20 December 2010 to 01 January 2011
It’s not often that you only hear good reports about a country from fellow travelers but everyone we spoke to that has visited Colombia had nothing but positive things to say about it so it seemed the obvious place to head to after our travels around Patagonia.
So far we have been here two weeks and only really explored Bogota and the area to the north of it which includes the stunning colonial town of Villa de Leyva and the activity centre of San Gil.
Villa de Leyva Colombia
Villa de Leyva Colombia
Bogota was fine but nothing to write home about (although we did visit the unusual Police Museum with its interesting collection of mafia and cartel related memorabilia) and we spent Christmas in Villa de Leyva, a sleepy place where locals and tourists alike sat in the massive plaza drinking beer, chatting and taking in the view.
Museo del Oro Bogota Colombia
In San Gil we spent the days visiting nearby colonial villages, white water rafting down the Rio Suaraz with its grade II to V rapids and getting drunk in the Plaza with fellow travelers and locals alike.
We are now in Burcaramanga (which, as my dad says, sounds like an Islamic version of a Japanese comic) from where we were hoping to go overland to the coast but unfortunately due to the worst rains and landslides that the country has seen in decades we have had little choice but to book a flight. We are both looking forward to the sunny Caribbean and will update this blog on what it is like after we have visited it.
So what do we think about Colombia?
Of course before we arrived, we were a little bit apprehensive given the countries recent history and its reputation for terrorism, kidnapping and drug cartels but this image of Colombia couldn’t be further from the truth and although Kirsty is reserving final judgment until she has left, I am already putting Colombia down as one of the best countries I have visited in recent years.
It really does have everything you want; great scenery (Colombia is very green and picturesque), colonial towns, sexy women (can I get away with this observation?), very cheap drugs (joke!) and (we hope) great beaches. But for both of us, the best thing about Colombia to date is it’s ‘Latin’ness’. The old men in cowboy hats sitting around drinking beer or coffee and chewing the fat, the constant Latino beats, picturesque cobbled streets, the impromptu fiestas and dancing in the plaza, the big old American Cadillac’s….. the list goes on but I am sure you get the picture?
Patagonia was great in its own right but lacked the same ‘Latin’ness’ and I think that if we had come to Colombia first we wouldn’t have been in such a hurry to get back to Asia but such is life.
We also think it is a very safe country. For sure there are policemen (and policewomen) everywhere and on every street corner but this is kind of reassuring and they are very friendly towards tourists but this friendliness should not be reserved only for the police. All of the Colombians that we have come into contact with to date have been really nice and gone out of their way to make us feel welcome in their country.
And one final thing, Colombia is cheap and the food is more varied than in Patagonia which comes as a great relief and means no more cooking in hostels. We still haven’t found a Curry house though……..
So if you are thinking about your next holiday destination and don’t know where to go, give Colombia a thought, it’s the perfect time to visit. As the tourist board say, “the only risk is not wanting to leave……”
* this is of course a reference to adding another new country to my ever-growing list although I fear this will slow down somewhat given our imminent return to Asia in the middle of January.