The aim of this trip was to change the perception people have about Colombia, almost everyone will think of coffee and cocaine as soon as you mention the country! However, Colombia is becoming a different country to what it was 10 years ago, it is slowly building itself up and wants to open its arms to the tourist industry. Colombia covers a large area of ground in South America and you really need to visit the various areas to experience the different atmospheres and ways of life in this beautiful destination that is Colombia!
A Day in Bogotá:
What better way to start your morning in Colombia other than to visit a local market. Paloquemao Market is famous for it’s flowers but also sells the usual fruit, meat, fish…everything. However, people come here primarily to see the flowers and they are stunning! This was the only place where I held on to my bag a little tighter than usual nevertheless the atmosphere was buzzing and it provided a bright start to our day. Colombia is known for having a different fruit available to eat, so much so they have a different fruit for each day of the year. Unfortunately to the English palette they aren’t all good and one fruit in particular was to stay in my mind for the rest of the trip – the Lulo fruit!
Next travel upwards into the clouds to Mount Monserrate. The mount is located just outside of the city centre. You can ascend upwards via cable car, funicular or you can walk up which can take a while. A return journey costs around £5.00pp for both modes of transport and timetables are varied so check out the website before you go. http://www.cerromonserrate.com/en/ .Once at the top you can see the city in all its glory. The view however merges into a sea of greys and browns as up here you can truly see how vast and widespread the city is. At 3,152 metres above sea level you will physically experience the lack of oxygen present at these heights. It was a strange sensation not being able to catch my breath fully.
Tip: Make sure to keep some spare Peso coins on you at all times for the public bathrooms.
After descending back down to the city, engage with the historical and cultural background of Colombia. Head to the Gold Museum with an entrance fee coming in at under £1.00pp why skip visiting this historical museum. The Botero Museum is free entry so enjoy the unique style of Botero’s along with many other artist’s you are sure to have heard of. The Plaza de Bolivar is also a great spot to visit whilst wandering the streets of the La Candelabra barrio. The centrally located statue of Simón Bolívar sculpted in 1846 by the Italian Pietro Teheran. This was the first ever public monument in the city. Bogotá has the country’s history within it but one or two days at most is all you need here before venturing out further.
Paloquemao Market = FREE
Monserrate Mount = £5.00pp RTN
Gold Museum = £1.00pp
Botero Museum = FREE
Plaza de Bolivar and La Candelaria Barrio = FREE
Remember: You can eat extremely cheaply in Colombia if you want to!
Coffee Zone – Salento and Cocoa Valley:
Breakfast time in Colombia traditionally consist of eggs. Especially huevos pericos, scrambled eggs mixed with onion and tomatoes which is served with an arepa. A staple piece of food in Colombia, made from maize and each region has it’s own recipe. Personally I think the coffee zone had the less imaginative recipe!
Your afternoon in this region should be filled with a visit to the Cocoa Valley. A cloud forest that is part of the Los Nevados National Natural Park in the area Quindío (free entry). The park is the main location where you will find the national tree of Colombia growing, the Quindío palm tree. Which is the tallest palm in the world and it’s bark is used to make wax candles. There are hiking trails which take you around in a loop and you can either choose the long or short trail. To get to the National Park you should first head towards the charming village of Salento. Jump on a traditional jeep called ‘Willys’, the America’s choice of car in World War II.
The cost for one person on one of the scheduled jeeps is 3,400 pesos, under £1.00.
Weekdays the jeeps leave for Cocora at the following times: 6.10am 7.30am 9.30am 11.30am 16.00 pm.
Weekends: 6.10am 7.30am 9.00am 10.30am 11.30am 13.00pm 15.00pm 16.00pm 17.00pm.
Returning from Cocora on weekdays at: 8.30am 12.30pm 15.00pm 17.00pm.
Weekends: 7.00am 8.30am 10.00am 11.30am 12.30pm 14.00pm 16.00pm 17.00pm 18.00pm.
The Jeeps leave when there are 8 people waiting or when someone is willing to pay for 8 people. Inside the National Park you can pay for horse back riding or simply hike around the park. There are a few restaurants and cafes dotted around that will happily take your money when you need to refuel.
The town of Salento is most definitely worth a visit on your return journey from the park. A traditional sleepy town built in 1850 surrounded by a mountainous backdrop. Streets are lined with coloured doors to be searched behind. For an extra bit of leg work climb up Alto de la Cruz for stunning panoramic views. Plus I should mention as we are in the coffee region after all – if you want to buy some coffee whilst in the town the best place to buy or drink coffee is at Café Jesús Martín located along one of the streets just off of the plaza.
Remember: If you are worried about mosquitos don’t be too worried as due to Bogota’s high altitude mosquito’s cannot survive. In the coffee zone you are still unlikely to encounter mosquitos but it is a good idea during dusk, dawn and night to cover up and spray yourself with repellant.