It was my first trip to South America and I wanted to explore a country where we could explore the culture and history of the cities, and get some relaxation in the countryside and/or beach. Colombia was perfect for this.
Just a 5 hour flight from LAX, we started our trip in Bogota. Our hotel was in the charming neighborhood located in Zona G (named for the area that represents its gastronomy scene). We hired a local guide to give a full day tour of Bogota - we took a cable car ride up to Monserrate Mountain for an incredible view of the city. Next we visited the main market and sampled tropical fruit, wondered the old town streets of the La Candelaria neighborhood. There is a good amount of street art in the La Candelaria neighborhood. Colonial architecture is often juxtaposed with outdoor art which showcases the mix of old and new. We finished the day with a stop at the Plaza de Bolivar, which is the main square of the city.
Our next stop was to visit the coffee countryside of Armenia. After a quick flight our hotel picked us up and drove us to the charming inn in a rural area. The birds, the mountain, roaming cows and lush landscape was a nice change from busy Bogota. The inn prepared us a special private dinner since we were the only guests. The following day we had a private tour of a coffee finca where we got to hike through the plants with a pack of happy dogs and the farmers. The next day we drove out to the Cocora Valley where we hiked for several hours through a misty Dr. Seuss like the landscape of following hills and the worlds tallest palm trees. On our last day, I took a solo run through the countryside surrounding the inn. It was extremely peaceful with the exception of one grumpy farm dog who thankfully seemed to stay within his side of the road.
Our last stop was the Spanish colonial city of Cartagena located on the Caribbean coast. Definitely recommend staying in the Old City which is a UNESCO heritage site due to the extremely well preserved colonial architecture. We toured the city, hung out at charming cafes, and watched the sunset over the Caribbean. We also explored Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas which is an impressive fortress over the city. While Cartagena is full of tourists, we didn't see any big chain stores or restaurants. All in all, Colombia surpassed our expectation!
Q & A
What would you have changed?
I would have liked to visited Medellin. We could have shorten Armenia and Cartagena each by 1 day, but it was nice to be at a slow pace and not feel rushed.
Tips you would give a friend?
Definitely get out to the countryside which was beautiful and peaceful.
We used the app "Tappsi" which is like Uber in Bogota and took taxis in Cartagena.
Anything go wrong during the trip?
My purse was lifted off the back of my chair (dumb of me, I realize) by an tiny elderly woman while we dined in a mostly empty restaurant.
Because of the high altitude, the weather was mild in Bogota and Armenia, but very humid and warm in Cartagena. We were able to pack light with taking only carry on bags. Plan to dress up for high end restaurants in Bogata, and dress fun and colorful in Cartagena.
The food was great! I'm a pescatarian which was very easy to accommodate. I now make my own version of Colombia beans and coconut rice.
After travels through Europe and the U.S., Colombia is a refreshing value. Hotels, restaurants, taxis are all very reasonable in price. I was concerned about safety, but honestly I felt safe most of the time. Having my purse lifted off my chair from a tiny older woman is humbling!
Booked directly with the hotels and the airline (Avianca). Avianca air had a bidding system just before our flight where I could put a bid on what price I would pay for a business class upgrade. I believe I "won" the bid at $225. For an overnight flight that had seats that reclined to a bed was so worth it.