Local Colombia Experts
The trip.me way of travel
Colombia is one of the most diverse countries in the world. In a tour of the country, you can visit a wealth of golden sand beaches, snow-capped peaks, bustling metropolises, Amazon rainforests, a vast array of wildlife and incredible desert landscapes. Have a brief conversation with a local and you'll soon be inundated with several recommendations that are "essential" to visit on any tour, which not only demonstrates how much is on offer but also the unique passion that Colombians have for their country.
Indeed, for all that glitters in Colombia and demands your attention, it's the warmth and hospitality of the locals that truly makes Colombia tours so rewarding. The palpable sense of optimism that inhabits the locals is contagious - so much so that you'll be salsa'ing your way back home after your tour and telling all your friends to cancel their future travel plans: Colombia is definitively where it's at.
Though there are still areas of Colombia that aren't recommended for tours, much of the country is now opening up for exploration, meaning the well-worn tourist routes of old are becoming increasingly intricate.
Almost all Colombia tours will start in the country's capital city, Bogotá. Bogotá is home to almost 10 million people. It's a chaotic but charming place that sizzles with salsa and electronic music at night, while at day in arty areas such as Chapinero and La Macarena bohemians and intellectuals will be found crowding trendy cafes and sipping a famous Colombian coffee.
Other major cities for tourism in Colombia include Medellin and Cartagena. Medellin, notorious for so long for the wrong reasons, is perhaps the best summation of Colombia's incredible transformation. Where a tour of Colombia would once undoubtedly skip past this city, progressive policies have created more integration between the city's inhabitants and forged a sense of pride among the locals that, in turn, has led to a burgeoning arts scene that is well worth your time to explore.
Cartagena, on the other hand, has long since been regarded as one of South America's most beautiful cities and tours here have been popular for decades. Traveling to Cartagena is like stepping back in time (aside from the impressive, modern cuisine on offer). Spanish colonial buildings abound, while the relaxed nature of the locals (and their proclivity for rum, salsa and good times) is as infectious as it is charming.
Nearby to Cartagena is Santa Marta, a coastal town that, twinned with neighboring fishing village Taganga, will delight travelers seeking a taste of Colombia's legendary nightlife. Further down the picturesque Caribbean coastline is Tayrona National Park - a haven of beaches, jungles and mountain views.
Elsewhere in Colombia you can take tours of the Coffee Region, which is characterized by coffee farms, undulating hills and lush greenery. The breathtaking Cocora Valley is a favorite among locals and makes for a great day tour, while a stay in Salento means the best of the local area is available to you (including a visit to Cafe Jesus Martin, for some hand-picked coffee). Colombia is also the only country in South America that has coasts on both the Caribbean and Pacific. While the Pacific is certainly less explored, it's by no means lacking in attractions. Wildlife enthusiasts gather every year in Nuqui in July to see the humpback whales arrive, while further up the coast in El Chocó you can explore Colombia's enchanting Afro-Colombian culture.
There are plenty more off-the-beaten track destinations scattered around Colombia, too. While Colombia tours including these highlights would serve as an incredible introduction to the country's charms, the traveler would no doubt seek to return to the 'Land of El Dorado' to explore the other-worldly landscapes of La Guajira (which borders Venezuela), the sleepy magic of Mompox, the hip-swinging madness of Cali, as well as natural wonders such as El Cocuy, Caño Cristales and Tatacoa Desert.
Owing to the lack of international influence in many areas of Colombia over the years, the culture of the country remains strongly intact (and fiercely guarded) throughout the various departments of the country.
Nobody on a Colombia tour could fail to notice the diversity of Colombian culture. The differences around the country at times feel so pronounced you could be forgiven for thinking you've changed countries, rather than merely crossed into a different city.
Colombia's Caribbean, for example, is characterized by its laid-back atmosphere, where locals listen to vallenato and cumbia (original styles of Colombian music) loudly on expensive speakers attached to their bicycles. This is in stark contrast to Bogota, where salsa, electronic, rock and reggaeton are far more frequently heard (although, being the capital, there is something for everyone). Locals here are far busier and are less likely to stop in the street for a quick chat.
