When we first arrived I couldn’t helped thinking how similar Colombia was with Mexico. Our flight landed in Bogotá, the big noisy capital instantly made me start comparing here and there both cities. But with each day that passed I started feeling the authenticity of the country.
Colombian regions are very different one from another but what they all share is the kindness of people. Colombians are simply one of the most beautiful people I have ever met. They are friendly, energetic, welcoming and always willing to help, they are really something special. Besides the amazing people, Colombia has a very wide offer of activities. Either at the coastline, the country side or at its beautiful colonial cities you will never stop being surprised of the beauty of the landscapes and the richness of the culture; it is no surprise that many travelers fall in love with this country, I did to.
And what about the so known Colombia dangers? Many people warned us about the safety, even Colombian people continuously reminded us about all the precautions we should take. Maybe is because I come from another country known for its dangers but personally I didn’t feel in danger not even once. Of course one talks about his own experience, I was cautious as I regularly am. If we didn’t know our surroundings we tried to be as discreet as we could and we tried not to be out late. Our stay went well.
The cost of traveling
Total days = 22 • Total spent = 537.52 € • Daily average = 24.43€
*Budget was calculated for the two of us. It includes transportation, accommodation, food, tourist attractions, miscellaneous…everything.
Transportation represented easily 50% of our expenses. We traveled mostly by bus and we bought the tickets directly in the bus station, prices are negotiable! We flew just once form Cartagena to Medellín with VivaColombia. The trip was one hour instead of one night and since we booked it in advanced the price was really convenient.
As for accommodation, we had the opportunity to stay with different locals by using Couchsurfing. It not only allowed us to keep our budget but to meet wonderful people and new friends!
• Bogotá → Zipaquirá → Villa de Leyva → San Gil → Barichara → Santa Marta → Parque Tayrona → Cartagena → Medellín → Salento → Calí → Ipiales •
My top 5
1. Eje Cafetero
When arriving to Colombia one of the things that excited me the most was trying the world famous Colombian coffee, it was a big deception when I realized that the regular consumption of coffee is mainly second quality coffee sweetened with “panela” which is a solid form of unrefined whole cane sugar, I´m not saying the taste is bad just that it was definitely not what I expected. So I had to wait until getting to “El Eje Cafetero” (Colombian coffee growing axis) to have the Colombian coffee experience, and what an amazing experience! We started trekking from Circasia to Salento and during the trek we crossed some coffee fields and a coffee finca where we took a coffee tour. The region has more to offer besides the coffee experience. You can also find “El Valle de Cocora” a really nice national park located in the Central Cordillera of the Andean mountains. It is the principal location of the national tree and symbol of Colombia, the Quindío wax palm. The town of Salento in itself is a colorful town flooded by tourists where you can find lots of coffee and crafts shops.
Oh what a great city! I could definitely imagine myself living there. Once known as the most dangerous city on earth, Medellín is now one of the principal destinations of the country. Situated in a narrow valley of the Antioquia province, the city offers cultural, sportive and leisure activities all with unforgettable views.
Known as “El pueblo más bonito de Colombia” (the prettiest town in Colombia) this colonial town is the perfect place to relax from the craziness of big cities and wander through the cobblestone streets taking pictures of the colorful facades. It is also possible to enjoy adventure activities and visit the quiet village of Guane nearby.
4. Cartagena de Indias, or simply Cartagena
Cartagena is between a film set and a fairy tale where colors play the main character. Cartagena’s old town is a Unesco World Heritage surrounded by 13km of colonial stone walls built to protect the city from pirates and other enemies. My recommendation here is either find the perfect park bench and watch people pass by or get lost in the streets and alleys. When the sun sets there is a romantic atmosphere that takes over and the balconies, terraces and plazas fill with loving couples.
5. Santuario de Las Lajas
Our last stop in the country and a great surprise. I had seen pictures before and it surprised me that a place like that could be in South America other than in Europe. Las Lajas Sactuary is a gothic Cathedral Basilica church, dedicated to the veneration of Our Lady of Las Lajas Ipiales, built inside the canyon of the Guáitara River. It is an outstanding architectural building at 100 meters high from the bottom of the canyon, being connected with a 50 meters tall bridge to the other side of the canyon. This place is simply impressive! By chance we visited it on Mother´s day and it was full with Ecuadorian people in typical clothes. That definetly made the day even more memorable.
Looking for an explanation on why anyone thought to build a Cathedral in such a dangerous location I found the history of the place, “History tells us that everything started from a miraculous event that happened in 1754. Then, an Amerindian woman, named Maria Mueces, and her daughter Rosa, which was deaf-mute, were caught in a powerful storm. The story says that while the two women were looking for shelter, they felt like a strong force was guiding them towards a cave, where they were able to see the image of Our Virgin Mary on one of the walls. The little girl then shouted to her mother, pointing to the image. It is believed that the apparition of the Virgin Mary cured Rosa.”