A current Colombia tourism campaign exclaims, “Colombia is magical realism,” a reference to the famous author Gabriel García Márquez. Born in Aracataca, García Márquez won the Nobel Prize in 1982 “for his novels and short stories, in which the fantastic and the realistic are combined in a richly composed world of imagination, reflecting a continent’s life and conflicts.”
We’re not sure how the Colombian writer would feel about the tourism board’s tagline, but we agree that Colombia is fantastic. The South American country is home Cartagena, known for charming Spanish colonial architecture and excellent beaches; Bogota, with its top museums and great restaurants; and Medellín, noted for its gorgeous mountains and flowers.
Here are some travel tips for the capital of Bogotá, high in the Andes Mountains; historic Cartagena; and beyond.
Stroll through Bogotá’s Oldest Neighborhood: La Candelaria is the oldest neighborhood in Colombia’s capital. Highlights of this historic part of the city include Plaza de Bolívar, La Catedral Primada, and Casa de Nariño, the home and workplace of the President.
Great Museums: Colombia’s capital is home to some remarkable museums. The Museo del Oro, the Gold Museum, which is home to over 34,000 pre-Hispanic gold pieces, the largest collection in the world. The fascinating Museo Botero includes 123 works of art by Colombian figurative artist and sculptor Fernando Botero. Other great picks for art lovers include the Museo Nacional and the Museo de Arte Moderno.
Terrific Places to Try Traditional Colombian Food: Colombia is making a culinary comeback, and options in this cosmopolitan city include French, Italian, and Japanese food. For authentic Colombian cuisine, check out Club Colombia, which is located in an old hacienda, or Casa Santa Clara, in a beautiful house that has amazing views of Bogota.
See the City’s Historic Center: Situated on the northern coast of Colombia, Cartagena is famous for its vibrant Old Town. The historic walled city, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is home to many fortresses that were built to expel the pirates. Of particular interest are San Pedro Claver Church, the Cathedral, and the Inquisition Museum.
Comfortable Hotel in the Walled City: The Hotel Charleston Santa Teresa has two wings: one that dates back to the 17th century and another that was built at the beginning of the 20th century. According to the hotel’s website, accommodations have “traditional elements of Cartagena,” but rooms also feature modern conveniences such as cable television.
Convent with a View: Be sure visit to 17th-century La Popa Convent. Located on a hill at the city’s highest point, the convent offers spectacular views over Cartagena and the harbor. The convent’s chapel has a lovely image of La Virgen de la Candelaria, the patroness of the city, and there’s also a flower-filled patio.
Luxurious Hotel in the “City of Eternal Spring”: Stay at Hotel Park 10 in the upscale Poblado neighborhood. This boutique hotel has comfortable rooms, an attentive staff, two restaurants (La Terraza, which serves gourmet breakfast, and Restaurant Bar Lussac), and a spa and gym.
Top Spot for Garden Lovers: Explore the Botanical Garden, with its many tropical and desert plants. Marvel at the wooden architectural structure called the Orquideorama, which weaves its way through the garden’s heart and features important collections of orchids.
Great Museum You’ve Probably Never Heard of Before: Visit the Museo de Antioquia, housing an extensive collection of works by Medellín native Fernando Botero.
Want to discover Colombia’s magic? Explore the colonial city of Cartagena and the capital of Bogotá during our December 2014 program “The Jewels of Colombia & Panama.” For additional details, please visit our website or call us at 800-221-1944.