Bogota and Cartagena showcase just a bit of what this wildly biodiverse and rich gem of a country has to offer
Colombia’s shrugging off its troubled past and fast emerging as South America’s must-see destination thanks to increased safety, the appeal of exploring new places and the country’s rising cool quotient.
It’s been more than a year since President Juan Manuel Santos won the Nobel Prize for the peace agreement, which aims to put an end to Colombia’s half-century-long civil war. Since he accepted the award in December 2016, more flights and people have started flocking to the country.
With everything from snow-capped mountains to jungles and two ocean coastlines, there’s plenty to see. Colombia is one of the most biodiverse places in the world and it boasts a dazzling array of plants, birds and riches (this is, after all, the land the Spanish pilfered for gold and emeralds starting back in the 1530s).
In our two previous installments, in which we explored the top cities for history buffs in Asia and Europe and Africa and the Middle East, we demonstrated that history is a huge draw for tourism. As we come to our final article in our series exploring top cities for history buffs on a Goway vacation, we face a different challenge than we did before. Instead of having a surplus of cities that would make great entries on the list, we have a deficit. This is understandable, as South America and the South Pacific don’t have the historical continuity of Africa or Asia. Both regions were colonized and the cities that were present there thousands of years ago were destroyed or abandoned.
Thus, don’t expect to find thousand-year-old entries on this list like you did on the past two. That being said, South America and the South Pacific are still home to cities with rich, fascinating histories that will prove delights to any history buffs lucky enough to visit them on a Goway vacation.
Dutch carrier KLM flies to the northern city via capital Bogota.
The Plaza de la Trinidad is buzzing. Music and laughter suffuse the sultry air.
Within the amber-coloured walls of 17th century Iglesia de la Santisima Trinidad mass is being said, the sizeable congregation in fine voice, the hymns far from traditional.
Outside the bohemian plaza bustles as locals decamp outdoors moving their living rooms onto the street. Food carts vie for business and the tantalising smells of arepas and empanada waft through the square. Children play football and grown-ups drink beer.
It’s Thursday night and the streets of Getsemani are alive.
Cartagena is a port city on Colombia’s Caribbean coast. Its walled, colonial old town – a merry maze of brightly-coloured buildings and bougainvillea-filled balconies – was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1984.
Do not underestimate the power of the graves and carved stone statues at the San Agustín Archaeological Park in Colombia which still hold many secrets.
The San Agustín Archaeological Park in the town of San Agustín, Colombia is home to a collection of stone statues with a secret that makes this archaeological site even more compelling than most.
The stone statues of San Agustín
In 1995 the San Agustín Archaeological Park (25,000 COP, about US$8.50, for a ticket that’s good for two days and includes other sites we talk about later in this post) was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s home to what’s been called the biggest collection of pre-Columbian religious monuments and sculptures in South America. It’s also considered the largest necropolis in the world.
The Tierradentro National Archaeological Park is home to what is believed to be the greatest number of cave tombs in Latin America. There are dozens of them, some dating back 1,400 years. It’s a highlight for many travelers to Colombia and the place is unlike any other archaeological site in the country. However, we were a little distracted by the firefights between Colombian soldiers and FARC rebels in the surrounding foothills when we were there…
FARC guerrillas near Tierradentro
During the more than 18 months we spent traveling in Colombia we heard many personal stories about the FARC and the ongoing violence associated with the rebel group which has been operating in the country for decades. These stories brought the grim reality of living in a country that’s been essentially fighting a civil war with guerrillas into stark relief.
You have to be slightly crazy to build a ten-story hotel with 60 rooms here. Migele Cinque stands in its unfinished shell, with the sounds of the sea in the background. “To the left is a cemetery. That means it can’t be built up because the view must remain unobstructed.” Then he points to the seaside promenade. “I’ve heard that back there a marina is to be built, so I secured the beachfront property for myself.” Cinque is a German of Italian descent – his father comes from Naples. He’s counting on a new gold rush mentality, because up until now Riohacha on the Colombian Caribbean coast, near the border to Venezuela, has been a sleepy place. There are many unfinished buildings, and unemployment is high.
With peace, tourists will come
Until recently, the dreaded Farc guerrillas were active here, and that scared off tourists.
The coastal city of Cartagena is the quintessential, idyllic Colombian destination. Whether you’re looking for a sunny beach vacation, a cultural immersion, or a quick history lesson, Cartagena’s well-preserved Old Town (a UNESCO World Heritage site) is the perfect place to stimulate your senses. It’s the kind of city where visitors actually enjoy getting lost — one of the top things to do is to wander through the streets and stay awhile at whatever draws your attention. From its colorful buildings to its unbeatable cuisine, white-sand beaches to boutique shops, there’s something for everyone in Cartagena. Here, we’ve rounded up six of the top reasons why you should put it on your bucket list.
Enshrouded in the cloak of Mother Nature, Colombia’s bountiful central coffee region is South America at its greenest. But 1,900 bird species mean there are plenty of other colours on view, too.
Drip, drip, drip. The process is agonisingly slow. Drip, drip, drip. There are more entertaining ways of brewing coffee — the bubbling, vacuum syphon that we used for my first cup, complete with laboratory beakers and Bunsen burner, was like a chemistry lesson in the world’s most verdurous classroom. But, the Chemex method is, without a doubt, a labour of love.
Seven cultural sites have been selected in Colombia by the people of the country to be the Seven Wonders of Colombia.
The Seven Wonders of Colombia was selected during a 2007 competition that was sponsored by El Tiempo, a nationally distributed, broadsheet daily newspaper in the country. The public was asked to vote for man-made structures with architectural, historical or engineering values that deserved to be brought to world attention.
7. Teatro de Cristóbal Colón –
The Teatro de Cristóbal Colón or the Christopher Columbus Theatre is a Colombian theater located in Bogota. It is designated as the National Theater of the country and one of the Seven Wonders of Columbia. The theater was built in 1885 in the Neoclassical style by Pietro Cantini, an Italian architect. The inauguration ceremony was held on October 27, 1892.
Although the myth of finding a pot of gold at the end of every rainbow may not hold true, there’s plenty of gold around us if you would take a look around – flourishing greenery amongst pristine lakes are just one of the many wonderful creations that Mother Nature has bestowed upon us.
Keep your seatbelts strapped on tight as we bring you to 7 of the most vibrant places around the world.
1. A sea of red in the Miharashi no Oka fields, Hitachi Seaside Park
Take a day trip off the mainland of Tokyo to the Hitachi Seaside Park, where the sprawling landscapes are dyed with an array of colours all year round. Hitch a ride on the Giant Flower Ring Ferris Wheel, where the panoramic views of blooming flora amidst calm seas will wash all your worries away.