When I arrived in Bogota the weather was gray and the streets seemed not safe to me. But the hotel I stayed was very nice. Well, what can I expect? It’s Bogota, not Saint Tropez although I’m not sure anymore if the Côte Azur is much safer than Bogota these days. So I started to explore the city just with cash and a very crappy mobile I bought already in Brazil for that purpose.
Actually, nothing bad happened but I still lost my phone because I left it behind in a Taxi. As my good smartphone got stolen and I lost now the bad one I was without communication. That was not a very big difference because I rarely use a phone while traveling except for taking photos. It’s just nice to have maps and a taxi app with you. Taxis are pretty cheap but sometimes the drivers try to get some extra money from tourists. Things like “Porque del Aeropuerto es mas caro” or “son sempre 10% mas” are simply lies. You can just pay the fee that is written on the taximeter. Just answer, “desculpa pero no tengo mas Conmigo”. When they lie you are allowed to lie as well. In some places, it could be that there is an airport fee but they actually have to mention when boarding and not when paying. I even started to tip drivers that charged me the right price and told them why I do so. Be careful when they don’t have a taximeter, then you should always make a fixed price before you get in the taxi or change if possible.
Viva Colombia and Satena are very cheap air carrier. They fly within Colombia and have also cheap flights to Lima and Quito. So I really recommend checking it first if there is a cheap flight before going on a long bus ride through the curvy countryside of Colombia. For only $50 I went to Medellin and from there another $50 to San Andrés. Yes sure it’s not good to fly always. But these bus rides are really annoying and the drivers are merciless. Many get sick because of the curvy street. If there would be a train or at least a highway I’d support also another form of transportation but if you want to take this route flying is surely worth it.
Medellin is a good party place. You can find loads of young people and parties especially in the area of Lleras. Taxis, by the way, are very cheap and the “easy taxi” app works pretty well. If you are along the metro it’s also fine to use it. I felt safe and it was also clean. So I usually took a taxi to the next metro station and went as close as possible to my destination and took again a taxi to finally reach my destination.
I went to a brewery place called 3 Cordilleras. They sometimes have live concerts and you pay $6 for entry fee and get 5 beers included. Pretty good deal ;-).
By the way, I was invited by some friends to play a game called “Tejo”. If you have the chance you should try that one. It was great fun with a lot of noise because there is gunpowder exploding when you hit the middle. Just google “Tejo Sport” for more information because I really don’t feel like explaining the rules in a proper way.
As I found a cheap flight to San Andrés I decided to go there and have some Caribbean feeling. Wrong decision! It was rainy and cloudy and the island is not that beautiful like all the Colombian people say and a lot of places on the island are dirty. But still, you have to pay 50’000 Colombian peso (~$20) to enter. But don’t expect anything for that fee. And people on the island often just try to sell or rent out some useless things you don’t want. They come to you smiling and telling “hola amigo” and when they figure out that you don’t want to go Jet Ski you won’t be their amigo anymore. As a tourist, you really feel reduced to an income source.
At expensive restaurants, you will get good food but it is actually not worth it. The best place I could find was a grill chicken place mainly for local people. For 10’000 peso per person at lunch time you will get a decent chicken. I can totally recommend eating at those places that have a lunch meal it is usually written outside “almuerzo”. You can find them all over the city. This particular one was in Carrera 1a don’t ask for the number but the street is only two blocks long so you will find it if it’s still existing. Unfortunately, it is more difficult in the evening to find good and reasonable food. Because the “almuerzo”-places are closed or don’t serve the reasonable lunch meal. So you either have the choice in between fast food or expensive restaurants.
Lucky is the person who has a kitchen at the hotel or place wherever he stays. Unfortunately, my hostel did not have that. I will not even mention where I stayed because it cost a fortune and it was an absolute disaster. In the morning the room was flooded by the water of the air condition and the smell of the water in the shower made you doubt if you were dirtier before or after the shower. Probably I would give a try with Airbnb rather than the overpriced hotels if for some reason I should run ashore there again. Actually, the best thing you can do on the island is renting a motorbike for an hour and drive around the island. It is actually beautiful on the clean spots that are left.
After San Andrés, I went to Cartagena. There is a really lovely old town like you would not expect it in Colombia! I have seen it on Google before I arrived but it surpasses my expectations. Although the prices are high compare to other places in Colombia but this time, it is justifiable. The sunset view from the old city wall is just amazing and the colonial buildings are well treated all over the very clean old town.
