The first night we spent in Bogota was interesting to say the least. Feeling jet-lagged, homesick and unsure, we decided to watch Tangled on Netflix before an early night. We were woken up a few hours later by a man who had the wrong dorm room, in his confusion decided to try and climb into each of our beds and then relieve himself all over the floor. It was a lovely way to be welcomed to Colombia. Thankfully, things got a lot better from here.
Our first day we spent exploring the city, a city that’s incredibly vibrant and beautiful. We stayed in the La Candelaria district, which I couldn’t recommend enough. It’s the cities old town equivalent, with cobbled streets, colourful buildings and a vibrant, youthful vibe. If you can, take the time to tour the graffiti of the city. I can fully recommend the Masaya hostel to stay in. It’s set in the heart of the district, offers free city tours, super helpful staff, a social vibe and pretty nice rooms with curtains on the beds.
One thing you need to do in Bogota is take a trip up Monseratte mountain on the teleférico for a beautiful panoramic view of the city at 3170m above sea level. Maybe it’s just me but I am always a sucker for a city view at the start of a trip. At the top there’s a church you can enter and the mountain top features statues of the stations of the cross which you can explore. I also experienced my first of many empanadas here.
Museo del Oro
This is one of the most famous museums in the country, featuring floors of gold exhibits. It’s worth a look around, it’s incredibly beautiful and informative, showing you cultures and art before the modern Colombian era. It’s also got the largest collection of gold, according to the Wikipedia page, which we all know is literally never wrong.
Botero donated his works to the city of Bogota, allowing them to be displayed in a beautiful mansion free of charge. I wish that I was one of those incredibly cultured and well educated people who could tell you the artist of a work simply from its style, but I’m not. However, even I can spot a Botero, depicting everyone and everything in his work oversized and overweight.
Plaza del Bolivar
Take a walk down to the main Plaza in the city, surrounded by important buildings and cathedrals and of course, a statue of Bolivar himself. If anything though, the Plaza is worth an explore simply due to the incredible amount of pigeons there. I’m being serious, it’s a hilarious place to people watch.
Zipaquira Salt Cathedral
An hour or so outside of Bogota is a salt mine in which a beautiful cathedral was built, in order to protect those than worked in the mines. It’s truly one of the most unique and breathtaking cathedrals I’ve ever visited. Featuring the Stations of the Cross backlit with changing colours, cascading salt waterfalls, it’s incredibly atmospheric. After our tour guide took us for a traditional Colombian meal of plantain, rice, avocado and beef that had been cooked on an open flame by the road, it was one of the best meals I’ve had.
Cartagena feels very different to Bogota, a romantic old town on the Caribbean coast. Stay within the Old Town gates, a UNESCO world heritage sight that very much deserves its title. Take a couple of days to slow down, enjoy the sights of the old town, have some drinks in one of the plaza’s and soak up the atmosphere. We did, bizarrely, find a KGB themed bar here stuffed full of Russian propaganda and shrines to past Russian leaders. If anyone knows why this is here, please let me know. I’m very confused.
The award of the most lovely hostel I’ve ever stayed in goes to The Dreamer in Santa Marta, that pool and those hammocks will forever be with me. As will the drunken nights we spent singing along to S Club 7 with the very attractive Irish bar man who I still believe may be the love of my life.
Tayrona National Park.
Take time to explore Tayrona. We trekked through the jungle for two hours, which opened up onto a deserted beach with a bright blue ocean. There are numerous treks of different lengths you can do and you can opt to spend a night camping in the park if you so wish.
I’m going to be honest and tell you that we didn’t manage to make it to Medellin and I really, really regret not going. I fell in entirely love with Colombia and so know that I will be back allowing me to explore Medellin. I just wanted to mention it so that you don’t make the same mistake as me!