wait for them at the bus stop or hail one down on the middle of the street.Metro: The pride and joy of Medellin is the metro rail system. It is arguably one of the fastest and cleanest in the world, and helps connect far away areas of the city, bridging great distances easily. Another massive project that took place with the Metro in recent years was the addition of the Metro Cable. It has since become a national icon that connects the most popular neighborhoods with poorer comunas of the city up in the hills. Apart from being a great way to get around, it is also one of the primary tourist attractions; the views of the city are exquisite. We strongly recommend this way to get about in Medellin, as it covers all the major points of the city. You only need buy a ticket and look on a map to see where you’re going and go there.Things to do and places to see:Walking Tour of the CityAlmost all the prominent highlights of Medellin can be covered in a free walking tour; it's the best way to discover the city and understand all about its turbulent past and present.  Some Notable Highlights:Discover the world’s largest collection of Fernando Botero paintings (Botero is a famous Colombian figurative artist and sculptor), as well as works of other famous Latin American artists at the Museum de Antioquia. You can even admire his towering sculptures in Parque de Bolivar.Explore Botero Plaza, named after the great man himself, and wander through Medellin’s historic city center to see more of his larger-than-life figures. Pablo Escobar ToursPeople who have seen the hit TV show Narcos (or followed one of the biggest news stories of the 80s and early-90s) are aware of the legend of renowned drug lord Pablo Escobar. Depending on whom you ask, he either tormented the city and created civil unrest for decades, or he was a local Robin Hood-esque champion of the poor. While some people see him in a positive light, others just want to erase his notorious antics that shadowed his horrifically violent reign.If you are a fan and wish to relive the fun and games back in the day, customize your itinerary to include this tour (typically lasts for around half a day); you will learn all about the brutal past of this city on a fully narrated tour with a seasoned guide. Learn all about Escobar's extensive cocaine operation and visit few historical sites like the Monaco Building, where Escobar's was killed in a brutal 20-minute shootout with Colombian security forces. Also visit Escobar’s grave, located on the outskirts of the city.Visit the Comuna 13 NeighborhoodThe neighborhood of Comuna 13 has a really interesting story; it used to be one of the most violent neighborhoods in Colombia and possibly the entire world. The streets were filled with gangs, drugs and crime, with a negligible amount of police presence, if any at all. But today Comuna 13 has gone through a complete transformation. The streets have been cleaned up, the community has been rebuilt, and what's most impressive is the innovative use of street art to tell this story of transformation. From top to bottom, the neighborhoods are covered in incredible graffiti with images of beauty, loss, family and love that tell real stories of real people. Put on your good walking shoes and take a couple of hours to tour Comuna 13.Try Adventure Activities  Madellin is also an ideal destination for adventure lovers. Paragliding off the green hillsides, go mountain biking or rent an ATV and tear over the rugged topography of the city’s hilly, wooded outskirts. Just watching a soccer match in Medellin will get your adrenaline surging.Experience the Flower FestivalIf you can make it to Medellin at the end of July/early August, you will get to witness the awesomeness that is La Feria de Flores or the Flower Festival. It is Medellin's biggest festival and lasts a little over a week. But literally, every single day is a big party in the city.There are parades of colorful floats, spontaneous stree-dances, and lively concerts at night featuring the hottest performances in music. Important Tip: During the first day of the festival, Colombian cycling companies throw a massive bicycle competition where hundreds of people compete to win the best and most creatively decorated bikes. After the competition, the city shuts down half its roads as thousands of people jump on their bikes and ride together in joyous celebration from Parque de Las Luces to Plaza Gardel.Sample