Traveling in Colombia

Yesterday I arrived home with my husband and two daughters from our first collective trip to South America. Specifically, the Caribbean coast of Colombia. Over the course of eight days we were able to enjoy three distinctive regions of this area: the cool, mountainous town of Minca, the urban gem of Cartagena and the tropical paradise of the Rosario Islands.

Some people have asked about covid restrictions/flying at the moment. We felt very comfortable traveling to Colombia, which has a high vaccination rate, low rate of active cases and a high prevalence of masking (almost every Colombian we saw was masked on the streets and inside). As of the writing, only fully vaccinated travelers can enter Colombia and you need to fill out some forms ahead of entry. Additionally, we needed to test to get back into the states, so we brought web-enabled testing kits from eMed that we did the day before we flew home.

 Our first stop was Minca, nestled in the foothills of the Sierra Nevadas- the highest coastal mountain range in the tropics. We stayed at an eco lodge perched on a hill 30 minutes above the town itself and accessible only by 4×4 jeep, dirt bike or hour-long hike. The location and vibe of the lodge harkened me right back to my long-term traveler days as we enjoyed communal meals with travelers from around the world and simple accommodations that blended into the landscape. 

Our girls were especially taken with this location, as they were afforded free reign of the property. They enjoyed running around along the paths, finding and making things with leaves and tropical flowers and following the nomadic dogs and cats around. Sometimes we would catch them just standing on path looking around in wonder. It made my heart leap!

My husband is an avid birder, so he was in heaven in Minca, which boasts 365 species of birds, such as toucans, macaws, up to 20 species of hummingbirds, sparrows, flycatchers, oropendolas, and many others. We got up early most days to enjoy the magnificent birdlife all around us! We also enjoyed ample hiking, horseback riding, visits to chocolate and coffee farms, amazing sunsets and lots of hammock lounging. 

 

 

After a few days in Minca we took a private car to Cartagena to enjoy one of the most beautifully preserved and restored colonial cities in the Americas. 

People told us ahead of our visit that the old city section of Cartagena was “touristy” which is backpacker code for more expensive and perhaps not as authentically local as other parts of Colombia. I personally was not detracted at all, in fact, perhaps having slightly lower expectations made me even more enchanted once we were able to spend time there. 

I feel like we only scratched the surface of the city int he couple days we spent there because the kids had a very short attention span for looking at historical architecture in the blazing heat. We didn’t put any pressure on ourselves to visit museums or check off any specific to-dos – we just enjoyed walking around a beautiful city and eating lots of good food. We stayed at a beautiful boutique hotel with a large courtyard and rooftop pool, where we cooled down in the hot afternoons. 

 

 

The last place we spent time was Isla Marina, a tiny island that is part of the Rosario Islands archipelago off the coast of Cartagena. You access the islands via a 45 minute boat ride. The islands and accommodations themselves are very rustic but incredibly beautiful. I have never seen so many shades of blue in one place!

The journey to the islands is most famous for being harrowing the afternoons when the daily winds pick up and cause the ocean waves to swell. We tried our best to avoid this (for the kids’ sake!) by leaving the islands around noon and it was STILL a wild ride back. 

All-in-all, we loved Colombia. I’d recommend it to any travelers who speak some Spanish and want to enjoy a very lively, friendly and beautiful cultural experience. There are some gap year programs that travel to coastal and interior Colombia, so if any students out there want to replicate this experience, please get in touch! 

 

 

 

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