Tag - bogota

The Candelaria, Bogota

The Cathedral, Palacio de Justica, Calle 10 and Teatro Colon

Bogota is shaking off its unjust reputation as mad, bad and dangerous. The Candelaria is the very heartbeat of this cultural and touristic renaissance.

bogota barrio de la candelaria

bogota barrio de la candelaria

Rolos, as Bogotanos are otherwise known, revel in the fact that they live in the “Athens of South America”. It reflects well on them, not because they shelter from the elements behind the pillars of a Colombian Acropolis, but that they are internationally recognised for their educated and polite nature. Nowhere else is this better displayed in Colombia’s Capital, Bogota, than in the historic Candelaria.

Candelaria, Bogota

Candelaria, Bogota

Situated in the centre of the sprawling and sometimes intimidating city, the majority of the buildings here hark back to the colonial era with tiled rooftops, colourful artwork, ornate windows and elaborate doorways. In the areas recently renovated, it is not hard to see why these narrow streets were the home to the Creole and Spanish Aristocracy. Now these very same streets, host students, backpacker residences and more culture than you would care to imagine.

Behind these tall and seemingly impenetrable walls, witnesses to all that has taken place in Bogota, are housed approximately 500 artistic and educational institutions in the form of dance schools, museums, galleries and eclectic shops, all of which enrich and convert a once rundown area into the most visited region in the capital.

Plaza de Bolivar, Credit-emaze.com

Plaza de Bolivar, Credit-emaze.com

The centre and starting point for any lazy amble through these cobblestone streets can only be from the Plaza de Bolivar. Built in homage to Simon Bolivar the liberator of South America it clearly represents one of the most important images in the city. Bolivar is dwarfed on all four sides by opulent structures, the Cathedral, the Palacio de Justicia, the Palacio de Narino and the Alcaldia.

Hotels are not short on the ground here and the traveller will find any quality for every budget…from cheap backpacker digs to exclusive and luxurious hotels like Hotel La Opera and Hotel Casa de la Botica.

These buildings perhaps could be said to represent the formal side to the Candelaria, a block or two uphill and one encounters true bohemia in all its glory, housed in antiquity and the vibe maintained by the hordes of students educated in the area at various universities, La Salle, Los Andes, La Gran Colombia and the Externado.

Teatro Colon, Credit-colourbox.com

Teatro Colon, Credit-colourbox.com

To stroll along the lovingly restored and now pedestrianised Calle 10 is a trip in itself. The street is lined with Museums, points of historical and religious interest and the majestic Teatro Colon. Further into this cultural cornucopia are the must visit Museo de Oro and BoteroMuseum. Marvel at the wonders from mythical El Dorado and then gasp at the corpulent artwork of Botero before settling down and reflecting with a café tinto, a traditional ajiaco soup or something stronger in any one of the diverse cafes and bars that line the historical centre of Bogota.

Bogota’s Zona Gourmet – A Foodie’s Paradise

 A Foodie’s Paradise

A Foodie’s Paradise

Close to the multinational firms, international hotels and located in an attractive section of Bogota, the Zona Gourmet is foodie heaven at a price. Colombian food has its strengths and weaknesses, a fine ajiaco soup that perfectly blends several types of potato, corn and chicken with the secret ingredient of guasca is unrivalled on a cold day on the plateau of Bogota. And for those fish lovers, a trip to the Embajada del Pacifico near to Las Aguas reveals a world within a world of fish restaurants run by natives of the Choco region.

But, there is one section in Bogota where you will find a fine selection of international and Colombian run restaurants that provide world class cuisine, the Zona G.

The Zona G: Rosales and Quinta Camacho

Rosales and Quinta Camacho is a well-healed section of Bogota and the rent here is amongst the most expensive per square meter in South America, some of the restaurants reflect this of course, but you do get a bang for your buck or peso in several of the longer standing and established restaurants here.

The Zona G differs from the Zona T further uptown and the Zona C in the colonial Candelaria (Bogota’s hipsters have repackaged and renamed several areas!) in that restaurants here survive only if they are delivering on their promise and so there are several stalwarts that always draw a faithful crowd.

With architecture that would not look out of place in England the four of five square blocks that make up the Zona G are positively littered with dining options from the ubiquitous Argentine steakhouse to Oriental, fusion and seafood.

