Historic cities, natural beauty and a warm welcome in Colombia

My Guest post today will take you to Colombia – where you’ll find a warm welcome, historic cities and beautiful national parks. Andrew and Andrea are travelling around South America and provide travel advice and hostel reviews at Review-Hostel.com.

The streets of Bogota

The streets of Bogota

Colombia. The very word alone inflicts fear into even the most laid back parents and relatives. Colombia has a reputation as the land of guerilla warfare and drug lords looking to shoot backpackers. So why had we chosen Colombia on our South American trip? Put simply, we wanted to see for ourselves. We were sick of only hearing the reported bad news from Colombia. We thought Colombia, with its current ‘The only risk is wanting to stay’ tourist campaign must have some truth in it.

On arrival at Bogota airport, the safety and security compared to other South American cities is by far superior. Arrivals is kept clear and easy to navigate by security, and taxis are ordered by a simple ticket system to insure only the genuine companies drive you, at fair rates. The first local contact (our airport taxi driver) was thrilled to see us, feeding us friendly non stop chatter about Colombia. I must point out, our Spanish is extremely limited, but he made the up most effort to understand us. Our first afternoon in Bogota gave us a real warmth and we both felt this city was one of the safest we’ve visited. Of course, as with any city center you need to take precautions, but no more so than any other city in South America – the huge police presence increases your confidence with the city every day.

Cartagena, the romantic heart of Columbia

Cartagena, the romantic heart of Columbia

As with many South American cities, street sellers canvas the crowds with mounds of exotic and tropical fruit. Bogota is no exception, mango being the local favourite, its the tastiest on earth! Andrea was keen for a helping, and approached an old street seller. Fumbling for the correct change she only had half the amount. The street seller didn’t look annoyed or demand the mango back, he simply grinned and said ‘All that matters is that you are here in Columbia’.

Our three days in Bogota came to an end quickly. We had a plane to catch to northern Colombia, the humid Caribbean coast. Our first stop was Cartagena, the romantic heart of Colombia. A tourist hot spot for both locals and international visitors, we found plenty of hostel and budget hotel accommodation options in the walled city, and we quickly settled at Hotel Las Vegas. Walking the cobbled streets of Cartagena, the area reminded us of a film set, more than a real living city.

Cartagena, like a film set

Cartagena, like a film set

We both loved Cartagena, the buzz of activity in the evenings and the ample quality restaurants made it easy to spend a week here. The humid temperature however, made day walking difficult (typical Europeans!) and we both agreed selecting hotel accommodation with air conditioning was a must for staying here. The evenings are much more pleasant, the heat drops and a cool breeze passes through the city.

The one thing Cartagena is missing though, is a good beach. We found even with air conditioning, it was too hot for us without some form of swimming pool or ocean to jump in every 20minutes. So our next stop, 4hours east, was Taganga. Taganga was exactly what we were looking for; a small fishing village, next to the sea, and only 15minutes from Santa Marta – and a world away from the hustle and bustle of Cartagena.

Taganga isn’t the postcard perfect town and beach destination, it’s a little under developed and rough around the edges, but a lovely spot to rest and acclimatise to the humidity for a few days. Its typically Caribbean, very laid back, plenty of fruit juices available and lots of affordable seafood for dinner. As an added bonus, we stayed at Hostal Divanga which had a private swimming pool surrounded by hammocks.

Diving in Taganga

Diving in Taganga

Taganga offers some of the cheapest diving in South America, and is known as one of the places to dive in Colombia. We did a total of five dives in 27 degree water with fantastic visibility, a wide variety of corals and sea life, and above all, the temperature is like being in a bath!

Tayrona National Park

Tayrona National Park

Another of the main tourist attractions is the popular Tayrona National Park, located an hour east of Taganga. The park offers some of the best beaches and lush rainforests to explore in Colombia. Another thing the National Park offers to guests is a huge amount of mosquitoes – be sure to pack plenty of repellent and a mosquito net if sleeping in a hammock. After a two days of trekking the national park, we were both ready to get back to civilisation, have a break from the mosquitoes and enjoy a ‘normal’ bed for a good nights sleep.

Tayrona National Park

Tayrona National Park

We secured another cheap flight from Santa Marta the following day, to see us in back Bogota a few hours later. Since we’ve been away from Bogota, not much has changed, the same friendly people are here and the same vibrant night life exists. We are finding Bogota the perfect base to plan our next stage of our trip – Medellin and the Zona Cafetera.

Andrew and Andrea have stayed in hostels around Australia, New Zealand and now have embarked on backpacking through South America to complete their world loop. Since travelling, they decided to setup their own website, www.Review-Hostel.com, reviewing hostel accommodation and providing travel advice to fellow travellers. They provide honest, non sponsored reviews with videos and photos to help plan and book your trip.

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