the World’s Best CoffeeThere’s a huge fascination among travelers about Colombia’s world-famous coffee culture. From chic urban coffee shops to local coffee plantation centers, there are numerous ways to learn about, sample and enjoy the various brews of this refreshing Colombian specialty.Editorial copyrights: Vashti HallisseyTo taste the best quality java in the city, we highly recommend the Juan Valdez Café, Colombia’s answer to Starbucks. Over the years the franchise has grown and expanded to a number of countries (you can even find one in Manhattan). Sample delicious coffee and delight your sweet tooth with tasty pastries. If an Indie coffee shop takes your fancy, try the Pergamino Cafe in Parque Lleras. It has received great praise from locals and expats alike.If you want to know more about the sourcing and production of coffee, then don’t hesitate to include a tour of a local coffee farm in your itinerary. Your travel experts will take you to an authentic working coffee farm in Antioquia 1.5 hours away from Medellin, past landscapes of stunning green. At the farm you will learn the complete process of making coffee the traditional Colombian way; sample different varieties from the vast spectrum of beans and flavors available.Take leisurely walks through the Botanical GardensMedellin is known for its eco-friendly parks and gardens, which are nothing less than calm oases in a busy city, bursting with an amazing variety of flora and fauna. With beautiful butterfly houses and great places to stop, sit, and admire nature, these eco-friendly gardens are ideal to visit and unwind for a few hours.Do Visit the Pueblo of GuatapeAny trip to Medellin is incomplete without visiting a couple of pueblos that surround it. These are nearby small towns that provide locals, expats and travelers, a quiet haven from the city’s chaos. One such pueblo worthy of mention is Guatape. Serene and colorful, this small town is located about two hours from Medellín. It’s an ideal weekend gateway with plenty of things to see and do. Take speed boat rides around the lakes or get a guided tour of one of Pablo Escobar’s mansions.Editorial copyrights: /Shutterstock.comOur pueblo excursions don’t end here. A 15-minute rickshaw ride from Guatape will get you to the Guatapé monolith known as El Peñón de Guatapé, a major highlight of Colombia. This giant free-standing monolith weighs 10 millions tons and was worshipped by the ancient Tahamies Indians. Test your endurance by climbing 700 concrete stairs to the top of this mammoth rock to get a breathtaking 360-degree view of the region. If you're up for a bigger challenge, there is a rock-climbing option also available.Discover Colombian FoodIf you read our guide on the must try foods in Colombia, you would know that Colombians have an incredible selection of lip smacking dishes. There are a variety of restaurants, from swish fine-dining establishments to little local eateries, throughout the city to sample authentic Colombian dishes; even beyond the food, these places have an excellent atmosphere and prolific service. Take a culinary tour of Medellin; your local experts will recommend the best restaurants in town where you can enjoy a typical Colombian lunch on the shores of Guatape Lake, followed by a leisurely boat ride which will take you past cultural and historical sites along the way. Brace yourself for traditional dishes such as Empanadas and Arepas and unique dishes such as Buñuelos and the famous Bandeja Paisa (Colombia’s national dish).  You can even modify your tour by exploring the colorful neighborhood street markets to sample exotic and mouthwatering tribal fruits which can be only found in Colombia.Discover the Nightlife at Parque LlerasSituated in the vibrant neighborhood of El Poblado, Parque Lleras is the ideal stomping ground for party goers any day of the week. You can find a great range of venues, from small salsa bars to bigger, mainstream clubs in this area. Whatever you’re looking for, you’ll find it here; just make sure to bring your dancing shoes.Important Tip - Try Salsa: Your favorite night in Medellin will the Salsa night which can be any or every night of the week. There is no shortage of banging salsa hotspots, where dancers of all levels come out and have a great time. And even if you don’t know how to salsa, trust us, you want to get involved.You can design a customized tour of Medellin with a local expert right here. 

