Written by Kiryo on 03 Mar, 2007
Santa Catalina IslaAbout 100 meters due north of Providencia’s town floats Santa Catalina Isla. To get there one needs to cross El Puente de los Enamorados (Lovebird’s Bridge). Maybe its named so due to the necessity to occasionally lend a helping hand to your significant…Read More
Santa Catalina IslaAbout 100 meters due north of Providencia’s town floats Santa Catalina Isla. To get there one needs to cross El Puente de los Enamorados (Lovebird’s Bridge). Maybe its named so due to the necessity to occasionally lend a helping hand to your significant other since this bridge mostly is a floating bridge. You can hypothetically cross by boat, but it takes the fun out of crossing a floating bridge. Santa Catalina boasts several sites attributed to the famous Capt. Henry Morgan. In fact, Capt. Morgan rose to fame after participating in the taking of Providencia and Santa Catalina for the English from Spain. You know this story, colonial power A takes from colonial power B, then loses it in a bet to C, only to return to A. Capt. Morgan is the same privateer to be attributed with the creation of the fictitious pirate code featured in ever-so-popular Hollywood films of recent fame… and of course, the namesake of many American college students’ liverkiller rum. Santa Catalina has no road, only a small settlement on the southern edge that serves those tourists that walk to Morgan’s head, his Cove, and his small fortification that can be reached by walking east. Walking west at the bridge will take you up a steep set of steps and back down to a very pretty rocky beach. A couple of hours to sightsee and possibly eat fried fish (yummy) are needed. Add an hour to refresh yourself in the seawater.When walking towards the west you will find a small open air restaurant. Good fried fish here… and they even hand out information on the necessity to preserve the coral reefs that surround these small islands. Try the fried sardines that are literally fished out of the water about two minutes after being ordered. Scuba diving is possible around Santa Catalina, but arrangements need to be made with your hotel or with local fishermen in order to dive the safe spots.From Santa Catalina one can appreciate the beauty of Providencia. With a panoramic camera function, one can take in the near-Tahitian or Fijian quality of the hills and waterline in Providencia. Quite a sight. Close
Written by Robert Raymond Ingledew on 03 Dec, 2006
I have visited the Tayrona National Park, the city of Santa Marta, its beautiful beach at El Rodadero, the city of Barranquilla and the historical city of Cartagena. I know there are some real paradises further North, but I never had the chance to get there.…Read More
I have visited the Tayrona National Park, the city of Santa Marta, its beautiful beach at El Rodadero, the city of Barranquilla and the historical city of Cartagena. I know there are some real paradises further North, but I never had the chance to get there. Here is a brief overview of these places.
Tayrona National Park: Located 21 miles to the east of Santa Marta, it is a real paradise. There are many small secluded beaches where you can enjoy privacy in the midst of beautiful sceneries. Tropical vegetation is all around you. It is a large national park that was inhabited centuries ago by the Tayrona Indians. There are archaeological ruins in the park, mangrove swamps, coral reefs. It has more than 100 species of mammals, 200 different kinds of birds, 50 different classes of reptiles. You need a lot of time to thoroughly enjoy this charming place. I was on a business trip, and only spent two hours in the park, but I found it delightful. Some hills border the seaside. Some tourists were captured near the national park by the guerrilla over a year ago, but this happened because they took the risk of exploring very solitary areas, where there are some archaeological treasures. Santa Marta: The city of Santa Marta is an important port, but there are no real good beaches in the downtown. However, 20 minutes away from the city, Taganga is one of the best places in Colombia for snorkeling, where you will see all sorts of fish and coral reefs. There are very few hotels in the city of Santa Marta and none really attractive (at least when I was there some years ago). But very near Santa Marta (8 miles away), El Rodadero and its beaches are a real paradise.
El Rodadero. This is a very nice beach with very good hotels. It is far safer than the city of Santa Marta and a really enjoyable place. The beach is surrounded by foothills, making the area more attractive. I stayed at the hotel La Sierra, an inexpensive good 3-star hotel very near the beach. Once I discovered this beautiful place, each time I went to Santa Marta I always stayed at El Rodadero. The buses that go to Barranquilla and Cartagena stop at El Rodadero. You do not need to go to Santa Marta to take the long distance bus. One of the major attractions of El Rodadero is a beautiful aquarium on an island (only 5 minutes away on a motorboat trip). Tickets for this aquarium can be purchased just in front of the police stand on the seafront. There is another aquarium some 13 miles beyond El Rodadero, with fresh water fish of the Magdalena, Amazon and Orinoco river basins. The name of the aquarium is Agua Viva. You can go on a taxi, or on regular suburban bus lines (BONDA route).
