Colombia aka the trip that started it all…

Bogotá

My number one recommendation: take a trip up to the top of Mount Monserrate which is 10,341 feet (3,152 meters) high! I recommend taking the Funicular to the top. Up there, you will find a Catholic Church which is said to cure the ill (check out the thank you plaques on the walls) as well as a view of the city & a little (touristy) market. The museum de Oro is near the base where you catch the funicular & these two attractions in a day = a decent Bogota afternoon!

Another good touristy day option is a visit to the Botero Museum & surrounding neighborhood (favorite lunch: crepes & waffles: chicken curry crepe & fresh juice—the green one).

We took a taxi then a mini bus from Bogota to Villa de Leyva (advice: look into tour bus options?). The place was worth the trip! This little colonial town was a major highlight for me. We stayed at a small hotel near the plaza. There are places to eat around the perimeters of the plaza. Visit the Casa Terracota, which is an amazing home literally being built with clay before your eyes.

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Medellín is my favorite city in Colombia. On day one, we took public transportation (the Metrocable Line L) up to Parque Arví which is HIGHLY recommend. You really see the size of the city! I also enjoyed the botanical garden (next to this we encountered outdoor fútbol viewing via projection). Try all of the fruits and juices. I also loved the Botero statues featured around town & the nightlife was very fun although I can’t find the area we went out in!

From Medellin we took an overnight bus (from hell!!!) to Tolu y Coveñas. Again, I highly recommend visiting these places. We stayed right next to the beach (cannot be located online) and went on a number of excursions. My favorites were to the San Bernardo Islands* http://www.paisatours.com/san_bernardo.htm We took a boat from Coveñas to an island which was deemed “the most populated island in the Pacific” —it was indeed a tiny thing overflowing with housing! The island trip included lunch and a walk through a little wildlife sanctuary. We swam with sea turtles & drank “coco locos.” Another day, we hired a local man to take us on his boat through the mangroves, he even provided a lunch of fresh oysters & homemade sauce! There are multi-person bike taxis or you can hire a local to take you in their truck bed/car. Note: It helps to be a fluent Spanish speaker in this area (or travel with one)!

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From Coveñas, we hopped on a day bus to Cartagena. We stayed in the old city at Hotel El Viajero & liked it very much. There was a kitchen and the yummiest croissants filled with curry chicken at the corner bakery down below. Walk on the old wall, visit the Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas, there are really endless options in the old city. If you want to get out of there, we took a boat to an island off the coast or there are bars around town; we frequented one called Shots by Chupitos. They lights shots on fire there… We also went to a club called Babar.

The last thing that I highly recommend in Colombia is Parque Tayrona. Take the bus to Santa Marta, from there enter the park and you can hike for the day through the jungle, along the coast, then camp in hammocks at Cabo San Juan de Guía! Some notes: the bugs will win, but do try to spray yourself. Don’t try to hike with your shoes in the mud, they will just get stuck. For this same reason, wear shorts.  Do stop at every ocean view for a photo. The ants bite & those bites blister. it is ALL worth it! This place is spectacular. http://discoveringice.com/travels/south-america-colombia/the-ultimate-guide-to-tayrona-national-natural-park-santa-marta-colombia.html

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