Colombia Travel - All you need to know about Tayrona National Park

One of Colombia’s natural jewels and prominent highlights, Tayrona National Park sits in the eastern part of the country’s Caribbean coastline and is predominantly composed of tropical rainforest, streaks of pristine white-sand beaches and exotic wildlife. And if that is not enough, Tayrona offers rewarding hikes and showcases one of the country’s most aboriginal, aka pre-colonial, cultures; easy to understand why it spearheads the country’s tourism charts and remains one of the must-see places in Colombia. Certainly, Tayrona deserves a place on any traveler’s list, especially nature-enthusiasts.Connect with Colombian travel experts who can maximize your experience on a well-customised Colombia trip that includes Tayrona and all its myriad attractions.OverviewSpanning around 15,000 hectares, of which 3,000 hectares is pure marine reserve, Tayrona National Park (a prominent highlight of Colombia) was established in 1964 by the Colombian government, but got its national park status only in 1969. With the motive of preserving and promoting the ecology and archaeology of the region, Tayrona is home to a humongous range of nature’s elements, from mangrove swamps to gorgeous beaches and a fascinating spectrum of wildlife.It is also home to another precious commodity, one of Colombia’s indigenous pre-Hispanic tribe called Koguis; a visit here will give you an invaluable opportunity to learn about the lifestyle and traditions of Colombia's forgotten tribal communities.Arriving at the parkSince Santa Marta is just 20 miles away from the park, it can be easily accessed by a bus or car. Alternatively, Tayrona can be reached even by a boat taken from the shores of Taganga. For entry purposes, foreign nationals are charged around 42,000 Colombian pesos (roughly around $14 USD), while Colombians are charged 16,000 Colombian pesos ($5.50 USD). Once inside the premises, you can either decide on hiking all the way to the beach or taking a van, which may set you back by an extra dollar.What to BringWater and food are available inside the park (though feel free to carry your own if you are particular). Since Tayrona demands a fair amount of hiking, quality hiking boots and a flashlight are highly recommended. For those planning to have a go at the pristine waters, pack your swim gear and snorkeling equipment, as there are hardly any renting options here.Important Note: Plastic bags and carrying your own alcoholic beverages are strictly prohibited inside the premises of Tayrona. However, once in the park there are plenty of cafes where you can chug a brew.Things to doHikingEditorial copyrights: Nicolas SoehlemannA major part of your park expedition will (and should) include hiking, notably to the El Pueblito and over the 9 Piedras hiking trails, both of which start from the glorious beach of Cabo San Juan. The hike towards El Pueblito is not easy; get ready for a serious trudge that can be hot (so start early to avoid the sweltering heat of the day), will need solid shoes with a good grip, and some basic clambering over rocks and boulders will be involved. It still gets high marks for the peace and serenity, and it leads you through villages of some of the nation’s oldest indigenous communities that have evolved and survived over countless generations, thus resembling a 'lost city' trapped in another time. The 9 Piedras (9 stones) hike leads you through more secluded trails (marked by egg-shaped stones), offering the best scenic views of the park’s hidden beaches.  SnorkelingMuch to the joy of the water-adventurers, Tayrona Park’s clear waters are popular all over the continent for offering overwhelming snorkeling opportunities. Grab your snorkeling gear and plunge into the sea off La Piscina and Cabo San Juan beaches (a 45-minute walk from each other), in the midst of the coral reefs and the flashy aquatic life of this splendid Caribbean coast.Important note: Snorkeling/swimming at many beaches (the Arrecifes being one) is prohibited as they are infamous for nasty currents, rip tides and violent waves.Nightly music entertainmentEnjoy your evening listening to the local musicians play traditional “vallenato” music at the Cabo San Juan campsite. The atmosphere is typical of the famous Colombian spirit of allegria, and the beach and the music seem to be made for each other. You will be expected to tip the musicians to keep them going and giving you your time (and money's) worth.Wildlife viewingTayrona’s stunning beaches may detract from its other very prominent attraction: its vast variety of wildlife that often goes unnoticed. Astonishingly, Tayrona is home to over 108 mammal species, 300 avian varieties and 31 species of reptiles, many of them indigenous to the region. Catch a glimpse of Jaguars, howler monkeys, iguanas, red woodpeckers and even the Andean condors that swoop in from the highlands.Star GazeIf spending moments of tranquility away from the busy, chaotic life and gazing at brightly lit stars of a pristine night sky are your thing, then an overnighter at Tayrona Park’s campsites (most notably, the Cabo San Juan beach) are certainly for you. Fall asleep swinging in a hammock and watching the beautiful Colombian night sky extending over the endless horizon as your hiked-out sore muscles get their well-deserved rest.AccommodationIf not tight on budget, spend your nights at the comfy beehive-shaped Ecohabs Tayrona Hotel, located on Canaveral beach, right next to the park entrance. By offering outstanding views of the ocean, cozy beds, access to great restaurants and Jacuzzi, the Ecohabs rooms sleep two, and start at $334 USD for a night.Budget travelers can opt for bringing or renting tents at the popular campsite of Cabo San Juan, costing around 18,000 Colombian pesos or $9 USD for a night. Aerial hammocks are available too on the elevated terraces, giving you a splendid view of the Caribbean coast (25,000 Colombian pesos or $12 USD).When to goAlthough Tayrona National Park can be best explored in the dry months of December to March amidst clear skies and sunny days, this is also the time when the park witnesses a massive footfall of tourists; to avoid the crowds, plann your trip in the shoulder season (May to November), and experience the complete flavor of Tayrona.Start planning your itinerary with a travel expert here. 