Recommended Dining Options in Bogota’s Zona G

For seafood lovers you’ll do no better than either feasting on Peruvian cuisine and the internationally lauded Astrid y Gaston (Cra 7 No. 67-64) or the dark and atmospheric 69 Oyster Bar (Calle 69A No. 5-59). Just along the same street from the 69 Oyster Bar you are spoilt for choice if you fancy a spectacular cut of beef in the aptly named La Biferia (Calle 69A No.5-61). This elegantly designed building with high ceilings, long windows and blood red walls delivers.

On the other side you can try out the Mexican President Felipe Calderon’s favorite haunt in Bogota, the Criterion (Calle 69A No. 5-75). The cuisine is listed here in the Criterion as francesa moderna and President Calderon is rumored to order dozens of platters to go to take with him on the presidential jet.

For Colombian food there are two excellent options in Harry’s Bar (Calle 70 No. 5-57) and Local (Calle 69A No. 9-09) and so if you are in town in business just for a few days you can head down to this safe area of town and try some of the local specialties such as posta cartagenera or a calentado.

Cafes in the Zona G

Just along the Calle 70 at No. 5-23 is Authors bookstore, attached to which is a charming Diletto café. Here you can pick up the latest edition of the local English newspaper, The City Paper or the most recent Economist and settle back in the café with a strong coffee to recharge your batteries before deciding upon where to dine.


Medellin, Colombia

Medellin, Colombia

by David A. G Fisher,

From the depths of the lush, dense, humid jungles, way up to the cloud-covered pinnacles of towering, ice cold, glacial peaks, Colombia is open for travel. Nestled in the upper northwest corner of the South American continent, Colombia is the heart of the American continental system. Its geography includes coasts on both the Pacific and the Caribbean, along with the northern-most extent of the great Andes mountain chain which stretches way down under to the frozen tip of Argentina. A short 82 km/51 mi after crossing the Ecuadorian border, in Pasto, Colombia, this mountainous queue separates into three cordilleras whose divergence hosts a myriad of ecological environments. Her resulting biological diversity is second to one, with Brazil holding the Heavyweight Title. Conservation International posts that “Colombia covers less than one percent of the Earth’s land surface, yet harbors 15 percent of all terrestrial diversity” (1). With the country’s territory comprising only a bit more than 1,000,000 sq km/600,000 sq mi, measuring in at just under a Texas double, this country is a biological busy-body.

Every climate imaginable is present in this unique Latin American Republic; from the rough and wet coast of the whale-spawning Pacific in the west, to the colorful and xeric coast of the Caribbean in the north, with deserts, grasslands, rain forests and temperate forests in between. If a traveler wants to observe colorful birds, discover new orchid species, search for medicinal plants, or locate reptiles and mammals, then Colombia is the place. In fact, you may want to plan on being here for a while.

With so much biodiversity, the mind doesn’t have to stretch far to imagine the variety of natural resources inherent to its particular geography. Aside from being opulent in freshwater resources, Colombian emeralds are highly coveted among gemstone collectors for a stone’s transparency and fire (2). In addition to these unique assets, some of the more common resources are coffee, bananas, flowers, copper, nickel, gold, coal, natural gas, and petroleum.

The exportation of a healthy share of these resources produces a moderately strong economy compared to the region, but concurrently general expenses are lower than its neighbors. Weigh in the effect of the dollar’s continuing downward spiral at midyear of 2008, and see how it will stretch further here than most countries out on the backpacker highway.

Among and beyond the triple-split Colombian Andes, are numerous bustling metropolis centers and enchanting, colonial towns. Santa Fe de Bogota, the capital of this Andean nation, sits in a mountain-cradled savanna at 2,640 m/8,661 ft in the eastern-most chain. Upon arrival to Bogota, a visitor will discover a modern, urban sprawl that hosts a population approaching 8,000,000 inhabitants, who are referred to as rolos (just like the candy but with a trilled r).

When arranging for a place to hang the hat and take a load off the feet, accommodations of every budget are available in quantity. There are hundreds of motels and hotels, with several hostels to choose from, that are scattered throughout the city. All one needs to do is get on the Internet and Google “Bogota accommodations”, the results will be staggering. Read some of the threads posted by fellow travelers; develop some insight on the country. And, you can pretty much count on the fact that if a place offers lodging, they also offer fresh, complimentary coffee. You are in Colombia, after all.

