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Learn what to see and do ...before you get here
Bogota, Cali, cartagena de Indias, medellin, Popayan, Salento and more...
After years of
traveling around the
world using branded
travel guides found
online and in book
stores I discovered a
need of free, small,
concise guides that
would give me the
highlights I need to
know to decide what
I should visit in each
country. Mai Travel
Guides are an
attempt to satisfy this
demand while saving
you some money!
It’s only recently that travelers have
begun to realize that Colombia is actually a
rather safe country where to travel, and
that it offers a lot of entertainment for
everyone. From mastering latin rhythms
in Cali’s night clubs to tasting some of the
ying the tropical beaches in the Caribbean
the paisas will make sure your trip is one
you will not forget.
Please contact us via email if
you’d like to have your business
featured in this guide
EDITOR IN CHIEF Federico Arrizabalaga
CREATIVE DIRECTOR GRAPHIC DESIGNER VERO AVANT
Mai Travel Guide
COLOMBIA 1st Edition
villa de leyva
emergency phone numbers
mai travel guide of... COLOMBIA!
ColombiaOne of the most fascinating countries in South
America, Colombia is the only country in South
America to have coastlines on the Pacific Ocean
and Caribbean Sea, and also include the stunning
scenery of the high Andes. Its ethnic mix reflects its
history as part of the Spanish Empire between the
sixteenth and nineteenth century, and includes the
descendants of Spanish conquistadors and African
slaves and the original native Indian inhabitants
who have lived there for at least thirteen thousand
Yet despite this unique heritage mention the word
“Colombia” and people will immediately picture
images of drug lords and kidnappings, or the civil
war between right-wing death squads and left-wing
guerrillas that began in the mid-60’s and continues
today, albeit at a lower level and in a much smaller
area than a couple of decades ago. Big cities like
Bogota, Medellin and Cartagena are relatively safe,
although crime is a problem in some areas, especia-
lly at night.
Colombia has been an independent country sin-
ce 1810 when, along with Ecuador, Venezuela, Peru
and Bolivia, it was freed from Spanish colonial rule
by the revolt led by Simón Bolívar, still known and
revered as the Liberator of South America.
As well as Bogota with its theatres and museums,
attractive cities to visit include Cali, the salsa capital
of Latin America, Cartagena on the Caribbean coast
with its mixture of Spanish colonial architecture
and ultra-modern skyscrapers, Medellín, Popayán,
the white-washed religious center of the country
which hosts one of the world’s largest Easter festi-
vals, and Santa Marta whose white, palm-fringed
beaches together with its proximity to the Sierra Ne-
vada mountains attract thousands of tourists.
The official language of Colombia is Spanish and
you’ll find you get a much friendlier reception from
locals if you attempt to speak it, not that this is an
issue. In the big cities, most people speak at least
some English as many people have worked, studied
in or traveled to North America, England or Austra-
Colombians love to hold impromptu street parties
and celebrations with music and dancing, and don’t
be surprised if you find yourself in the middle of
own while tasting Colombia’s fantastic cuisine, es-
pecially rich and tasty with dishes such as buñue-
los (deep fried corn flour balls with cheese), are-
pas (thick corn tortillas), tamales (maize and meat,
poultry or vegetables in steamed banana leaves,
traditionally served with a mug of hot chocolate),
empanadas (pastries stuffed with meat and vege-
tables) or sancocho de gallina (a rich chicken soup,
served with rice). Food lovers will dwell on the hea-
viest breakfast you can think of, the bandeja paisa.
Easily accessible from North America with regu-
lar direct flights from cities across the United Sta-
tes, Canada and the Caribbean you can also enter
the country by road from Ecuador and Venezuela,
and there are long haul flights from many Euro-
pean countries as well. Transportation within the
country is done primarily by bus (with excellent
services) but there are frequent flights between the
main cities if on a short spree.
Colombia is, without a doubt, one of the most
fascinating countries in South America, and many
travellers consider it to be their number one desti-
nation in this continent, choosing to settle here in-
definitely. It is only a matter of time before the word
spreads out and tourists flock here en masse, hence
I strongly recommend you forget about all the sto-
ries you’ve heard and become a Paisa… if only for a
BarranquillaBarranquilla is an industrial city and port
on Colombia’s northern Caribbean Sea coast-
line. With a population of just over a million,
it is the fourth biggest city in Colombia after
Bogotá, Medellín and Cali.
Barranquilla was established in 1813 and by the mid-twentieth century had become
the country’s main port, nicknamed La Puerta de Oro de Colombia (Colombia’s Gol-
den Gate). As well as being an important industrial center and port, Barranquilla
is known for its cultural scene and the festivals which attract tourists from across
History and Overview
Barranquilla’s Ernesto Cortissoz Internatio-
nal Airport opened in 1919, making it the first
airport in South America. International direct
flights land here from U.S. cities including Fort
Lauderdale and Miami and domestic flights
from Bogotá, Medellín and Cali.
Ernesto Cortissoz is nine miles from the city
center, on the far south side of Barranquilla.
The taxi fare should be around 17,000 pesos
($10). There are also buses which make the
same journey for a lot less – about a thousand
pesos, or less than a dollar – but it can be a bit
of a bumpy ride.
You can also travel quite cheaply to Barran-
quilla by bus from other cities on the northern
Caribbean Sea coast of Colombia. A long dis-
tance bus ticket from Cartagena for example
will cost you about 21,000 pesos ($12) for the
two and a half hour journey.
Getting around once you’ve got to Barran-
quilla depends to a large extent on your budget
and how much Spanish you can speak.
It is not that expensive to rent a car in Ba-
rranquilla. Prices start around 150,000 pesos
facts for the visitor
($75) a day and gasoline costs about 8,000 pe-
sos ($4) a gallon. A cheaper and easier way
to explore the city is by taxi. The minimum
fare is 6,000 pesos ($3) and the maximum you
should be charged for a journey within the city
is 16,000 pesos ($8.5). Mototaxis, motorcycles
plying for trade as taxis, are an illegal but po-
pular means of transportation in Barranquilla.
They are even cheaper than the licensed taxis
and can go pretty much anyway although some
of their riders can be a little reckless.
If you want to get to know the locals though,
there is no better way than taking a bus. A litt-
le Spanish will be of great help here, both to
tell the driver where you want to go (most will
let you know when they arrive at your desti-
nation) and also to chat to your fellow passen-
A bus journey will cost around 1,200 pesos
(less than a dollar) for a standard bus and only
a little more for one with air conditioning.
Buses often set off before you have sat down,
brake abruptly and will move off while you are
still getting off so take care!
Things to see
You will find both local and international cuisine in Ba-
rranquilla. Local dishes include sancocho de guandul (a
soup made with peas and meat), bocachico frito (fried fish),
and fritos (fried dishes) such as arepas and empanadas.
Las Flores in Bocas de Ce-
niza is a very good seafood
restaurant right next
to the Magdalena
River which serves
authentic food at
As a port, Ba-
tors from around
the world and this is
reflected in the wide ran-
ge of cuisines available here.
International dining options include
Doña Linda (Arabic), El Arabe Gourmet (Leba-
nese), Bora Bora (Thai), Nena Lela (Italian) and
the La Caprichosa pizzeria where a large slice of
pizza will cost you just 2,500 pesos ($1.50).