Colombia Travel - Must-Try Colombian Food

You've heard it said before, but the best way to know more about a country and its culture apart from its myriad attractions is to immerse yourself in its exotic cuisine. Colombia may not be well-acclaimed the world over for its culinary scene, but that being said, this country has an enormous variety of lip smacking food worth trying. Leaning more towards deep-frying everything, Colombia showcases a wide array of meaty dishes, most of them served with rice, beans, and potatoes.Connect with a Colombian travel expert and take your taste buds out for a treat, as part of a larger itinerary; let’s take you through some of the essential comida Colombiana you shouldn’t miss.Bandeja PaisaTouted as the national dish of Colombia, Bandeja Paisa is a traditional, lip-smacking fry-up having its roots in the Antioquia region. Originally, this dish was served to laborers to provide them with enough energy through the entire day. Bandeja Paisa is definitely for those with a king-size appetite and consists of white rice, red beans with minced beef, chorizo sausage, plantain, corn, pork crackling, avocado, topped with fried egg.EmpanadasA popular snack found not only in Colombia but in almost every country of entire South American continent, Empanadas are deep fried, small pastries, usually stuffed with meat and mashed potatoes. Simple, delicious, and readily available. Although there are different versions of it, the one in Medellin is extremely famous for its chorizo stuffed Empanadas. No matter what the stuffing, Empanadas are utterly irresistible when had with aji (Colombian-style hot sauce).LechonaOriginating from the Tolima region in the south-west of Bogota, Lechona is a beefy Colombian dish composed of chickpeas, onions, pork meat, rice, and peppered with spices. Interestingly, the whole mix of ingredients is stuffed inside a roasted pig and then baked in a clay oven for a good ten hours, allowing all the various flavors to permeate deliciously into every morsel, creating a feast fit for the gods. Lechona is served in the finest of restaurants all over the country, but it is a dish that is often reserved for special occasions like weddings and birthdays. SancochoSancocho is part of the traditional Colombian kitchen, a flavorsome broth made of boiled yucca, plantains, and a portion of corn and potatoes, with chunks of meat or fish depending on whether you are on the coast or in the interior. Sancocho is a perfect illustration of a basic meal made from root vegetables as its base, served with plain white rice, but with the ubiquitous addition of meat (Colombians don't like it any other way). Its origins can be traced to the Valle del Cauca region, and can be found in any simple roadside restaurant all over Colombia.FritangaEditorial copyrights: Yassef Briceno GarciaAnother meat-filled cuisine (sorry, vegetarians!), adding to your must-eat list is Fritanga, which is found all over the country with some slight variations. Usually made up of a variety of grilled meats that include chicken, beef, pork crackling and chorizo sausages served with potatoes, arepas, and plantain, this delectable dish is sheer bliss. To make it yummier, have it with aji sauce.AjiacoHailing from Bogota and the Andean region of Colombia, Ajiaco is a white warm soup perfect for chilly mountain climes. Typically, it is made up of 3 different varieties of potatoes, pieces of corn and chicken, mixed with guasca (a Colombian herb) and capers, and topped with cream, Ajiaco is a real pleasure to the palate with its rich unique flavor; it tastes best when had with aji (that hot sauce again), lemon, avocado and white rice.Chocolate con quesoEditorial copyrights: Multivac42Hot chocolate with cheese may sound like a weird combo, but this is what Colombians love, whether having it with breakfast or as a 4 pm afternoon snack. Unlike western countries, the traditional hot chocolate here contains no milk and added sugar. Drop pieces of cheese in the hot chocolate, allow them to soak up its essence and spoon them out after a minute or so. take our word for it: Chocolate con Queso is shockingly delicious and a must-have while in Colombia.Cazuela de mariscosComing out of the coastal part of the country, Cazuela de Mariscos is a seafood stew consisting of coconut cream, lots of vegetables, spices, and prawns (although you can have it with other seafood too). This perfectly appetizing hot soup is best had at the beach (fresh catch guaranteed).ArepasOne of the most commonly served (and the undisputed darling of Colombian cuisine), Arepas are a traditional breakfast dish usually served with other meals as a standard accompaniment, or as a meal in itself. Basically a cornmeal pancake, Arepas are served with healthy dollops of butter (again, depending on the region). Although the basic variety might seem a tad plain, we strongly suggest you try different versions of it:  the famous Arepas de Choclo con Quesito - a combo of sweetcorn filled with cheese, and Arepas de Huevo - deep fried with an egg cracked inside.Arroz con PolloIn Colombian cuisine, rice holds a prominent place and forms the base of many an exceptional main meal. Arroz con Pollo is one such inexpensive dish containing rice and chicken, and stewed with chicken stock (for that comfort-food factor, one of the ingredients is, bizzarely, tomato ketchup).Start planning your itinerary here, and don’t miss out relishing on some of the must-have Colombian foods while in this part of the land.