Some of the more attractive districts of the city in which to wet your whistle or appease your hunger are Chapinero, Rosales, Usaquen, The Pink Zone (la Zona Rosa) and 93rd Park. Except for Chapinero, which is very modest and more down-to-earth in comparison, the other areas host establishments that may well exceed many packers’ budgets. That ought not to bring a traveler down, though, as Chapinero offers more culture and a truer essence of the city’s character.

One of the main sights in this district to where people always seem to flock with the pigeons, is the church of Our Lady of Lourdes (La iglesia Nuestra Senora de Lourdes) on 63rd Street with 13th Avenue (Calle 63 con Carrera 13). Here you’ll find street vendors with their artisan crafts neatly laid out on blankets and tarps, restaurants, shops, bars, music and everything else that helps make this sector a list topper by travelers and locals alike.

Still, as enormous as Bogota is, a traveler may find other districts as equally inviting. The historic downtown center, for example, is a must see offering museums, government buildings and plazas, a colorful, historic colonial sector, and of course more food, drink and lodging. Plus, the interesting mix of people provides an optimal chance for social observation.

This city’s ever-extending geographical area comprises an excess of 1,580 sq km/612 sq mi. It is so colossal in area, that it cannot be viewed in its entirety from Montserrate. This historic landmark perched upon the principle cordillera that straddles the eastern limit of the city from north to south, hosts the iconic 17th century, white Church of Guadalupe which peers over the savanna of Bogota at 3,210 m/10,530 ft.

Montserrate can be accessed by foot which is recommended during daylight hours and accompanied if possible, by the rail-driven funicular, or by aerial tramway, all of which justify the amazing panoramic view below. Come sunset, well, you’ll just have to come and see for yourself. Be sure to confirm the operating hours of the automated descent systems or that might be undertaken on foot in the dark over the course of a steady thirty minutes; feasible, but not quite the safest recommendation.

As soon as a traveler is ready to experience the amplification of cultural contrasts in this incredibly amazing sensation of a nation, then it is time to move on. Whether arriving by land or sky, Medellin is the country’s second most populated urban area with almost 6,000,000 inhabitants. Like so many of Colombia’s municipalities, it too, rests among vegetative-covered mountains. However, unlike the capital city which is considered cold climate, Medellin is touted as the City of Eternal Spring at 1,600 m/5,239 ft, with an average year-round temperature of 24 C/75 F.

The friendly, hard-working and passionate people of this region are referred to as paisas (PIE-SAHS). They are noted not only for their ideal climate, but also for females of captivating beauty, and the savory culinary King known in every corner of Colombia as Bandeja Paisa. The Paisa platter is served with way too many calories of beans, rice, sausage, fried pork rinds, ground beef or pork, and topped with a fried egg cooked over-medium, fried bananas, avocado and arepa, which is considered typical Colombian bread. If this fails to fill a travel’s empty tank, well, live a little and order another!

Like its capital counterpart, Medellin is fully-equipped with all modern amenities in most sectors of the city. By executing the same procedure for Bogota, accommodations, restaurants, and anything else deemed necessary, can easily be located. In as much, since Medellin is nestled in the core of the coffee industry, one might imagine that fresh, complimentary coffee can be tracked down as well when lodged. Some of the other cities worth visiting are Cali, in the western chain that crawls down to the Pacific. Cali sports even a more tropical climate than Medellin, and is the Salsa music capital of the country. It is recommended to dress lightly and bring your dancing shoes. Colombia’s busiest port city of Buenaventura resides here on the Pacific, although a venture to the UNESCO Caribbean coastal city of Cartagena would be much more enjoyable and advised. Back along that western chain of Colombia’s Andean range, to the south of Cali, are other attractions like the white city of Popayan and the volcano guarded municipality of Pasto. Back up north while visiting Medellin, get a feel for Manizales and its impressive Nevado de Ruiz.

By the time a visitor acquaints him/herself with the larger cosmopolitan centers, it may be time to unwind and experience some of the more laid-back, colonial atmospheres. Among the best in show and personality is the town of Barichara, a forty minute colectivo (bus) ride from the city of San Gil, located like the capital in the eastern-most cordillera. This small, historical community is notorious for its beautiful, white architecture and easy-going way of life. Local artisan works are sold throughout the seemingly unnoticeable small shops that line the steep, brown, cobblestone streets. From Barichara visitors can book all sorts of outdoor activities like rafting on the scenic Fonce River, excursions to high-falling, tropical cascades, cave explorations, paragliding and nature hikes.

