Travel Expert’s Guide to Colombia
Colombia is a land of extremes. The ample biodiversity in Colombia offers magnificent and sites and a wide variety of tastes you will not find anywhere else. Yes, lets address the elephant in the room, it’s a land that at times its shrouded in political turmoil but it is safe for the average tourist. The extreme landscapes and sharp contrast of mountains, and rain forest has made this a favorite hangout for extreme tourists seeking high thrills and for layback relaxation tourism and everything in between. Before traveling you will need Passport and Visa, typhoid, Malaria and Diphtheria shots, Basic Spanish and the Colombian Peso. Some street vendors will charge you far more if you pay in dollars than in peso simply because you did not come prepared. The Best time to travel is December to February, From October to November it’s too rainy, From March to September is whale watching season and you can take advantage of an amazing gathering of sperm, humpback and other types of whales off the pacific coast. [gallery ids="7623,7624,7625"]
Colombia Bucket list for Relaxation –
- See the lost city of Teyuna
- Hike and swim at Tayroma national park
- See the migrating Monarch Butterflies at the Reserva Mariposa Monarca
- Take a Mud bath in the Tutumo Volcano
- Trek through the cocoa Valley
Colombia Bucket List for EXTREME[gallery ids="7626,7627,7628"]
- Parque national del Couy – Over 300.000 hectares featuring amazing mountain views, a climbing trek (Rico Ritak U’wa Blanco) and other amazing camping and trekking trails. While there be sure to check out Boquerón de Cusiri and Laguna Grande de la Sierra for some amazing sites.
- Flandes – Melgar (Tolima) - You come to this place for one thing and one thing only Parasailing. You can rent a lightweight aircraft and jump at a Hight of 3,000 Meters to some of the most amazing sights in the world.
- Villa de Leyva – This is a Spelunking site. You can check out the Cueva del Duende (cave of the gobbling) and Cueva de la Fabrica (cave of …. Workshop… not sure what the direct translation is for this one folks) Still for spelunking lovers this is it.
- Isla Gorgona – This is the place where you go whale watching, it’s a national and culture site where if you come at the right time you can see over 10 species of whales.
- Cundinamarca (alto del vino) it’s the tallest Bungee Jumping park in South America and for thrill seekers there is no equal.
- San Gil (Santander) is the place to go for rapids and kayak and rafting. All rapids are Class 3 and above so this is not for amateurs and unprepared. Rio Fonce, Rio Suares and Cascadas de San Curi are among the most difficult trails in the world.
- Mesa de los Santos – Chicamocha Canion in Santander features a 20 Minute parasailing flight across one of the largest canyons in south America. The sites are too magnificent to put into words so I will use pictures instead.
Authentic Dishes.[gallery ids="7629,7630,7631"]
- Bandeja paisa – Rise, Plantains, Arepa, avocado, minced meant, Chorizo, Black sausage and fried pork rinds with a fried egg on top.
- Arepas – Ground Maize Dough Cooked into flatbreads
- Sancocho - Traditional Colombian Stew
- Cazuela de Mariscos – Seafood Stew.
- Beaches you Must Visit
- Playa Blanca – Isla de Baru, Cartagena
- Playas de Providencia – San Andres y Providencia
- Niqui – Niqui Choco
- Palomino Beach in Guajara
- Isla de San Bernardo – Sucre
Cultural Shock warnings.When you deal with Street vendors be ready to haggle. A LOT. You can get amazing prices if you’re willing to fight for them. Colombians LOVE to haggle and they see the tourists as a chance to have meaningful cultural exchanges but for the best prices you must haggle, otherwise you will pay 3 or 5 times the normal time and if you don’t speak Spanish you will miss them making fun of your bad deal with their friends. Colombians are fun folks and often more affectionate than expected, Expect long winged introductions and many cordial greetings if you’re in a large group. Before you visit Colombia, you should Read Love in the times of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marques, watch Maria Full of grace and listen to Prenda de Vela by Toto La Momposina. Doing so will give you some talking points with the locals and you will blend in like one of them.
Table MannersAlways ask for seconds at the table, fork goes on your left and knife on your right, do not switch them. Eating with your hand is acceptable for certain foods only. Bandeja Paisa is a tricky subject, no matter what it looks like you MUST eat it all and learn to love it or risk an argument with your host. Watch your hands before and after eating, not just in Colombia but in general. Basic Spanish will NOT be enough. To survive in Colombia, you need to know their Dialect and slang. Here are some of the words you will hear OVER AND OVER and not find in a Spanish to English dictionary.
- Parcelo or parcelito – Bro, or hommie.
- Quieubo, parce? - How are you. (note parce is short for Parcelo)
- El parche – My family and friend
- Polas – Beer
- Toque – A concert, not to be confused with how the rest of Latin America uses the word toque.
- Lucas – Colombian Peso. Not officially, just how they are used in conversation with street vendors.
- Dar Papaya – If you hear someone saying this to you, they are telling you that you’re asking to get mugged, means you’re flashing jewelry or at risk for getting mug by local kids. Pay attention to your valuable in big cities, Most Colombians are very nice folks who will warn the amateur tourist of they’re doing something stupid but takes all kinds. So, if you hear people saying Da Papaya, means, someone is not being careful.
- Chimba – The word means many things, usually good things, there is no one meaning to this, but if you hear it, it’s usually a good thing. Like this bag is a Chimba, means it’s a good deal.