Colombia Travel - Bogota City Guide (Things to Do and Places to See)

Colombia has so many traveler highlights, that for many Bogota just becomes a point of transit. But in reality, it's probably one of the nicest places to plan a trip around, visit and spend time in.Even if you only have a day to spare, by all means make the most of it and enjoy a city that rewards travelers who know where to look and never disappoints those who just turn up hoping for the best. From taking leisurely walks around the city center, to exploring the picturesque mountain terrain it is built on, to trying out delicious local food. there are plenty of things to do and see in a city which is nowhere as dangerous now as it was once upon a time. To get the best out of this vibrant city, connect with a local Colombian travel expert who can create the perfect itinerary for you. OverviewBogota, the capital city of Columbia is an ideal destination for sightseeing, food and fun if you know where to look. The city has an interesting blend of modern and colonial architecture; the northern end is where you can find the modern posh buildings, clean parks, tudor style homes, plenty of trendy restaurants and vibrant night-life. The centre  of the city is where the heart of Colombia’s culture lies, in the colonial neighbourhood of La Candelaria. Note: Tourists should avoid the south as it is still slightly unsettled, with a lot of poverty (most locals would agree with that, too). When to goAnytime is the best time to visit Bogota. However, if you are more of an adventurer, then we strongly recommend between January and March; that’s the peak season and also the driest time of the year, with ideal temperatures to hike up to the top of Cerro de Monserrate for a scenic view. In March, you will be able to catch the Ibero-American Theater Festival, possibly the largest performing arts festival in the world.You can even visit this city between the months of July and August; it's that time of the year when the annual Bogota Carnival takes place to celebrate the establishment of this historic city. Find yourself rejoicing in all the street parties, street-theater and puppetry; you even see animated locals narrating ancient folklores. All in all, it's a festive mood you can easily lose yourself in. Even if you miss the carnival there are plenty of small events and happenings hosted throughout the period between July and August to enjoy. It is only from September to November that the season slacks off a little. The temperature stays the same, but these months are Colombia’s wettest, so it wouldn't hurt to carry a raincoat.Important Note: If you are visiting Bogota during Holy Week, specifically for the Easter festival (held tentatively in March or April), be sure to book well in advance (at least 6-8 months).How to get around:Spend 2 minutes on the streets of Bogota, and you will quickly come to terms with the chaotic nature of the city’s traffic. It is strongly recommended to travel with a local guide in a hired taxi; they are your best bet to get around the hustle-bustle of this buzzing metropolis. If you decide to tour the city on your own, you can look out for local cabs; if you know where to go and can speak broken Spanish, you’ll do just fine!Alternatively, if you have fewer pesos to throw away, take a ride in one of the collectivo buses that stampede like large elephants through a herd of mini cabs and motorcycles. Less attractive and more of an adventurous experience, a ride in a cramped-up collectivo bus is only recommended for those who can leave any thought of luxury behind for a brief moment and enjoy the prospect of thrilling ride.Your third option is to take Bogota’s large transit system called Trans-Milenio. If you purchase a daily pass and enter one of the platforms, you will be reminded of any subway station in the west—except the the station is above ground level and utilizes large, red buses. At the platform you will find maps and timetables to plan your journey accordingly. Just make sure you avoid taking a Trans-Milenio during rush-hour, it’s extremely crowded and you will find yourself jammed inside a jungle of human limbs.Things to do:It is important to understand that Bogata is an enormous city, both in terms of size and demographics. Around 8 million people inhabit this city, and with the increasing demands of a growing population, the city is stretching itself far and wide, with many of the constructions low cost residential buildings. Apart from those and the few dramatic skyscrapers, the major chunk of the city retains its rich colonial heritage. Finding accommodation downtown would be your best bet, as most of the city's action happens there. And if you're feeling