Time in Colombia
Three and half years ago, Alan and I spent four months backpacking through India, using a Lonely Planet book to guide us for the trip, and we also used a Lonely Planet guide for our tour through Central America. Lonely Planet is an absolute godsend for travelers and gives a lot of great advice on where to eat, must-see places, and recommendations on where to stay. It’s been a while since we picked up our beloved guidebook, though, and it’s safe to say things change pretty quickly, even in places where the pace of life is a lot slower than back home.
Unfortunately, a bad experience with bed bugs has put us off taking up recommendations for accommodation from our paper-back companion from now on – just goes to show that you can’t believe everything you read (not to mention that traveling isn’t half as glamourous as it may seem a lot of the time!). Luckily, the internet has been our savior – as it often is – and we are now using Airbnb to find places to stay on our trip. As well as providing some incredible places to stay, Airbnb helps us to get a local’s perspective on the things we should do, see and eat which helps us to “get off the beaten track” a lot more and do less tourist-centric things, which is great.
This past October, my sister had her beautiful wedding in Puerto Rico (where I was born, incidentally) and afterwards we headed off to Bogota, the sprawling, beating-heart capital city of Colombia. This is where our backpacking journey really began, since we figured we’d start at the top end of South America and work our way around from there.
Thanks to Airbnb, we stayed in five different places during our month-and-a-bit spent in that amazing city. Sometimes we moved around because places were already booked for certain dates and other times we felt like just immersing ourselves in a different part of Bogota. The last two places were just incredible, one in Bogota itself and one around 15 minutes outside the city in the town of La Calera.
La Calera is beautiful, surrounded by mountains, with incredible, sweeping vistas and lots of sights to see. We had a lovely host that had three lovely dogs while we stayed in La Calera. It’s a favorite day trip among Bogota locals on the weekends, with a ton of farms and restaurants nearby to relax at. While in La Calera & Bogota, we visited El Museo do Oro, or the Museum of Gold, a fascinating museum full of gold artefacts from Pre-Hispanic Colombian culture.
We went to Montserrate Mountain, which has great views of downtown and south Bogota, and an interesting history – it was used as part of religious celebrations in the 1600s and has since become a sacred pilgrimage sight, with pilgrims coming from all over to hike the mountain. Less traditional, but still amazing, was seeing The Mockingjay Part 2 in 4D – it really was an awesome experience!
We also sampled arepa, a local delicacy that’s a bit like a corn cake. They come grilled, backed, fried, boiled, steamed or stuffed and are very common in Colombian, Venezuelan and Panamanian cooking. The arepas didn’t quite knock empanadas off the top of my Favorite Food List (I definitely enjoyed a lot of those while in Colombia, too) but they were pretty good and I always love to try local cuisine.
La Calera was easily my favorite part of our Colombia trip. It was refreshing to be outside of the buzz and rush of big-city life for a while after living in Chicago for eight years. I think the quiet and calm of being on the outskirts of town makes visiting the city that much better, because you get to experience the hustle and bustle from the outside, without getting so swept up in it.
“Go confidently in the direction of your dreams! Live the life you’ve imagined.”
-Henry David Thoreau