Colombia–a place many of us have heard of, yet few have explored. It’s a country at a pivotal moment in time; politically, socially, and historically speaking. And you’ll feel it from the very moments you enter. As you step into the colorful world of Cartagena to the deeply rooted streets of Bogotá, Colombia has it all, and more. So we’re breaking down the top 5 experiences you must explore next time you’re in Colombia.
Must: Spend 48 Hours in Cartagena
As an easy introduction to the country, Cartagena soothes you into its culture. And there’s no better way to experience a place than tasting your way through it. Cartagena Connections unique gastronomic tours take people deep into the roots of Cartagena–through its street food. By diving straight into tasting some of the food of what true Colombians eat, you get a rare insight into the culture. And with the team at Cartagena Connections truly valuing producing nothing but authentic experiences for those traveling to Colombia, you’ll have an unparalleled look into the stories that hide behind the charm of these mesmerizing colonial homes.
Staying in Cartagena is an experience in itself and there nowhere better to situate yourself than a night or two at Townhouse Cartagena. This intimate, eight bedroom boutique hotel sits perfectly in the heart of Cartagena’s historic walled city. Inside, the hotel is home to a decor of intriguing art designed by some impressive young Colombian artists. Their lively rooftop is one many have heard of as it’s constantly beaming with a mix of trendy hotel guests and young Colombian professionals. The vibrant colors, luxurious rooms, and exquisite tapas menu are more than enough to convince one to stay. And as you walk out on your balcony at Townhouse Cartagena, you’ll hear the trotting of the horse-drawn carriages and Caribbean music buzzing all around you; all typical sights on the streets, evoking colonial nostalgia. With a solid 48 hours in Cartagena, you’ll quickly understand why this city has been enchanting visitors for years.
Must: Visit Tierra Bomba
Colombia is a country lucky enough to be surrounded by both the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea. This gives way to a large number of coastlines and islands in and around the country. Many of these remote islands are uninhabited, privately owned, owned by hotels, or many are simply protected due to their fragile ecosystems.
Blue Apple Beach sits on the southern shores of Tierra Bomba, an island located within Cartagena’s harbor. This place came to be when owner and UK-native, Portia, stumbled across Tierra Bomba in 2015. What she noticed was a serious lack of good beach dining and some good rosé. Seeing an opportunity to change this, she opened her first waterfront restaurant on the island of Barú. As more and more visitors asked if they could stay the night, she realized there was a demand for this type of establishment. Her team decided to move to Bocachica to start Blue Apple Beach, where they now celebrate the magic of the Colombian Caribbean with their own international touch.
The island of Tierra Bomba is filled with beautiful beaches, mangroves, forest, and clear turquoise waters. Blue Apple Beach offers guests to come for a day trip or to stay for a night or two (okay, maybe a week!). This French-inspired boutique hotel boasts six rooms elegantly designed in local architecture.The small number of rooms are designed to give guests a highly personalized experience. Yoga classes, outdoor massages, scuba diving, paddle boarding, and kayaking are all available for guests. Their outdoor dining area is home to an opulent menu, including freshly caught ceviche and homemade coconut rice. And as the boat ride is a mere 30 minutes (with some great views of Cartagena), such an oasis is well-worth visiting.
Must: Learn About The Peace Agreement
After the enormous effort was made for the 2016 Peace Agreement, an agreement that gave an end to a more than 50-year old conflict, Colombia is in a crucial moment in time. To build a solid peace fabric for the future while also healing the wounds from the past, companies such as Impulse Travel believe it is necessary to look at things from different angles and try to comprehend the tremendous complexity of the Colombian history.
To do that, Impulse Travel offers a unique experience that allows travelers to gain an understanding of the key moments of Colombia’s history. By focusing on this new rebirth in the country and its future, Impulse Travel takes you straight to the voices of the true peace-weavers. These are the people who are working on new paths of hope and positive memories of the country. Many indigenous communities in Colombia were (and still are) vulnerable to growing illegal crops for the drug trade. What we are seeing now are communities taking back their power by turning to new and legal crops.
Places such as Café Wasikamas, an Inga indigenous community that serves and sells their price-winner specialty coffee are prime examples. Each week, they drive 22 hours to deliver it to their shop in Bogotá from the mountains of southern Colombia. Here, you’ll get to sit down over a cup of coffee and hear their story and learn about their suffering during the war. You’ll start to understand how they decided to replace illegal crops, such as poppy and coca, to fairtrade agro-products which have allowed them to make a living by, legally. Owners of Distrito Chocolate, a coffee and chocolate shop, are another great example of this movement. Here, the owners prepare specialties from dozens of farmer cooperatives from the country. You’ll come to find out how cocoa became the main resource for thousands of families, leaving coca illegal farming behind. An amazing day of learning and understanding some context, Impulse Travel brings you to the people who are a true symbol of what the peace agreement is looking like for Colombia.
Must: Check out the Archipelago Islands of San Bernardo
If there is one thing you must see, it is the impressive archipelago that makes up the islands off the Caribbean coast of Colombia. While exploring this area, you’ll come to find many tiny islands. Some inhabited, and some with some trendy, laid-back ecolodges sitting on top. Places such as Isla Roots literally sits on its very own island. With a native-style type of architecture, Isla Roots is close to many ecosystems, mangrove swamps, places to swim and snorkel, as well as an easy access to island hop around neighboring islands.
The team here offer a plethora of activities to do. One of them is a rare opportunity to see and mingle on one of the worlds most densely populated islands per square meter. Santa Cruz del Isolte is a 2-acre island with over 500 people living on it. They have a school, church, store, bakery, and more recently, solar panels that now power the island. It’s been 150 years since people have started living there and despite the challenging conditions, they have no intention of leaving the island. Even as knowledge of the outside world has become more accessible through modern technology and tourism, the locals here describe their life on the island so peaceful and calm, they wouldn’t trade it for anything else.
Another island you must check out is Isla Root’s sister property, Mistica Island. This island has one of the most Instagram-worthy photo spots in all of the islands. We’re talking an entire private island with more than 22 acres of Caribbean beaches, jungles, lakes, wild animals. You’ll wake up to monkeys howling, flamingos chilling, and wild deer running next to you–an experience like no other.
Must: Play Tejo in the Local Bars in Bogotá
Ah, the subtle art of throwing rocks at gunpowder. An interesting concept to us, is the country’s national sport. And all you need is some beer, gunpowder, and a strong arm. Tejo can be found throughout bars in Colombia, but companies such as Bogotá Pass can bring you to where the real locals go. The company offers travel experiences that are individually crafted to your liking. Luckily, I knew this was on my list and my guide took me to one of the best spots in the city (thankfully–as Bogotá is huge and has over 8 million people living there). He explained that the goal of the game is to throw your “tejo” (a steel rock-like-disc) inside the “bocin” (a metal ring). The bocin contains “mechas”, which are paper triangles filled with gunpowder. Basically, when you hit a mecha- BOOM.
I’ll admit, I was a bit hesitant at first. But, after my first thrilling hit and the explosion from the gunpowder went off, it was both amusing and gratifying. So, if you’re looking to discover Bogotá with local experts, Bogotá Pass has incredible ways to live out some of the best experiences in the city.