My sister inspired me to travel to Colombia. A country with so many faces. For the world mostly known for the Farc (a guerrilla army) and drug trafficking by the cartel of Pablo Escobar (in the eighties responsible for 80% of the drug traffic to the US). But there is so much more to this country: a stunning countryside, a passion for salsa, amazing beaches and an artistic heart.
Let’s start at the beginning. When I landed in Bogota, the capital of Colombia, I was really surprised about the brightness of the city. Everywhere you look you see art, especially street art. A guide (from a free walking tour that you can book here) explained that this form of expression is important in Colombia, by this way local people express how they feel about the government, corruption and freedom. I was moved by the way these paintings show an urge for peace, freedom and happiness. The city is developing into a beautiful cultural capital with a voice, a strong voice, against corruption and suppression.
I met some great people to travel with and we went up to Villa de Leyva, the Zorro town. You literally feel you are in a Zorro movie. Who doesn’t want that? Definitely worth visiting. Tip: Stay at Colombian Highlands, a hotel on top of the hill with a stunning view. From Villa de Leyva I took a night bus to Salento: a long ride of 8 hours. There it was time to see the tallest palm trees in the world. The place was full of locals and no tourist to be seen. But there it was: Salento, a little town surrounded by thin high palm trees. I stayed at a great place on top of the mountain in an eco-farm La Serrana Eco Farm. The food is great and they offer a variation of tours (also a great coffee tour). This area ‘’Eje Cafetero’’ is also known for one of the best coffee productions in the world. The next day we started hiking in Valle de Cocora. Suddenly you are surrounded by impressive palm trees and hummingbirds.
North from Salento, you have the second biggest city of Colombia: Medellin. Medellin is the party city of Colombia and believe me: that’s true. A lot of clubs and bars but also the place for good healthy food. It’s a very trendy city but mainly the city of Pablo Escobar. There are a lot of tours, who will tell you everything about the ‘’Medellin cartel’’. My highlight was something totally different: Guatape. An amazing view close to Medellin that I will never forget. I think the picture will speak for itself, just stunning!
“This country is definitely one of my favorites. Viva Colombia”
North West Colombia
This country kept on amazing me. So many different faces. For example: Cartegena, so different than all other places I had seen in Colombia. A town full of flowers with a big passion for salsa. You can feel the salsa, the passion for dancing everywhere. A good place to relax. A bit touristy but lovely. After Cartegena we went to Santa Marta. I had my favorite Colombian snack here! Grilled bread with warm Guacamole: yum! This town is not really special but a perfect base for a hike to the Lost City. First it was time to visit the most famous National Park of Colombia: Tayrona National Park.
The photo you see on the cover of the Lonely Planet, the photo of Colombia, is a photo of the most famous beach in Colombia: Tayrona beach. You need to see it! When you enter the park you have to walk 2 hours in the heat to get to the beach. There is no car access, only a walking route. There is one restaurant, some camp sites and hammocks. Really cool to stay a night and sleep in a hammock. I chose to skip it, because I wanted to do the Lost City track and I didn’t have enough time. I would definitely recommend it though!
The Lost City
Sleeping in the open air in the middle of the park underneath the stars. Let the beauty of the world surround you.
For me no amazing night underneath the stars, but time for some real exercise: a hike to Ciudad Perdida the “Lost City” in Spanish. The Lost City is an archaeological site and a unique place to see. There are still people living there without electricity, far away from the world we live in. Some people say it’s more beautiful than the Machu Picchu. This area is still untouched and not really touristy. The way to get there is though, really though. It was one of the hardest tracks I had ever done. I already heard that this track was hard work: 3 days of hiking, through the mountains, in the heat. The track is not the problem, but the heat! You might feel as if your body isn’t going to make it, so bring plenty of water. This was a journey I will never forget. I felt like I was in a movie, in a jungle full of magic. I don’t really have words to describe it. It was just magical. How the light shines through the jungle, the stairs partly covered by nature, the little waterfalls, the old rituals and ruins of the city, the lost city.
This country is definitely one of my favorites. Viva Colombia!
*Jolien is one of our guest bloggers living in the Netherlands. She has traveled all over the world and seen countries like India, China, Sri Lanka, Australië and Colombia. You can read about her adventures and tips every 2nd Monday of the month!