Our final destination spot for the year long travel ended in Colombia. This beautiful country has a bit of everything for everyone. Colombia is becoming quite the tourist destination and for many good reasons. Check out my 22 fun facts and tips!
1) The currency in Colombia is the Colombian peso (COP). For a little less than $500 CAD you can call yourself a millionaire in Colombia. ;) (1 CAD = approx. 2,500 pesos).
2) Getting around Colombia by bus is easy and the cheapest option. Prices are usually negotiable with bus companies and representatives. Last minute sales are always the most affordable option.
3) Air travel within Colombia is also budget friendly. For example, a return flight from Bogota to Cartagena (1 hour and 30 min. flight) costs only $75.00 CAD (approx. $125.00 with checked baggage and a carry on). Deals are available with Viva Colombia airlines (www.vivacolombia.co). Try to book in advance during high tourist traffic months.
4) We ran into issues when wanting to travel by bus from Quito, Ecuador to Bogota due to road closures. The cause was political protests in Cali, Colombia. Apparently protests are common and can last a day, week and sometimes much longer. This was one of the only flights we took in South America. We mainly traveled by bus - the most adventurous way!
5) The capital city is Bogota which is home to over 8 million people. It is thriving with business, lots of cool neighbourhoods and squares, domestic and international restaurants, large and boutique hotels and trendy cafes.
6) Bogota is set at an elevation of almost 9,000 feet in the Northern Andes Mountains. This means the weather is never too hot/humid or too cold. The weather is similar to Vancouver, Canada.
7) This might be obvious for some, but Colombia is actually the only country in South America with a coastline on the Caribbean sea and Pacific ocean.
8) When in Bogota, check out Usaquen neighbourhood. They have some really good restaurants and a Sunday market with local arts and crafts, music, food and indigenous Colombian products. One of our favourite restaurants was called WOK. So good!
9) The best view of Bogota is from Monserrate mountain. You can grab some food up there and check out the church. You can get up there by car, cable car, train or on foot.
10) If your travelling to Colombia and wanting to check out the coffee plantations, you will hear people talking about the coffee triangle which includes three areas: Pereira, Manizales and Armenia. We decided to check out Salento which is a small town close to Armenia and it ended up being one of our favourite places in the country.
11) As coffee advocates, we were disappointed with the coffee culture in Colombia. A lot of places didn't serve Colombian coffee beans because the best quality ones are exported. :( That leaves us with something called tinto - low quality, watery coffee. The best coffee is found in big cities such as Medellin, Cartagena and Bogota. A popular coffee house is Juan Valdez.
12) Colombia is the 3rd largest world exporter of coffee. Brazil is 1st and Vietnam is 2nd.
13) Colombia is named after Christopher Colombus who's never actually been to Colombia.
14) Medellin is a really cool city. It's much smaller than Bogota but also mountainous. We really liked El Poblado neighbourhood which had all kinds of trendy bars and restaurants. It's definitely the most popular with tourists. Pueblito Paisa might also be worth checking out. You can get a nice view of the city from the top.
15) Other than the well known Santa Marta and somewhat crowded Taganga, Palomino is a a beach town to check out. It's only 1hr from Santa Marta by bus. It's a pretty quiet town with a mix of backpackers and indigenous traditions. There's a lot of CHEAP restaurants and hostels and has a true hippie vibe. There are no upscale restaurants or hotels, however it seems that slowly more luxury, eco-chic hotels are popping up. Could it be the next Tulum? Also, there is not much of a nightlife. Taganga would be a better option for that.
16) The hostel we stayed at had 3 mango trees in the backyard. We woke up every morning with at least 20 mangoes on the ground. That was our breakfast every day for 10 days and it was free. :)
17) Palomino is also very close to Tayrona National Park - a beautiful protected area with stunning beaches, lagoons, a lush rainforest and crystal clear waters. There is an entrance fee.
18) Cartagena is really beautiful Spanish colonial town. It's no wonder why it's so popular with foreigners and locals. Compared to the rest of the places we visited, the climate here is hot and humid. This walled city is beautiful, full of colourful buildings, restaurants, cafes, hotels, shops and street performers.
19) Champeta is folk music which originated in coastal Colombia. We heard it a lot in Palomino.
20) One of the traditional meals is the Bandeja Paisa - a plate full of rice, beans, sausage, beef, plantain, avocado and arepa. So good! You can get a plate in Salento or Palomino for $2-$5.
21) Colombia is beautiful, CHEAP and safer than most people think.