A very new small boutique hotel with amazing views towards idyllic Crab Caye and it's turquoise waters. The seaside restaurant offers wonderful fresh seafood and it is possible to use kayaks to explore the beautiful nearby coastline. Providencia is a rustic, authentic, forgotten-in-time-like Caribbean paradise, devoid of any large hotels or resorts. Deep Blue is the ideal place to luxuriously experience this special island.
Providencia Island, Colombia
This lovely spot is run by a Colombian-Kiwi couple and has amazing views. They make yummy healthy food and Diego takes guests for a walk through the forest on their property - lots of butterflies, bird and orchids! You can stay in their guesthouse or visit from the day from Manizales to have a meal and a walk. The sunsets are amazing - the perfect spot for a cocktail!
Villa Maria Km 3 via Llanitos, Manizales, Caldas, Colombia
+57 310 764 82 49
Visiting Hacienda Venecia was one of the highlights of my visit to Colombia this summer. Venecia is a fourth generation coffee finca about 30 minutes drive from Manizales. It's in a beautiful location. Each day there is a coffee tour where you get a full introduction into the history of coffee growing in Colombia. During the tour you can drink as much coffee as you want so make the most of this rare opportunity in Colombia to get a decent cup of coffee - Colombia exports its best coffee. The coffee beans from the finca for your cup of coffee are roasted in front of you. You are taken for a walk among the coffee plants and into the warehouse where the coffee beans are processed and placed in sacks ready for export. Included in the tour is a visit to the original farmhouse with many wonderful antique objects still preserved. The final highlight of the tour is a fantastic lunch with local produce. The trip costs 30000 pesos (about £11), this includes transport from your accommodation in Manizales. The lunch is 10000 pesos extra. After lunch you can relax by the pool. You can also stay over night on the Finca.
+57 320 636 5719
There is nothing more amazing than hiking up to the Monserrat Church on the mountain that towers over Bogota. On Sundays thousands of locals make a pilgrimage to the church. It is the best way to experience the local life and culture. The views from the top (10,000m above sea level) are outstanding!
It is now a Hosteling International hostel in only its 4th or 5th year. It is a wonderful place to be and to explore from.
My initial impression of Aracataca, a small community of 30 - 40.000 people was that it was almost too real. A place so vibrant and colourful where everybody seemed to know one another and everything seemed to jump out at you in relief.
Being in Aracataca is a special experience. Imagine being in a small North American town of the 1950’s, then transport it to a Caribbean setting and then you will have a slight inkling. The people ride around on bicycles and motorbikes and only a few cars and lorries pass by on the streets.
Everything is bright and colourful. The shops all have hand painted signs beckoning to you to enter their premises and trees stand along the pavements creating shade for the houses and shops. In the evenings families sit together on their porches enjoying the cooler temperatures that soar during the day. Everything feels close at hand and in reach of you. A railroad cuts through the town, and you can hear the train’s horn signalling its passing many times a day. Dragonflies swarm and yellow butterflies dance in the heat of the midday sun.
Aracataca is famous for the Nobel prize winning author Gabriel Garcia Marquez, the writer of ‘100 years of Solitude.’ In his books Marquez created the imaginary place of Macondo, which also goes beyond being a fictional place, by existing as a state of mind where many things are possible, a space where you can create your own sense of reality. Magic realism is not just the style of writing that Marquez used, but it is a super real state of aliveness here in Aracataca!
It is good to experience the town on a bicycle like many of the local people do. The streets are generally safe to cycle and it is a quick way to get around and see different parts of the centre.
You need more than one day to see the Gabriel Garcia museum, La Telegraphista museum, the river and the African palms, for you need to go beyond the obvious paths and spend time meeting some of the people to really experience Aracataca.
And the perfect place to stay is The Gypsy Residence, a new hostel that offers a sympathetic understanding of Macondo, Marquez and Magic Realism.
One or two day tour packages are also on offer to open you to the magic of Aracataca.
Don’t miss out on this unspoilt destination, a chance to taste traditional food of many cultures, a stone’s throw from the Caribbean sea, Santa Marta and Cartagena.