Although it is mostly a modern city, Barranquilla
does also feature some historic buildings such as the
famous Teatro Amira de la Rosa, the Edificio de la
Aduana former Customs building that now houses a
library and museum and numerous Art Deco buil-
dings built between the late nineteen thirties and ni-
neteen fifties. (If you can, pick up a copy of the book
Barranquilla-Ciudad Art Deco by Gustavo Garcia be-
fore your trip which will guide you around these).
The Museo del Caribe has an impressive collection
Caribbean flavours are like its people:
colorful and with character.
of artefacts relating to the history of Barranquilla
and Colombia’s northern Caribbean coastline which
outline the interaction of immigration, native cultu-
res, the natural environment and the local cuisine.
It also has a section dedicated to the renowned Co-
lombian writer and 1982 Nobel Prize for Literature
winner Gabriel Garcia Marquez best known for his
novel One Hundred Years of Solitude who was born
eighty miles away in Aracataca. Entrance to the mu-
seum is 10,000 pesos ($5).
other places of interest
Each year, forty days before Ash Wednesday, Barranquilla
stages the famous Carnaval de Barranquilla which lasts
for four days and includes street parties and parades,
dances, concerts and other cultural events.
If you are in the city during carnival time, be prepa-
red not to sleep as the locals enjoy making lots of noise
with brass bands, drums and general merrymaking.
Barranquilla is situated primarily on the west bank
of the Magdalena River’s picturesque delta, which has
long offered water sports enthusiasts a wealth of amu-
sements. Kite surfers can catch the breeze of the river
mouth to glide over the waves, and tourists can rent
jet skis and boats to spend an afternoon on the water.
Baranquilla has a lively nightlife scene outside the
carnival period as well. Along with lots of clubs and
bars there are also estancos (liquor stores with outsi-
de tables which play music at the weekends) and pun-
tos frios where you can buy a beer any time of day.
colombia travelsimon sanchez
Bogotá is the capital of Colombia and,
with around seven million inhabitants, the
largest city in South America’s northernmost
The Spanish conquered Colombia in the 1530’s and the city of Bogotá still shows the
influence of colonial rule which lasted until independence was achieved by Simón
Bolívar in 1819, especially in its architecture such as the Plaza de Bolívar which was
created in 1553 at the same time that construction of the city cathedral began.
History and Overview
BOGOTÁ facts for the visitor
El Dorado International Airport is about twenty minutes
from downtown Bogotá. Flights land here every day from
numerous destinations including New York, Washington,
Atlanta, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, Paris, São Paulo,
Madrid, Barcelona and Buenos Aires.
To get into Bogotá from the airport you can
take a taxi from a stand where you will be gi-
ven a printed ticket indicating the price you will
have pay to your destination, ensuring that you
don’t pay more than the regulated fare which
should be between 15,000 and 25,000 pesos ($8-
12) depending on the journey. Alternatively,
you can also take a bus from a stop outside the
main entrance for just 1,500 pesos (a little less
than a dollar). Buses are a pretty safe way of
traveling around Bogotá and most of the dri-
vers are friendly and helpful, pointing out your
destination when you get there.
When it comes to accommodation, Bogotá has
a wide range of choices from budget hostels for
the backpacker to luxury hotels for the well-he-
eled international tourist. Cheap hostels can be
found in La Candelaria, a colonial neighborho-
od in the center of the city, and low to medium
price hotels downtown and in the Chapinero
neighborhood near the university. At the other
end of the scale, upmarket hotels include the
Cabrera Imperial which has rooms with air-
conditioning, a safe and cable television and
fitness facilities including an indoor swimming
pool, sauna and gym. fitness room, room servi-
ce, car rental and airport transfer. Room rates
start at around 537,000 (about $300).
Make sure you join the free tours that begin in
Bogota’s main square.
what to visit BOGOTÁ
The Cathedral, built between
1807 and 1823, is on the eastern side
of the Plaza de Bolivar and is one of
the biggest in South America, its in-
terior dominated by large stone pi-
llars supporting the massive roof.
Cultural highlights in Bogotá in-
clude the Botero Museum which has
works by major modern European
artists such as Picasso, Renoir and
Dali. Entrance is just 2,800 pesos
($1.50). The Banco de la República
Art Collection features around three
thousand paintings and sculptures
by some of the most important Co-
lombian and Latin American artists
from the sixteenth to twentieth cen-
tury including Gregorio Vázquez de
Arce y Ceballos, Alejandro Obregón,
Enrique Grau, Rufino Tamayo and
David Alfaro Siqueiros. The Gold
Museum (2 USD) is considered one
of the best gold museums in the
world and perhaps the most inter-
esting of them all.
Taking the cable car (about 8 USD
round trip) to Cerro de Monserrate
is a must, and getting there an hour
before sunset will offer you some
great views during the day and once
the sky gets dark.
The most impressive things to see in Bogotá are mainly loca-
ted in the La Candelaria, district, for example the Cathedral
and Plaza de Bolivar, and it is here that you can also see
many examples of architecture from the Spanish colonial
era including churches, houses and other buildings.
Don’t be fooled: despite it’s
history Bogota is a modern
city by any standard.
Traditional Colombian dishes available in Bo-
gotá include arepas (pancakes made with corn
flour) empanadas (pastries filled with meat),
potato, vegetables and rice, tamal (a boiled
breakfast dish of meat, chicken, potato, vegeta-
bles and yellow corn wrapped in plantain leaves
and usually served with a large mug of hot cho-
colate), and ajiaco (a thick soup made from po-
tatoes, chicken, avocado, cream and corn).
Henry Comida Rapida is a fast food outlet in
the center of Bogotá which is popular with stu-
dents from the nearby university campus and
whose speciality is a Godzilla, a giant empana-
da that could easily feed four people.
Eating places in La Candelaria that specia-
lize in cuisines from outside South America
include PitaWok, a small Middle Eastern/Thai
restaurant which serves excellent shawarmas,
kebabs, pitas and wok dishes from just 5,000
pesos (about $3) and La Monapizza, a pizze-
ria with small pizzas starting from 8,000 pesos
For a more interesting place to drink than
your hotel bar, head for one of the pubs owned
by the Bogota Beer Company which are dotted
across the city and which serve beers from its
impressive range including Belgian-style strong
ales, stouts, wheat beers and an English-style
India Pale Ale. The Jirafa (giraffe) is a yard long
glass filled with the beer of your choice.
As you can see, there are plenty of interesting
things to see and do in Bogotá. That shouldn’t
stop you though from getting out into the coun-
tryside around the capital which also has many
sights to offer the more adventurous tourist. One
of the most popular excursions for international
visitors is the renowned Salt Cathedral of Zipa-
quirá, an underground Roman Catholic church
built in 1991 in the tunnels of a salt mine seven
hundred feet below the surface of the earth. As
well as being a popular tourist attraction, this
site thirty miles north of Bogotá near the town of
Zipaquirá is also a major pilgrimage destination
for Colombian Catholics which can attract up to
three thousand people for Mass on Sundays.
The church’s three sections represent the
birth, life and death of Jesus Christ and featu-
re icons and other religious imagery carved by
hand into the rock.