Just to the west of where this mighty mountain chain tapers down to the desert region of La Guajira in the northeast, stands the tallest coastal mountain on the planet and the loftiest mountain in the country at 5,775 m/ 18,946 ft, La Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta. On a clear day with maximum visibility, a visitor can stand on a palm-lined beach and peer up to the snow covered summit of this coastal, geologic Goliath. If one has the impulse to abandon the hot, white sandy beaches accompanied by a year-round Caribbean breeze, for an enduring ascent to the Sierra Nevada’s bitterly hostile peak, excursions can be booked. Again, take advantage of available resources.

If a traveler is looking for some more excitement, then reserve a five-day expedition up the Sierra Nevada of Santa Marta to the remote, jungle-concealed Lost City (La Ciudad Perdida). Although you will want to check with the authorities for updated safety warnings in this sensitive region, the approaching sight and absorption of these esteemed archaeological ruins without interference from the public, is rumored to be one of the best attractions in Colombia.

To the south down by Popayan stand the carved-head ruins of San Agustin, definitely worth touring on foot or horseback. Several sites are distributed over many square kilometers which means that seeing them all in one day is not feasible. The catch to these sites is enduring an 8-hour bus ride over unpaved mountain roads. Transportation runs daily, however, this region is also classified as Red Zone’ and is unstable, so updated danger warnings best be sought prior to departure. If all is thought to be well by authorities, lodging with more free, complimentary coffee can be found near the disparate sites. Along with the Lost City, it is one of the more daring adventures down here in Colombia, so read up on current events in order to make an informed decision. Nobody comes here to get caught in crossfire.

Colombia also shares a portion of the Amazon Rainforest in its southeastern-most corner which borders with Venezuela, Brazil, Peru and Ecuador. This is the Amazon in its most pristine state, and is recommended to be explored before it succumbs to future destruction from deforestation. The only access to this region is by air (aside from waterways), and departing from Bogota is the most reliable. Visitors to this region from the friendly Colombian skies will not be admitted without validation of their Yellow Fever immunization received ten days prior to arrival.

Leticia is the principal population in the middle of nothing but green, green and more green. Just across a tributary by bridge is the Brazilian community of Tabatinga. All commuters are free to pass back and forth without a visa or passport. Authorities do not generally even ask for identification unless there is reasonable cause. In either community, accommodations can be made for small, privately-owned cabanas or more upscale corporate hotel chains.

Taking any number of boats to one of the various communities up or down stream is also possible on a daily basis. Basic cabana quarters and moderate hotels offer services to be had for an excursion in the Amazon, and you guessed it, more coffee. Personally guided tours are available and advised, or renting your own canoe. It is a behemoth of a region with weather patterns foreign to the visitor, so judge wisely. Traveling up a tranquil tributary by small boat, a traveler discovers the magic of the Amazon. Swimming with freshwater Pink dolphins in any of the uncountable tributaries could be one of the most surreal experiences for you, too.

These are just a handful of the attractions that await visitors from all around the globe. A majority of readers may know that until recently, Colombia was considered way off the beaten path by most travelers, and for sensible reasons. Stigmatized by more than fifty years of internal conflict between guerrilla groups and security forces, in the past few decades, narco-traffickers and paramilitary troops have only made matters worse. For this reason Colombia has long been regarded as a taboo country brimming with violence, and therefore passed over by adventurers.

However, since taking office in 2002, President Alvaro Uribe Velez has implemented security measures which have isolated the violence to specific regions of the country that can easily be avoided while enjoying the majority of its spectacular geographic and cultural diversity. With the major drug cartels already fragmented, and the internal political conflict having been diverted primarily to rural sectors, Colombia has undergone a transformation and is eager to erase its negative notoriety. Or, as Colombians refer to it, bad fame (la mala fama).

Colombia offers a verifiable abundance of new experiences that an open-minded traveler who is looking to make a diversion from the typical South American route will find. But, here in Locombia (not misspelled), as many natives refer to her, an adventurer is still fortunately hard-pressed to encounter loads of tourists, except in Cartagena’s historic district. The majority of people you will encounter are Colombians, who are eager to respond with a smile and partake in friendly discourse of the country they love wholeheartedly.