For the more mature backpacker- this hotel - once the opera house - is now a tranquil haven of old colonial with stylish bedrooms and a leafy quadrangle for dining- after the hustle and bustle - nestled in a cobbled street just above the government house. A real treat for sore feet.
Earlier this year we stayed on Providencia Island: a small, mountainous Caribbean island, part of Colombia (although closer to Nicaragua), lying midway between Costa Rica and Jamaica. The primitive Island has been declared a UNESCO biosphere reserve and has a 20 km coral barrier making it a divers’ paradise. But for us, it offered the small Hotel Sirrius situated on a long, white sandy beach. We had the four sun-beds to ourselves and our lazy days involved reading, watching the fishing and scuba diving boats go in and out and having frequent dips in the warm sea. Saturday was the highlight of the week with horse racing along the beach: we stood in the ‘sea stand’ as the horses galloped past. There was only one nearby restaurant, no internet, mobile phone access or TVs: just total relaxation at the end of three months travelling.
This is an old bowling alley underneath the street on Avenida Jiménez, Bogotá. It lies under the traditional 'Café Paisaje'. It has a really wonky, uneven piste, and a young lad climbs up and down a little ladder at one end to replace the skittles after you've had your go. If you're lucky he'll juggle for you, and if you're a pretty woman, he'll put them closer together to make it easy to beat your male opponents. The musty air and blaring rancheras make this a really atmospheric spot.
Avenida Jiménez and Carrera Séptima. Just next to the Las Aguas trasmilenio spot.
Avenida Jiménez # 6 - 71
+57 (1) 3423232
Google map: bit.ly/dI5mXi
The hometown of Shakira! If you like music, colours, heaps of flowers, dancing, coloured masks, rum, folklore and much more, then Baranquilla is the place to go for Carnival. Highlights include the 'battle of the flowers' with carts laden with kaleidescopic flower arrangements, parades with dancers wearing giant heads with long noses, and of course, the music of Colombia - the cumbia, paloteo, congo- and dancing to match. Colombians know how to party, and Baranquilla is the best of the best!
This is one of the most beautiful national parks in the Caribbean, with coastal forests running down to untouched white beaches and a warm sea. Ok, so the travel there is not the 'budget' part, but all of the rest is! Fly to Santa Marta via Bogota, then get a cheap local bus (or taxi, for a bit more) to the main gates of Parque Tayrona at El Zaino. Walk, thumb a lift, or wait for a local bus from the entrance to the sea. Once there, you will need to be prepared to walk for 45 minutes along the most wonderful forest and coastal path, where you can hear howler monkeys, see bright blue morpho butterflies fluttering in the rays of sunlight, maybe even encounter an agouti. As you emerge on the beach at San Juan del Cabo, you will find a simple beach restaurant and some huts with hammocks for a pound a night, and toilet blocks too. You can also hire tents and lockers to lock up your valuables. You can spend days and days here, lying on the beach, snorkelling, hiking into the forest to visit indigenous communities, watching the formation squadrons of pelicans fly past, talking to the fishermen who will cook a delicious fish and potato soup on the beach and perhaps offer you a bowl, and, most importantly, walking along the beach in the morning to the local bakery serving cheese and chocolate bread, which has to be tried to be believed. Stand on the beach with your back to the sea, and you can look up into the Sierra de Santa Marta mountains, and see the snow-topped peaks.
Fly into Santa Marta with Avianca, the Colombian national airline, from Bogota www.avianca.com
Google map: bit.ly/hwnqHm
Catch a bus/taxi from Santa Marta to the Park's main entrance.
Sticky. Sweet. Milky. Moreish. Wicked sweeties in big jars from more than a dozen sellers in a shady arcade on the Plaza de las Coches. This being Colombia, it's not coconut teacakes and licorice allsorts, but 'bebes de leche' - think supersized jelly babies made of fudge - and coconut-condensed-milk mixes, and tamarind sweets. Definitely the best come from Dona Silvia, in my opinion - she was mixing up a bowl of tamarind while we were there and let us try it straight from the bowl. One sweetie, 500 pesos is the going rate - about 25p a piece.
