Tag - colombia

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).

Tayrona National Park, Colombia

Tayrona National Park, Colombia, Cr-colombia.travel

Tayrona National Park, Colombia, Cr-colombia.travel

Hints, Tips and Ideas for Colombia’s Beach Destination

Need to rest after the Lost City Trek, fancy an escape from Santa Marta, not keen on Taganga…head to paradise and beach slumming in Tayrona. Ask any person to conjure up in their mind’s eye their ideal image of a Caribbean beach. Doubtless it will be lined with palm trees, their fronds gently clacking together in a calm breeze, tranquil turquoise waters will lap up onto pristine white sand and you will know that you have found paradise.

Think Tayrona National Park, Colombia. Get away from the hustle of Santa Marta, avoid the backpacker drop out zone of Taganga and relax with your feet up after the Lost City or Cuidad Perdida Trek. Facilities are slim on the ground in the Park and the further you decide to venture in the slimmer they become, so stock up on all your necessities and drop out for three or four days.

Arrecifes beach

Unfortunately, while breathtaking and spectacular, with huge boulders smashed by rolling waves, the first beach that you reach in Tayrona is off limits to swimming. Arrecifes has claimed the lives of some 200 people so do not add your name to a frighteningly extensive list. Take a photo, strike a pose and stroll a further 15 minutes to La Piscina.

La Piscina

Legend has it that the Tayrona Indians (related to the cannibalistic Carib Indians) created the bay here to allow for easy access to the ocean and fishing. Be thankful for their efforts. What you are faced with upon rounding the tip of Arrecifes is an unspeakably beautiful scene. Once you arrive you will be reluctant to leave.

Tips and Pointers

Photographs – If you must snap a photo of a Kogi Indian, ask beforehand and agree a price. The going rate on a good day is in the region of 2000 Colombian Pesos.

What to bring – flash light, repellent, water, snacks/food (restaurants here are pricey) and plenty of sun block.

Where to Stay – High End

Should cash be of no issue the unrivalled Hotel Koralia should be your destination of choice. Located a mere 50 minutes from Santa Marta, Koralia has been created in a fusion of simplicity and luxury. The first thing the visitor will notice upon arrival is the space between each cabana ensuring privacy and tranquility – Koralia is growing in popularity with Colombian celebrities for just this reason. Tired of being paparazzi-fodder the likes of Shakira have booked in here for true isolation and pampering no doubt attracted by the location and the availability of the spa.

There has been no rush to clear vast swathes of palm trees to accommodate further accommodation, one gets the feeling that they the owners are happy with their lot and this is as big as Koralia will get. Each cabin has its own theme, shanghai, nirvana and so on and comes equipped with everything you should need, mosquito net, fan and hammock for those lazy afternoons on your front porch. The bathrooms are self contained and roofless so that while in the shower you are looking up at the verdant canopy of tropical flora and fauna.

For more details see http://www.koralia.com/

Mid Range

For a price of something between 80-90,000 pesos and depending on availability you can rent a cabana in Arrecifes. Of course an alternative would be to return to Santa Marta or Taganga for accommodation there.

Budget

String up a hammock in the area in front of Arrecifes beach for 10,000 Pesos per night. This will be the most economical fashion of enjoying paradise. Or for 15,000 you can pitch you tent.

Colombia, South America’s Birdwatching Destination of Choice

Jabiru Stork

Jabiru Stork

Increased security, greater infrastructure, a reputation as a burgeoning tourist destination, Colombia is becoming a favored destination for birdwatchers. Given that Colombia is basically the shoulder of northern South America has Caribbean and Pacific coastlines, three mountain ranges or Cordilleras that rise up in the north of the country and rivet down spine-like to creating the beginning of the Andes, it will come as no surprise that this country is ecologically mega-diverse.

To the avid birdwatcher or twitcher as the aficionado is often called, that Colombia is a cornucopia of bird life will come as no surprise. It has been long known that areas such as the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta – the only coastal isolated mountain range in the world -, the Depresion Momposina – a huge area of low-lying wetlands -, areas around the southwestern city of Cali, the Pacific Choco region and the Coffee region, just to mention a few are home to many endemic and migratory species.

The Fundación ProAves, a joint UK and Colombian non-profit organization created in 1998 to protect birds and their habitats in Colombia through research, conservation actions and community outreach proudly state on their website that this country is home to 1,876 species. This astonishing diversity makes Colombia the country with the most species of bird in the world, although some may argue that Brazil, Costa Rica and Ecuador are equals.

Endangered, Rare and Endemic Species of Birds in Colombia
Colombian-Bird

Colombian-Bird

As if backing up ProAves’ bold claims, in 2010 an expedition funded by the American Bird Conservancy discovered two colonies numbering of up to 80 birds of the Baudo Oropendola (Psarocolius cassini) in the northwestern pacific area of the Choco region. The Baudo Oropendola has been sighted on precious few occasions, the last confirmed data having been compiled in 1999. This species has been listed on the IUCN Red List as endangered for some time, but with this current sighting in 2010, this status may well be downgraded to “vulnerable”.

Further Regions for Birdwatchers to Explore in Colombia

Colombia’s biodiversity is embarrassing and we have yet to mention the species that inhabit the Andes, the Amazon, the Llanos Orientales and of course the valleys between the mountain ranges. It is no wonder that the Colombian government has scented a profitable market for potential tourism in the birdwatching circles.

Promoting Birdwatching in Colombia
Baudo Oropendola

Baudo Oropendola

Now that Colombia is back on the map for tourism and enjoying this recent tourism boom, despite some areas still being off-limits, the Government is making a concerted effort to entice birdwatchers here. There was a considerable Colombian presence at “The British Birdwatching Fair”, an annual event held in Oakham, UK which draws in more than 20,000 visitors making it possibly the most important event of its type in
the world.

It will not have gone unnoticed to the Colombian authorities, keen on pushing the dark days of the past behind them and improving this nation’s often troubled image, that birdwatching is a lucrative business. The New York Times cited the pastime as an $80 million per year industry.

Can the Colombian Government cash in on this multi million dollar industry? With such a variety of species from Condors to Jabiru Storks and the Sooty Ant-Tanager, if the country’s security can be kept in check, there is no reason why not.

Resources for Birdwatchers to Colombia

There is very little up to date and accurate information about birdwatching in Colombia and the travel agencies that provide tours and advice can often be difficult to find. A good list of resources for the birdwatcher coming to Colombia can be found listed here.

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.