trip report - 3 weeks
Replies: 28 - Last Post: Feb 16, 2013 2:16 PM Last Post By: kaybee
Feb 10, 2013 11:53 AM
trip report - 3 weeksI always like to give back by letting people know how things went. I use the Thorn Tree to research before trips and find it a valuable resource – especially reading trip reports.
We spent just over 3 weeks in Colombia. We flew into Bogota on Jan 13th. Spent the first 2 nights there (arrived late). Stayed at La Pinta in Chapinero (sp). It was fine. Walked to the central/Candaleria area and walked around. Unfortunately the two days we had in Bogota at the beginning and end were Mondays so we didn't get to the Gold Museum. Bogota is okay. We found that we preferred smaller towns because of as the noise and air quality in the larger ones.
Bussed to Tunja and then on to Villa de Leyva. Really liked this town. It's touristy but not over the top like Salento. Stayed at Colombian Highlands hostel. Liked it and it was nice to be out of town but not too far. Spent 2 nights and 1 day here. As after thought it would have been nice to have one more day so we could have walked in the hills. By the bus station is a great little place that serves roast chicken. We each had 1/4 roast chicken, roasted potatoes, beer and it was 10,000 pesos ($10) for the 2 of us. The places on the main square are expensive. You can also just get a beer at one of the little stores for 1500 pesos (75¢) and sit on their benches outside (this is the case in most of the towns).
From there we went to San Gil. Opted to stay in town and visit Barichara from there. Spent 2 nights. Took the bus out in the morning to Barichara. Beautiful little town. Really enjoyed the walk on the camino trail to Guane. Guane is small but nice with a dusty little museum that was fun to go into for a few minutes. You can catch a bus here back to Barichara or San Gil.
From San Gil we did an epic bus trip to Santa Marta. Couple hours to Bucamaranga and then almost 11 hours to Cienaga/Santa Marta. As an after thought we probably should have done this as a night bus as the landscape doesn't change during last several hours. Arrived in Cienaga at 10 pm. Bus didn't stop at the bus station. Our spanish is minimal. Fortunately a man who we had met at lunch got off the bus and found/bargained with a taxi driver for the 26 km ride into Santa Marta. This could have been an awkward situation but anytime this happened a colombian always stepped forward and helped.
Spent a day at Taganga as a day trip from Santa Marta. It was a Sunday. Very crowded and busy. Fortunately a girl told us as we got off the collectivo to take the trail along the cliff to the other beaches. The farther you go the better it is.
Did the 5 day/4 night trip to Ciudad Perdida. Loved it. As everyone mentions it's not the actual ruins it's the trip/experience. You have to like hiking and camping as the trail is rough at times, its hot and the camps are rustic with no privacy. It was a great experience.
Spent the night after the trek in Santa Marta. Caught the door to door shuttle service to Cartagena. This is a great service and only a couple dollars more than the taxis/buses that you would need to take. Your hostel can book it for you.
Spent 3 nights in Cartagena. It's pretty and the architecture is beautiful. It's touristy. Two nights and days would have been enough but we spent the extra day as we decided to fly to Manizales instead of another long bus journey. Therefore skipping Medillin, as I mentioned, we liked the smaller towns/villages and we were starting to run out of time. Beaches around Cartagena are just okay. Water was very rough the days we were there.
In Manizales we wanted to stay outside of town. We stayed at the Secret Garden. Thoroughly enjoyed being out of town in a rural setting and suppers with Kate and Diego (the hosts). We ended up staying here 4 nights. We went with Jose, a guide, up to Los Nevados park and walked back to Manizales (22 km) through an ever changing landscape from paramo to cloud forest to a rain forest. He donates part of his fees to a foundation that is helping several schools and school children in the area. It was a wonderful day.
Caught the bus to Salento. Spent one night/2 days here. It was a weekend and the town was crawling with colombian tourists. On the second day we headed out to the Cocora Valley. Nice walk and the palms are beautiful but we enjoyed the other walks/hikes that we did a lot more. Caught the night bus to Bogota and spent the final day and night in Bogota.
