21 March 2018

A photographer's dream: the colourful buildings of Cartagena
DialAFlight’s Anastasia Miari ‘s inside guide to the romance, the magic and old-world charm that inspired the Nobel Prize winning novels of Gabriel García Márquez...
Magical realism
in Colombia
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olombia is a place that is perhaps best experienced to be believed. In the last twenty years, the country has metamorphosed into a bucket-list destination. Its equatorial location makes for a varied landscape and climate – from dense Amazon jungle, sleepy colonial towns and metropolitan hubs that loom way beyond the clouds to lush coffee valleys of the wildest green hues and tropical Caribbean sands.

Because of its complex history, Colombia has become a multi-ethnic melting pot. Before the Spanish arrived in 1499, the indigenous Muisca, Quimbaya and Tairona were the rulers of their own land. Since then, the Europeans descended in their hordes, bringing with them Africans during the slave trade years and Middle Eastern migrants too. This melding of landscapes, ethnicities and cultures has made Colombia a traveller’s dream.
A beach at jungle-lined Tayrona National Park
Enjoy a walking tour of Medellin
From the laid-back living Costeños on the coast to the efficient and quickwitted Paisanos in the central valley regions, the Colombians are a varied bunch with one common quality: their philanthropy. Experiencing a goldenage of tourism, the Colombians are inquisitive and grateful for the burgeoning industry. I was affectionately welcomed as a ‘Gringa’. When asking for directions of any Colombian local, I was walked to m destination, and asked questions in a whirl of indecipherable Spanish.

A frenetic energy abounds from the Colombians. Vitality flows from the streets and into the jungles through the people. It’s this atmosphere and optimism in abundance that stays with you when you leave. It’s only then that you realise how different Colombia truly is.
Visit this jungle lined paradise for a taste of Costeño living. Perfectly positioned on the Caribbean coast near Santa Marta, Tayrona de los Indias was once home to the indigenous Tairona people of northern Colombia. Accessible by boat, on foot through
the jungle, or on horse-back, this destination is a secluded oasis in one of the hottest parts of the country.
Visit the panaderia near the lagoon at Arrecifes beach for a pain au chocolat like no other you have ever tasted. Freshly baked loaves of chocolate bread are made fresh in the mornings, keeping you full for the entire day.
Hot tip
Ecohabs is a collection of beautiful round huts perched on a hillside overlooking a long and wild beach where, in May, turtles come to lay their eggs.
Where to stay
Colonial Cartagena de Indias sits on the northern coast of Colombia. As well as being the perfect spot to access the white-sand beaches of the exotic Rosario Islands, Cartagena is a city of stunning architectural proportions. The old town of pastel-coloured Spanish colonial buildings is a dream for anyone with a camera and was the home and inspiration for the literature of Gabriel García Márquez.
Hang out at Plaza de Trinidad in the evenings and immerse yourself in the lively local vibe. Street artists and performers come here to entertain the crowds of locals sipping on beer and sampling street food.
Hot tip
We highly recommend Boutique Ananda but if you crave the peace of mind of staying in a ‘big brand’ 5 star hotel head for the elegant Sofitel Santa Clara.
Where to stay
Sleepy Salento can be located in the coffee region of Colombia and is best known for its proximity to Valle de Cocora, or ‘The Valley of Palm trees’. This tiny Colombian town is surrounded by lush green vegetation – much of it tropical fruit and coffee plants – making it the perfect place for a serene get away in the heart of nature. Take a coffee tour and discover the process behind Colombia’s best blends and don’t miss the breath-taking Valle de Cocora.
Hike your way to Valle de Cocora and take a trip to the hummingbird sanctuary en route for a brief respite. Here you can sample the Colombian delicacy of a steamingmug of hot chocolate, served up with cheese. Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it...
Hot tip
The Sazagua is a stylish boutique hotel and a clear step above most of the hacienda-style hotels in the area, with its bold décor, striking art and rustic furniture. An outdoor terrace, manicured gardens and a swimming pool give it an air of quality, while it also boasts a top-class restaurant.
Where to stay
Getting there
Medellin is the place that best displays the complete regeneration of Colombia. Squares once rife with crime have been transformed by art installations and musicians and artists fill up the local parks.
Do not miss the Real City free walking tour. This is by far the best way to experience the real Medellin, taking you to the down-town spots that most would want you to avoid. The tour aims to reveal the truth of the city that many locals would prefer wasn’t told.
Hot tip
Art Hotel is a boutique property in the centre of Medellin. As the name suggests, the hotel is decorated with beautiful pieces of modern art and offers stylish accommodation fully equipped with modern amenities.
Where to stay
Visit the Salt Cathedral of Zipaquirá
Sample the finest local brew in the Coffee Triangle
Bogota is the most popular entry point into Colombia and is serviced by a number of international carriers from the UK and Europe. We recommend stopping off a few nights here and taking a tour to the stunning Salt Cathedral of Zipaquira... A truly unique experience!

Original article published in May 2015. All info and prices correct at time of publication.
"A frenetic energy abounds from the Colombians. Vitality flows from the streets and into the jungles through the people. It’s this atmosphere and optimism in abundance that stays with you when you leave."
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