Where To Go
My Quest For Zest...
DESTINATIONS IN COLOMBIA
Cartagena (Playa Blanca)
Santa Marta (Tayrona National Park)
Salento (Cocora Valley)
San Andres Island
MY QUEST FOR ZEST...
Another month of my South American adventure...Hello Colombia!
I flew into Cali from Bolivia, and arriving I was pleasantly surprised. Cali has an amazing food tour. There was no having to convince me to join in. I love a food crawl because you get to learn the depths of a country through flavor and your stomach. When you go with a guide you get food identification, tips on all the best vendors, and a little taste of everything. Most markets sell by the kilo (or half kilo) so if you are traveling on your own or want to try a new food this can be a bit of a turn off. In a group, you can sample all the foods, discover what you like and don't, and are better equip to then navigate around the local market at a later time. Cali is also known for salsa...the dance not the food! Hostels often offer free salsa lessons and take people to the salsa clubs in the evening.
Bogota, the capital of Colombia, I also enjoyed a lot! The street art is so amazing here, possibly the best I've ever seen. Joining in on a street art tour to get all the knowledge and perspective behind each piece is definitely a must!
Medellin is another big city, and honestly, I thought it felt huge. I spent several days here and never really fell in love with it as some people do. Night life seems to be the main attraction.
Away from the big cities, Colombia has amazing beaches! Cartagena is a beautiful city located on the coast; it still holds a big space in my heart. Despite the fact that every accommodation had beg bugs (that you could see in the sheets!) and everyone is bound to get sick here from the food, the colorful streets of the Old Town, fun dance parties, and beautiful beaches swept me away. The fresh fruit vendors introduced me to my love: mango. Just a short bus and moto-taxi ride away is Playa Blanca. A must-visit beach! You can find cheap accommodation or stay in a hammock for even less! Relax with a tropical drink in your hand, get a beach massage, or swim in the crystal clear water. At night don't miss to swim with the plankton! This was such a magical experience, everything sparkling!
Another favorite beach experience was a short trip from Santa Marta. You can easily get stuck here, there are some hostels that have amazing chill vibes and days start to slip away. You can find fun parties and night life. The real magic is when you head to Tyrona National Park. There are plenty of camping options, but if you want to stay in a hammock in the beach gazebo (the most prized spot but limited space available) you'll have to be one of the first to arrive that day! Otherwise there are tents or hammocks just a short walk to the beach suitable for stay! The hike in is beautiful. When you arrive you'll be in awe. There are great viewpoints of the split beach. Keep walking and your sure to find more secluded beaches and naked swimming spots. Most people tend to spend 1-2 nights here. There are locals here that culturally wear white clothes and live close to the land, don't take their picture as it is not in alignment with their traditions!
If you're looking for more beach time, you can take a trip to San Andres Island. Reach by plane, it's a bit more expensive (stay and food), but it's beautiful! Nice beaches and day tours. Rent a scooter to explore the island to its full and snorkel around. Make sure to hydrate on fresh coconuts during your stay.
Guatape is the city of lakes. Climb up hundreds of stairs to the top of a massive rock for the best views of the place. I was blessed with a rainbow at the top. The city itself is colorful and cute. Renting kayaks can be a fun activity!
Salento isn't city, beach, or lake...it's more valley. Visiting the Cocora Valley is a must. It is home to the largest wax palm trees and offers beautiful views. Take the day to hike around the park, maybe even pack a picnic! Enjoy some great cafes in Salento, I wish I could remember where housed that amazing brownie that is flooding my mind...but anyway, also it's worth trying the coffee from here as well.
My trip to South America wouldn't be complete without a trip to the Amazon! I was planning to go in Bolivia, but a storm was passing and flights were canceled. Leticia however, was a great alternative! The tour I chose through my accommodation could have been more organized, but I am still thankful for the experience. It might be worth it to do a little more research or planning beforehand on a tour that is as known as through the Amazon. Regardless, I saw some great wildlife (and some not so great wildlife including so many mosquitoes and tarantulas!). The noises of nature were incredible and the sunset views were hard to beat. There was a monkey sanctuary in the depths of the jungle, where they would rehabilitate and release monkeys into the wild.
Separate from my Amazon trekking, camping, rafting and swimming, but still out of Leticia, I went to visit a Shaman in the depths of the jungle. This was a super transformational experience, using plants and herbs for medicinal and ritual purposes.
Colombia was a great trip! Although I felt it lacked the super rich and embedded traditions that I experienced in the daily life of Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia, it seemed to have a beauty in the history it was rewriting. People appeared proud in their countries transformations and the positive direction it was growing at a rapid pace!