Barranquilla: This is a modern city, the fourth in importance after Bogota, Medellin, and Cali, located on the shores of the Magdalena river, some 13 miles before it runs into the sea. I was not aware that the sea was so near, or I would have visited its beaches. In Barranquilla I stayed at the hotel Royal, a very nice 4-star hotel with a good swimming pool. Only 15 minutes away from Barranquilla, you have a nice resort on the Atlantic: Hotel Pradomar. Their address is Calle 2 No. 22-61 Pradomar - Puerto Colsombia, Atlantico, and their phone number is 309 60 11 or 309 52 50. In the downtown the hotel El Prado is the best, and also the most expensive one. Cartagena: It is one of the oldest cities in the American continent, and was founded in 1533. Obviously, the city is full of history; it is one of the most important historical cities in Colombia. The Bocagrande area has nice beaches (not very wide, however). The historical part of Cartagena is impressive. The well conserved fortifications built by the Spaniards are the most important part of any visit to Cartagena. The city could be divided into two areas, the historical part, and the modern city, that is well developed. I stayed at the Hotel El Dorado, a budget 3-star hotel at Bocagrande. Cartagena is also the gateway for flying to the island of San Andres.
Islas del Rosario, 29 miles away from Cartagena, is a real paradise. Bus services along the coast are really comfortable, and travel time from one city to another generally does not take more than two hours. So you can really tour the coast at a low cost. There are flights from Santa Marta, Barranquilla, and Cartagena to the main cities in Colombia, in most cases connecting at Bogota, and from Cartagena to Cali and also to the island of San Andrés. To see photos of the different areas we have reviewed, and of other parts of Colombia, click on this link: www.colombialink.com/fotoscolombia.html.
Enjoy your visit to Colombia. Unlike Venezuela, where I was not impressed by the experience of the airline pilots, Colombia has really professional pilots. I have been on flights in emergency in both countries, and while the Aeropostal pilot in Venezuela was scared to death, the pilot of ACES in Colombia handled the situation very professionally. In the first case the outer window of the airplane cabin had cracked, in the other case a motor had failed. I really commend the professional way in which the pilot of ACES handled the situation. He simply said: "Gentlemen, we need to return to the runway to carry out a check. Sorry to bother you. Keep calm, I am calm." Colombia is a beautiful country, and you should face no problems if you take minimal care. Don’t take any risks, and you will enjoy your stay.
Written by Robert Raymond Ingledew on 29 Nov, 2006
San Andres is a tiny island that has only ten square miles, and a population of 67,000 inhabitants. It is a free port, where you can buy practically anything, and this explains the delays in most flights, because Colombians come here to buy all sorts…Read More
San Andres is a tiny island that has only ten square miles, and a population of 67,000 inhabitants. It is a free port, where you can buy practically anything, and this explains the delays in most flights, because Colombians come here to buy all sorts of things, including household appliances. As average, flights leave 2 to 4 hours late, so keep this in mind when planning connections with international flights. At least, that was my experience with SAM. Maybe Avianca is more reliable. The island is some 4 miles long and does not have many beaches, but those it does have are really beautiful. The beach in front of the Hotel Tiuna where I stayed, was probably 1500 feet long, but had white sand and beautiful turquoise and emerald green water. I really enjoyed the stay. Although the free-shops at San Andrés are well assorted, you will find better prices at Curazao and St. Maarten. This is because a sales tax (or something similar) is applied on the "duty-free" purchases.
When I visited the island the first time, over 25 years ago, the island had only some 6,000 inhabitants. Half the population spoke English and the Colombian population obviously spoke Spanish. I imagine that now Spanish is the language most spoken, but you will still find many English speaking inhabitants in the island. I would definitely recommend the hotel Tiuna, a nice 4 star hotel on the beach. It also has a good swimming pool, although not as large as other swimming pools in the Caribbean. If you want to see what the hotel is like, check this page: www.tiuna.com. Most 3 star hotels in San Andres are costing some 100 to 150 dollars per night. This is the address and phone number of the Hotel Tiuna. Avenida Colombia No. 4-31, phone +57 8 512-3235, Fax +57 8 512-3478. At the time I was there a hotel room was costing less than 50 dollars. I understand these rates have increased to nearly double that price. In any case, there are many cheaper alternatives on the island. Although the island belongs to Colombia, it is only 75 miles away from Nicaragua, while it is some 430 miles North of Colombia. Reggae and Calypso are the most popular music on the island. You will find many Dutch and English-style constructions in the island. A motorboat trip to Johnny and Haynes (also called the "Aquarium" due to the large number of color fish that swim around you, is really worthwhile. I did not visit the island of Providencia, but you can see it from San Andres. The flight takes 25 minutes. Both islands have beautiful emerald green and blue waters in the sea, very fine white sand beaches. What more could you ask for?