adventurous, you could hit the gorgeous hiking trails that proliferate all over the surrounding hillsides.Cerro de Monserrate What really dominates the skyline of Bogota is the mountain of Cerro de Monserrate; the view from the summit is one to die for, as you can see all of downtown and south Bogotá, and even large parts of the north. If you don’t fancy hiking, there are a couple of other ways ways to reach the top of the mountain, including cable car and funicular railway. Museo de Oro There are plenty of museums in Bogota, and no doubt, all of them are equally significant in terms of fascinating artifacts and ageless treasures. But one place worth mentioning is the Museo de Oro, popularly known as The Gold Museum (also a key highlight of Colombia). It houses roughly up to 34,000 stunning pieces of golden artwork from the 13 pre-Hispanic civilizations, along with detailed information boards that explain the history and culture of local people in the pre-colonization period. The entrance fee is inexpensive, but for history-lovers, the education and learning are invaluable.Walking Tour of La CandelariaLa Candelaria is a historic neighborhood located in the city's downtown and it proudly boasts some of the most popular museums and attractions. Take a tour and you will observe a striking contrast between old and modern Bogota. The beautiful buildings depict Spanish colonial architecture in every brick, while you can find some of the most unique graffiti murals on the streets. If you wish to connect deeply with a particular city, then walking tours are probably your best bet. Your chosen travel experts will take you around the town so that you can march in celebratory parades, dance on the street, drank chicha from street vendors, and most importantly enjoy some genuine cultural exchange. The locals are warm and welcoming and there are numerous free events that you can participate in. Experience Plaza BolivarPlaza Bolivar is Bogotá’s biggest plaza, and also considered to be the center of the city. It is home to the very first cathedral in Colombia and also houses many government buildings. The place is always buzzing with frequent events, protests and concerts.Biking Tour of the City Touring Bogota on a bike makes so much sense since there’s so much ground to cover, and it’s truly fun and educational, not to mention a great workout. Each tour lasts up to 4-5 hours covering all the major highlights of the city. If you choose to try out this fun-filled experience, our travel operators will hook you up with the best biking companies in town. Your chosen guide will not only show you the plazas, beautiful parks and historical monuments of Bogota, but you will also learn more about the culture, troubled past and current political situation of this beautiful nation. Try 6 Colombian FruitsFrom left: Mangostino, Guayaba Manzana, Lulo, Maracuya, Uchuva and FeijoaColombia has a large collection of fruits which you’ve probably never heard of, or that look like nothing you may have ever seen before. In Bogota, we highly recommend either buying or tasting a few of these unique fruits in the local market of Paloquemao. If you think it’s good and if more is better; make yourself a refreshing drink, or try making your own exotic fruit salad (our travel operators can arrange a food tour and encourage you to participate in cooking classes). Explore Colombia’s Coffee CultureEditorial Copyrights: Banco de Fotos SENA 2011.In Colombia, coffee and culture go hand in hand. Not only is Colombian coffee is famous throughout the world,the locals never hesitate to wax eloquent about their love for this beverage. They aren’t just growing and roasting coffee here; the locals have actually have mastered the art of enjoying it. Walk into any barista or coffeehouse and anyone will tell you all about the specific origin and type of beans that determine the overall flavor.Editorial Copyrights: DOCUGLAM + FASHION ACTITUDEditorial Copyrights: DOCUGLAM + FASHION ACTITUDWe strongly recommend you to stop by at Cafe Cultor in Chapinero (ideal for English speakers). If you are looking for a fun and lighthearted experience, we urge you to flock to a couple of coffee shops, like Amor Perfecto in Zona G and Catacion Publica in Usaquen; these are great places to work, meet locals, or just enjoy people-watching (if you like doing that!).Eat and Party at Andrés Carne de ResEditorial copyrights: David BerkowitzEditorial copyrights: Grace LilloLocated in Chia, just on the outskirts of Bogota, the Andrés Carne de Res is an exclusive restaurant-turned-nightlife venue.  