Colombia

Bogotarian memories and reasons to visit Bogotá

Exactly a year ago, I was sitting Bogotá's international airport, El Dorado, and waiting to board my onwards flight. Behind me was a month of traveling around Colombia. A country which had surprised me by its beautiful landscapes and diverse cities. It is with reason that Colombia is an upcoming travel destination!

 

Colombia has something for every taste; for those who love extreme sport, for those who adore small colonial villages (including some of the most colorful ones I have ever seen), for those who want to be cultural, listen to music and look at art, and for those who search for a pulsing cosmopolitan city vibes. Bogotá has exactly these cosmopolitan vibes, and a lot more to offer!  Therefore, I have put together a list for you of reasons to visit Bogota, and for myself as a little rip up of my memories about the Colombian capital.

In doubt whether to visit Bogotá or leave it out of your Colombia itinerary? Check out these reasons to visit Colombia's capital!
The contrasts

Bogotá is filled with contrasts. The old colonial houses of historical center, La Candelaria, against the modern skyscrapers. The fancy dressed business men and women against the hippies playing music and hanging around Plaza del Chorro de Quevedo. Bogotá has it all. Part of visiting the city, is to just take it all in. All the contrasts mixed together in one place. One city.

Reasons to visit Bogotá, Colombia
Reasons to visit Bogotá, Colombia
Reasons to visit Bogota, Colombia
The mountains

One of the first thing that caught my attention when I arrived to Bogotá was the green enormous mountains surround the city. Towering up with their mysterious white mist covering the tops. Almost everywhere you go, the mountains will make the background scenery in Bogotá.

Reasons to visit Bogota (Colombia)

Maybe it is because I come from a country which is as flat as anything can possibly be but this mountain scenery fascinated me completely. I never thought of myself as a mountain type of person. I usually prefer the ocean. But Bogotá had me with its mysterious mountains against the colonial houses and skyscrapers.

Reasons to visit Bogota

Hit to Monserrate to get a closer look at the mountains and for an amazing view over the city. The view point with the church, el Santuario del Señor Caído de Monserrate, is placed 3.152 above sea level which allows for amazing photos and a real feeling on how massive the Colombian capital is with its 8 million inhabitants.

The entrance to Monserrate is located at Carrera 3 Este. From there you can choose either reach the top by a cable car, a train or by foot. Monserrate is open for entrance everyday (except holidays and Sunday) from 7 am until midnight.

Reasons to visit Bogota
Museums, street art and architecture

If you like me like interesting art and fascinating architecture, Bogotá should be on your bucket list like... Right now! The city center is filled with all kind of museums and the streets of both La Candelaria and other neighborhoods are like small museum in themselves.

Reasons to visit Bogota (Colombia)

Bogotá is the home of some of the most amazing street art that I have ever seen. Walking around and suddenly discovering huge murals with high quality street art… I have said it before; Bogotá’s street art stole my heart of that!

Reasons to visit Bogota

However, there are also plenty of conventional museums where you can hide if the unreliable Bogotarian weather decides to give you rain while enjoying masterpieces or local history. Due to my huge fascination for the Colombian artist, Fernando Botero, my favorite museum was the Botero museum located in Calle 11, N° 4-41, Bogotá.

Nevertheless, just next to the Botero museum is the super popular Gold museum which should be worth a visit – I unfortunately didn’t do it. And around the corner from these two museums you have the city museum of Bogotá – just to mention a few!

Reasons to visit Bogota

The architecture in Bogotá is in itself worth the visit. Even though, the city doesn’t have as vibrant an architectural screen as my beloved Buenos Aires, you can still find impressive catholic constructions as the church at Monserrate or this small colonial patio in the photo below.

Reasons to visit Bogota
Gastronomy

What surprised me the most while visiting Bogotá was the quality and diversity of the food. Maybe it surprised me because I didn’t know what to expect… but food in Bogotá was G-O-O-D.

 

Reasons to visit Bogota

Apart from the more traditional food (which includes a lot of soup), then there are restaurants that uses the delicious regional foods in a new innovative way. A place that I grow to like a lot is El Gato Gris (the grey cat) located just by Plaza del Chorro de Quevedo in the sidewalk Carrera 1A in La Candelaria. They have amazing salads and juices, and a lovely decor where the restaurant is divided into lots of smaller rooms – and then, of course, a cat!

Reasons to visit Bogota

One of my first days in Bogotá, I accidently dropped into a small corner restaurant. The place wasn’t opened yet by the time I went but the staff let me sit at the bar to escape the rain while they prepared the last tables. Instead of getting a table, I ended up sitting in the bar chatting with the owner who recommended all his favorites from the menu.