Written by Robert Raymond Ingledew on 21 Nov, 2006
I will start with some other destinations that are not so attractive, as Neiva and Barrancabermeja, and Villavicencio, cities with a torrid climate that I had to visit for business reasons (all along the Magdalena river) and will continue with another couple of beautiful spots…Read More
I will start with some other destinations that are not so attractive, as Neiva and Barrancabermeja, and Villavicencio, cities with a torrid climate that I had to visit for business reasons (all along the Magdalena river) and will continue with another couple of beautiful spots with a cooler climate. Neiva and Barrancabermeja were at that time areas where oil companies worked, and it is said that they paid "royalties" to the guerrilla to avoid them dynamiting their pipelines. Whether this is true or not, is difficult to know. Even so, many times pipelines have been dynamited in the area, and it is not a place where I would recommend a foreign tourist to go, even if the area were attractive. In any case, the climate is very hot. I just looked up the weather forecast for Neiva at www.weather.com, and the forecast is highs in the nineties for the next ten days, and thunderstorms every day... Villavicencio is nice, but there are far nicer places in Colombia. In Villavicencio the weather forecast for the next ten days is in the high eighties and thunderstorms or rain every single day. Bucaramanga has a milder climate, and is located at an altitude of some 3200 feet This city was founded in 1539, only 6 years later than Cartagena, and nearly five centuries ago. Canooing and parapente are practised in this area.
The Chicamocha canyon is one of the tourist attractions. There are some historical churches, of which the Iglesia del Señor de los Milagros and the Iglesia de las Nieves are the most attractive ones. The first one is 3 centuries old. Bucaramanga also has a nice botanical garden. I stayed at the Melia Chicamocha Hotel and Convention Center, a very nice 4-star hotel with a good swimming pool, sauna, and a fitness center. Bucaramanga is supposed to be one of the five largest cities in Colombia, and is the capital of the Department of Santander.
Valledupar is the capital of the Cesar Department, it is up in the mountainside, has a beautiful river with delicious cold water, crossed by a high bridge from where cliff divers jump into the river, in an area completely surrounded by rocks. The area is surrounded by the Sierras de Perijá, that have an average altitude of 7,000 feet. I really enjoyed the whole scenery and was amazed at the risks that those young people took diving into the river. It is the home of the "vallenato" music. I stayed at the Vajamar Hotel, Km 7 & 16a-24 , phone 55-743939, and it was OK. The Sierra Nevada National Park is near Valledupar. However, it could be unwise to visit this park, since guerrilla activity is reported occasionally in this area. I must say however that the guerrilla in Colombia does not generally interfere with bus traffic nor with tourists, unless if they sense that they could be important persons. Traveling the area, I went through areas literally controlled by the guerrilla like Agua Chica and Fundación, and faced no problems. But you should be aware of this danger.
Ocaña is another city that deserves a visit, but it is located in the same risk-potential area. I stayed at a nice 2-star hotel (I would have given it 3 stars, it had a nice swimming pool also), but I cannot find it in the hotel directory. Ocaña is a small city. The city of Ibague is in central Colombia in the plains, but near the Los Nevados National Park, that is really worthwhile visiting. All the way over the mountain and across the valley to Armenia is really enjoyable. Bus services in all Colombia are excellent.