It’s the go-to party place for everybody (especially families). Inside, you will be teleported to a world filled with walls covered in recycled ornaments, hand-painted signs and autographed posters. The intricate details incorporated in the décor makes the place even more special; there is something to be discovered in every inch of the venue. Spend the night eating delicious traditional Colombian foods and dance to foot-tapping beats. Shop at the Local Street MarketAny tour of Bogota is incomplete without shopping at the local street markets for artisanal souvenirs. One such notable mention is the Usaquen market, a weekly affair held every Sunday in the Usaquen colonial district, where locals sell artisan products, handmade goods, souvenirs, and a variety of other products of historic significance. You can even find local musicians performing melodious Latino tunes for your amusement while you’re shopping.If you’re in downtown Bogota, head to the daily market of San Victorinio, located near the city’s La Candelaria neighborhood. Here you can find anything imaginable, from eateries, trendy local clothing and all kinds of local artisan-work.Plan your customised itinerary for a tour of Bogata here. 

Colombia Travel: Beyond Narcos, the Must-visit places in Colombia

Just a couple of decades ago, Colombia was regarded as one of the most unsafe countries in the world, and did not feature on any traveler’s map. Recently, this Latin American beauty has reinvented itself into a major tourism hotspot, all thanks to resolvement of political issues and concerted efforts to make its cities safe. From the bustling megapolises of Bogota and Medellin, to the pictorial landscapes of the coffee fields and the dramatic sun-kissed Caribbean coasts, Colombia’s versatility knows no bounds in charming its visitors.Just a note here: Colombia is still very much a work in progress, and to ensure that you have the best and safest time possible, it always helps to connect with a Colombian travel expert who is best poised to make your vacation a dream one and have you coming back for more.Considering Colombia’s vast menu of attractions, it is easier said than done to see and visit everything and everywhere. Below is a list of the unmissables.MedellinOnce dubbed the most threatening city in the world, Medellin has finally got rid of its notoriety and become one of the tourism gems and highlights of the country. The city is developing exponentially, the art scene is thriving, and bars and restaurants are bursting with life. Medellin links its settlements in its hills via scenic cable cars (with incredible views, no less), and boasts a very modern city life with towering skyscrapers and chain of lush eco parks. On your trip to Medellin, don't miss Plaza Botero, home to the famed Museum of Antioquia, and also Fernando Botero's full-bodied, larger-than-life sculptures strewn all over. Vist the city’s trendiest locale of El Poblado, where you will find great restaurants, boutique shops, and a vibrant nightlife.GuatapeA two-hour drive from Medellin will bring you to the colorful old little town of Guatape. Apart from the absolutely delightful architecture and quirky colors that make the place come alive, what draws visitors here is a prominent highlight of Colombia called La Piedra del Penol, a 650-foot, 10-million ton massive rock formation that provides unparalleled views from its peak, justifying its tag, “the best view in the world”, proudly given to it by the locals. The rock has a complex network of stairs (740 steps) helping their visitors to reach the top and gaze out at the beautiful lakes with a backdrop of mountains over an endless horizon. Undoubtedly, Guatape makes a perfect destination for a day escape from Medellin and should be a must on your list.CaliThe third largest city in Colombia, Cali, has been officially designated the “salsa capital of the word”; here's a priceless opportunity to take those lessons you've always wanted to, and it's great fun for kids too.Cali has that feel of non-stop alegria in its streets with street-musicians, dancers and quaint and bustling bars, and it arguably hosts the country’s best nightlife. Take the kids to Cali Zoo; it's the finest in the country, it has a solid conservation theme, and it serves to educate and inform (and this is from people who hate the very idea of zoos in the first place).San AgustinSan Agustin is an otherworldly town in the Andes region of western Colombia. It is surrounded by fascinating landscapes that showcase the remains of an ancient pre-Columbian civilization. This archaeological park is home to the 'Forest of Statues'; there are over 500 monolith structures, petroglyphs and stone carvings of smiling human figures and scornful monsters dating back to between 100 A.D. and 1200 A.D.  