I have wanted to visit Colombia for a long time & finally, in February this year, I had my chance. I was invited by the Colombian Tourist Board to attend their travel show, put on specifically for the travel industry. Before the show I was given the opportunity to spend a few days in Cartagena de Indias – sometimes described as Little Havana.
I took the direct flights with Avianca to Bogota & connected on arrival to a flight out to Cartagena. Avianca were great- good leg room (I was in economy), on-demand entertainment system & I liked that the flights in both directions were overnight. I slept much of the way- which is always good.
In the 5 nights I spent in Cartagena I was kept busy. It was very hot but thankfully there was a sea breeze which was very welcome.
Some of the highlights of my stay in Cartagena:
Number 1 has to be visiting the National Aviary. Not my usual kind of place but I was pleasantly surprised. Of course the highlight of the visit was the fabulous pink Flamingos- I could have stayed watching them all day.
Located 14.5 KM between Cartagena – Baru it opened in 2019 & took 10 years to “build” it Some of the birds are left to fly freely & we were greeted by several macaws – just resting in a tree at the entrance & several male peacocks strutting around. It also has 3 systemic eco environments (rainforest, coast and desert),
Colombia has 1,903 different species of bird registered in the country, that is almost twice as many as the entire continental US, Colombia holds the world record for bird diversity. This establishes it as the world’s most bio-diverse country, with the largest Aviary in South America & the 6th largest in the world.
The Walled Historical Old Town of Cartagena was also a real highlight for me. The evenings were more comfortable heat wise to visit. We went each night to various different restaurants- all offering wonderful food- even for a vegetation (me). Buildings are colourful but I think night-time it was more beautiful with the buildings lit up. Unfortunately I stayed in a hotel located outside of the old town, but when I go back I will definitely want to stay in one of the wonderful colonial hotels in “El Centro” – preferably one with a swimming pool.
The San Felipe Castle was a must visit too – full name Castillo San Felipe de Barajas. It is located on a hill, built by the Spanish as a Fortress it is known as the most impregnable fortress ever built by the Spanish in the Americas. The climb to the top is a bit strenuous, mainly due to the heat, but the 360-degree views from the top were amazing.
The Traditional Dance Show was really good – even with our participation. The musicians & dancers were phenomenal. I do not need to say anything – just watch the video. Our own attempts with the dancing were hilariously bad – I will not share that video as it is too embarrassing.
My final excursion was to take the boat transfer to the Rosario Islands – an archipelago located within San Bernardo Corals National Park. You can just go for the day as I did or stay a couple of nights in one of the small hotels that are on the various islands. It is a nice contrast form the busy city & nice to relax & swim in the gorgeous clear sea.
So I had to leave Cartagena & head for Bogota & the Travel Show. I had back to back meetings for 1.5 days, which was exhausting. But as my flight was leaving late evening I did have an afternoon free. I would have loved to have visited the Museo Botero, the Gold Museum & enjoyed a relaxing lunch, but me ever the professional, went to do 5 hotel inspections. My favourite properties were the Four Seasons Casa Medina, the Sofitel Hotel & a real home from home – Casa Legado, where each of the 9 rooms are named after the owner’s nieces & nephews.
Colombia was fantastic, a great surprise & I loved my time there.
I never felt unsafe the whole time I was there & they have certainly done a lot to make visitors feel welcome. The Colombians are really friendly, lovely people – full of enthusiasm.
Unfortunately I did not have a long enough stay to experience the huge diversity this country has to offer, but what I did see was wonderful. This trip was enough to help us decide to add Colombia into our portfolio of special destinations, that we specialise in. I will, of course, need travel back to Colombia to do a more intensive trip, exploring more areas, review hotels & local tours. It is finding the time that is the problem- but fingers crossed to can be this year.
If you are interested in visiting Colombia please do not hesitate to contact us.