Backpack and Snorkel - Making Memorable Moments
Backpack & Snorkel - Making Memorable Moments

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Colombia - An Amazingly Beautiful, and Diverse Country

 

General Information about Colombia

 

Most people I talk to about Colombia remember the drug war and ask if it is safe to travel to Colombia.  The drug war ended in 2016 and President Santos was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his monumental efforts to bring peace to Colombia.  Even though the collapse of neighboring Venezuela has had some negative effects, Colombia is fairly safe, especially if you stay in tourist areas.  The Colombian government is trying hard to grow tourism and make travelers feel welcome.  In Cartagena, probably the biggest tourist hotspot in the country, we saw armed police and military at almost every street corner.  This may appear concerning, but for me, it helps me feel safe.

 

A Brief History of Colombia

 

The Colombia area was settled since about 12,500 BC.  Research has shown that it was a corridor for early human civilization throughout the Americas.  As such it has seen cultural influx from many different cultures.

You may have guessed it, the name "Colombia" is derived from Christopher Columbus.

In 1820, the country of Gran Colombia was subdivided into a Cundinamarca Department, a Quito Department and a Venezuela Department. 

The Cundinamarca Department encompassed today’s Colombia, Panama, and portions of today's Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Venezuela, Peru, and Brazil.

Gran Colombia dissolved in 1830 with Ecuador and Venezuela becoming independent countries and the Cundinamarca Department officially becoming the "Republic of New Granada" in 1831.  Through many years of civil wars, the country changed names multiple times.

In 1858, New Granada became the short-lived Granadine Confederation which encompassed today’s Colombia and Panama and parts of northwestern Brazil.

In 1861, it was transformed into the United States of Colombia and in 1886 into the Republic of Colombia.  In 1903 Panama seceded and today’s Republic of Colombia was formed.

Why you should Visit Colombia

 

Colombia is a country with incredibly beautiful scenery and man-made attractions.  After visiting Cartagena, I am of the opinion that Cartagena has the most beautiful historic downtown area that I have ever seen.  There seems to be an almost unlimited supply of colorful and often historic buildings with beautiful architecture, small and inviting plazas and generally nice people.

Colombia’s unexpected jewels are two islands in the Caribbean which are a world away from the mainland.  People on tiny Providencia Island even speak English.  If you love turquoise waters and beautiful beaches, please check out my posts on Providencia Island and San Andres Island.

Do you like nature?  Colombia has the 2nd highest biodiversity in the world after Brazil.  It is one of the world’s 17 “megadiverse countries in biodiversity” and ranks 1st on that list for diverse bird species.

Colombia has the Amazon rainforest, highlands, grasslands, deserts, islands and Atlantic and Pacific Ocean coastlines.

Best Time to Visit Colombia

 

Colombia is close to the equator and that means that the temperature on the mainland is fairly consistent throughout the year.  The climate is mainly determined by the elevation.

The average high temperature of Cartagena is 88F (31C) and the average low 78F (25C).  For San Andres and Providencia Islands the high is 85F (29C) and low 77F (25C), for Bogota the high is 66F (19C) and low 48F (9C) and Medellin 82F (27) and 63F (17C). 

Due to its proximity to the equator, Colombia experiences dry and wet seasons.  The wet season often means sun in the morning and rain in the afternoon, but it may also rain days on end.

In Cartagena, the dry season typically extends from December to April with October being the rainiest month.  Bogota has its rainiest months in April, May, October and November and the driest months in January, February and June through September.  Medellin experiences a lot more rain and January and February are its driest months and April through June and September through November its wettest.

Colombia’s Caribbean islands San Andres and Providencia are a little different.  The driest season is from January to April and the rainy season from June through November where you may experience torrential downpours. 

In general, travel in Colombia during the dry season and the transition months is convenient and you need to expect flooded roads and road closures during the rainy season.

We traveled during the busy Christmas season and we had rain showers mostly in the afternoon and beautiful sunshine throughout our trip.

For Pinterest users, here are some pins that you can use:

Making Memorable Moments in Cartagena, Colombia
Making Memorable Moments in Providencia and San Andres, Colombia
Making Memorable Moments in Bogota, Colombia
Making Memorable Moments in Villa de Leyva, Colombia

Languages of Colombia

 

Spanish the primary language in Colombia, with the exception of Providencia Island where people speak English thanks to the island being a former pirate holdout.

Currency of Colombia

 

The official currency is the Colombian Peso.  Cash is king, but credit cards are often accepted in tourist areas.  ATMs are widely available, except for Providencia Island which has two ATMs and both tend to either be broken or out of cash when you most need them.  It happened to us shortly before Christmas and I waited in line for 45min in the heat outside the bank only to be told that the ATM ran out of cash (I was told the other ATM was broken) and we should come back in the afternoon.  We came back, waited for another 90min and then got our cash.  During the wait, we had some good chats with other local people waiting in line, which made the wait more bearable.

A word of warning: In Cartagena we had people approach us wanting to exchange money for ridiculously good rates.  Don’t fall for it as chances are that you will end up with counterfeit.

Electricity and power plugs of Colombia

 

Colombia uses 110V and the same 2 and 3 pronged power plugs as in the US and Canada.  So, visitors from the US and Canada do not need any adapters.

Drinking Tap Water in Colombia

 

Generally, tap water is safe to drink in Colombia’s major cities like Cartagena, Bogota and Medellin.  To be safe, we asked the staff at our hotels and they said we could, but it would be safer to use bottled water as there may be contaminations due to failing water pipes or repairs.