Santiago de Cali, normally just called Cali,
is a city of some two and a half million people
in the west of Colombia. The third largest
city in the country behind Bogotá and Mede-
llín, it was founded in 1536 by the Spanish.
Cali is one of the most dangerous cities in Colombia with more than two thousand
homicides a year. You should therefore exercise caution when visiting the city, espe-
cially at night, and avoid the downtown El Centro and Sucre neighbourhoods which
can be very dangerous.
History and Overview
visitor facts cali
Cali’s Alfonso Bonilla Aragón International Airport is
located approximately ten miles northeast of the city
center. There are buses into Cali from the airport but they
can be a bit uncomfortable, especially if you’ve got a lot of
luggage. A taxi journey will take about twenty minutes and
cost 45,000 pesos ($25).
International connections from Alfonso Bo-
nilla Aragón include Madrid and Miami and
you can also catch domestic flights to Mede-
llín and Bogotá from here.
Once in Cali, taxis are probably the quic-
kest and cheapest way to get around the city
with a set minimum fare of 3,700 pesos ($2).
There is however also a reliable public trans-
port system, including a fleet of large air-con-
ditioned buses. A single journey costs 1,500
pesos (less than a dollar) to anywhere in the
As with other cities in Colombia,
Cali has its own distinctive local cui-
sine. Dishes and drinks you can try
here cholados (ice and exotic fruits
mixed with raspberry and sweet
condensed milk sauces and normally
sold by street vendors) pandebono (
baked rings of cheesy bread), sanco-
cho de gallina (a chicken soup) manjar
blanco (candy made from cooked sugar
and milk), mango viche (a green unripened
mango sold on the street with salt and lemon
juice), guarapo (a refreshing drink of freshly
pressed sugar cane juice served with ice and
lemon), arroz atollado (a risotto-type dish
with chicken, sausages and potatoes), cham-
pus ( a mixture of pineapple and corn) , abo-
rrajados (plantains filled with fried cheese),
dulce de Guayaba con queso ( guava paste
on a fresh slice of cheese), and marranitas
(plantains mixed with fried pork skin).
The food in Cali is a great
example of how to combine
smooth and strong flavours.
things to see cali
As you would expect from a city that dates from the Spanish
colonial era, Cali abounds in historic Catholic churches
which are among the most architecturally impressive buil-
dings in the city. The Iglesia de San Antonio is a colonial-
style church located at the top of a hill from which there
are stunning view of the city.
While the area around the church can be dan-
gerous after dark, during the day it is popular
with tourists, not only for the views from the
top of the hill but also because it is a lot cooler
here than in the bustling city center. You will
also find performers, story tellers, handy craft
sellers and cheap restaurants, hotels and hostels
for travelers here. In the city center, one of the
most popular churches visited by tourists is the
La Ermita, a Gothic-style church built in 1678.
The other main cultural highlights in Cali are
its museums. These include the Museo del Oro
del Banco de la República which has archaeolo-
gical exhibits such as pottery and gold artefacts
from the city’s pre-Columbian era, the Museo
Arqueologico La Merced, housed in a Colonial-
style church and also featuring archaeological
exhibits and religious art from the pre-Hispa-
nic era, and La Tertulia Museum of modern art
which showcases international exhibitions and
also has a movie theatre showing art house and
foreign language films.
The Zoologico de Cali has been called the best
zoo in South America. In an upmarket neighbour-
hood, it has an excellent reputation for caring for
its animals which include Bengal tigers, butterflies
Pla Cristo Rey is a statue of Jesus Christ on the
top of a hill, similar to the one in Rio de Janeiro.
Like its Brazilian counterpart, it has wonderful
views over the city. Cerro de las Tres Cruces is a
hill with three big crosses which also offers views
of the whole city.
Plaza de Toros is Cali’s bullfighting arena and
is most active in December during the city’s an-
nual festival. The other main sporting venue is the
other places of interest
Estadio Olimpico Pascual Guerrero, a football sta-
dium which is home to local professional teams
Deportivo Cali and America de Cali. League mat-
ches are played here every Sunday between May
and June and in November and December there
are also playoffs for the national championship.
If you are going to visit the Estadio Olimpico Pas-
cual Guerrero for a football match, it is probably
a good idea to join the other tourists in the “Occi-
dental”, a seating section on the on the west side of
the stadium. The southern end side of the Estadio
Olimpico Pascual Guerrero stadium has a lively
atmosphere but can be dangerous as this is where
the most fanatical fans of the two teams gather.
Cartagena de Indias, normally just called
Cartagena, is a city in northern Colombia on
the country’s Caribbean coastline. With a
population of just under a million, it is the
fifth-largest city in Colombia. It was founded
by the Spanish in 1533 and is named after the
city of Cartagena in Spain.
Cartagena is popular with both Colombian and international tourists and can get
very crowded, especially at Christmas and in Holy Week. There are two main tourist
areas, the walled colonial city (“ciudad amurallada”), and the long strip of skyscra-
per hotels known as Bocagrande.
History and Overview
facts for the visitor
Rafael Nuñez International Airport is the nea-
rest airport to Cartagena and has international
connections to North American cities including
Fort Lauderdale and Miami and domestic flights
from Medellín, Cali and Bogotá (Cartagena is six
hundred and fifty miles north of Bogotá with a
flying time between the two of around an hour).
To get into Cartagena from the airport, you can
either take a taxi from the rank outside the arri-
vals hall for a prepaid set rate of 15,800 pesos ($9)
or alternatively walk down the street and hail a
yellow cab which will take you to the city center
for between 5,000 - 7,000 pesos ($3-4).
Cartagena is an important port for the ship-
ping of goods from Panama to Colombia. Some
of these ships will also take passengers. The fare
varies depending on the size of the ship and the
onboard facilities available but it should be bet-
ween US$375 and US$500 for a trip that takes
four to five days.
Once you’ve got to Cartagena, you’ll find that
most places - the old town and Bocagrande for
example - are within easy walking distance but
for longer journeys buses run to other parts of
the city. A popular way for tourists to get around
the old town is to hail one of the horse-drawn
chariots that ply their trade here.
When it comes to finding somewhere to stay,
accommodation ranges from upmarket hotels in
the ciudad amurallada like the Sofitel Santa Clara
and Charleston Santa Teresa (both converted mo-
nasteries) to more affordable hotels in Bocagran-
pesos ($30) a night. If you can, you should try to
stay in the ciudad amurallada which is the most
historic and atmospheric part of Cartagena.
sights to see cartagena
in the old town. The five hundred year-old fort
and walled city are still remarkably intact and it is
here that you will find some of the most impressi-
ve examples of Spanish colonial architecture in the
whole of Latin America. The Castillo de San Felipe
a fortress for example was designed by the Spanish
to protect ships carrying gold back to Spain from
attacks by pirates. It is open between8am-6pm and
the entrance fee is 17,000 pesos ($10).
Not far from the San Felipe fortress is the five
hundred foot high La Popa hill which has stun-
ning views over Cartagena and its harbor and is
also the site of the seventeenth century Santa Cruz
monastery with its beautiful, restful courtyard and
a renowned image of the Virgin of La Candelaria.