It is a gorgeous; a modern decor in an old colonial house – exactly the way I love Bogotá’s contrasts. If you want to check it out yourself, head to Capital Cocina y Café on Calle 10 on the corner of Carrera 3. For more info and picture of some of their great food, check out their Facebook

La Candelaria's colorful streets

Now I have mentioned the neighborhood of La Candelaria a couple of times; the historical center with colonial houses and street art. La Candelaria is without doubt the touristic area of Bogotá, and doesn’t reflect the whole story of life in the Colombian capital.

However, what I liked about the area was that it didn’t feel that touristic after all. Many companies and ministries have their offices places in the area, and everyday life still goes on of the Colombian residents

Reasons to visit Bogota

And then, let’s face it! It is just overly charming to scroll cobblestone streets surrounded by colorful houses. When in Bogotá, it is definitely a must to just walk around La Candelaria and its colored houses.

Reasons to visit Bogota
Reasons to visit Bogota

It is often discussed in different Latin America travel groups whether Bogotá is worth a visit. Many times, I have heard strong arguments against the Colombian capital. However, my own experience of 1,5 week in the city was positive, and I think there are plenty of reasons for visiting Bogotá.

What do you think? Is Bogotá a city that you would like to visit? Or did you already visit Bogotá? What was your experience of the city? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below!

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In doubt whether to visit Bogotá or leave it out of your Colombia itinerary? Check out these reasons to visit Colombia's capital!
In doubt whether to visit Bogotá or leave it out of your Colombia itinerary? Check out these reasons to visit Colombia's capital!
Don't miss Botero when in Colombia

Don´t forget Botero when in Colombia

I was 15 years old the first time I met him. It was love at first sight. It was autumn in Berlin, and the sun shinned from a clear sky. I was in my teenage hippie period where everything had to be crazy. The more colorful, the stranger; the better.

And there he was in a park in the center of Berlin. He fitted into all of that.

Colombia is the perfect choice for seeing Fernando Botero's art. Check out the main points for enjoying his art here!

I was immediately in love! Fernando Botero’s art fitted perfectly into my mind set of seeking to challenge the existing society. Be provoking and thinking differently than the rest – and telling them, most importantly.

His big deform sculptures of overweighed people and animals challenge our perception of the body. What is a beautiful body?

My fascination for Botero's art has never stopped. His art made an inevitable mark in my mind. Today, here close than a decade after from my first encounter (ha ha, THAT made me sound old! I’m not!), my clothing has become more conservative than that sunny autumn day in Berlin.

However, my inner-hippie with a love for strange things is still alive, and with that my fascination for Botero and his art.

Colombia is the perfect choice for seeing Fernando Botero's art. Check out the main points for enjoying his art here!
Colombia is the perfect choice for Botero art

When I planned my visit to Colombia, I had completely forgot that Botero is Colombian citizen, and Colombia therefore (of course!) is the perfect choice for seeing his art!

I had arrived safety to my hostel in Bogotá on my very first day in Colombia, and I received a text from my mum (equally a Botero-admire). She knew I had been way too busy with exams to do any significant research on Bogotá, so she just wanted to point out to me there is a whole Botero museum in Bogotá.

I quickly found out that this was not the only place to explore the Colombian artist’s work! So, keep on reading to get to know the main points for enjoying Botero’s art!

Colombia is the perfect choice for seeing Fernando Botero's art. Check out the main points for enjoying his art here!
But… Who is this Botero, you might ask?

Okay, let me face the fact that everybody might not be as passionate about sculptures of overweighed men and women as me… So, here a quick introduction to artist Fernando Botero:

He was born in 1932 in Medellín, Colombia. When he was only 16 years old, his paintings were for the first time exhibited. Today, he is a world-famous artist. His art has been exhibited all around the world, and he has won prizes for his work. He has lived and studied in places like Madrid, New York, and Paris.

Botero's art is know for is bloated, round and oversized humans and animals which he both uses in paintings and in his sculptures. In some way, you can say that it has become his artistic trademark.

Colombia is the perfect choice for seeing Fernando Botero's art. Check out the main points for enjoying his art here!
Colombia is the perfect choice for seeing Fernando Botero's art. Check out the main points for enjoying his art here!
Colombia is the perfect choice for seeing Fernando Botero's art. Check out the main points for enjoying his art here!
Colombia is the perfect choice for seeing Fernando Botero's art. Check out the main points for enjoying his art here!

Main spots for enjoying Botero’s art: 

Museo Botero, Bogotá

The Botero museum is in an old beautiful colonial-style house in the historic neighborhood Candelaria in Bogotá. Everything from paintings to sculptures over paintings of Botero are decorating the old house.

In the middle of the house is a huge patio with benches where you can sit down and relax from the hustle and bustle of Bogotá. Take a break and take in this atmosphere which stands in scrap contrast to the life just outside the heavy entrance’s doors.

TIP! The museum is closed on Tuesdays! Just so you don’t end up like me standing outside knocking on the door when there is nobody.

The museum is opened Monday, Wednesday-Sunday from 9 am to 7 pm, except Sundays (10 am to 5 pm). Closed Tuesdays. Admission is free.