You, too, will likely begin to view Colombia in a different and refreshing light, with positive tales to share with friends back home. And no doubt, if you don’t end up staying as so many do, you will at least find yourself wanting to come back for more because Colombia welcomes an adventurer’s arrival now, more than ever before.

An interjection with some lines of caution is appropriate here. Although Colombia is relatively trouble-free for tourists and foreigners, dressing down and concealing valuables will help minimize a traveler’s risk, as it will in any part of the world. Colombians know a visitor through accent, garment and gesture, so there is no hiding it in most cases. Just the same, refrain from drawing too much attention to yourself. Modesty is always a solid policy.

Yes, there is still an ongoing, armed conflict here. Cocaine production and its narco-trafficking counterpart are just as active as ever after ten years of Washington’s Plan Colombia. Kidnappings are not yet a thing of the past. More than fifty percent of the population lives below the poverty line, many are hungry and capricious. It still pays to be cautious here in Colombia, more so than in the neighboring nations.

That having been shared, this country has undergone some very positive transformations which have facilitated increased security and safety in most regions. Even Colombians are beginning to travel by highways to the numerous destinations, getting to know their country once again. The hot spots can be avoided. Colombia is ready to be experienced and enjoyed. Do the homework and chances are a traveler might learn something about them self while getting to know one of the most intriguing and hospitable countries in Latin America.

1. www.celb.org/xp/CELB/places/colombia.xml
2. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emerald

The Emerald Museum, Bogota, Colombia

The Emerald Museum, Bogota, Cr-thenews.com.pk

The Emerald Museum, Bogota, Cr-thenews.com.pk

Colombia’s Green Treasures on Show in Downtown Bogota

Conveniently located close to the celebrated Museo del Oro, Bogota’s International Emerald Museum Foundation is a decent attraction in which to while away an hour or so.

Colombia is known for its emeralds of startlingly high quality and here in the Museum one can glimpse some of the finest specimens around. Located on the 23rd floor of the imposing Avianca building just off the Parque Santander and Seventh Avenue and only a few minutes from the city’s colonial Candelaria district, just kitty corner from the better known and much visited gold museum, this exhibition of emeralds goes a little way into explaining the science and the value behind the green gem.

Emeralds – What Are They?

Explained basically, an emerald is made up of a hardened combination of minerals such as beryl and then the green color is produced by chromium and in this respect, Colombian emeralds are considered to be amongst the most beautiful in particular when in addition to the clear yet dark green color they possess a bluish tinge.

The Emerald in Colombia

It makes sense that there is a museum devoted to the emerald in Colombia since the country, over the past 50 years according to experts, has been the largest emerald producer. And as they will tell you in the Emerald Museum, Colombia produces roughly 60 per cent of all emeralds per year and of 80 per cent of the highest quality emeralds available on the market. Not bad going!

Where are the Emerald Mines in Colombia?

The department or state of Boyaca (where colonial Villa de Leyva is located) that is found bordering Cundinamarca (where the capital Bogota is located) to the north is the principal source of all Colombian emeralds. There are three key mining towns, Muzo, Coscuez and Chivor, all of which are roughly 3 hours distance driving from Bogota.

About the Emerald Museum

The International Museum of the Emerald is an interesting side attraction in Bogota, but is far from being the full authority that perhaps a tourist might expect. The museum is privately owned and really only consists of three rooms, the mining tunnel that you are led through after alighting at the 23rd floor that goes some way to explaining the process of mining and of course detailing the breakdown of an emerald, the first room with its various emeralds on show and a second room that really looks like a salesroom. However, the view of Bogota from up here will take your breath away if the emeralds do not.

Important Details about the Museum

The International Museum of the Emerald is open from Monday to Saturday from 10am to 6pm and can be found at Calle 16 No6-66 Edificio Avianca, Piso 23 in Bogota. Entry costs 10,000 pesos (roughly $5) per person, or students with ID 7000 pesos (roughly $3.50).

