Our favorite place on earth: Colombia! Our five years in Colombia were filled with lots of adventures and memories. The people are friendly, the food is great, and the nature that surrounds you is amazing. We taught at GI School in Armenia, located in the heart of the coffee region and were blessed to be able to influence the lives of our students, hopefully in a positive way. These are just a few of my favorite pictures from our time in Colombia.
The Amazon trip was an incredible week of "Survivor" with my senior students that I will never forget. We visited several local villages and tribes that shared with us their traditions and ceremonies. We were also able to bring school supplies to give to local children. I couldn't have asked for a better group of students to teach and share my experiences with!
The birds and butterflies in all of South America are beautiful but Colombia gave us a view of many we had never seen before. The best part was that they would come right up to our balcony so you didn't even need to hike in the woods to enjoy them!
The cities of Bogota, Cartagena, and Medellin all have charm and lots of sights to see. From the old city in Cartagena to the bull fighting ring in Bogota to the Feria de Flores in Medellin, Colombia has something for everyone.
Bogota Bogota is the capital city but not where I would spend much of my time if visiting Colombia. I would take the time to go up to the Monserrate where there is a monastary that overlooks the city. You ride up on a cable car and/or funicular and can walk if you choose; the ride is cooler. I would also go out to the Cathedral de Sal in Zipaquira. You can hire a car for the day for not too much or take your chances with the bus. We always stay at the Rosales Plaza http://www.hotelrosalesplaza.com/ and treat ourselves since we are usually there only a day. Armenia Rafting/Balsaje - a fun relaxing day on the river that includes a great lunch and a hike to one or two waterfalls.
Good company to use: 311 624 01 24 or 311 377 7071 (Montenegro) ask for Teresa.
Canopy - if you like swinging through the trees, this was really fun. They had ten platforms and we felt very safe and secure. Do watch for branches and things in the way and make sure you have a good pair of gloves. Los Caracolies - 300 778 7099 - Jorge Hernan Jaramillo. It is on the way to Montenegro right off the main road.
Mariposario and Botanical Gardens - we have been many times and it is informative as well as relaxing and beautiful. The butterflies are most active early morning or late afternoon but you have to plan around any rain as well. It is located in Calarca, only a 30 minute taxi ride from Armenia. While you are there, be sure to have lunch at El Rincon de la Hacienda in Calarca. It is a bird sanctuary and has wonderful food. (Cra. 25 No. 47-94. 743-6688) The only day they don't have lunch is Tuesday.
Parque de Cafe - it a theme park, sortof, all about coffee. We go for the walks through the coffee process and the plants and flowers. The cultural dance show is a miss see and is put on twice a day so go early and get the early show at 11:00. You will see a good representation of the various cultural groups in Colombia, a history of coffee, and great dancing. It is just outside Armenia on a hill overlooking the city and has great views. You get different passes depending on what you want to do for the day.
Salento - a colonial town that has the flavor and culture of traditional Colombia. Good place to spend the day. You can hike or go horseback riding in the Valle de Cocoro. Definitely walk up the stairs at the end of the main street to see the views. Best place for trout - Balcones del Ayer - right off the corner of the main square If you want a tour of a small coffee plantation that is more personal than the Parque de Cafe, go out past the cemetery in Salento to the Finca el Ocaso and they will take you around for about 5 pesos. They also have places to stay and outdoor activities if you want to hang out there overnight.
Feria de Flores - one of the things you have to see before you die. It is an amazing parade and two weeks of a celebration of flowers. The parade is awesome but you also have to visit the botanical gardens during this time for the amazing display of orchids. You will never have seen anything like it before. The festival is usually the last week in July/first week in August. It is hard to get concrete information on the schedule of events so just keep looking on the web or ask at your hotel. You want to get tickets to sit in the stands for the parade because if you don't, you will be crushed in the standing crowd and not have a great view. I've done both and highly recommend the stands! http://www.carpsonamission.com/feriadeflores.html
Medellin is our favorite city in Colombia. They people are friendly, the transportation system is easy, and it is a nice place to visit. Definitely take the rail system to the cable cars and ride up the hillside to get a birdseye view of Medellin. I read they also have just finished the world's longest outdoor escalator so that should be something to see as well. The zoo in town isn't much but the aquarium is really cool and just across the street from the botanical garden. We usually stay in El Poblado area as it is central to all we usually do. We use the Torre Poblado hotel as it is convenient and has good services without being too pricy. There are hostels nearby there as well. Out of Medellin you can visit El Penal, a really pretty rock formation that you climb that gives you a different view of the countryside of Colombia. You can get there on a tour or bus yourself. http://www.carpsonamission.com/armeniamay2008.html
Throughout Colombia at Christmas time, you will see lots of displays of lights and alumbrados that make it the best place to be for the holiday season. The pace of life is slower and people take the time to share their lives with each other, enjoying life as they live every day.
Santa Marta We started off at the Techos Azules in Tagana where we visited the Parque National Tayrona. Don't waste your time on a bus or tour guide. Just make a deal with a taxi from Tagana and go to the park gate. You can guide yourself up the shore line and see all the beaches and enjoy the day. You can walk through the woods or up the beaches. Be sure to stop at the bakery for the chocolate doughnuts! We found that the beaches on the way were much better than the one at the end at Cabo.
La Guajira- this place is on the northern most point of Colombia, It is where the sun goes to really shine and put out the heat! We did a tour with the company listed below and it was great. We saw lots of different beaches, unique countryside, and slept in hammocks on the beach. Look on the link below for pictures and commentary of our trip there. http://www.carpsonamission.com/armeniamayjune2011.html
Cabo De La Vela (One Night - Two Days) Visit the Manaure community and its salt mines, Musichi, Poportin, Ahuyama, Carrizal, the lighthouse, and El Pilón de Azucar. Lunch and dinner the first day. Breakfast and lunch the second day. Lodging in hammock, guide, and transportation. http://www.kaiecotravel.com/
Cartegena - if you want to go scuba diving and/or see a beautiful historic city, take the time to visit Cartegena. The only part worth seeing is within the old city so stay in that area. We stay at the Tres Banderas but there all many cheaper hostels you can check out. Going during Semana Santa allows you to see a lot of the pagentry of Holy Week, but any time you go you can experience the local flavor and culture. We went out on a tour of the islands and the mud volcano which was great and definitely worthwhile. You can set that up at any hotel you stay at. See pictures at the link below. Also don't forget to visit the candy stalls under the historic arches in the main plazas. Be sure to try the local coconut rice - it is amazingly delicious! It is a LONG bus ride from anywhere so I suggest a local flight on Taca, Copa, Easy Fly, or Avianca. http://www.carpsonamission.com/armeniaapril2008.html
Adventures and sights to see are plentiful in Salento and la Guajira. La Guajira is on the coast of Colombia and Venezuela and is a beautiful coastal area. We had a lovely hostel where our "room" was hammocks on the beach (not fun) and a bucket of water for bathing (doable). Salento is a quaint country town just outside of Armenia that we go to for fresh trout and a peaceful ride in the greens of Colombia. Colombia checks all of our boxes! All photographs are copyrighted and the property of Cathleen L Carpenter Photography