Location: Calle 11, N° 4-41, Bogotá

For more information click here

Colombia is the perfect choice for seeing Fernando Botero's art. Check out the main points for enjoying his art here!
Plaza de Botero, Medellín

In Medellin, they are so proud of their local superstar artist that they have named a whole square after him. Plaza de Botero is located in the center of Medellín, and it is decorated with some of Botero’s massive sculptures.

The sculptures on the square are amazing! But the square itself has turned into a tourist trap. It is far too crowded with tourists and sellers – not my cup of tea! To avoid the crowdedness my best recommendation is not to do like me, but get up and go there early!

Location: between calle 52 and Avendia Carabobo in the center of Medellín

Colombia is the perfect choice for seeing Fernando Botero's art. Check out the main points for enjoying his art here!
Colombia is the perfect choice for seeing Fernando Botero's art. Check out the main points for enjoying his art here!
Colombia is the perfect choice for seeing Fernando Botero's art. Check out the main points for enjoying his art here!
Museo de Antioquia, Medellín

On the corner of Plaza de Botero you have the Museo de Antioquia which has a large Botero collection. I really enjoyed getting away from the chaos on the square, and just scroll around the exhibition halls with the peace and quietness to enjoy the art. Apart from Botero pieces, the museum also offers pieces of art from other Colombian artists.

I would have been disappointed with my visit to Plaza de Botero if Museo de Antioquia hasn’t been there. So, I high recommend that you spent some time visiting the museum. Additionally, the museum has a nice café where you can sit and observer the square at a nice distance. 

Admission charged. Open daily from 10 am to 5.30 pm (except Sunday to 4.30 pm)

Location: Calle 52, no. 52-43, Medellín

For more information about Museo de Antioquia click here

Colombia is the perfect choice for seeing Fernando Botero's art. Check out the main points for enjoying his art here!

In 2004, Botero created a series of paintings and drawings focusing on the violence in Colombia stemming from drug cartels. His natal city, Medellín, was for many years considered one of the most dangerous cities in the world because of these activities.

The death of the infamous Pablo Escobar who had managed most of the drug tracking around Medellín inspired Botero to this painting:  

Colombia is the perfect choice for seeing Fernando Botero's art. Check out the main points for enjoying his art here!
Colombia is the perfect choice for seeing Fernando Botero's art. Check out the main points for enjoying his art here!
What do you think of Botero's art? Or what is your favorite Botero spot? Share your points and tips about Boero in a comment below! 
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Colombia is the perfect choice for seeing Fernando Botero's art. Check out the main points for enjoying his art here!

Jardin: Colombia’s untouched colorful pearl

The bus takes another dramatic turn on the small mountain road. Going up and up, around and around in scarp curves. I lean slightly over so I'm able to see the driver's speedometer. As we pass a speed sign showing 60 km/h, I see that the speedometer shows well above the 80 km/h…

I try to calm myself down a bit; he has done this before, it will be okay... We turn around a curve, the bus now directly facing an oncoming car. I hold my breath. But without batting an eye the driver makes a little turn with the steering wheel, and the two vehicles pass each other smoothly on the tight road...

Mountains over Jardin, Colombia
Everything is worth it

The crazy bus drive through the mountains reveals astonishing landscapes, and the final destination is the most colorful and unique village I have ever seen. Everything is worth it.

The small bus with me, around 10 Colombians and the crazy bus driver are on our way through mountain roads in the Antioquia province in Colombia to a small mountain village called Jardín.

When we stop for a small break, I realize that I have been pressing my foot so hard against the inside of the bus in order to not crash into the elderly woman on my right or the bus driver on my left that my whole leg is sleeping.

Since I not really look like somebody speaking Spanish, the old woman asks me hesitating where I'm going. When I answer in more or less fluent Spanish that I'm on my way to Jardin, she relaxes and smiles at me. She clearly wonders why some "gringa" (e.g. foreigner) wants to visit her village.

I answer her unasked question by saying that it actually just was a smart idea from some photos I saw online. I smile insecure as I realize how stupid and naive it sounds. It looked like such a cute place, I add. And since I didn't really like Medellin, I wanted to see something else. And well, then I like colors. She smiles.

Street, Jardin, Colombia
Mountian view Colombia

After some moments of awkward silence, I add that the whole drive so far has been worth everything. "You see, we don't really have mountains in my country", I tell her. "You have such amazingly beautiful landscapes here". She smiles again.

I want to ask to get out and get my camera in the back of the bus but my leg still sleeps. And then suddenly the bus driver is back, calling everyone inside the bus again.

And then we are out on the road; going up and up, around and around in every time scraper curves. I decide to forget around the camera, and just take in this experience.

Mountains, Jardin, Colombia
Coffee shop, Jardin, Colombia
Welcome to Jardín

As we cross a huge bridge revealing the view of a massive valley below us with coffee plants on the sides and a river at the bottom, I puff friendly to the old woman and whisper: "That kind of thing we don't have where I come from, that's amazing!". She smiles at me clearly touched by my enthusiasm.