If you want cheap and good food, get some skewer on the street they were really delicious :-).
From Cartagena, I rented a car and went to a place called Playa Blanca. It takes one hour from the city center down south on the peninsula Barú. The beach is amazing at sunset as it is facing west.
There are hostels at the beach but I don’t know if it deserves that name. They are really basic with no running water but for one or two nights it’s actually totally fine. So if you don’t mind taking your shower with a pot go there for a night and enjoy a sunset while having some delicious seafood in one of the restaurants at the beach. Don’t forget to bring the mosquito spray.
I kept on driving the car along the coast until I reached Santa Marta. I actually don’t recommend to do that. I would rather take a bus which goes directly there because there was nothing to discover along the coast. But the landscape is beautiful so it’s a perfect day trip by bus.
Santa Marta is close to the Parque Tayrona. There you will find beautiful beaches and trails to hike. There are entry fees, though. So if you are a group it makes sense to rent a car because it will be cheaper than organized trips with minibusses.
I really enjoyed Bahia Concha Beach although there are many people going there. One side of the beach is almost empty and the entry fee is not very high. It’s because the bars and umbrellas are only on the other side. But there are sellers that bring drinks to the other side of the beach as well.
I went to the hills of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta. There you can take a refreshing swim in the river and relax from traveling.
Afterward, I went to the region of Santander. As I had already booked a flight to the US. I had to speed up a little to see all the things I wanted to visit. In this part definitely, I could have done more things like rafting, parachuting or just go hiking because the nature is breathtakingly beautiful in this region.
But in my situation, I only had two days there and went to the mountains and stayed in a small city called San Gil. I had to suffer from the Colombians as they dropped out of the Copa de America in Chile at that time.
On a long bus ride, I went to the coffee region around Armenia. What a relaxing experience. Beautiful hiking and a nice day at the coffee plantation were exactly how I imagined that place.
I can totally recommend to go there and stay at a Coffee Finca for some days. And definitely, go to Salento to go hiking around the “Valle de Cocora”. Just take one of the Jeeps that leave from the main square in the town. In this valley, there are high palms which do not quite fit in the rest of the vegetation. So, it is a unique feeling walking the loop which takes around 5 hours. Take some food with you, because there is no store on the way where you could buy something.
I continued my journey to Popayán. The city has also a very nice old town and decent restaurants as well.
As one of the last destinations of my journey in Colombia, it left a good memory to me. People in all cities which are not along the coast also don’t have an annoying street seller that would always ask a tourist to buy things you don’t want. It is really amazing to travel the Colombian countryside.
Before crossing the border to Ecuador I slept in Ipiales. There is nothing special there and I also did not really felt safe. But for one night it was Ok.
Ecuador finally, and I only had 8 days left before I had my flight back to Bogota from where I flew out to the US. I went straight to the coast because it was breaching time of the whales and I really wanted to go whale watching. I went to Montanita because people told me it would be nice. There are a lot of parties there. Luckily I stayed a bit up north along the beach. Easy to access by walking but far enough to not hear the party all night long.
The whale watching was absolutely worth it. I took a combo tour which included a visit on the “Isla de la Plata” where you can go hiking and visit exotic birds. It cost 50 dollars and it is really fun. I saw many whales and dolphins jumping out of the ocean. I just totally suck at action photography. At least I tried to capture some moments for you.
Quito is a huge city with a lot of things to do. I was told that I could not leave Quito without visiting “la Mitad del Mundo” and I did so. Actually, it would be totally fine to leave Quito without seeing that. But yes, I did pay the entrance to see the line which marks the equator. I also visited the old town and went on the hill where “La Virgen del Panecillo” is. This actually is something you should not miss out while in Quito. There is a huge Cathedral at least 3 times bigger than all the white towers you can easy see and it was so strange that I could not see it from the hill for a long time.
Apparently, it is so gray that you just can’t see it in the city. I knew that it must be there because there was a picture of it... after a while, a friend showed it to me and yes it is huge but it just does not stand out the way it should with this size. Can you see it?
By the way, you can go up to its tower for free and have an amazing view over the city. There is even a coffee place up there.
Back in Bogota, I went to the underground cathedral of Zipaquirá which is built into an old salt mine. The size is really impressive and although pretty touristy. It is really worth the visit.
From Bogota, I took a flight to Los Angeles. So the next article on this blog will be on the west coast of North America. San Diego up to Vancouver BC, don’t miss it out! 🙂