Colombia

Oh my god, I could write a love letter to Colombia.  My most fun trip, ever, was to Colombia.

It started out while I was traveling through Bolivia and Peru, all the backpackers who were doing the circuit through South America would tell me I had to go to Colombia.  I didn’t get there for another year but it was the best.  What do you expect from the homeland of Shakira anyway?!

I usually have a lot of time to read while I’m traveling so I brought Anna Karenina with me.  Don’t bring Anna Karenina with you, or any other long tedious book to Colombia.  You won’t read it.  I still haven’t finished it.

A view of Bogotá from Monserrate
Grafitti in Bogota

First things first, start with Bogotá.  This city has its rough edges, so don’t be naive, especially if you’re going out dancing, always take a cab back to your hostel. But don’t miss out on how amazingly cool this city is.  The art galleries aren’t inside here, they’re the graffiti that is everywhere.  Most hostels offer graffiti tours of the city on bikes and I suggest you go.

Next, either take the train car to Monserrate, the church on top of the mountain or walk the winding path up to the top yourself.  I woke up early one morning and hiked to the top.  It was Sunday so it was very crowded but still a good start to the day.

Churchgoers making their way up to Monserrate

While you’re there, take a local bus out to see the Catedral de Sal or the salt cathedral hat is just outside town in Zipaquira.  I’m not sure why mines are a tourist attraction in South America but this one is really cool.  It has huge caverns that are lit with purple light and statues of angels.  It combines the appreciation for mining here with the strong Catholic influence and is totally fascinating.

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Overall, Bogotá is good for about two days.  You can get a feel for it, learn to salsa a bit or even wait to dance until you get to Cali.

Next, should be Cartagena.  This city has a completely different feel.  It’s a bit resort-like with a mix of South American city and Caribbean.  It’s a photographer’s dream because the buildings are extremely quaint and colorful. I practiced Salsa here for a few nights. It’s a great town for relaxing on the coast.  It also has a section of the city that is an old, walled fortress that fun for an afternoon as well.  You can get dinner at a restaurant on the wall and look out over the sea.

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Then you can go to Santa Marta to see the national park and camp along the beach.  If you go to and stay in hostels,  are two hostels I recommend, one is La Brisa Loca, it’s in town and has a great rooftop bar.  The other is the Dreamer Hostel, it’s a bit further away from everything but has a great pool and a really fun vibe.

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The trip would not be complete without a long stop in Medellin.  Medellin is the city of eternal spring.  It’s cool in the mornings and warm in the afternoons.  It’s also filled with greenhouses that grow a lot of the flowers that we buy in supermarkets in the US.  There is a lot to do here including getting out and working on an organic farm or learning Spanish.

Medellin

When I think of the countries that I want to go back to, Colombia tops the list because there is so much to it.  There’s a vibrant culture and a way of life that makes me think that if I were going to live in South America, this might be the first place I look.