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Visiting Colombia: My Trip Recap

Camping At Tayrona National Park
One of the restaurants and camp sites at Tayrona National Park

It’s 10pm on a Monday night, my friends just left and I’m now sitting here alone at the Cranky Croc hostel in Bogotá, Colombia, reflecting on my last 2 weeks here in Colombia. The trip was great, it was full of adventure, close calls, beaches, and beer. Colombia is a beautiful country I’ll surely visit again, and could have easily spent 1 to 2 months in. This post is going to be a quick recap of what we did, enjoyed, wish we could have done, and didn’t really care for.

Tayrona Beach Lagoon, Colombia
A lagoon with the beach in the background inside Tayrona National Park

I’ll go through the trip in chronological order, starting in Cartagena (in Northern Colombia). Cartagena is a beach city with a beautiful old town in Northern Colombia. Nightlife is great on the weekends, and somewhat lacking on weekdays. Since we arrived on a Wednesday and were excited, we wanted to go out Wednesday night. On our own we didn’t stand a chance, but luckily we we staying at a really cool hostel called El Viajero (careful not to confuse this with El Viajero Hotel, not the same place), and a lot of people there were on the same page. I highly recommend El Viajero, its clean, fun, and located in the safer and more attractive walls of Old Town Cartagena.

Old Town Cartagena, Colombia
Inside the wall of the Old Town Cartagena

We stayed in Cartagena until Sunday, mainly so we could experience the weekend nightlife, and because we were only interested in relaxing. I regret not going to Playa Blanca which is a boat ride away; people say its really nice, but we didn’t want to get up early, and were expecting the beaches in our next stop of Santa Marta to be even better. The main beach in Cartagena is Playa Bocagrande. It’s mediocre, but the weather was nice so were we happy. By day 2 we had made friends with a guy from Spain and a guy from Argentina who we ended up travelling with the rest of our trip, they were a crack up, and we’re already talking about where we’ll meet on our next trip.

Seviche On Bocagrande Beach, Cartagena
A man selling really good Seviche on Bocagrande Beach in Cartagena

After a late night out on Saturday, the 4 of us boarded the 9am bus to Santa Marta. I passed out immediately and had to be woken up 4 hours later in Santa Marta. Thats not normally my style so it was nice. We stayed at La Brisa Loca hostel in Santa Marta, which was an even better facility than El Viajero, but the town of Santa Marta was nothing special. The beaches were kind of bad, and there wasn’t really anything to do, but the hostel was awesome, had a great crowd of people, and it was fun staying there. The hostel is about 15 minutes by car to the better beach village of Tagonga, which also has a great bar / club called El Mirador, but not the same quality of accommodation options. No regrets at all staying in Santa Marta, it’s an 8000 peso cab ride to Tagonga, so if you’d like you can go for the beach by day, then come back for the night and it’ll only cost you about $5 US total if you can fill up the cab.

Cartagena Sunset
The sunset from the top of the wall in Old Town Cartagena

Santa Marta is not that cool, but its a great homebase for a lot of other cool day trips. We did fishing one day which was really fun, Tayrona National Park one day which was my highlight of the trip (would have liked to spend several days there instead of a day trip), and we did an overnight trip to Minca. Minca is a small village in the Sierra Nevada mountains. We stayed at a hostel called Casa Loma. It was basic but really cool and laid back. We could have easily spent a couple days in Minca, but unfortunately we only had one. We chose to go Canyoning in the river with our day, and it was awesome. Wish we could have mountain biked back down to Santa Marta, but they said the bikes needed maintenance.

A Waterfall In Minca, Colombia
One of the many waterfalls of Minca (during low season)

After Minca we returned to Santa Marta so we could take the party bus to the first ever Full Moon Party in Costeño Beach. The party was cool, but a little unorganized and not as crowded as we’d hoped for. Overall it was fun, and if they decide to do more I’m sure it’ll only get better. When morning came (about 8am), we planned on taking the local bus home, but patience ran out quick as we waited by the road, so we took the first passing taxi instead.

Fishing In Taganga, Colombia
On a local fishing boat based out of Taganga beach near Santa Marta

After a few hours of sleep at La Brisa Loca, it was time to catch a flight to Bogotá where I am now. To be honest Bogotá has been a let down, and if I could do it again I would have stayed up north by the beach, or visited a different city. Unfortunately for me Bogotá falls into one of those big, less exciting capital city scenarios like Jakarta or Manilla. It does have some charm, especially in the La Candelaria area, but it’s nothing to write home about. In my opinion time is better spent elsewhere. The hostel Cranky Croc is pretty good, but hard to appreciate after staying at such good ones up North. Another thing that we didn’t expect was for Bogotá to be so cold. It’s at over 2600 meters, or 8600 ft, so I suppose the cooler weather and rain should not come as a surprise, but I think most people expect it to be warmer. Highlight of Bogotá has to be the Botero Museum.

El Museo Del Oro in Bogota, Colombia
One of the thousands of gold artifacts in the Museo Del Oro (Gold Museum) in Bogota

Overall, Colombia has been amazing. I think part of that can been attributed to all the friends we met along the way, but the country is beautiful on it’s own. Its reputation for being dangerous, although probably still true in areas, did not hold true where we were. Bogotá was the most intimidating place we visited, they say not to take taxis on the street, and apparently hostels have had problems getting robbed at gunpoint recently, but using the standard precautions and not venturing into bad areas I think it’s probably made out to be worse than it is. Although I’m excited to get out of Bogotá, I’m also excited by the thought of coming back and spending more time in Colombia, and I’m sure I will again sometime in the next few years. Expect to see more detailed Colombia articles in the coming weeks.

"Guerrilla" By Botero - From The Botero Museum, Bogota
One of the many Botero paintings at the Botero Museum in Bogota

Colombia Map

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