Guide to Colombia’s best vacation spots

Colombia, Cr Colombia.travel

Colombia, Cr Colombia.travel

by David A.G. Fischer,

If you consider yourself to be the variety of traveler who is willing to crawl out on a limb and assume a few extra risks for the sake of acquiring memorable life experiences, then Colombia is most definitely the destination for you. The problem with traveling to this country of endless scenic beauty is not so much the avoidance of violence and guerrilla warfare, but deciding on how long to make your stay and which destinations to highlight on your itinerary.

Since truly knowing a country is becoming familiar with its people and cultures, the inclusion of at least a moderate level of spoken Spanish will be found as indispensable. Also, like any other destination, a handful or two of common sense will help maintain a safe distance from trouble.

So, once you have made the decision to come to Colombia, what are Colombia’s hot vacation spots? Well, first of all, the answer to that question depends on what the adventurer is in search of. This country offers something for every breed of traveler. Whether the objective is relaxing beach time, scuba diving, whale watching, rain forest exploration, mountaineering, municipal integration, small town enchantment or indigenous curiosity, Colombia will satisfy your cravings.

Because most travelers arrive via the friendly skies, orienting your travels around a central location may be the most practical approach. The welcoming, capital city of Bogota can be used as a hub for excursions throughout the country, either by bus or national charter flights. Upon arriving to Bogota, a tourist visa will be issued for up to 90 days. If you decide to postpone your return flight home, visa extensions are easily obtained.

Bogota offers a plethora of sites and activities, many of which are accessible with the city’s public transportation system (El Transmilenio), thousands of independent buses (colectivos) and swarms of taxis. In the downtown center area, there is the must see colonial center of La Candelaria. This colorful and generally well-preserved sector is where the capital city got its start. The narrow, cobblestone streets lined with houses, shops, restaurants and bars of various rainbow chromatics, beckon a visitor’s afternoon stroll or twilight exploration.

From this district you can go to Bolivar Plaza where famous government buildings like the Palace of Justice and the National Capitol surround the historic plaza. Nearby is the Museum of Gold which displays the country’s countless collection of indigenous, gold artifacts. While in this vicinity it would be worthwhile to visit the Museum of Modern Art and the Archaeological Museum, all within walking distance of the plaza.

This sector of the city also houses a splendid collection of churches and chapels which date back to the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. However, after the destructive earthquake of 1785, several had to be rebuilt and the original versions were forever lost to history. The current architectural designs, though, are just as inviting to discover.

On the outskirts of the city a traveler can also choose to explore a couple different natural areas like the Laguna of Guatavita and Chicaque Park. These areas provide hiking trails with an abundance of high altitude flora and fauna to observe. A visitor may find it hard to believe that a bustling city with roughly 8,000,000 inhabitants is in such close proximity.

To the north of the city sits the small Muisca indigenous community of Zipaquira. Although the town itself is appealing with fine examples of colonial architecture, the salt mines which lie underground to the west are the main attraction for visitors. These mines house the world’s largest underground cathedral which was excavated from the mineral deposits and opened to the public in 1995. Its unusual intrigue certainly merits a visit.

Although the capital city offers much more than can be mentioned at this point, visitors will find it to be an inviting environment with friendly and hospitable Colombians who are willing to point a tourist in the right direction. Some other popular urban areas worth traveling to are Medellin in the heart of the more tropical coffee region; Cali in the hot valley of Cauca; the white, colonial city of Popayan; Pasto with its guardian volcano Galerias; and the city of parks in Bucaramanga. Around all of these major centers lie pleasant little towns, each with their own particular charm, and each destination promises to offer something different than the other.

One other urban area worth mentioning in some detail and noting on your itinerary is the Caribbean coastal city of Cartagena, certainly the most famous tourist destination in Colombia. Cartagena of the Indies, as it is formally called, should not be missed. Listed as one of UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites, Cartagena is home to over a million inhabitants who are largely of Afro-Caribbean descent. Cartagena has a rich history as the Caribbean’s busiest port city. It is most noted for its Old City district which is protected by a huge stone wall built as an impressive structure of military engineering. Its construction was initiated at the end of the sixteenth century following an attack by Francis Drake, and was not completed until nearly 200 years later in 1796 as a result of delays due to tropical storms and pirate attacks. Today, it stands simply as a historical monument which encapsulates the most touristy and attractive part of the city.

This is the area of Cartagena to which visitors from around the world flock annually by the hundreds of thousands. Within the confines of the Old City are the most colorful, colonial buildings with plazas, museums, statues, shops, restaurants and live music. The tropical climate and palm trees are positive contributions to the city’s Caribbean ambiance. A visitor will undoubtedly enjoy the old, colonial atmosphere present
in Cartagena.

