Highlights in Colombia – That you do not want to miss

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Colombia is becoming a very popular travel destination. The ideas of Colombia being full of danger and drugs are starting to fade and tourism is now a new booming source of income for the country. This is not surprising with the knowledge that Colombia is the number one country with the most biodiversity, the biggest amount of different bird species, amazing chocolate and coffee and great weather. Hence why I also decided to pay Colombia a visit for almost a month. Trust me, this wasn’t even enough. But here are some highlights of the Colombia that you definitely want to check out if you’re planning on going there – or just want to dream about going there.

Minca

Located in the north of Colombia, Minca is a peaceful mountain village about an hour by car away from popular tourist city Santa Marta. The nature surrounding Minca is surreal: extremely green and with the most beautiful waterfalls. The area is also known for its coffee farms, some chocolate farms and organic cafés. It is a reason why you’ll find some people from North America and Europe living there, following a sustainable and relaxed lifestyle. I have to say, that is indeed the vibe you get coming into the town. A 2 or 3 day visit is perfect to explore and relax. Here are my recommendations for if you plan on going to Minca:

Eat:

  • The Lazy Cat: Yes yes yes yes yes! Go there J – many veg options!
  • Kakaw Organico Artesanal de Minca: Their chocolate, drinks and baked goods are amazing. Just be aware: some of their stuff contains marihuana, haha.
  • El Arca de Minca: Homemade goodness and a lot of focus on sustainability, like being 100% solar powered. Awesome!
  • Casa Elemento: Sign in for dinner and enjoy amazing food. Vegan/Glutenfree options always available. Even if you don’t stay at the hostel, it is definitely worth a visit – even just for the food. Lunch as well!

Sleep:

  • Casa Elemento: Casa Elemento is located a bit higher up in the mountains after Minca. It is advisable to take a scooter taxi to the Casa, unless you feel like a 2-3 hour hikeJ. Casa Elemento is most famous for her amazing – multiple people – hammocks that hang in the valley. They are great for watching sunsets, having a drink or just chill during the day. And as stated earlier – the food at casa Elemento is amazing!!

Do:

  • Walk to the waterfalls
  • Do a coffee and/or chocolate tour
  • Relax

Salento – Valle de Cocora

Coming into Salento feels like you’re taken back in time with her old square and traditional buildings. The town is vibrant and cheerful with its many restaurants, food stands, shopping lane and music. But maybe what makes Salento the most popular are her Tejo sessions and Valle the Cocora. So first up: Tejo. This is a traditional Colombian game where you through metal stones and try to hit a metal pipe with small targets with gunpowder, placed on a board of clay that is in a 45 degree angle towards you. Once you hit the gunpowder, you obtain points.  Of course, for me the fun was in the targets, which explode once you hit them. It smells like fireworks in the Tejo bar, it is extremely fun and a must-do in Salento.

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Next: Valle the Cocora (Cocora Valley), a beautiful nature area. I think this is one of the best hikes I have done during my trip in Central/South America. Leaving early in the morning from Salento in a jeep, you’ll probably spend until mid – afternoon hiking and enjoying this beautiful valley. The hike brings you via flatlands to forest areas, beautiful lookouts and – the best part – the valley of palm trees reaching up to 60 metres high. It is absolutely amazing. There are two ways to hike the valley but I recommend the hike in the order that I just described, ending with the valley. It is the best reward after a long hike! However, some people perceive this order a bit more challenging than starting with the palm tree area and ending in the flat lands.

Eat:

  • Brunch de Salento: Hands down some of the best food I’ve had in Colombia.
  • The Veggie Place: I think the name says it all.
  • ACAIME: Healthy food and great vibe.
  • Meraki: Fusion restraurant with good veggie options and a very nice and passionate owner.
  • Streetfood: Corn on a cob, fresh fruit and arepas (ask for no cheese & butter, vegans)

Sleep:

  • El Viajero Hostel Salento. It is cheap, has a beautiful view, its own bar and very friendly staff.
  • Hilltop Salento. Same as the above: justDSC04533 great, cheap and social.
  • Ecolodge Kasaguadua. If you want to stay in Valle de Cocora.

Do:

  • Hike in Valle de Cocora (Do the extra walk to the Finca in the mountains and enjoy a local chocolate drink. A great pitstop during your hike.)
  • Play a game of Tejo
  • Watch the sunset at the Mirador
  • Do a Coffee Tour: Pick the beans and taste test yourself.


Guatapé

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Guatapé is a small town near Medellin. It is most famous for ‘the Rock’ – a giant rock where they added a stair which, once you conquered all 740 steps, will bring you the most amazing views and for the fact that a former mansion of Pablo Escobar is located in the area. This is what brings many tourists to the town, mostly which a day trip from Medellin. However, the town itself is definitely worth mentioning. All the houses have amazing colours and it is a delight to walk through the small streets. There are some great cafés and you can buy amazing local chocolate. Also there is a lot of water surrounding the village, which brings the opportunity to do great activities. The town is very vibrant and friendly and I could have easily stayed there for a couple of days.

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Pablo’s mansion

Eat:

  • Namaste Café: a wonderful vegan restaurant
  • Thai terrace
  • Hecho con amor Deli: their vegan options are great!
  • Café la vina: For amazing coffee!

Sleep:

  • Lake View Hostel: has a rooftop terrace!

Do:

  • Visit Pablo Escobars Mansion
  • Climbing the Rock
  • Try local coffee
  • Water activities
  • Walk around (and visit the church!)

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Tatacoa Desert

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When I was traveling Colombia I was lucky enough to meet a guy in the beginning of my trip who told me about the Tatacoa Desert. Trying to find out more about it and on how to get there became quite a challenge afterwards, because almost no travellers had heard of the place. This made me want to go even more! The Tatacoa desert is located in the center of Colombia. Technically though, it is not a desert, it is a tropical dry forest – and it is amazing! You can do the most beautiful walks during sunrise and sunset. During the day, all you want is a place in the shade, because it gets extremely hot! Also at night there are two astronomical observatories to look at the stars. What is especially cool is that you have the ability to clearly see the Milky Way, because the desert is so extremely dark! Options for sleeping and eating are a bit more limited here. You will often have the food of the place where you are staying. These are often camp sites or they will have small bungalows. Other food options would be in Villavieja, which is the town next to the ‘border’ of the desert. Only possible if you have a car or motorbike.

  • Eat & Sleep
    • I stayed in Posada Noches de Saturno – Because it is one of the few with a pool!
  • Do:
    • A trip with a guide through the desert.
    • Go cycling or hiking yourself
    • Visit the ‘famous’ swimmingpool
    • Go to one of the observatories to watch the stars!
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