Overall, however, Colombian culture is brought together by a passion for life and a love for music and dance. Very few Colombians stay still when the music of Carlos Vives or Joe Arroyo start playing, and these same Colombians are more than likely to extend their hand to you to welcome you to the dancefloor.
Food in Colombia typically consists of fairly simple ingredients, with spices used sparsely. Typical Colombian dishes include the monstrous Bandeja Paisa (meat, egg, avocado, rice, sausage and more), arepas (kind of a corn-based dough), lechona (slow-cooked pork with rice), ajiaco (chicken and potato broth), sancocho (another broth), mondongo (trite soup) and arroz con pollo (chicken and rice). One thing you shouldn't miss out on is the vast array of fruits - you'll find out about many you never even knew existed. On tours around the diverse regions of the country you'll find that the gastronomical makeup changes drastically - so stay hungry!
Colombia is a year-round destination, open to tourists whenever they choose to visit. While there are rain seasons along the Caribbean and Pacific coasts, elsewhere these remain unpredictable and, in any case, bearable. December to March tends to be drier in the center of the country while the "wet" season along the Caribbean Coast is said to be in October and November. Take this information with a pinch of salt, however, as the weather is generally very consistent.
Laura was very responsive during our initial back and forth as we worked out the details of our trip. We wanted to make some adjustments. She always responded with a day.
The trip was excellent. We had a very satisfying experience. We received ample pre-trip documentation about hotels, airline flights, daily itinerary and what to expect in Colombia. There were no snags at all with any of this. Very rarely is a trip perfect. In retrospect, there were a few minor things we might have changed. But nothing that affected the overall experience. We would definitely recommend the trip.
If you want to visit Colombia contact Laura...you will never forget it.
The trip was very good. The organization and the cooperation of Camila was perfect. Everything was fine.
However, there are some points that I want to mention and where Camila had absolutely no influence on, as for example the postponing of the hour of departure for the flight to Neiva and the cancellation of the direct flight from Medellin to Cartagena so we had to fly via Bogota and arrived half a day later in Cartagena. But I think those are South-American situations.
Then there was the journey from Salento to Medellin organized by Living Trips. After a trip of 11 hours we arrived at our hotel in Medellin. Over a distance of 250 km with 2 normal stops (sanitary and lunch) but there were still several other stops, one of which was very long, for road building. There was also very busy traffic. Especially large trucks.
We understand these situations, but why couldn't there be a vehicle where 3 adults with 3 large suitcases and hand luggage could sit comfortably. We made this trip with a Renault Duster. There were even 2 hand luggage between us in the back seat. All other trips we had a luxury van with a place for 6 to 7 passengers.
Then there was Nestor our guide in Salento. He was very friendly, but his English could be much better. I think Living Trips should be aware of this.
Our other guides, such as Fabio in Bogota, Juliana in Neiva, San Agustin and Popayan, Ligia in Medellin and Caesar in Cartagena were all very good guides.
What the hotels concerned there was not one that really disappointed us. Maybe was the choice of our first hotel Casa Guadalupe in Bogota not what we had expected, as well as hotel La Herreria Colonial in Popayan. All other
hotels were quite good. Of course you can’t compare hotels like GHL Neiva, Lomas 10 in Medellin and Casa Pizarro Boutique Hotel in Cartagena with hostels as Huaka-Yo in San Agustin or The Dreamer Hostel in Palomino. But without prejudice to these two hostels. They were both very well located and the food was very good.
The best hotel on our trip, in terms of building, Interior, location, room, bathroom with hot water in the shower and the sink was still without a doubt Terrazas de Salento.
At the latest we also want to underline that any contact in the hotels, the restaurants, as with the guides, the drivers, the people of Trip.me or any other person in all of your beautiful country incredibly friendly was!
Laura did a fantastic job. Our trip to Colombia worked out perfectly. All services on time + punctual. GREAT! WELL DONE!