Soon after the road signs start counting down to Jardín, and just around a curve going up yet another mountain, the old woman puffs to me: "Now we are arriving", she says, "Welcome to Jardín".

Chairs at the main square of Jardin

And there it is; with mountains on each side located on a little plain spot of land, the village of Jardín like an untouched and colorful pearl in the Colombian mountains.

For the next 24 hours I didn't do more than just wander around the village with my camera. Even though the village in itself is quickly covered, I reject not having more than one day there.

Jardin with Church
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Jardin Colombia
Sign Jardin, Colombia
Don’t forget the outsides of Jardín

Even though Jardín in itself is charming and photogenic, just a small walk outside the village reveals some amazing views of the surrounding mountain landscapes.

A small 20 minutes’ walk outside the city you will find Cascadas del Amor, the waterfalls of love. It is said that if lovers visit the place and kiss in front of the waterfall, their love will last forever. Sweet isn't?

Compared to other waterfalls in Colombia it is nothing but still I found it cute that the village has one. To get there follow the street on your right hand from the main square out of the city. Alternatively, the moto-taxis can also take you there.

When you are out by Cascadas del Amor, follow the street a little further until you cross a bridge. By the side of the bridge there is a path leading down to the edge of river that floats by the side of Jardín. Here you can take a quick relaxing bath in the river while enjoying the amazing surroundings of the mountains.

 

Path outside Jardin, Colombia
River, Jardin, Colombia
Cascadas del Amor, Jardin, Colombia
Cascadas del Amor waterfall, Jardin, Colombia
How Jardín got its name

The legend goes that when settlers for the first time came up the mountain from the villages below, the area was a savage jungle with flowers and trees everywhere. For them it looked like a whole little garden, and therefore the area and the village was called Jardín, e.g. Garden.

The village of Jardín was founded in 1863, and many of the houses - though today renovated - seems to be the same as when the first settlers starting building here almost 200 years ago.

Red wall in Colombia
Cat Colombia
Basílica Menor de la Inmaculada Concepción, Jardin, Colombia
Door, Jardin
Colombians in Jardin
What to do in Jardin
  • Sit at the main plaza on one of the bright colored chairs and watch people and drink a cup of coffee.
  • Take a walk through the village with your camera and try to find your favorite colored house – yes, I do that kind of stuff even when I travel alone.
  • Visit the village's church, Basílica Menor de la Inmaculada Concepción

  • Cruise around Jardín in a moto-taxi - I actually didn't intent on doing this but then I changed my mind and gave it a shot. It was great fun!
  • Do a super-lite trek to the waterfalls Cascadas del Amor just outside the village (see description above on how to get there)
  • Bath in the rivers of Jardín (see description above on how to get there)
  • Take the cable car up the hill - unfortunately I didn't have the time to do this so can't say if it is worth it.
  • Do a horse ride through Jardín and its surrounding mountains.
  • If you have time, do a trek to La Cueva del Esplendor which is a waterfall inside a cave. It is located around 10 km from the town, ask at your hotel for information – I didn't have time for it.
Street in Jardin, Colombia
How to get to Jardín…

If you are in downtown Medellin, hit to the Southern Terminal (Terminal del Sur). The easiest is to take the metro to Poblado station, and depending on your amount of luggage walk to the terminal or take a taxi (the drive is around 5 minutes).

At the terminal there are two companies running buses to Jardín, one located between the first booth (can't remember the name, sorry) and another, Rapido Ochoa located around booth number 18.

When I get there was a huge queue by the first one, and nobody at the last one. I even managed to get the very last seat just 5 minutes before departure, and even though I ended in the very front in the smallest seat in the whole bus (thereby the story in the beginning), I got on!

Current price is 23,000 Colombian pesos, and there leaves approximately 6 buses a day from Medellín.

Check out Rapido Ochoa for more information.

Bus, mountains, Jardin, Colombia
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Jardin, Colombia

Here is why you should add Charalá to your Colombia trip

Charalá in the region of Santander in the Northeastern part of Colombia is mostly passed unnoticed by travelers. However, there are plenty of reasons why you should add this little untouched spot to your Colombia travel list.

In Charalá you find an authentic village atmosphere. Here nobody does as they do for the sake of tourism. We arrived to Charalá early in the morning on a Sunday. Only a few shops were opened. Their owners looked puzzled at us; two blond girls speaking English together. “What are they doing here?”, they seemed to be asking themselves as we passed by. 

 

Visit Charalá in the region of Santander and get an authentic village experience with Colombian independence war, expreme sport and much more.

The main city of the region, San Gil, is branding itself as Colombia’s adventure and extreme sport capital. However, Charalá can both offer extreme sport and Colombian independence war So if your path goes towards San Gil, there are plenty of reasons to check out Charalá as well. 

