The Travel Cartel Go to Colombia

Old Jan 16th, 2016, 10:36 AM
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The Travel Cartel Go to Colombia

As gottravel and I do each winter we escape from DC's frigid weather. For 2016 we decided upon Colombia and Ecuador. A couple Tr's on Fodor's provided some good ideas for our Colombian journey. Thanks to glover, mlgb, SusaninToronto and most recently Amy for taking the time to write up your trips.

On a chilly Tuesday we boarded an Avianca flight direct from IAD to Bogota. After ~5 hours and the bumpiest landing in our history our adventure began in springlIke weather.

Our itinerary in Colombia is as follows:
Bogota
Salento
Medellin
Cartagena
Barichara
Villa de Leyva
Bogota for flt to Quito.

Come along as we try to write up this trip as we go. (We're already behind a few days!)

In Bogota we paid 40.000 pesos for a driver to pick us up from the airport and take us about 45 minutes away to our Hotel Casa Deco in Candelaria, the old colonial part of town. We could have easily taken a taxi, but figured for a few pesos more a driver would be easier.
As we exited International arrivals there are several ATMs and Cambio booths. We, of course, got pesos from the ATM for an excellent exchange rate as the dollar is currently strong in Colombia.

Our first impression of Bogota was of jaw dropping street art everywhere you look. Our driver was chatty in Spanish and gave us a nice overview of Bogota. We approached Candelaria which is colorful but gritty neighborhood. We had been told by our driver that it's safe in the day and parts of it in the night were fine for walking as there are lots of police. We had chosen this neighborhood because of the proximity to the museums we planned on visiting.

Casa Deco was pleasant with helpful staff and good breakfasts. Top floor rooms have private balconies which I would recommend. Ask to be away from the street as it's very noisy.

Our first day started with the Gold Museum, a 10 minute walk from Casa Deco. Again we were struck by the omnipresent, and frequently high quality street art. The Gold Museum is as much of an anthropological museum as a gold museum. We loved it and is a definite do not miss.

We left noontime from the museum and wandered the streets snacking on an arepa and and empanadas, both quite good. We poked our heads into a couple elaborate churches as we walked. We continued onto the Botero Museum which is free as dictated by Botero. In addition to being an artist with a distinctive and idiosyncratic style, he was an avid collector of works by modernists artists including Picasso, Max Ernst, & Dali among many others.

That evening we were meeting up with welltravledbrit and her spouse. Amazingly we have now met up with them on 4 different continents. We had a fun evening catching up and hearing about their travels in Colombia at Restaurant Abasto in Chapinero. We recommend this restaurant for good food--Particularly outstanding was a trout salad. We walked back with wtb to their hotel, chatted some more and waited for our taxi which had been called by their hotel. Upon returning to Casa Deco we were charged 2.5 times more than the taxi ride over. A lesson we know, but ignored,always ask the fare.

After a Busy day and an enjoyable evening we ended our first full day in Bogota.

Next up is more Bogota and onto Salento.
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Old Jan 16th, 2016, 12:45 PM
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Following along with interest. I'm thinking about a long weekend getaway somewhere in Colombia for later in the year.
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Old Jan 16th, 2016, 01:23 PM
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Well, I am already intruiged and charmed. Yestravel and Gotravel you are quite a team and your adventures and reports are amazing. You hsve certainly whet my appetite for Columbia. And then you're off to Equador - one of my all time favorite countries. Have a wonderful trip. Our Greetings from Agentina....can you stop by for some cafe ?
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Old Jan 16th, 2016, 01:52 PM
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So glad you're doing an ongoing trip report and looking forward to hearing all about the trip. You may even spur/shame me to start my Colombia trip report!

It was lovely to see you both in Colombia, I can't believe we keep turning up at the in same places with no preplanning. I hope you love the rest of your trip and I'm looking forward to following along!
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Old Jan 16th, 2016, 01:53 PM
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Interesting to read this.
I was in Colombia for 2+ weeks a couple of months ago. Afraid I didnt get around to doing a TR. Did you do the Bogota Free Graffiti tour? Fantastic trip around the street art. And what a wonderful collection of museums... too many to see in one go.
Looking forward to reading more.
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Old Jan 16th, 2016, 04:50 PM
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Trip planner-Good airfares from the US and a budget travel destination these days.
Marnie- thanks! sure, lets meet halfway between the 2.
WTB- your info would be great esp for the places so few go.
Gertie - yes, we did the street art tour and yes, great museums.
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Old Jan 16th, 2016, 05:07 PM
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I have a longer trip on my "want", so looking forward to more installments.

Very much enjoyed my first brief visit (just Bogota and Villa de Leyva).

In Villa de Leyva my favorite things were the coffee, gelato and pastry shops (Milojas, a version of a Napoleon, made with dulce de leche). Favorite site was the Casa de Barro, which is walkable from town if you feel like it.

What did you wind up with for maps/guidebooks, if any?
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Old Jan 16th, 2016, 05:24 PM
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mlgb - We didn't bring any maps as we're doing a limited amount of driving. We largely planned our trip based on trp reports, and the Lonely Planet and National Geographic guidebooks. We also had a couple good contacts on Trip Advisor. Thanks for the tips on VdL GotT
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Old Jan 16th, 2016, 06:17 PM
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A "LIVE" report is ALWAYS exciting.

Keep it coming, please!

Colombia just may be our next trip, folks.