Although the entrance fee is only 8,000 pesos ($5)
a taxi ride to the top of the hill and back can cost
as much as 50,000 pesos ($30). Try to negotiate a
lower fare with the driver before you set off as it’s
not really safe to walk, especially if you are on your
There are also museums you can visit while you
are in Cartagena, including the Palacio de la Inqui-
sición (Palace of Inquisition) where in the seven-
teenth century the Spanish Inquisition tortured,
judged and condemned people for their suspected
heresy against the Roman Catholic Church. The Pa-
lacio is located on the Plaza de Bolivar in the old
town and tourist guides in English are available.
The churches in the old town are also worth see-
ing, especially Iglesia de San Pedro Claver, the Ca-
thedral just off the Plaza de Bolivar and the Iglesia
de Santo Domingo.
The most popular beach for tourists visiting
Cartagena is Playa Blanca. You can get here by
ferry from the port or by road via the bridge to
the island of Baru. Boats leave from the port every
morning and a day trip costs around 50,000 pe-
sos ($30) including lunch (Feb 2012). The beach at
Playa Blanca is very clean but you will be hassled
by vendors selling drinks and souvenirs. You can
also rent a hammock or even a cabin if you want
to stay overnight.
If you’re a nature enthusiast or simply want to
spend some time away from the city take a day
tour to Tayrona National Park, about an hour
away. The 3,500 pesos park fee ($20) allows ex-
cellent trekking and beach relaxation, and basic
overnight accommodation is possible too.
The food in Cartagena reflects a cultural
fusion of Spanish and South American cui-
sines together with influences from Africa
and the Middle East. A set menu meal in a
basic restaurant will cost about 6,000 pesos
($3) and will typically include fried fish,
chicken or meat served with coconut rice
(arroz de coco) and fried plantains (pata-
cones). There are many places that sell $1
fruit juices. Colombia boasts a very good
range of exotic fruits that can be mixed
with water or milk (make sure you try Jugo
de Lulo, a juice made from an exotic fruit
only found in Colombia).
In the old town, the best restaurants are
to be found around the Plaza Santo Domin-
go in the El Centro district.
With a population of thirty seven thousand, it stands on the left bank of the Amazon
River at the point where the borders of Colombia, Brazil and Peru converge. Leticia has
a typical tropical rainforest climate with pretty much the same temperatures throughout
the year. The wettest month is May and the driest July. The average monthly rainfall in
Leticia is a little over four inches.
Tourism in Leticia is a major source of income and the town is today the second most po-
pular destination for international visitors after Cartagena de Indias. Attractions nearby
include the Mundo Amazonico Ecological Park.
Most of Leticia’s inhabitants have moved there from other cities in Colombia such as
Bogotá and Medellín. A significant proportion are native American Indians rather than
the more common mixed race mestizos.
History and Overview
Leticia & the
Amazon BasinLeticia is the southernmost town in
Colombia, the capital of its Amazon region
and the country’s only major port on
Three airlines have direct daily flights from Bogotá to Leti-
cia, Aero Republica, AIRES and SATENA.
visitor facts leticia
It is a two hour flight to Alfredo Vásquez Cobo In-
ternational Airport which not only serves Leticia
but is also the gateway to the whole of Colombia’s
Amazonian region. On arrival at the airport in
Leticia, non-Colombian citizens are required
to pay a impuesto al turismo (entrance fee) of
18,500 pesos ($10) which is valid for one year.
You can also get to Leticia from Iquitoso in Peru
on a rapido (speedboat) to the border towns of
Tabatinga in Brazil or Santa Rosa in Peru which
are very close by. This costs $75 and is a ten hour
trip. A slower boat on the same route costs $20-
25 which includes meals on board. A number of
riverboat cruises also stop off in Leticia including
the MV World Explorer, MV Bremen, MV Le Le-
Whether you are travelling to Leticia by air or
by boat you will need to have a yellow fever cer-
tificate showing that you have been vaccinated
against the disease at least ten days before your
arrival. It is a legal requirement and the officials
at the Amazon river port and Alfredo Vásquez
Cobo International Airport will usually check that
you are carrying one.
juan ferr alvarez
other places of interest
As you might expect in a town on the Amazon
surrounded by jungle, there a lots of interesting ac-
tivities to take part in and around Leticia. Many of
these center on the river, the nature and wildlife as-
sociated with it and the rainforest along its banks
Bird watching in Leticia is an unforgettable expe-
rience. At sunset, thousands of small parrots flock
to the trees where they spend the night. For 2,500
pesos ($1.50), you can watch this amazing spectacle
from the bell tower of the church which also offers
stunning views over Leticia and the Amazon river.
Other fun things to do while you are in Leticia in-
clude going kayaking on the Yahuarcaca lakes, visi-
ting Micos Monkey Island, a nature reserve where
you can feed the monkeys, and taking a bicycle trip
to Tabatinga across the border in Brazil. It is from
Tabatinga that river and speed boats can take you
downstream to Manaus in Brazil in one to three
days or upstream to Iquitos in Peru.
Because of its unique position on the triple fron-
starting point for eco-tourism activities and trips to
look at the wildlife and flora of the Amazon region.
From Leticia you can also visit indigenous tribes
which live along the banks of the Amazon such as
the Tikunas, Yaguas, Huitotos and Boras and on
the Yavarí River, a tributary of the Amazon, the Ya-
guas and Mayorunas people. On the Yavarí River
you can also visit a nature reserve and learn more
about the wildlife that lives in this region. Another
popular destination for tourists visiting Leticia is
the ribera peruana (the Peruvian bank of the Ama-
zon River opposite the town) which is a strip of vir-
gin tropical forest along the Cayaru river, another
of the Amazon’s many tributaries, where you will
find some stunning flora and wildlife.
cuisine sights to see
There is a wide variety of
food available in Leticia.
As many of the town’s inhabitants origi-
nally come from other parts of Colombia,
you will find lots of dishes only normally
Staple dishes in Leticia include sancocho
(a thick soup which is made with varying
ingredients in different parts of Colombia),
fish caught in the nearby Amazon, meat,
rice, vegetables and potatoes. Cooking
is usually done in a pan on a wood-fired
stove. A special meal might include meat
grilled over charcoal served with rice and
The most popular tourist attractions in or near
Leticia are the Amacayacu Parque Nacional Natu-
ral (Amacayacu National Natural Park), the scenic
Isla de los Micos (monkey island)island and the
Lago Yahuarcacas lakes. There is also the Parque
temático Mundo Amazónico park about five miles
from the town and the Banco de la República mu-
seum which is in the downtown part of Leticia.
If it’s adventure you’re after this is
probably the best place where to find
it. Tourists seldom make it here, and the
jungle is sure to surprise you, in more
ways than one.
juan ferr alvarez
There’s only one thing most people think of
when they hear the word Medellín: the drug
cartel led by Pablo Escobar that operated
from the city in the 1980’s and 1990’s.
But it would be a mistake to let the city’s international reputation as a crime center stop
you from visiting. Not only has the murder rate dropped dramatically over the last twenty
years but gang crime is largely confined to neighbourhoods outside the city center which
few if any tourists ever visit. If in doubt, ask a local for advice about where it’s safe to go.