Keep on reading to find out more!

Visit Charalá in the region of Santander and get an authentic village experience with Colombian independence war, expreme sport and much more.
Independence fighters and village legends

… Colombian independence war, hu? You might think. What is she talking about? Well, let's start with a little history about Charalá to get things straight:

In 2013, Charalá was declared historical and cultural heritage of Colombia for the role it played in Colombia’s fight for independence from Spain in the 19th century. Something I was not aware of before going…

However, it seems to be a big part of the village's self-perception. From the old man at the town square who through a long monologue tried to explain us all the details of the fight to the big bill boards at the entrance at the villages declaring it an important national historical heritage.

Visit Charalá in the region of Santander and get an authentic village experience with Colombian independence war, expreme sport and much more.
So what was it that actually happened, you might think?

During the 19th century different independence movements all around Latin America were fighting against the Spanish empire. In the summer of 1819 near the Colombian city of Boyacá, north from the capital Bogotá, one of the main figures of the independence movement, Simón Bolívar, was fighting against the Spanish forces.

On the 4th of August 1819 a reinforcement was sent to help the Spanish forces in Boyacá. In Charalá the reinforcement was met by supports of the independence movement who wouldn’t let them pass on and opened fire against them. The fight is known as la Batalla del Pienta because it took place by the river Pienta in Charalá.

It is estimated that more than 300 persons were killed in the streets of Charalá during the fight. However, the effort played out. Only 3 days after the independence forces of Bolívar won the fight against the Spanish in Boyacá, and with that Colombia could declare itself independen from Spain

This almost 200 years old fight certain still influences Charalá’s self-perception, and it declaration of national historical heritage was a great acceptance of the village's efforts.

Visit Charalá in the region of Santander and get an authentic village experience with Colombian independence war, expreme sport and much more.
What to do in Charalá
The church of Charalá

You cannot miss it! The beautiful white painted church can be seen from almost everywhere in the city. Apart from the beautiful outside it is also worth a visit.

Attending a Sunday mass made me understand better just how important and powerful the Catholic Church is in Colombia and especially in small communities as Charalá.

 

El Museo del Algodon y el Lienzo de la Tierra (e.g. Cotton and Linen Museum)

The production of cotton is a proud tradition in Charalá. Even though, it played an important role in the economic development and survival of the village, the tradition was about to disappear due to changing industries.

Then some women got the idea to start a museum which goal is to protect this tradition. Apart from that they help the women still working with weaving the cotton. Unfortunately, I found out too late about the museum, and therefore did not visit it.

The museum is located in Calle 23 No. 15 esquina, Charalá.

Visit Charalá in the region of Santander and get an authentic village experience with Colombian independence war, expreme sport and much more.
Sit back and relax at the main square or the park

The village is built up around two squares; a park in front of the church and the main square just a few blocks down where buses stop. At the main square there is a couple of cafés and supermarket, while the park is quieter.

The park in front of the Church is supposed to have free WIFI as many Colombian towns are beginning to have. However, we did not success in getting connected for more than a few seconds. So do not rely on that, just sit back.

Relax and enjoy the village life pass by in front of you.

 

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Visit Charalá in the region of Santander and get an authentic village experience with Colombian independence war, expreme sport and much more.
What to do outside Charalá
Pozo negro (the black pool)

Just outside Charalá you can find an amazing area with natural pools and small waterfalls. It is easy to enter to the pools for a refreshing swim. The pools are located just around 15 minutes’ walk from the center of the village or you can get a taxi to take you most of the way.

However, it is a nice and easy walk: Simply follow the road out of the village going north toward San Gil (the entrance of the Charalá if you come with the bus from San Gil). When you cross with bridge entering the city, you can see an unpaved road going upward. Follow that road until you can enter the fields surrounding the village by a small entrance.

Upon entering the fields keep on the path marked until you get to an exit of the fields. From there, go down a little slop towards a river. Cross the river, and follow it to the right for a few meters until you see the view as the picture below - or follow this trekking map.

Visit Charalá in the region of Santander and get an authentic village experience with Colombian independence war, expreme sport and much more.
Extreme sport tours in Charalá

It is not just in San Gil that has extreme sport tours to offer! In Charalá you can also come on tours. Just infront of the church on the other side of the park, you can find a small bar from where they also organize different extreme sport tours.

Visit Charalá in the region of Santander and get an authentic village experience with Colombian independence war, expreme sport and much more.
Las cascadas de Juan Curi (the waterfalls of Juan Curi)

The Waterfalls of Juan Curi is located a small 20 minutes’ drive with the local bus from Charalá going toward San Gil. Just ask the driver to drop you off at “Las Cascadas”.

When you get off the bus, the incredible sound of massive amounts of running water hits you. From the road side you have a beautiful panoramic view of the falls. Nevertheless, this is nothing compared to what it is like from inside the jungle.