Written by Robert Raymond Ingledew on 20 Nov, 2006
During a business trip to Colombia I had the beautiful experience of traveling on a taxi from Ibagué to Armenia through the Los Nevados National Park. There is a large variety of landscapes. Coffee plantations up in the mountain, the view of the Andes at…Read More
During a business trip to Colombia I had the beautiful experience of traveling on a taxi from Ibagué to Armenia through the Los Nevados National Park. There is a large variety of landscapes. Coffee plantations up in the mountain, the view of the Andes at a distance, the whole trip (about two hours) was really breathtaking. There are also excellent bus services from Armenia and Ibague to many destinations, but I was not familiar with the area, and also wanted to take photos of the area. That was many years ago, I was taking slides and it is expensive to pass slides to a CD, so please excuse me if I do not post any photos. I also asked the taxi driver to take me to Armero, that was at a distance of some ten miles from the road we were traveling along. As you probably know, Armero was a city of some 45,000 inhabitants that was literally wiped out by a mud avalanche of the Nevado de Ruiz. The Nevado de Ruiz always has a lot of snow on the top, and is a volcano that came into eruption after a snow fall. The snow melting plus the mud avalanche literally wiped out the city that today is just a flat stone plain, except for the church, that survived the avalanche as a witness of what the forces of nature can do. In this tragedy, 25,000 people died and another 20,600 were injured or lost all they had. This occurred on November 13 of 1985.
Armenia is a coffee plantation area, and I had the chance, by invitation of Primitivo Correal, to visit one of his coffee plantations. The coffee I tasted in his farm was really delicious. There are some very nice farms in this area. Further towards the mountainside we have the cities of Pereira (there is a Melia hotel in this city), an important industrial city and one of the main cities in the country after Bogotá, Medellín, Cali, and Barranquilla. From there we travel another hour and a half up to the city of Manizales, built on the top of a mountain at an altitude of 7,000 feet. Weather is cool up here and the scene is fantastic. Walking the city, that is pretty safe compared with other cities of Colombia, and with a population of some 500,000 inhabitants, is all up and down the hill. Panoramic views are ideal for taking beautiful photos. Manizales is in my opinion one of the 6 most beautiful cities in South America, together with Merida (Venezuela), Quito (Ecuador), Rio (Brazil), Punta del Este (Uruguay), and Valdivia (Chile). I stayed at two hotels over there, and both were good: La Colina (4 stars) and Carretero (3 stars).
La Colonia is better located. Most Colombian cities are in the Andes: Bogotá, the capital, is at an altitude of some 9,000 feet, Medellin (5,000 feet), Cali (3,500 feet), Popayan (5,900 feet), and Pasto (also 5,900 feet, but with a very cold climate). Bogota is beautiful, but dangerous. It is unwise to walk the streets unless you do it with someone that knows the area very well. However, the city is beautiful, and has many historical treasures and museums. The area where the city is today was populated by the Muisca Indians five thousand years ago. Bogota was founded by the Spaniards in 1538. In 1819 it was named by Simon Bolivar as the capital of the Gran Colombia (Greater Colombia). It is today the capital of Colombia. If you have to go to Bogota, stay in the Northern area, because it is far safer. I stayed at the Cosmos 100 hotel, a very nice 4-star hotel. I also stayed at the Hotel Tequendama, very nice, but located in an area that is not as safe. Medellin is a very modern city, and the most dangerous city in all Colombia. I remember having heard over the TV: "Yesterday was a quiet night; only two people were killed". I asked my friends what a non-quiet night was like: the answer was: between 20 and 25 murders. Statistically speaking this is next to nothing (Caracas in Venezuela has a similar crime rate), but it leaves you sort of scary.
There are not many attractions in the area, so I would avoid Medellin unless I had to go for business. I stayed at the Hotel Veracruz, a non-expensive 3-star hotel, with a nice swimming pool. Cali: another very important city, the third in population and surrounded by mountains. There is an Intercontinental Hotel there. I stayed at a cheaper hotel (Aristi) that has a nice swimming pool. There are different types of rooms, some are very poor, others are really good, not all rooms have air-conditioning, and Cali is a very warm climate. Ask to see the room they are going to give you before you check in. Here again, the best (and safest) hotels are in the Northern part of the city. There is a Sheraton in the Northern part of the city.
Popayan is a beautiful colonial city and the hotel Monasterio is nice and cheap. The city was founded in 1537, nearly 470 years ago, and conserves a lot of its colonial atmosphere. Pasto is nearly on the border with Ecuador, north of Ipiales. It is a beautiful city, just under volcano Galeras, that in recent years erupted, but that never put the city at risk. All the mountainside is green, and it has a very cold climate. It is unsafe to travel by road from Cali or Popayan to Pasto. It is a guerrilla controlled area. Take the plane. I stayed at a budget hotel (Casa Madrigal). The nicest hotel seems to be the Agualongo hotel. There are two beautiful national parks (maybe more, but I am aware of these): Los Nevados, and Sierra Nevada. The Colombia National Parks have Internet pages with information on these beautiful areas: www.parquesnacionales.gov.co. Enjoy your stay in Colombia.