Tourists who aren’t put off by Medellín’s now largely undeserved reputation as the gang
and homicide capital of Colombia will soon realize how much the city has to offer. The
second largest city in Colombia with a population approaching three million, Medellín is a
lively city with lots of street markets, several universities and a thriving cultural and night-
History and Overview
medellin facts for the visitor
José María Córdova is the nearest international airport
to Medellín and connects it to several North American and
European destinations including Miami, New York and Ma-
A taxi from here to the city center takes
around three quarters of an hour and will
cost you about 40,000 pesos ($22).
You can also get to Medellín by bus from
other cities in Colombia including Cartagena
and Bogotá. The journey from Bogotá takes
between seven and nine hours but it does in-
clude some spectacular scenery along the way.
A number of bus companies run services bet-
ween Bogotá and Medellín and their coaches
are generally comfortable with plenty of leg
room and toilets on board.
Once you’ve reached Medellín, traveling
around the city can be done quickly and che-
aply on the Metro system. You can go to an-
ywhere in the city with a single ticket costing
1,800 pesos (about a dollar). Taxis are also
pretty cheap with a set minimum fare of 4,200
pesos (just under $3).
medellinthings to see
Los Alumbrados, the Christmas lights which
can be seen from the beginning of December to
the middle of January, make Medellín an impres-
sive sight during the festive and New Year period
and people travel from all over Latin American
to see them. The most popular sections are to be
found along the banks of the Medellín River and
downtown and include large religious statues
made up of lights. The Metropolitan Cathedral
in Medellín is one of the biggest cathedrals in
South America and contains more than a million
bricks, and Pueblito Paisa, located in the center
of Medellin, is a quaint historic traditional pue-
blito and a great place to see what life was like
in Medellin 100 years ago
There are also lots of museums to visit in Me-
dellín but probably the most impressive is the
Museo de Antioquia which houses a collection
of paintings and sculptures by the acclaimed
modern artist Fernando Botero who was born
and grew up in the city. The Plaza Botero in front
of the museum also has several large sculptures
by him. The museum itself is open during the
week between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. The entrance
fee is 8,000 pesos ($4.50), or 4,000 pesos if you’re
Interesting buildings in Medellín include the
Ferrocarril de Antioquia train station, which
also has a small area for exhibits, and the iconic
Edificio Coltejer, owned by a textile company
and shaped like as a threading needle. You might
also want to take the cable metro (cable car) to
the nearby mountains for some great views.
guia de viajes oficial de medellin
medellin other places of interest
South Americans are known throughout the world for their
passion for football and Colombians are no different.
There are two professional teams in Mede-
llín, Atlético Nacional and Independiente Mede-
llín, and they both play their home matches at
the 45,000 capacity Atanasio Girardot Stadium
which is named after a Colombian revolutio-
nary hero who fought alongside Simon Bolivar
in the early nineteenth century battle to oust
Spanish colonial rule in South and Central Ame-
rica . A game here is an unforgettable experien-
ce because of the electric atmosphere created
by the fans on the terraces. The normal days on
which matches are played are Wednesdays, Sa-
turdays and Sunday. Line B of the Metro runs to
the Estadio stop near the stadium. You can buy
your match tickets at the ground on the day of
For a day outside the city consider a visit to El
Penol rock at Guatape, well worth the trip. You
can hire a taxi by the hour for the trip. Plan to
make frequent stops along the way at La Fe Re-
servoir, Fizebed farms to see the orchids, make
a stop at El Tequendamita waterfalls, buy some
hand made and painted pottery in Carmen de
Viboral and have lunch in Rio Negro (excellent
place to buy handcrafts of all kinds and taste
Colombian cuisine varies a lot between
different parts of the country so things you
might see in Bogotá or Cartagena aren’t ne-
cessarily available in Medellín. Local specia-
lities here include sancocho de gallina (chic-
ken soup), carne en polvo (ground beef),
arepas de choclo (corn tortillas), buñuelos
(fried cheese), rice with coconut, sobrebarri-
ga (flank steak) mantecada (a bun made with
lard), pan de yuca (yucca bread) and carne
desmechada (shredded meat).
A typical breakfast in Medellín consists
of arepas with butter and cheese washed
down with a steaming mug of hot chocolate.
A filling main meal is arepa con queso (flat-
bread with cheese) served with beans, chic-
ken, rice, fried eggs, bacon and deep-fried
When it comes to drinks, Colombians, like
most people in Latin America and the Ca-
ribbean, enjoy their spirits. A popular one
in Medellín is Aguardiente which is distilled
from sugar cane, has a sweet taste similar to
licorice and is usually drunk neat. The local
rum, Ron Medellín Añejo, is available aged
from 3, 8, 12 and 30 years and is normally
mixed with Club Soda, Coca-Cola or lemon
Santa Cruz de Mompox, normally just called
Mompox, is a town in northern Colombia. It
stands on an island in the Magdalena River
and is about a hundred and fifty miles from
the city of Cartagena.
With a population of around thirty thousand, Mompox’s main industries are tourism, fis-
hing and cattle breeding.
Mompox was founded in 1537 by the Spanish and quickly became a prosperous port ship-
ping goods upriver into the interior of the colonial province of New Granada. Simón Bolívar,
liberator of South America from Spanish colonial rule, arrived in Mompox in 1812 and re-
cruited four hundred men who went to become the backbone of his army.
Today Mompox is known for its colonial architecture and its historic center has been de-
signated a World Heritage Site by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural
Organization (UNESCO). Unlike many towns and cities in Latin America, most of the colonial
buildings are still used for their original purpose.
History and Overview
mompox facts for the visitor
things to see
It has to be said that Mompox is not that easy to get to. From
Medellin, you can travel to Magangué, catch a ferry across
the river and then make the short journey to Mompox.
Mompox is one of the best examples of a Spanish colonial
town in the whole of Latin America.
From Cartagena, you can catch a bus direct to
Mompox which includes the ferry trip but leaves
at 6 a.m. You need to confirm the day before that
the service is running. It is also possible to get to
Mompox by boat upriver from Barranquilla and
occasionally to fly in by private plane.
Getting around Mompox itself is fairly
straightforward. Given its small size, you can
easily walk to pretty much anywhere in the cen-
ter. Taxis will also take you anywhere in Mompox
for 600 pesos (less than fifty cents). However they
do like to pick up several passengers for each trip
and drivers may be reluctant just to take you on
As you walk around the town you will see lots
of wrought iron work on doors, railings and
window grills on buildings, especially those on
Calle de la Albarrada, Calle Real del Medio and
Calle de Atrás.
Mompox also boasts some finely preserved
churches from the Spanish colonial era. These
include Santa Bárbara (built in 1613), San Agus-
tín (built in 1606), San Juan de Dios and Immacu-
late Conception where there is also a museum of
religious art and gold. Immaculate Conception
is also called the Cathedral of Mompox because
of its large. Two of the oldest religious buildings
in Mompox are San Francisco Church, built in
1564, and the Convent which was founded in
1580. Santa Bárbara is the most unusual church
because of its Moorish-style tower with a bal-
cony and appears in many photos of Mompox.