There are two farms just right next to each other from where you enter to the trek to the falls: 

 

Cascadas de Juan Curi, Santander, Colombia
 
How to do the Cascadas de Juan Curi-trek on your own

The trek is through jungle-like forest, and takes around 20 minutes to the lower part of the falls. You enter on a natural path between one of the two farms and just follow that path.

When you have enjoyed the lower part of the falls, return to the path leading up a bit steeper. There are ropes to help you get up it sides – otherwise, ask for directions before you enter.

The walk is nice but the paths are muddy and slippery. There have been placed ropes to guide and support you on the way. Anyway, watch out not to fall  (that is coming from somebody who DID fall... Nothing serious).

When you have walked for a bit, you will arrive at a naturally formed pool which is great for swimming. In the very corner there are small stairs lead up to the next level. From here you can get a closer look at the Juan Curi waterfalls. It is very impressive to stand and watch the massive falls from below.

For further information, check out this trekking map.

How to get to Charalá

From San Gil you can take one of the small buses going between the different villages in the region. It leaves from the terminalito in the center of San Gil or from the main road just below the shopping center El Puente. If the bus doesn't have a sign saying Charalá, ask one of the drivers which one is going there.

When I visited there was a lot of construction work along the main road between San Gil and Charalá, and the bus ride might therefore take longer than usual. However, expect around one hours ride if the traffic is decent.

Visit Charalá in the region of Santander and get an authentic village experience with Colombian independence war, expreme sport and much more.
 
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Visit Charalá in the region of Santander and get an authentic village experience with Colombian independence war, expreme sport and much more.
Bogota street view

5 useful phrases you should know before visiting Colombia

During this month I will be wrapping up in a bit of the material and notes I have from my month of travelling in Colombia. Last week we looked at street art in Bogotá. Now let's continue to a little brush up on your Spanish, so you are completely prepared to be understood in Colombia – and don't make the same mistakes as me!

I hope you will enjoy these 5 useful phrases you should know before visiting Colombia. And of course, let me know in the comments if I miss any good ones!

1) Tinto if you are a coffee lover 

Now it is time to find paper and pen if you are a coffee loving person as me... Or well, maybe just that notebook program on your phone! Anyway, this is an essential word for all of us coffee lovers visiting Colombia. Because let's face it Colombia is the coffee heaven on earth. So you better known how to order your coffee.

In Colombia tinto is black coffee

Yes, yes I know that your Spanish teacher properly once told you that café is plain black coffee. However, if you order café in Colombia they think you want a café con leche e.g. a coffee with milk. So better be careful of what you actually want.

Coffee plant
2) Con mucho gusto can be used for everything 

I think every country has some words or phases which people completely overused in their daily life. For me in Colombia it is the expression con mucho gusto (e.g. with pleasure).

When speaking with Colombians this phase is repeated so many times that it was almost funny. Instead of saying "nice meeting you", you can say con mucho gusto. Or it can be used as respond after saying "thank you", you say con mucho gusto. Or in the shops after selling or buying something, you can say... Well, con mucho gusto. It simply can be used for everything.

So be sure to add a little bit of con mucho gusto when visiting Colombia.

5 useful phrases you could know before visiting Colombia
3) Chevere if you want to be cool 

Ah, Chevere, the guy in the reception says nodding approving while he inspects my passport de Dinamarca, chevere (e.g. from Denmark). Chevere is used in a similar way as cool in English.

And it can be used in literally EVERY possible (and impossible) situation. So no doubt you will hear this while in Colombia. 

Colombian Spanish
4) A la orden when you are out shopping

At first, I thought it was just something people in Bogota was saying. Then I visited a small town in the Santander region, and by entering a market, every vendor was saying it as well: a la orden, a la orden, señorita. 

Directly translated it means "for the orden" but the meaning is more something like "for your service" or "ready to take your order/request".

5) Mono if you are as white as me

Ustedes son todos monos?, I looked puzzled at the old man which supposedly should led me to my taxi. I had just arrived to the airport of Bogota, exhausted, tried. Still all many senses were at their maximum. I had no clue whether this man was an authorized taxi driver or not. I tried to politely ask him how one could see the difference between authorized taxis and non-authorized. He answered briefly that the authorized ones would have a name tag in the window, and then return to his initial question: Ustedes son todos monos?

Was he really asking what I thought? I had learned mono means monkey in Spanish - and my Spanish isn't bad at all. So was he really asking whether everyone in Denmark was monkeys? How rude was it to ask whether everyone in my country was monkeys?! Wouldn't that also indicate that I was a monkey, or what? Was I really acting that blond and stupid…

I paused for a bit, not wanting to seem too insecure about the situation, and kept the polite tone. I didn't want to annoy this man as I still had not figured out whether or not it was a airport scram. I replied that well, for me we were pretty normal people

He didn't  seem that satisfied with my answer, and repeated the question. "Well, no, we are not", I answered. I don't think he believed me but at least he gave up on me. And minutes later we were at the taxi parking where an officially looking yellow taxi was waiting for me. Everything was nice and in order, no airport scram, and the taxi driver was a nice and chatty guy.  However, I kept on being puzzled about the monkey thing but didn't really wanting to ask the taxi driver about it either.

