San Andrés & Providencia
San Andrés is accessible by a two hour flight from Bogotá. The archipelago is located 720 km (450 miles) northwest of the Colombian coast, and it is made up of three main islands: San Andres, Providencia and Santa Catalina. The last two are more secluded…perfect if you just want to get away from everything!
San Andrés is 11 km (6,8 miles) long, with an area of 26 km2 (16 square miles). The island’s main conurbation (town, commercial center and hotels) is located on the northern end, and the best beaches are located on the eastern side. The western side is more naturally preserved, but there are no beaches though.
The area attractions include La Loma quarter, a typical Caribbean neighborhood where you can see the local style of architecture, and the Emmanuel Baptist church. The natural attractions include Johnny Cay, located about 1,5 km (almost a mile) away, with its incredible white sand beach and lovely waters. The “Hoyo Soplador” is a spurt of water that is lifted high in the air through a hole in the rocks. Morgan’s Cave is made of limestone and the water constantly getting in has eroded the cavern into interesting forms. There are many other cays and islets of enormous beauty.
Providencia can be reached by flight from San Andrés (it takes 8 hours by boat). There are some lodging and dining options here, as well as music, typical Caribbean music such as calypso, soca and reggae. Providencia is a smaller island: 7 km (4 miles) long and 3 km (2 miles) wide, and its main beaches are Bahía Manzanillo, Bahía Del Suroeste and Bahía Agua Dulce.
All the islands are excellent for diving and snorkeling, as well as swimming in the crystal clear ocean! Amongst the typical food you can find fish and sea food in general, coconut, plantain. The island offers a lively nightlife. The Coconut carnival is celebrated from November 27th to the 30th.
The Green Moon festival is held in May.
Cartagena offers a superb combination of Caribbean paradise and colonial history. The walled city centre offers nice colonial buildings, houses and churches, such as the San Francisco Convent, the San Agustin Monastery and the Plaza de Bolivar. Outside the walls there are interesting sites too, like the Calle Del Arsenal, la Popa and the Castillo San Felipe de Barajas. The best way to visit these sites is by a leisurely walk.
The beaches here are quite paradisiacal. Some of the beaches around include Marbella, El Laguito, La Boquilla and Castillogrande.
About one hour away by boat, The Rosario Islands are located. Along with the San Bernardo Islands, the archipelago is a national protected area.
Rosario is made up of 23 islands and islets, and “Isla Grande” is the biggest one. Its natural environment is characterized by mangroves, coastal saltwater lagoons, and dry tropical forest. Baru Island is a highly recommended location for its pristine beaches. Playa Blanca, located here, is said to be the best beach in the region. Other attractions in the area include the San Martín Aquarium and the Botanical Garden.
Activities in this are in general include swimming, snorkeling, diving and other water activities. Cartagena offers lively nightlife too, especially near the city centre.
Being located in the tropical Caribbean, the weather is always hot, and there are two seasons: the dry season goes from December to April (the driest months are January and February), and the wet season from May to November (the wettest period is from September to November). Cartagena is easily reached by a local flight, as there are services available from the main cities: Bogotá, Medellín, Cali and even Panama City.
San Agustín is a small town located in the southwestern part of Colombia. San Agustín is located at 1695 meters (5560 feet) above sea level, and the weather is nice year round, with mild temperatures of about 18°C (65°F). In town, there are several dining and lodging options. To get there, there are buses from Bogotá (it takes about 8 to 9 hours). There are also flights from Bogotá to Neiva, from where it’s about a 4 to 5 hour ride to San Agustín. Nearby, the most important pre-Columbian archeological site in the country is located: the Parque Arqueológico. The park includes the Bosque de las Estatuas, where you’ll find many stone statues that depict animals, gods and humans. Visiting this UNESCO World Heritage Site is a magical experience. The Fuente de Lavapatas, where water runs through carved channels. It was brilliantly constructed, as no drop of water gets wasted. Nearby, there are other sites with interesting figures and carvings as well, such as El Tablón, La Pelota, El Purutal and la Chaquira. Other activities available nearby include rafting in the Magdalena River.
Popayán, Tierradentro and Puracé National Park
Popayán is a nice colonial town, known popularly as the “White City”. Some of the important buildings to see are: Belen Sanctuary, the Cathedral, the San Agustin Temple and the Puente Del Humilladero. The city is located 702 km away from Bogotá, and it is possible to reach to air or land. The weather is quite nice year round, due to the town’s altitude (1 738 m / 5 702 feet). The temperatures round the 19°C (66°F) throughout the year.
From Popayán, it is possible to visit the Purace National Park, located 45 km (28 miles) away. The national park contains Puracé Volcano (4646 m / 15 240 feet), among others. The scenery is dominated by snowy peaks and crystal lakes. Activities here include hiking, trekking, hot springs and wildlife viewing. This park is important, as four of Colombia´s most plentiful rivers rise in its mountains: Magdalena, Cauca, Caquetá and Patía.