Safe travels and I am NOW sure you will not forget to ask the price to your destination.
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Old Jan 16th, 2016, 06:26 PM
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Day 2 in Bogota
We started our day 2 itn with the much praised Bogota Graffiti Tour http://bogotagraffiti.com meeting our guide, Jeff, in the Parque de Los Periodistas (despite its name, it does not refer to dentists, but rather journalists.). The Parque was about 3 blocks from Casa Deco and started ~10:00. We were surprised at the large number of people, over 40, and largely millennials of various nationalities. The tour mostly took place in Candelaria. The tour is free, but they ask for a donation of your choosing. Jeff was topnotch and had great insights into the artists, their work and the Colombian political environment. What else would you expect from someone completing graduate work on the history and culture of chicha? Jeff guided us through the streets for the better part of three hours. Despite the large number in the tour, Jeff kept us moving along and engaged.

Afterwards we returned to the Casa Deco stopping briefly for some store front empanadas. Next on our itn was a visit to MAMBO which we both felt wasn't worth the time or price of the taxi ride. After this underwhelming experience we took uber to Casa Deco. Gottravel went to the Museo Banco de la Republica which shares a building with the Botero Museum. This was a large art collection covering all of Colombian history. GT only visited the modern collection from 1910 on and thought it superb and not to be missed. Upon return to Casa Deco he remarked it was sort of like washing his mouth out after the bad taste of the MAMBO collection. GT also visited the Biblioteca Luis Angel Arango, which presented temporary exhibitions and worth checking out if you have time.

That evening, after a hair raising cab drive to Chapinero neighborhood, we had dinner at Restaurante Rafael, recommended by WTB. The food was superb and could hold its own against any high end restaurant in any major city at a fraction of the cost. The cuisine was Peruvian fusion heavy on seafood with Asian influences.

Our night ended as it began with another hair raising ride. This time the drive itself lacked the manic high speed of our first driver to the restaurant. In fact our uber driver was the epitome of "automotive civility" per GT. As we approached the Candelaria neighborhood and our hotel, we were greeted by a road block and a blaze of flashing lights. There were cops all over the area and we saw some young men spread eagle against a fence. The driver was forced to take a detour. However, the next street was also blocked as was the next, and the next and the next. Now we were seeing masses of police in riot gear. We asked the driver if we should walk the couple blocks to our hotel. The driver, to put it mildly, was opposed to the idea, perhaps fearing our respective estates would not pay our fare. Eventually the driver maneuvered his way around the road blocks to the Casa Deco. The day had not been without its excitements.

Our research for this trip had led us to believe that Bogota would offer little more than good museums and street art and perhaps good food. This proved to be the case-- all 3 were great. We found that the lack of public rail transport and the immense distances made it difficult if not impossible to get around easily as in other SA capitals we have visited.

The next morning, we left for the airport and our noon flight to Armenia...




Sent from my iPad
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Old Jan 16th, 2016, 08:18 PM
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An interesting end to your stay in Bogota no less. Did I understand you correctly that there is not much to the city other than the museums, the graffiti art, and the food? I guess I would have expected more. How walkable is Bogota, at least in the daytime?
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Old Jan 16th, 2016, 09:27 PM
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Interested to follow along, as Colombia is on my maybe list. (Especially as there's a convenient JetBlue flight.) Do I gather that getting around Bogota requires taxis?

I was struck by how good the street art was in BsAs and Valparaiso - must be a SA thing.
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Old Jan 17th, 2016, 04:34 AM
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Tp-yes, definitely an exciting end esp given Colombia's history. Sorry, I didn't mean to imply that "there is not much to the city..,". For us that is what we were interested in. Any guidebook can tell you all there is or read other TRs. You can walk within neighborhoods I would imagine. Candelaria was very walkable--lots of hills. Cases Cedvo gave us a map and clearly showed us where we could walk and where not to within the areas of Candelaria. I can't speak to other parts of the city except Chspinero which seemed fine to walk. Reminded me a touch of LA.

Thursday, by far the best street art and the most we have ever seen including BA and Valparaiso, which we thought had great street art.
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Old Jan 17th, 2016, 05:13 AM
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Appreciate the feedback, yestravel. Looking forward for more...
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Old Jan 17th, 2016, 05:24 AM
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For us we like to walk and it appeared that there were lots of fast roads (not sure they were highways) and often no curbs so it seemed walking might be problematic. In addition were conscious of safety issues locals mentioned. But if Bogota appeals to you, uber is great to use and taxis are cheap.
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Old Jan 17th, 2016, 06:19 AM
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A great start to your TR yestravel. I will be following avidly as I am in the midst of planning our next South America trip which will include two months in Colombia - the more detail the better please!!!
We usually like to walk everywhere we can but it sounds as through I will have to get to grips with uber for Bogota..
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Old Jan 17th, 2016, 08:22 AM
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Have been looking forward to your report, yes! Sounds like things are off to a great start. Good idea to put V de L at the end of your Colombia time when locals have returned to work. I was too crowded when we were there earlier in January. Kept imagine how much prettier it would have been without Bing clogged with cars.

Yeah, it's not so easy to get around Bog. You'll appreciate the difference in Medellin.
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Old Jan 17th, 2016, 12:53 PM
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Crellston, hope our tr is helpful to you. If not ask away. WTB covered some different territory so hopefully she' ll start a TR.

Glover, today we got screwed up with the hike to the tall palms. Followed hostel directions...Bad decision. Incidentally new owners at hostal in Salento
Hope you're enjoyingGuat.
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Old Jan 17th, 2016, 01:44 PM
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And yes, glover, we timed our whereabouts thanks to you.
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Old Jan 17th, 2016, 02:49 PM
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This is fun to read! We were in Colombia a few years ago, and also stayed at the Hotel Casa Deco. I quite enjoyed Bogota - lots of art and good food.
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