Days later I learned that in Colombia mono is used to referring to a white person! Not a monkey. 

Looking for more stuff about Colombia? Find it here!
 
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5 useful phrases you should know before visiting Colombia

Bogota’s street art stole my heart

I had to stop for bit to just watch, and take in the moment. The colors were everywhere. Around any corner, on everything from an abandoned house to the façade of a small shop. The street art in Bogota isn't this kind of crappy stuff that I know from home where it seems like it is more the adenine kick of doing something illegal that counts than the art in itself. Bogota's street art was high quality art!

The street art is like a natural integrated part of the urban life in the Colombian capital, adding a lot more color, life and personality to the old colonial buildings. Not that the buildings in Candelaria actually need that much of color-adding. They are pretty colorful in themselves.

However, the street art adds an uniqueness and modern buzz to these old buildings. They are not just historical memories, they are an active part of the modern life. And from my first encounter, Bogota's street art completely stole my heart.

Street art in Candelaria, Bogota
Bogota's street art stole my heart
Colorful Candelaria

I had left the hostel in the historic center of Bogotá, La Candelaria, without any actual plan. I like doing that when I just arrive to a new place; just scroll around without purpose. Since then my camera had been on hard work, and various time I had to suppress an amazed "wow".

I just had to stop to take it all in. I think, I must have had a silly smile on my face because two police men kindly smiled mumbling buenos días to me. Didn't they notice all these amazing pieces of art?

Bogota's street art stole my heart

 

There is all kind of different street art in Bogotá...

Street art in Candaleria, Bogota's street art stole my heart

I had not excepted to find something like this. Well, I actually don't know what I had excepted of Bogota. It was my first stop on the Latin American continent. Until now I had only been to Cuba, and in Cuba you can not except to find street art like this. But for sure, I had not excepted to find this color heaven of street art. Later I was to find out that high quality street art isn't that rare in Latin America.

 

Bogota's street art stole my heart

A garage with a massive dragon on the wall - what is not to like?

Bogota's street art stole my heart
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Bogota's street art stole my heart
Legalizing street art

After doing a bit of research, I found out that the huge amount of impressive street art is due to an governmental legalization for painting in the public space. The artists don't have to be afraid of police or governmental fees, they can just freely paint in daylight.

 

Street art in Bogota

 

Or freely, freely... Apparently, they need an authorization from the property owner before they can paint. In some way fair; how would you feel if you suddenly woke up with a huge painting on your house? 

Okay, I wouldn't actually mind!

Bogota's street art stole my heart
Street art with a political touch

Most of the paintings are not just beautiful art, they are also a comment to relevant debates in the Colombian society.

They center around themes such as the country's violent past, indigenous communities rights and modern society's relationship with nature.

 

Bogota's street art stole my heart

"Memoria"... Memory for the victimas of the years long internal armed conflict

Bogota's street art stole my heart

A comment to modern society's abuse of natural resources...

Bogota's street art stole my heart
Bogota's street art stole my heart

"Esperanza"... Hope... For a better future...

 

More street art on Calle 26

Then I returned to Bogota after 3 weeks around Colombia, I discovered a whole new collection of street art away from Candelaria's touristic buzz. On Calle 26 most of the political street art is centered. Actually most of the pictures above are from there.

I was staying at a private home through AirBnB (btw. highly recommendable!) on the massive Calle 26 which leads from the airport toward the city center. And here walls upon walls were covered in amazing pieces of art

 

Bogota's street art stole my heart
Bogota's street art stole my heart
Bogota's street art stole my heart

How I wish that more cities with boring grey walls and commercial bill boards would follow the example of Bogota, and let the artistic spirit free!

Don't you? Leave a comment below

 

Bogota's street art stole my heart

... And then finally; some of the works are just small comments that make you smile...

 

Bogota's street art stole my heart
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Bogota's street art stole my heart
See all my photos of street art from Bogota here:

 

How I found out I am a city girl after ending up in a Colombian hospital

The truth is that travelling is not 100% fun all the time. Somethings you will experience less pleasant stuff along the road. However, travelling is also a way to learn about yourself. This story is one of those.

Before I left home I was fed up with exams stress, delayed trains and the never ending list of things to do. For my month of travelling in Colombia I wanted something completely different. Something away from the city life I am living at home. Something that would give me an inside on how other people live their life differently than mine. I wanted to try the life on a farm.

However, what this experience essentially taught me was that I am a city girl because...