Entry Requirements for Colombia

 

At the time of our visit, US citizens were able to enter Colombia without a visa for the purpose of vacationing.   The following Wikipedia article gives you a good start to determine if you need a visa:

Where we Went in Colombia

 

We had 11 days for our Christmas vacation.  After a long and busy year, we wanted to Make Memorable Moments by relaxing on white sand beaches, snorkeling in turquoise waters and enjoying historic sites.  So we decided to start our vacation with historic Cartagena and take it slow on Colombia’s beautiful Caribbean islands of Providencia and San Andres.  Reading reviews from many people, we were afraid we would miss out on something if we only visited one of the islands.  And yes, it was a good decision to visit them both.  Last but not least, we had to make the call to go to Bogota and Villa de Leyva or to visit Medellin.  While many prefer Medellin, we decided to go to Bogota as capital cities tend to have interesting and more bombastic architecture and scenic Villa de Leyva stole my heart just by reading about it.

Long story short: I am happy with the choices we made and I hope to get you inspired to visit Colombia and Make some Memorable Moments in this wonderful country.

 

Here is where we went:

Making Memorable Moments in Cartagena, Colombia
Making Memorable Moments in Providencia and San Andres, Colombia
Making Memorable Moments in Bogota, Colombia
Making Memorable Moments in Villa de Leyva, Colombia
Making Memorable Moments in Cartagena, Colombia
Making Memorable Moments in Cartagena, Colombia
Making Memorable Moments in Cartagena, Colombia
Making Memorable Moments in Providencia, Colombia
Making Memorable Moments in Providencia, Colombia
Making Memorable Moments in Villa de Leyva, Colombia
Making Memorable Moments in San Andres, Colombia
Making Memorable Moments in Villa de Leyva, Colombia
Auto Europe Car Rentals
Engagement rings and fine jewelry.
Making Memorable Moments in Cartagena, Colombia
Making Memorable Moments in Providencia, Colombia
Making Memorable Moments in San Andres, Colombia
Making Memorable Moments in Bogota, Colombia
Making Memorable Moments in Cartagena, Colombia
Making Memorable Moments in Villa de Leyva, Colombia

Day

Night

Thu

Flight from the US to Cartagena, arrive at 2:58pm

Hotel Casa del Curato, Cartagena

Fri

Historic Cartagena (Walking tour; La Popa; El Castillo de San Felipe de Borajas)

Hotel Casa del Curato, Cartagena

Sat

Historic Cartagena (enjoy city or Totumo Volcano or Islas del Rosario)

Hotel Casa del Curato, Cartagena

Sun

12:39pm CTG - 2:09pm ADZ; 4:00pm ADZ - 4:35pm PVA, Santa Catalina Island; Island tour

Hotel Posada Enilda, Providencia

Mon

Providencia beach (Playa Manzanillo)

Hotel Posada Enilda, Providencia

Tue

Providencia beach (Crab Cay (Cayo Cangrejo))

Hotel Posada Enilda, Providencia

Wed

8:15am PVA - 8:50am ADZ; San Andres beach (Playa Principal/Spratt Bight)

Hotel Grand Caribe, San Andres

Thu

Playa Principal/Spratt Bight

Hotel Grand Caribe, San Andres

Fri

11:51am ADZ - 2:00pm BOG; explore Bogota

Hotel Bh Bicentenario, Bogota

Sat

Bogota (Museo del Oro; Plaza de Bolivar; Iglesia del Carmen; Museo Iglesia de Santa Clara; Plaza San Vitorino)

Hotel Bh Bicentenario, Bogota

Sun

Bus to Villa de Leyva (Plaza Mayor, Museo Luis Alberto Acuña, Iglesia del Carmen, Museo del Chocolate, Casa Del Congreso De Las Provincias Unidas)

Esquina Colonial, Villa de Leyva

Mon

Villa de Leyva (Casa Terracota, maybe Pozos Azul, Museo Del Fosil, Parque arqueológico de Villa de Leiva Zaquencipa "El Infiernito", Vineyard Ain Karim); Bus to Bogota

Hotel Habitel, Bogota

Tue

Flight home

Home

Day

Thu

Flight from the US to Cartagena, arrive at 2:58pm

Fri

Historic Cartagena (Walking tour; La Popa; El Castillo de San Felipe de Borajas)

Sat

Historic Cartagena (enjoy city or Totumo Volcano or Islas del Rosario)

Sun

12:39pm CTG - 2:09pm ADZ; 4:00pm ADZ - 4:35pm PVA, Santa Catalina Island; Island tour

Mon

Providencia beach (Playa Manzanillo)

Tue

Providencia beach (Crab Cay (Cayo Cangrejo))

Wed

8:15am PVA - 8:50am ADZ; San Andres beach (Playa Principal/Spratt Bight)

Thu

Playa Principal/Spratt Bight

Fri

11:51am ADZ - 2:00pm BOG; explore Bogota

Sat

Bogota (Museo del Oro; Plaza de Bolivar; Iglesia del Carmen; Museo Iglesia de Santa Clara; Plaza San Vitorino)

Sun

Bus to Villa de Leyva (Plaza Mayor, Museo Luis Alberto Acuña, Iglesia del Carmen, Museo del Chocolate, Casa Del Congreso De Las Provincias Unidas)

Mon

Villa de Leyva (Casa Terracota, maybe Pozos Azul, Museo Del Fosil, Parque arqueológico de Villa de Leiva Zaquencipa "El Infiernito", Vineyard Ain Karim); Bus to Bogota

Tue

Flight home