Plaza de las Coches, Cartagena
The Camino Real to Guane is an ancient paved track leading down the precipitous slope to the east of Barichara, and though fields and woods all the way to the colonial village of Guane. It's nine kilometres of good walking, and in Guane you can get a huge meal for about five quid (at the restaurant in the road leading up on the left hand side of the church), wander around the village, and try chicha (alcoholic Horlicks) and sabajon (a milk-and-liquor mix). It's not a challenging trek, it's just a great day's walking.
Google map: bit.ly/90aLal
Playa Blanca is a short (exciting) ride away from the busy tourist city of Cartagena. Playa Blanca is a small slice of paradise, with clear blue sea's, white sands and the delicious tranquility of Caribbean life. The gross scape of art inspiration is hard to describe, a world of photography, painting and writting is open to anyone who finds themselves on this desolate island. Playa Blanca's beach is lined with coconut palms and banana tree's, smells of mango infused bonfires fill the air. Any traveller to arrive at Playa Blanca will be instantly drawn in to the chilled way of island life. A sure place to find your self relaxed and inspired to indulge in your choice of creative outlet.
Mama Ruth's Paraiso
To get there:
The safest and easiest way to get to Playa Blanca is to take a boat from the Muelle in Cartagena which is 35.000 pesos plus the insurance 15.000 pesos.
Google map: tinyurl.com/yjvde33
Best market I've seen, filled with bizarre artefacts, toys and whatnot from the last 100 years. How they ended up in the hands of these humble folk is a mystery, but there they are, for sale and waiting to make the most unusual new addition to your home! Not to be missed. Viva Colombia! "A la Orden!"
On the corner of carrera 7 (septima) with calle 18. (in the carpark behind the Mambo Museum. Sundays.
The main draw of the Anandamayi is the cute, pretty extras it provides. Hammocks, pretty geraniums, colourful patios, a garden with waterfall and fish create an attractive exterior which is a pleasure to walk up to.
The interior is clean and tidy, and the hotel/hostel has a very homely, cosy feel. Most guests however spend a lot of time in the garden and courtyard which are by far the gems of the property.
All the major attractions of Bogota are within walking distance and they have a female dorm available at the same rate for those who would don't want to be in a mixed one.
Had a lovely time with my family. Kids loved it. Mother-in-law loved it. Lovely house with all of the amenities we needed and the privacy of our own place.
We found it on www.casasofiacartagena.com but it has other websites as well that are more current.
A beautiful Caribbean island a short plane ride from San Andres. Very undeveloped and with some beautiful, empty palm fringed sandy beaches - picture postcard stuff. There's only a handful of small little hotels on the island - it's all low key tourism in Providencia.
Top tip - take a boat trip around the island and visit the beautiful Crab Caye, a great place for snorkelling or admiring the amazing shades of light blue.
I cannot recommend the Caribbean city of Cartagena, on the north coast of Colombia, enough. I went for two weeks with my girlfriend and we never wanted to leave. Within the fortified old city are charming cobbled streets lined with immaculate Spanish colonial architecture, statues of fallen heroes and smiling people talking in the squares. Overhead will be baroque church steeples and domes, punctuated with colour spilling out from window flower boxes. There are superb restaurants offering fine seafood and other local specialities, a thriving, but not intimidating, nightlife and the full spectrum of accomodation, all enclosed within the walls. And the sun will be shining, but not so that you have to stay indoors, and advantage of the gentle Caribbean breeze.
Outside the old city are the white sands, green waters and palm trees the area is worshipped for. Take a boat trip to the offshore islands and see the island you'll both buy when you win the lotto! It is remarkably safe, and don't assume you will be queuing the entire time either - this is no Disneyland - you can have sweet little restaurant all to yourselves, or a park with a fountain, or a stroll atop the city wall, so romance is hard to avoid. However, if you feel like a film and a pizza, just grab a cab over to the new city and send an email home while you're at it. Definitely a winner - the most romantic place in the world.
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