12/07/2016Incredibly friendly people and beautiful terrain make Colombia a seriously special and unique destination.
Starting the journey in Bogota after an extremely comfortable flight with Avancia (Colombia’s national airline) we found ourselves in a modern capital city with plenty of culture and historical parts to it. After checking into our hotel we began our city tour, starting in the historic heart of Bogota walking around Plaza Bolivar, the Presidential Palace and the Museum Santa Clara Church. We then visited the unbelievable Gold Museum (home to 34,000 pieces of metalwork from various Hispanic cultures). After a morning exploring the city, we took the cable car up to the top of Monseratte Hill to take in amazing views over the entire city.
When in Bogota, stay at boutique hotel Four Seasons Casa Medina which is the most beautiful and romantic property (not to be confused with the funkier and larger Four Seasons Bogota). The historic building used to be private luxury apartments and feels like you have stepped back in time with its exposed brick, stone steps, spiral stair case, stained glass windows and original wood-panelled walls. It is full of character has a very cosy and personalised feel to it – as though you are staying in a traditional house rather than a hotel. There are just 62 beautifully designed rooms which combine the colonial with the contemporary perfectly. The hotel is located in the gastronomic district of the city, and it has one Spanish restaurant which is totally delicious and has a very cool feel to it.
On our second morning, we drove to Zipaquira, the salt capital of Colombia and home to the beautiful underground Salt Cathedral in the salt mines 180ms below ground which is absolutely breath-taking. We then headed to the airport to catch our flight to Periera, capital of the coffee region. On arrival, we checked into Sazagua which is a boutique finca in the heart of the coffee region. Accommodation in the coffee region, is rustic and all about the experience, rather than the luxury. The finca is very authentic, colonial and cosy with a lovely, peaceful atmosphere – very romantic and great for honeymooners. It felt very welcoming and like a home away from home. All 15 rooms are individually designed with an eclectic mix of traditional furniture and there are plenty of spaces to relax other than the bedrooms. The gardens are beautiful, hammocks scattered around to relax in during the hot days and the facilities great – lovely spa and pool!
On our third day, our guide met us and we headed to Cocora Valley in the town of Salento. After a delicious welcome cocktail of rum and sugar cane we embarked on our half day hike in the natural cloud forest along the eco-trail… the struggle to trek uphill in the humidity was worth it as the views from the top were spectacular. Once down the bottom of the valley, we enjoyed a traditional lunch and then had some time to explore beautiful Salento - a town of multi-coloured balconies and local handicraft shops as well as stunning views of the valley. That evening we checked into Hacienda San Jose. This finca is charming and full of character, the bedrooms really felt as though you have stepped into a period drama – very authentic! Again, very colonial and feels like a home rather than a hotel. The pool and restaurant area outdoors were also great.
The following day, we headed to Buenavista for a tour of a local coffee plantation, Hacienda San Alberto, to learn about the world of coffee growing, the step-by-step process of coffee production, and finally tasting of the deliciously smooth Colombian coffee! We then headed to the airport and flew to the beautiful, lively city of Cartagena and checked into boutique Bastion Luxury Hotel in the walled city. This peaceful hotel is stylish in design and a good option for honeymooners. Rooms were lovely and great bathroom and beds were really comfortable and on the rooftop there is a lovely pool area and amazing views over the old town.
On day five, we began our tour at the Cerro de la Popa, an old convent that overlooks the whole city giving the most amazing panoramic views. From here, we visited to the Fort Castillo de San Felipe, the Castle from where the Spaniards protected the city from the attacks of the English in the 17th Century. We then strolled around the historic centre - the Plaza de Santo Domingo, Plaza de la Aduana, the Clock Tower. The charm of the colonial architecture is something that is difficult to capture in photographs but it is such a magical city full of excellent restaurants and cool, trendy bars. In the evening we had dinner at Movich Cartagena, another lovely boutique hotel in the walled city. The hotel is very chic with crisp and contemporary interiors. Excellent restaurant and service and the rooftop pool area was great with amazing views (in spite of the rain!).
On our final day, we made the most of the sunshine and relaxed by the pool before embarking on an afternoon excursion – “THE CARTAGENA OF GABO” where we learnt about the history through the eyes of the fabulous Colombian writer Gabriel García Márquez. Cartagena was both somewhere he loved and lived in, and the setting of many of his novels such as ‘Love in a Time of Cholera’. We spent our final evening enjoying lively Colombian nightlife!
By Lily Read