 

1) Mosquitos and suchlike bugs find me no matter where I am
I found this little farm in the region of Santander, and organized a stay with them. I was supposed to stay for two and a half week. However, it did not quiet work out this way. The housing offered there were pretty primitive without electrics and water in most parts of the house. Thus, most important for this story: without proper windows or doors. Hence, free entrance for all kinds of insects,

Already after the first night I awoke with these strange red spots on my legs. I did not take them for more than mosquito bites by then. Normally, I easily get bites at home. However, the morning after there were more, and the ones from the day before had turned terribly red and painful. They hurt when I walked, and did not look any good. Thus, the fighter I am, I did not complain.

On Sunday, after only three nights at the farm, I called my travel insurance to get a piece of advice about whether or not I should see a doctor. The answer was loud and clear: go first thing Monday morning.

Not the most mosquitos safe door to our sleeping room

Not the most mosquitos safe door to our sleeping room...

2) Even doctors order me to stay in the cities
After hours of waiting at the hospital's hot emergency room, the doctor finally called out my name. He looked suspiciously at me when I showed him my legs covered in around 30 terrifyingly red bites on each, and asked where I was staying. He shook his head, when I told him. It seemed like I was not the kind of person to stay in the middle of the forest, he said. Actually, he would recommend me to move away from there as soon as possible, and rest for at least 3 days.

3) My body overreacts on almost everything
There I was in a foreign country’s hospital with legs attacked from some sort of insect and not feeling that well. However, what I was not prepared for was the injection. Even though the nurses were nice, and carefully explained what was going to happen, my body was not prepared at all.

The injection felt a lot worse than it is meant, properly due to dehydration and hours in a crowed waiting-room. I managed to get to the reception to pay my bill. Then the only thing I remember was grabbing onto the desk, wanting to ask the secretary if I would sit on a sit for a bit. The next thing I was sitting on the floor with people around me, and a doctor calling for a bed.

I had fainted for only a coulpe of seconds, and most of all I felt tired. However, the nurses insisted on keeping me for observation. They placed me on the bed and drove me to a room, and there I sad for the next couple of hours, until the other volunteer from the farm came and picked me up. Lucky I cleared with the insurance that they would pay for three nights in a private room for me to recuperate. I only returned to the farm to pick up my baggage.

So here I am a week later and finally finished with the antibiotic treatment. Things do not always work out the way you thought they would. Sometimes it is for the best, and you get amazing experiences out of it. And sometimes it is not for the best, but it will always teach you something about yourself. I learnt that I am a city girl, and should properly only do day trips to forests etc.

And guys; please remember to get that travel insurance before leaving home, so experiences like this one does not get any worse.

Have you ever tired ending up in a local hospital? How did they treat you? Share your story in the comments below

P.S. I am now taking vitamin E which should help against mosquitos, and my beloved mother is sending me a mosquito net for future encounters with mosquitos and suchlike bugs 🙂

Everyday life at a Colombian farm

During the last week I volunteered at a Colombian family farm together with an American girl through the website Work Away. Each day is organized more or less the same way. In this post I give a little view into how the life is at a small Colombian family farm.

6:00 am
The sun is slowly rising above the mountain top. When the sun raises, the animals at the farm awake as well. And almost without the need of the alarm, we wake up with them. The object is to get started with the work as quickly as possible because the sun by midday would make it almost unbearable to work in the fields. We get in our working clothes which are dirty from yesterday’s hard work in the field. However, nobody cares because we are all the same. The work in the field will just make us dirtier. La señora of the farm lights up the fire place to prepare the first meal of the day.

An amazing setting but bad conditions

6:45 am
Breakfast is served which usually includes a soup made of potatoes, a flat corn bread and a cup of tinto - strong Colombian black coffee. The soup is the base of all meals at the farm, and the potato a very popular ingredient in it.

7:30 am
The work in the field starts. It varies but during my stay we were cutting down cañas (e.g.  sugar canes) or clearing the corn and banana fields.

11:00 am
The sun is high on the sky, and it is soon too hot to work. The last hour before lunch we help out with different other tasks where more hands are needed to proceed with the job; hanging up a sign, cutting and carrying wood.

12:00 am
While we had worked in the field la señora has prepared the lunch. The lunch as well consist of a potato based soup (like the one in the morning), a plate of rice, lenses and a piece of meat.

1:00 pm
After lunch we have time off to relax and do what we what. We go to explore the surroundings of the valleys and waterfalls, or pet the cute puppies.

4:00 pm
When we return, we relax and take shower (only cold water, of course). The sun passes down by the mountain top, and it slowly cools down. La señora starts preparing the dinner.

6:30 pm
The dinner is ready. And you know what? It consists of a potato soup! And then a plate with rice and meat! Most admit that after a only a week of potato soup for both breakfast, lunch and dinner I will have to wait a looong time before eating potatoes again. While we eat the darkness falls around the farm.

8:00 pm
By now it is almost completely dark. After the hard work in the field, we are exhausted. The only places with electric lighting on the farm are the kitchen area and the toilets. So shortly after dinner we go to sleep. Tomorrow will anyway start early and include the same type of work.