Santa Bárbara is also decorated with moldings
of palm trees, flowers and lions. The tower’s
dome is baroque and the church’s three altars
are heavily decorated with gilt. Most of the chur-
ches are only open for Mass so plan to visit them
at these times if you want to see the interiors.
San Juan de Dios Hospital dates from 1550 and
has been run by the La Orden de todos los Her-
manos Hospitalarios (Order of the Hospital Bro-
thers) since 1633. San Juan de Dios is the oldest
hospital still in its original building in the Ame-
ricas. The House of the Apostles on Calle Real
del Medio is a mansion that was once owned by
a prominent local shipping family. It is popular
with tourists who come to see the superb mu-
rals of the twelve apostles and Jesus Christ at the
Last Supper. The Municipal Palace in Mompox,
also known as the Cloister of San Carlos, was ori-
ginally built as a convent in 1660.
The City Hall in Mompox contains the dun-
geons in which prisoners were held in the Spa-
nish colonial era as well as the mayor’s ornate
reception room. It is celebrated throughout Co-
lombia as the place where in 1810 the Act of In-
dependence from Spain was proclaimed to cries
from the jubilant crowd of “Ser Libres o Morir”
(Freedom or Death) .
MOMPOx other places of interest
You can try local wines at ViniMompox, inclu-
ding ones made with unusual ingredients
such as bananas and oranges.
There are lots of cheap cafes serving local dis-
hes while at the other end of the scale the Mom-
poj Restaurant at Bioma Boutique Hotel serves
good but pricy fusion dishes and a variety of exo-
tic cocktails. Two blocks upriver from the Santa
Barbara church is El Fuerte, an Italian bar and
restaurant which specializes in stone-baked piz-
zas and homemade pasta.
Other places to visit in Mompox are the mu-
seum on the Calle Real del Medio and the bota-
nical gardens. A popular day trip from Mompox
is to Cienaga del Pijiño where you can see a wide
variety of wildlife including exotic birds and rep-
tiles. If you are interested in going on a trip to
Cienaga del Pijiño, pop into the La Cuarta hotel
where the staff will be happy to make all the ne-
cessary arrangements for you.
POPAYáNPopayán is a town in southwest Colombia
which has a population of around a quarter
of a million. It is also known as the La Ciudad
Blanca de Colombia (White City of Colombia)
due to the color of its historic buildings.
For many years, the city’s cathedral was home to the La Corona de Nuestra Señora de
la Asunción de Popayán (also known as the Crown of the Andes), a thirteen inch high gold
crown made for a larger than life-size statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the sixteenth cen-
tury and set with emeralds seized from the captured Inca Emperor Atahualpa.
Popayán was founded by the Spanish in 1537 and there are many examples of colonial
houses and churches from the Hispanic period. Many people who travel to this area of Co-
lombia combine a trip to Popayán with a visit to the nearby town of Silvia, a popular wee-
kend getaway for residents of the city of Cali about forty miles away escaping the heat in the
History and Overview
popayan facts for the visitor
You can fly direct to Popayán on one of four daily flights
from Bogotá or alternatively you can fly to Cali, about
ninety miles away, and make your way from there.
A bus from Cali to Popayán takes around two
hours. Check with your embassy or consula-
te about the current security situation in the
area before making this journey as there con-
tinues to be a high level of guerrilla activity in
the countryside around Popayán (the left-wing
FARC militia have been fighting the Colombian
government in the South of the country since
Once you reach Popayán, you’ll find that it’s
a pretty easy city to explore on foot. You can
easily walk from the bus station to the city cen-
ter in ten to fifteen minutes and many of the his-
toric buildings from the Spanish colonial era are
located in a relatively small area.
things to see
Many of the most interesting things to see in
Popayán are connected to its history as part of
the Spanish empire between the sixteenth and
early nineteenth century when it was an impor-
tant city due to its location between Lima, Quito
and Cartagena, the main port for shipping gold
dug out of the mines in the Andes mountains
back to Spain. As a result, it is rich in well-pre-
served Spanish colonial era architecture – inclu-
ding bridges, museums and churches – and its
historic downtown is thought by many to be the
most beautiful in the whole of Latin America.
The architectural highlights of Popayán are
without doubt the many Spanish colonial chur-
ches. Among the most impressive are the Igle-
sia de San Francisco, Iglesia La Ermita, San José,
Belén, on a hill overlooking the city, Santo Do-
mingo, San Agustín and the Cathedral Basílica
of Nuestra Señora de la Asunción (Our Lady of
the Ascension). The Gobernacion government
offices and the Universidad del Cauca univer-
sity (established in 1827 and one of Colombia’s
oldest institutions of higher education) are also
housed in Spanish colonial buildings. Another
architectural gem to see in Popayán site is the
Puente del Humilladero, a long stone-built foot-
bridge over the river.
Popayán ‘s central square, the Parque de Cal-
das, is the site of a famous landmark, the Torre
del Reloj Clock Tower whose timepiece was made
in England before being shipped to Colombia.
Popayán is a major Catholic pilgrimage des-
tination in Colombia with people flocking to
the city for its renowned Easter celebrations,
known as the Semana Santa and the second lar-
gest in the world after the ones in Seville, Spain.
They feature street parades in which large woo-
den floats weighing up to two hundred pounds
and displaying religious statues are carried on
the shoulders of the faithful watched by tens
of thousands of people lining the sidewalks. In
2009, UNESCO declared the Easter Week proces-
sions in Popayán a Masterpiece of the Oral and
Intangible Patrimony of Humanity.
The distinctive foods and drinks are one of the main
highlights when visiting the Cauca region, which includes
Popayan and Silvia.
In 2005 Popayán was designa-
ted a City of Gastronomy by the
United Nations Educational,
Scientific and Cultural Orga-
nization (UNESCO) because
of the culinary traditions
which have been passed
down orally by generations
of local people. Cheap and au-
thentic food is most plentiful at
the market adjoining the Plaza Bo-
livar. A meal here should cost around
1,500 pesos (less than a dollar).
Dishes you will see in Popayán and Silvia
and throughout the Cauca region include ta-
males de pipian (corn-based dough steamed or
boiled in a leaf wrapping and
then filled with a thick stew
containing garlic, tomato
and onion) and empa-
nadas de pipian (baked
or fried pastries stu-
ffed with the same fi-
lling). A popular drink
in southwest Colombia
– and indeed across the
border in Peru and Ecua-
dor – is champús (maize, pi-
neapple and quince sweetened with
an unrefined cane sugar called panela and
seasoned with cinnamon, cloves and orange
Near Popayán is Puracé National Park, a geo-
thermal site where you will find hot springs,
waterfalls and the dormant volcano from which
the park takes its name.
Another town not to miss is Silvia, just 1.5 hours
away by bus (van). Surrounded by beautiful
mountains it is know as the Switzerland of Ame-
rica and has managed to maintain a rich cultural
heritage thanks to the neighbouring community
of Guambinos, who’s picturesque clothing will
not go unnoticed to the visitor. Make sure you vi-
sit the local market (try to eat there) and walk to
the Church of Belen on the nearby hill top for a
great view of the area. Note that the Guambinos
only visit the town on Thursdays (market day), so
try to schedule your visit accordingly.