CartagenaThe city that always kept its nose clean, even in Colombia's most violent times, and was always the poster-child and prominent highlight of its tourism industry. Located on the Caribbean coast, Cartagena is the perfect example of colonial charm. Being Colombia’s second oldest city, it was the prime center for Spanish colonial trade, and was thus heavily fortified, which still can be seen today. On your visit, take time to wander around the cobbled streets of the Ciudad Amurallada (the walled city) and soak in its resplendent colonial architecture that includes museums, churches and grand palaces. In the evenings, head out to the pristine white sand beach of Playa Blanca for a splendid sunset view. And don't stop there: charter a boat to explore the wonders of the magnificent Rosario Islands, an archipelago of 27 small islands. Caution: Some have very small beaches and are crowded, and there are some beaches that are very touristy, with lots of vendors that may bother travlers. The key thing is to go a little farther, or get guidance on where to avoid crowds. Hence, renting a boat and heading out to hotels/resorts that offer delightful Colombian (and other) cuisines, and which have controlled beach access is important.Tayrona National ParkSpeaking of beaches, if spending hours under coconut trees is your idea of relaxing, then Tayrona is the place for you. Situated on the northern coast of the country, Tayrona National Park, a fascinating jungle-beach combo of natural beauty, is a must-see for nature lovers and birdwatchers.Tayrona is also a best bet for adventure lovers; there are great snorkeling opportunities and for hiking/mountain biking the jungles and mountainscapes. Learn more about this fascinating highlight of Colombia travel.Valley de Cocora/ SalentoSince Colombia is on the list of the top coffee producing nations (after Brazil and Vietnam), your trip will surely be incomplete without stopping over at the Valley de Cocora in the country’s coffee triangle, considered a must-visit highlight of the country. This immense valley, triangulated by the vibrant towns of Pereira, Armenia and Manizales, presents travelers with breathtaking views of lush nature, making it the perfect choice for a rewarding hike. And yes, Valley de Cocora houses the world’s tallest wax palm trees shooting upwards of 200 feet into the sky. Also located within the triangle is the small coffee-producing town of Salento. Home to numerous coffee plantations, you can learn the aromatic art of coffee making and dig into the delicious local Colombian-Andean cuisine.San Andres y Providencia IslandsSan Andres and Providencia are two Caribbean islands, historically tied to the UK and politically to Colombia. They're about 500 miles away to the north, and can be reached through a 3-hour flight from the country’s mainland. Well worth it, as they are considered a worthy travel highlight and have been declared a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. Although both these beaches are picture perfect in their own way, San Andres is more popular for its clear sparkling waters and snorkeling adventures, while Providencia is lined with deserted beaches giving you a perfect spot for enjoying your personal time with your family (or enjoying solitude).  Lost City of TeyunaUndoubtedly Colombia’s most popular and exhilarating hike is the four-day 44- kilometer hike to Ciudad Perdida,  most commonly known as the “Lost City” of Teyuna. Snug in the lap of the Sierra Nevada mountains, this age-old civilization was first constructed in 800 A.D. (650 years before Machu Pichu) but was only unearthed in 1972. Unfortunately, much of the remains of the site are still buried underneath the dense forest cover, but the stone terraces and stairways are still accessible and in an outstanding state. This four-day trek through the unspoiled rainforest, rivers and waterfalls is an experience of a lifetime, which shouldn’t be missed while in Colombia, particularly for the adventurous traveler.BogotaOne of the largest cities in South America and also Colombia’s capital, Bogota, has heaps of attractions to draw every stripe of curious traveler. Home to over 8 million happy citizens, Bogota is located at 8,660 feet in the Andes and impresses its visitors with its unique blend of both, colonial charm and urban civilization. Begin your trip in the historic district of La Candelaria, well-known for its colonial-style buildings, cafes and the very famed Museum of Gold. Spend your evening in the upscale neighborhoods of North Bogota, where you can shop at country’s best boutique markets and dine at the finest of restaurants. Start planning your itinerary with an expert here, and embark on your journey to Colombia, adding some awe-inspiring moments to your memory book!