Tierradentro is an archaeological park declared World Heritage Site by UNESCO, for its pre-Columbian statues and tombs similar to those of San Agustin. The park is close by (48 km / 30 miles) to the town of San Andrés de Pisimbala, which has a beautiful colonial church. There are also two museums. From Bogotá it is about a ten hour ride to Tierradentro.
The country’s capital is a large and cosmopolitan city, with all the culture, architecture and cuisine expected from a metropolis. There are plenty museums, parks, churches and other remarkable buildings to see here. There are three main sectors that are interesting for tourists: La Candelaria, the well preserved historic center, downtown Bogotá, the old commercial center, and North Bogotá, with lots of commerce and high end suburbs. Worth visiting is the Santuario de Monserrate, sitting on top of a hill from which there is a great view of Bogotá. The shrine can be reached by a funicular and a cable car, or by foot (takes over an hour to get there). At the summit there are restaurants and snack bars. The main airport is El Dorado, located 15 km (9 miles) away from the city centre. Being above 2 600 meters (8 700 feet), the temperatures are usually cool, ranging from 9°C to 20°C (48°F – 68°F), with an average of 14°C (57°F). The dry season goes from December to March, and the rainy season from April to November, though it tends to be variable due to El Niño and La Niña phenomena. Relatively close to Bogotá, the Salt Cathedral of Zipaquirá is located. This is the most impressive modern marvel in Colombia, and it well deserves a visit. The church was constructed inside a salt mine and its most impressive feature is its various carvings in the salt tunnels. There are other interesting routes you can take when visiting Bogotá, such as the Chicaque Natural Park, southwest of Bogotá, a privately owned property that protects a large portion of cloud forest. Choachí, east of the city, is a quaint village with hot springs, and great views of Bogotá.
Villa de Leyva
Villa de Leyva, is a colonial town said to be one of the prettiest in Colombia. Its main spot is the plaza, surrounded by beautiful buildings with their balconies and doorways. In town, there are several sites to visit, such as the Main Plaza, the San Agustin Convent, the San Francisco Convent, the Carmen Museum and the Paleontological Museum. In the outskirts, there are several attractions too, such as the Kronosaurius Fossil, said to be 120 million years old; the Ecce Homo Monastery, founded in 1620 by the Dominican order to Christianize the large indigenous population; the Hayal, a giant grotto with waterfalls over 25 meters (82 feet) long; the Iguaque Flora and Fauna Sanctuary, where you can hike up to a lake, important to the Muisca people mythology. About 25 km (15 miles) away from Villa de Leyva, the town of Raquira is located, known for its handicrafts, mainly pottery. Activities to do near town include hiking, canyoning, rappelling, biking, horseback riding, and speleology (exploring caves). The town’s temperature is mild year round, around the 17°C (63°F). Villa de Leyva is a four hour ride away from Bogotá.
Santa Marta and Tayrona National Park
The coastal town of Santa Marta is Colombia’s oldest….it was the first town founded by the Spanish conquerors. Additionally, this is where Simón Bolívar died, so the area has huge historical importance.
The temperatures are very hot year round, averaging 28°C (82°F), but they can easily go over 30°C (86°F). The best time to go is from December to March, when it’s dry, though the cooler months are January and February. The rainiest are September and October. To get there it is possible to fly from Bogotá; the flight takes about 1 hour and 25 minutes (the airport is located 16 km (10 miles) away from Santa Marta’s center)
There are plenty of interesting things to do in and around Santa Marta. In the city, you can visit the Aquarium and “Museo del Mar”, the Quinta de San Pedro Alejandrino (where you can visit the room in which Simón Bolívar died, as well as some of his belongings), the Cathedral, and the Casa de la Aduana, which displays a fine archaeological collection. The beaches are very nice too, such as El Rodadero.
Taganga Bay, close to Santa Marta (10 minutes), is a small fishing village with nice beaches; great for swimming as well as for diving. From here, it’s possible to visit Playa Grande, accessible by boat.
Tayrona National Park is one of the area’s biggest attractions, and it is located 34 km (21 miles) away from Santa Marta. This natural area is bustling with wildlife and amazing scenery, coastal especially. You can see species such as monkeys, iguanas and many species of birds. In the park, there are archaeological remains from the Tayrona culture, and there are several beaches worth visiting: La Piscina (the pool), Castilletes and Playa de Arrecifes.
Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta is the highest coastal mountain chain in the world. It holds the country’s highest peak, at 5 800 meters (19 030 feet). With its snowy peaks and amazing scenery, it is an amazing site to see, though unfortunately it is rather unsafe to visit, at least for now.
The Lost City (Ciudad Perdida) was “found” on 1976 by a group of archaeologists along the mountains of the Sierra Nevada. It consists of a series of terraces, roads, walls and canals and settlements, that show the great knowledge in agriculture and engineering that the old “Tayronas” had. To get here, special permissions are required, and it takes several days to get there by foot, so this is a trip for the adventurous!