Some of the not-so-positive elements are the intrusive vendors who are incessantly trying to push their goods on the people that they consider wealthy tourists. Get used to declining their offers, and be careful with your possessions as thieves run amuck throughout the city. Not advertised in most travel guides is the social dilemma of poverty. While the Old City is a welcoming place for visitors, the remainder of Cartagena is predominantly impoverished yet well secluded from what visitors will see. Prostitution has also become an increasingly widespread issue.

From Cartagena, visitors can charter day-trips to some of the surrounding islands. One of the most popular excursions is to the islands of Rosario. Here a visitor will enter the natural realm of the Caribbean’s notorious septi-colored sea which beckons one to take a plunge. The waters are warm and inviting with unimaginable visibility. Its refreshment is difficult to match.

A couple of the more well-known and extensively-visited islands further off the coast are San Andres and Providencia. These are reached by charter flights departing from any of Colombia’s major urban centers. While both islands are situated in the middle of that famous seven-colored sea, the prior is mainly for resort bound travelers who are looking to relax with their family or friends. Most people remain in the confines of their resort, as the island itself and the city thereof is quite impoverished and lacking in appealing sights.

Providencia on the other hand, is a paradise for divers and anglers, alike. Smaller, more intimate lodging can be found on this island, as hotelchains have not intruded to the same extent as on San Andres. This island, however, is quite a bit pricier, but also more attractive, therefore worth the extra financial expenditure. Activities can be arranged on the island.

While Cartagena and its nearby islands are certainly the most popular, hot vacation spots in Colombia, they are by no means the only ones. In fact, the country offers so many locals for memorable vacationing that it can be hard to keep track of them all. Cartagena is beyond a doubt the most high-lighted and well known, but there are other regions that swing on the same par with the UNESCO city.

On the country’s western extreme, the Pacific coast offers the whale-watching island of Gorgona, which was once used as a Colombian prison. This island, referred to as Devil’s Island, sits 56 km from the port city of Buenaventura. While the island is inhabited by surreal beauty, the venture required to arrive is recommended only for the truly committed traveler. Flights or buses can be booked from Bogota, or any other major city, to Cali. But the remainder of the journey from Cali to Buenaventura, can only be reached by road.

Once the port city is reached roughly eight hours after departing Cali, a turbulent, 12-hour boat ride must be booked to reach the island. Reservations for accommodations must be made in advance. It is worth looking into, especially during the peak humpback whale season from August to October. This journey will take a traveler to the middle of nowhere, provided that is what you are seeking.

The Amazon Basin is undoubtedly one of the other most popular natural destinations in the country. Located in the southeastern corner of Colombia, bordering with Peru, Ecuador and Brazil, the Amazon is a must see for any nature enthusiast. Flights depart daily from Bogota and arrive to the Colombian city of Leticia in a matter of less than three hours. Reservations for lodging should be made in advance for any number of the small communities resting on the banks of the tributaries that feed the world’s largest, freshwater river system. Accommodations from small, basic cabanas to more moderate hotels with modern amenities can be arranged.

Go online and do your homework. Whatever your tastes may be, you will find this excursion to be one of the best experiences of your life. The Colombian portion of the Amazon has managed to avoid the extensive deforestation that has taken place in neighboring Brazil. Small indigenous communities still use small, hand-carved, wooden canoes as their primary form of transportation in the basin. Community visitations, camping and hiking excursions can be arranged by local guides. Getting into the heart of the Amazon is obligatory for any lover of nature.

These constitute just some of the hot vacation spots in Colombia. While there are countless other great places to explore and experience while in Colombia, a traveler can only take on so much during one visit. Decide for yourself what your principle interests are and use the Internet to study up and determine what is best for your schedule. Try not to rush your trip and plan too much, as you can always come back for additional servings of what this spectacular and diverse country has to offer.

One thing is for certain, after you have been here once, the country’s infectious power of attraction will leave a visitor wanting to come back for more. But that is not a problem, with safety measures being taken by the government in the past several years, tourism is doubling nearly every year. So, educate yourself to the possibilities that abound in this country, and devise your itinerary around some of the countless, hot vacation spots in Colombia.