Salento is a small town of just over three
and a half thousand people in the northwest
of Colombia, about fifteen miles northeast
of the departmental capital Armenia.
The town was established in 1864 and named after Salento in the southeast of Apulia in Italy. It.used
to be on the main road between Cali and Bogotá but since this was diverted the town has became quieter
and more laid back, retaining most of its Spanish colonial architecture. Its popularity with tourists is
due in part to its proximity to the Cocora valley, one of the most visited places destinations in Colom-
bia. It also has a fiesta in the first week of January when this sleepy little town comes alive and parties
around the clock.
Armenia itself is nicknamed the Ciudad Milagro (Miracle City) because of the rapid rate of urban
growth and economic development it experienced in the second half of the twentieth century. The local
economy still depends on the growing of coffee, plantains and bananas as well as tourism.
The Colombian Coffee Triangle (Triángulo del Café) includes the department of Quindio, of which
Armenia is the capital and in which Salento lies, and is famous around the world for the quality of the
coffee it produces. Many coffee buyers regard it as the best coffee available on the world market and its
reputation among coffee drinkers is also excellent.
History and Overview
and the Armenia
Most tourists get to Salento by bus from Ar-
menia. Buses leave between 5.30 a.m. and 8p.m.
and a ticket costs 3,400 pesos ($2). A taxi is also
not that expensive, costing around 20,000 pesos
($12). You can also catch a direct bus on wee-
kdays from the city of Pereira forty miles nor-
thwest of Salento. These services leave Pereira
at 6.20 a.m. and 1.20 and 4.20 p.m. every day
and a ticket for the journey which takes about
three hours will cost you 5,500 pesos ($3).
Getting around Salento itself is pretty easy gi-
ven its size and most people just walk around
but there is also a taxi that will take you where
you want to go. One of the best places to stay in
Salento is the Hostal Tralala which has a garden
with sun terrace, hot showers and beds with
comfortable mattresses, soft pillows and clean
white linen. The staff are also very friendly and
helpful to travelers and tourists.
As you would expect in a town in
Colombia’s coffee growing area, Salento
has several places where you can sample
the country’s most famous exported beve-
rage. Bar Camino Real is a small, arty pla-
ce with a fireplace and benches where you
can sip your mug of coffee in the evening.
Café Jesus Martin is another cosy coffee
house which is known for its cappuccinos
and chocolate cake.
Fish are also abundant in the rivers
around Salento. A meal of fish and rice
will cost you between 10,000 and 20,000
pesos ($6-12) depending on how fancy
the restaurant is. Restaurants in the Co-
cora valley specialize in freshwater trout
baked and served with patacones (plan-
things to see and do
The Cocora valley is the main attraction near Sa-
lento. It has quite a surreal atmosphere as a result
of the two hundred foot high wax palm trees that
There are two main ways to reach the Cocora va-
lley from Salento. You can hire a bike in Salento for
around 35,000 pesos ($20) a day and follow one of
the trails which offer stunning views of the valley
and coffee plantations.
You can also hike into the Cocora valley. A jeep
will take you in to the foothills of the valley for about
3,000 pesos ($2) from where you can trek through
grassland and towering wax palms and wade across
small streams in low-level cloud. You can also hire a
horse for around 10,000 pesos ($5) an hour.
The Cocora valley lies on the upper reaches of
the Quindío River at an altitude between 6,000 and
8,000 feet. It is part of the 360 square mile Los Ne-
vados National Park. Popular activities here include
bird watching, mountain biking, horse riding, raf-
ting and swimming in its rivers.
This style of architecture can be seen especia-
lly on the Calle Real (Royal Road) that leads nor-
theast from the plaza in the center of Salento.
You will also find lots of shops selling locally-
made handcrafts on the Calle Real. Specialities
include jewelry, candles and artisanal goods
made from the bamboo which grows locally.
The Calle Real leads to the Alto de la Cruz, a mi-
salento other places of interest
Salento is renowned for the large number of buildings in
the Spanish colonial bahareque architectural style that is
typical of the Triángulo del Café area.
rador, or look-out point, with spectacular views
of the Cocora valley and the mountains of the
Los Nevados National Park. The Calle Real ends
in two hundred and fifty steps with the fourteen
Stations of the Cross spaced along them. You
can however reach the Alto de la Cruz mirador
without walking up the steps via an alternative,
less direct route along a nearby road.
Alone among the countries of South America,
Colombia has coastlines on both the Pacific
Ocean and the Caribbean Sea.
Colombia’s northern Caribbean coast is well known to travelers – the historic Spanish colonial
cities of Cartagena and Santa Marta for example – but the region also has some areas of great na-
tural beauty like the Tayrona National Park and further to the north the islands of San Andres and
Santa Marta was founded in 1525 by the Spanish conquerors of South America and named after
the city of Santa Marta de Astorgas in Spain. The Tayrona National Park was created in 1969 from
twelve square miles of Caribbean Sea and fifty square miles of shoreline and includes a wide ran-
ge of terrain and climatic conditions. The islands of San Andres and Providencia have a complex
history, having been occupied or claimed through the centuries by England, Spain, Argentina, Ni-
caragua and the United States.
History and Overview
You can also travel to Santa Marta by bus
from Cartagena (three and a half hours), Me-
dellín (fifteen hours) and the capital Bogotá
The best way to get to the Tayrona National
Park from Santa Marta is by bus. These leave
about every half hour, take around an hour and
cost 5,000 pesos ($3). If there are three or four of
you, a taxi might be a bit cheaper and will take
you straight to the entrance to the park. Ano-
ther way to get there from Santa Marta is to hire
santa marta facts for the visitor
Simón Bolívar airport in Santa Marta has direct connec-
tions with Bogotá and Medellín and is thirteen miles down
the coast from the city center, close to some fine beaches.
a boat which will take you to one of the park’s
beach although this is only really economical if
you’re with a large group.
When it comes to the islands of San Andres
and Providencia, the only way to get there is by
air. There are direct flights to San Andres from
Bogotá and from San Andres you can also fly to
Providencia in about twenty minutes. There is
also a catamaran which makes the trip between
the islands which takes around two and a half
hours and costs 210,000 pesos ($120).
The most famous tourist destination in Santa
Marta is the La Quinta de San Pedro Alejandrino
hacienda, the estate where Simon Bolivar, the
Liberator of South America from Spanish colo-
nial rule, died in 1830. You can get to the estate
from the city center by bus for 1,000 pesos (less
than a dollar) or in a taxi for 4,000 pesos ($3).
The estate is known for its extensive gardens as
well as a museum dedicated to the life of Boli-
var. Entrance is 10,000 pesos ($6) and includes
a guided tour.
As you’d expect in a region along the sho-
re of the Caribbean Sea, seafood is plentiful
and delicious when cooked fresh after being
landed by local fishermen. Restaurants spe-
cialize in dishes using locally caught lobs-
ters, squid, fish, crab, and prawns and in the
islands of San Andres and Providencia you
will also find rondon (a soup made from
crab, fish, pig tail and plantain).
In Santa Marta, street vendors and small
cafes also sell a wide range of ethnic cuisines
including pizza, hamburgers, hot dogs and
Santa Marta might not have the best
beach in the country, but its charm and
easy going pace keep visitors here for
longer than they expected.