Thoroughly enjoyed our trip. I was a little apprehensive going to Colombia. We had no issues. Found the people wonderful, friendly and helpful.
Feb 10, 2013 1:11 PM
Feb 10, 2013 1:13 PM
Feb 10, 2013 1:44 PM
Thank you for the report. Makes a great read for anyone considering/planning a trip to Colombia
Feb 10, 2013 1:57 PM
4In Santa Marta we stayed at Alluna, it's very good- http://alunahotel.com/ if you don't stay there their cafe is good. Good coffee and heuvos rancheros.
San Gil - http://www.hostelsantanderalemantv.com/ very new, clean and wonderful host. not sure if they have dorm rooms. Busy corner with traffic noise in the daytime, quiets down at night (San Gil has a traffic problem)
Cartagena we splurged and stayed at http://villacolonialhotel.com/. nice clean quiet. Media Luna street is full of hostels. Nice area of town to stay. By then you may be tired of real colombian food and if you are I Balcony on that street has good italian food (we ate there all 3 nights we were there).
Before we left home we had booked our Bogota and Villa de Leyva accommodations. We found that the hostels will call ahead to the next place you are going and book accommodations for you – this made it so easy.
Enjoy your trip.
Feb 10, 2013 3:18 PM
Feb 10, 2013 8:53 PM
Feb 11, 2013 6:23 AM
Feb 11, 2013 8:37 AM
8Zedis, we went with Jose Ivan http://www.joseivancanomarin.com/index.html. The link to Secret Garden also has info on him. He does one day walks and multiday walks. The park is still closed so we started at the edge. These are individual/private walks rather than group walks like the Cuidad Perdida. I liked both for different reasons. With your time constraints you would have to give up a lot of other touring to do the CP hike.
Feb 11, 2013 8:46 AM
thanks for the report. I'm terrible about leaving reports...but it is really helpful. So you would have preferred only 2 nights in Cartegena? We are stopping there on our way to the south to visit Popayan, St Augustin and around, and I'm wondering if 2, 3 or 4 nights is better. We have a 9 year old who will want to swim, but sounds like the water is be too rough anyway? Not interested in going to Santa Marta or Tanganga because it will be spring break and packed...but sounds like seeing town ok just for 2 nights. Tourists make me crazy, even though I am one! Was there a beach not too far that was calm enough to swim? any idea? thanks for your help.
Feb 11, 2013 8:47 AM
Feb 11, 2013 9:14 AM
11Thank you - that is really interesting.
Was your insurance valid during the CP trip - I notice you're from Canada and am not familiar with your government's recommendations.
Feb 11, 2013 9:30 AM
12Schnecken, Not sure what the water is generally like in Catagena but it was rough when we were there and I didn't have any urge to swim but people were swimming. A couple days before we arrived 2 young local boys drowned. Number of days depends upon personal taste and what you want to do. I would have been happy with just 2 days and 2 nights but if you decide to do the boat trip to one of the islands near by (forget their name, didn't do this) that takes a whole day.
aksimon, I saw your post before. I'd have to go back and read the fine print on my insurance. Canadian warnings don't pin point that area specifically but they do cover other places we were. It's really safe (or we felt safe). There is a military post at the ruins. I think your more at risk of twisting an ankle or suffering from heat exhaustion. As someone else pointed out some of the trek companies have insurance. We went with Magic Tours and had insurance but probably didn't cover terrorists.
Feb 12, 2013 7:14 AM
13thanks for the report kaybee,
we are in Colombia at the moment (loving it - agree with you on the small towns, currently in Jardin which might be contender for favourite small town on the whole continent). Just looking at your accomodation choices for our trip north, aluna looks really nice but its website quotes 70k for a double room with fan (is that right - sounds quite high - approx the same as the Cartagena hotel?)
Feb 12, 2013 8:08 AM
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