November 24, 2008
Charming tales from colonial Cartagena and energetic Bogota, and an appealing exchange rate, have catapulted Colombia to the top of many travelers’ wish lists lately. Here are the sights “well worth the price of a direct flight from Miami,” according to recent IgoUgo visitors.
New member and two-year Colombia resident gwynethmarta recommends the coffee zone, or Eje Cafetero, “a true dreamland for any photographer” with “green, rolling hills; venerable coffee farms; and shimmering coffee bushes.” Located about 100 miles from Bogota, the “charming” towns of Montenegro and Salento are nice places to check into a finca and check out some strongly caffeinated home brew.
“Picture Mardi Gras minus the bare chests plus ten times the excitement,” says bigkugz, and you’ve got Carnaval de Barranquilla. Claiming to be the world’s second-largest carnival (after Rio de Janeiro’s), the celebration envelopes the Caribbean city of Barranquilla before Ash Wednesday each year and features “parades, dances, costumes, music, and, of course, rum.”
Though a dodgy reputation sometimes precedes Bogota, corporate traveler PNelson found any expectation of danger to be completely undeserved. He echoes several other IgoUgo members who liken Bogota to New York, saying he was “shocked to see the modern buildings of downtown and the well-maintained transportation infrastructure.” People were so friendly that within hours he was “walking to local markets with residents, taking pictures all along the way.” His favorite spot, though, was the Plaza de Toros Santamaria, a “beautiful” bullring that stopped him in his tracks, and he shares an inside tip: “My friend and guide talked the security guard into allowing us into the bullring. It doesn't seem to be too hard to be granted this privilege. The matadors had just finished practicing and we had the opportunity to explore and take pictures.”
Cartagena is where to “find tropical Colombia at its best,” says Kiryo. Beyond beaches, if you enjoy history, architecture, and food, you’ll find the 16th-century colonial city “very well worth the trip.” Families included: “Family pursuits are an absolute possibility, even at night, when the cathedrals are lit and carriage rides can accommodate your younger traveling companions while you and your better half snuggle together.” So that's beaches, history, architecture, food, and romance.
A warning about Santa Marta from CaptainChaos: “Lots of people only visit for a day or two and stay for weeks.” How are they seduced? With hundreds of years of history and untouched beaches like those of the Parque Nacional Tayrona, a “spectacular” ecological area that includes Arrecifes, “a really cool town of locals and cheap cabanas” and, as a bonus, “the best baked bread—baked with chocolate, coconut, banana, and more,” according to Metayel.