Trip to Colombia



Coffee Region


Mud_Volcano El Totumo

This was our second trip to Colombia; we went there last year and we can surely say that the country is moving in the right direction.
This year the soldiers, we saw posted every few yards along the highway with machine guns in 2014, were gone, and we only saw the occasional policeman patrolling, mostly on foot, even in the poorest regions of Medellin, where back in the day, Pablo Escobar ruled the town. Escobar did a lot for the poor, building soccer fields and providing “jobs,” and he is still considered a "Saint" there to this day. The government however, has now taken over Escobar’s enrichment approach, funding an aerial tram and an escalator service (like Hong Kong) that provide transportation from the barrios on the outskirts to jobs in the city, and building more libraries and sporting facilities for residents.
Despite popular belief, the kidnappings appear to be a relic of the past. The FARC (communist faction) is in negotiations to play an active role in the government, and coincidentally, narco-terrorism and other crime are down in general, despite the rise in unemployment caused by the sharp decline in oil prices. A far cry from the 80’s when cocaine was king, oil is now the #1 Colombian export.

This high altitude, mountainous, metropolitan hub features gourmet cuisine, all types of shopping, and an abundance of parks and universities. Biking enthusiasts will be happy to know that the major roads are closed to traffic every Sunday and open to pedestrians, bikes etc. Traffic, on the other hand, is dense and resident drivers are restricted and cannot drive on certain days of the week to cut down on the flow.
Our favorite museums were the Botero museum, which is FREE and a must visit, housing a portion of Botero’s private collection as well as his own signature works and the Gold Museum, full of gold native Colombian sculptures and other treasures.
Great restaurants abound with first class service and food at 3rd world prices. Do not miss them! You can find plenty of recommendations on Trip Advisor. Our favorite was Tabula where we split ONE osso buco between 4 of us and still took some home!
Although we didn’t go there this trip, the Paloquemao farmers market is another must see. Spanning the space of about 4 football fields, this market has everything from fruits, vegetables, fish, meat, poultry, flowers and more.

Coffee region (Pereira/Salento/Manizales)
A short flight from Bogota and you are in Pereira, the gateway to coffee region and the Cocura Valley. Home to some of the finest coffee in the world, this lush region has a moderate temperature and fertile soil that make the surroundings as green and picturesque as the Emerald City in Oz.
The volcanos on the outskirts provide the ash to replenish minerals in the soil and provide an interesting sightline on the horizon. Cool mornings and sunny afternoons make for the perfect touring conditions, and the coffee – it speaks for itself; however, the best beans are exported. For us, the most phenomenal coffee we have ever tasted came from my cousin’s farm (about an hour outside of Bogota), coffee so sweet you can drink it black without hesitation. Salento is a traditional town with artisans and crafts. The surrounding area is home to the Colombian national tree, the wax palm, which has been depleted for the wax it provides, but is being purposely repopulated through conservationists. Fresh farmed and grilled trout and fried plantains are a delicious treat.

A large city with Spring like temperature all year round. Purportedly the plastic surgery capital of the country, this is a relatively large city on the move.
Urban planning has brought “green buildings” and innovative public transportation to this city (escalators and gondolas link the outskirts) and the modern metro covers the downtown.
Birthplace of Botero, the Botero sculpture park and museum are full of his works and works from his personal collection.

Cartagena de Indias
Cartagena de Indias is a far cry from what it was 35 years ago. As a frequent port of call for Caribbean cruise ships and a convention center, this city is bustling and fairly expensive. Numerous restaurants and shops inhabit the walled city, and outside, high-rise hotels and condominiums line the streets. The climate is hot and humid. Tourism is the number one economy here.

All in all, tourism has become one of Colombia's top priorities making it a great place to visit. When we got home to USA, there are were no drugs sniffing dogs at customs. This is not your Colombia from the 80's.