The Tayrona National Park is the main day
trip destination from Santa Marta.It has a uni-
que ecosystem because of its location between
the mountains and the sea and the wildlife you
can see here includes monkeys, woodpeckers,
eagles, condors, iguanas, jaguars, lizards and
A short walk will take you to La Piscina, a la-
goon where it is safe to swim. At El Cabo you
can also snorkel. The visibility is normally very
good and you can see plenty of marine life inclu-
ding tropical fish near the rocks and on the reef
further out in the ocean. Around El Cabo there
are a several excellent beaches and also walking
trails, including one to the archaeological site of
El Pueblito which takes between two and three
hours with quite a lot of uphill hiking.
You will also find plenty to do on the islands of
San Andres and Providencia. On San Andres you
santa marta places of interest
can go scuba diving and snorkelling and there
are lots of place that offer jet skiing, kayaking,
windsurfing and horse riding. Providencia’s
main appeal is its beautiful volcanic scenery,
as well as white sandy beaches, crystal clear
waters, scuba diving and fishing.
Santa Catalina is a smaller island connected
to Providencia by a footbridge and is a lot quie-
ter than the other islands. It has some beautiful
beaches and Morgan’s Head, a rock formation
that is supposed to resemble the head of the se-
venteenth century English privateer and pirate
Henry Morgan who used the islands as a base
for raiding the Spanish Main.
About ten miles north of Providencia, at the
top of the barrier reef, is the remote island of
Low Caye which is ideal for fishing trips. You
can get there by hiring a boat which will also
take you to some of the other smaller islands.
Villa de Leyva is a historic Spanish colonial
municipality in the department of Boyacá in
With a population of twelve thousand, it is more of a village than a town but is extremely rich
in colonial architecture. The valley in which it is located lies at over seven thousand feet and con-
tains fossils from the Mesozoic and Cretaceous eras.
Villa de Leyva was founded in 1572 by Spanish conquistadors. In the colonial era, it was a
favourite resort for Spanish viceroys who enjoyed the clear mountain air and the pleasantly mild
climate. With its attractive, stone built colonial buildings, it continues to attract tourists from the
capital Bogotá ninety miles to the south.
History and Overview
Most people travel to Villa de Leyva by bus
from Bogotá, a four hour trip that costs 20,000
pesos ($12). The main plaza is only a couple of
blocks from where the bus drops you off and in
fact, given the size of Villa de Leyva, it is pos-
sible to walk pretty much anywhere you
want to go from here.
facts for the visitor cuisine
SNACKS> There is a very wide variety
of cheap, authentic food to be found in Bo-
yacá and Villa de Leyva is no exception.
Dishes you will come across here inclu-
de the traditional fried snacks of arepas,
empanadas and tamales made with pota-
toes, flour, onions, rice and cheese, soups
of corn, wheat and meat, main courses
containing lots of rice, meat and sau-
sages, and desserts such as cuajada
(somewhat similar to cheesecake),
roast bananas filled with cheese,
apple cake, feijoa candy and co-
cadas (coconut cookies). Slightly
more unusual dishes you will
see here are lamb’s testicle soup
and lamb’s head stew.
The Iguaque Sanctuary of Flora and Fauna is
an ecological park that contains lots of different
native species and ecosystems including the An-
dean high jungle and eight glacier lakes. A bus
from Villa de Leyva will drop you off about a
mile and a half from the park.
East of Villa de Leyva you can climb a mirador
(look out point) that is known locally as the Sa-
grado Corazón (Sacred Heart). It is a steep climb
through the forest and very rocky in parts – if
you’re reasonably fit, it should take you about
Other attractions near the town include an
ostrich farm, a museum and ancient Muisca In-
dian astronomic observatory constructed with
giant phallic stones known as El Infiernito (Litt-
le Hell) which is about five miles from Villa de
Leyva. A popular day trip is to the seven water-
falls called La Piriquera which are about ten mi-
les from Villa de Leyva.
The El Fósil fossil museum is about three miles
from Villa de Leyva on the road to Santa Sofia. It
boasts an almost complete kronosaurus which
was discovered locally in 1977. El Fósil is open
things to see
places of interest
from 7a.m. to 6 p.m. and entrance costs 4,000
The Convento Santo Ecce Homo is a Catholic
monastery about ten miles from Villa de Leyva
on the road to Santa Sofia which was founded
in 1620 by Spanish missionaries attempting to
convert the local Indian population and which
is now open to the public. Entrance costs 3,000
There are a large number of colorful festivals
celebrated in the main plaza of Villa de Leyva
throughout the year. They attract thousands of
visitors from other parts of Colombia as well as
from overseas and include the gastronomical
festival, the water festival and the tree festival.
Most of the sights in Villa de Leyva are to be
found on the Plaza Mayor (Main Square) where
as well as the church there are lots of stone built
houses from the Spanish colonial era.
The Spanish colonial style of architecture you
will see in Villa de Leyva is typified by the bal-
conies, arches and main entrance doors of buil-
dings such as Casa del Primer Congreso, Casa de
Don Antonio Narioño, Casa de La Real Fabrica
de Licores and Claustro de San Agustín.
There are also a number of museums in Vi-
lla de Leyva. The Museo Paleontológica houses
an impressive collection of some of the many
fossils found around Villa de Leyva. These have
included a hundred and fifteen million year old
Plesiosaurus and a Ichthyosaurus, a twenty-four
foot long marine reptile that also lived around
the same period, before the geological forma-
tion of the Andes Mountains when what is now
Villa de Leyva was under the sea. The museum
is open every day except Monday and entrance
is 2,000 pesos (just over a dollar).
The Museo del Carmen has an impressive co-
llection of religious art. The Antonio Ricaurte
museum specializes in military history and is
housed in the former home of Antonio Ricaurte,
a soldier from Villa de Leyva who in 1813 joined
the army of Simón Bolívar, to fight against Spa-
nish colonial rule. Ricaurte is famous for deli-
berately blowing himself and a large number of
enemy soldiers up with a barrel of gunpowder
at a decisive moment in the Battle of San Mateo,
a heroic act commemorated in the last verse of
the Colombian national anthem.
Slow paced Villa de Leyva is the ultimate
desitnation for those who want to take
a break, but there are great day trips
EMERGENCY TELEPHONE NUMBERS
Metropolitan Police (Policía
CAI Immediate attention center 156
Dijin - Judicial Police 157
Transit Police 127
Civil Defence (Defensa Civil) 144
Tourist Police (Policía de turismo)
(571) 337-4413 - 243-1175
Medical emergencies 125
Red Cross 132
Fire department 119
Bogota Prevention Center and
EMBASSIES AND CONSULATES
United States Embassy, Bogota
+57 (0)1 315 1566.
British Embassy, Bogota
+57 (0)1 326 8300.
Canadian Embassy, Bogota
+57 (0)1 657 9800.
Australian Consulate, Bogota
+57 (0)1 694 6320.
Honorary Consul of Ireland,
Bogota: +57 (0)1 446-6114
New Zealand Consulate, Bogota:
+57 (0)1 633 1322.
Spain Embassy Bogota:
Colombia Tourism, Bogota:
+57 (0)1 212 6315 or