Bonnie and Dave have come a long way (literally!) since their first family trip across Europe in a VW van. These days, they're experienced world travelers—most recently seeking adventure and local experiences throughout Central and South America. Looking for a new destination off the tourist trail, they chose Colombia for its perfect mix of culture, outdoor activities, and unspoiled Amazonian rainforest.

Hi Bonnie! Tell us a bit about you and Dave. What are some of your favorite destinations, and how would you describe your travel style?

Bonnie and Dave in Bogotá (photo courtesy of Bonnie Sibley)

We started traveling in 1975 when we flew to Amsterdam with our 2 children, aged 3 and 7 months. We traveled through Europe and Morocco in a VW camper van. Our style has evolved over the years—we now travel as a couple and love visiting museums, going hiking, and learning about animals all over the world. We like comfortable rooms and authentic restaurants where locals eat.

For the last ten years, we've been traveling throughout Central and South America. All of the countries are different and it's hard to choose just one favorite from the long list of places we've been so far: Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands, Peru, Chile, Venezuela, Brazil, Nicaragua, Panama, and Costa Rica.

How did you first become interested in Colombia as your destination of choice? What were your must-see and must-do priorities? 

Camino Real trail from Barichara to Guane (photo courtesy of Bonnie Sibley)

Colombia looked like an interesting destination, as it is just opening up to tourism. We wanted to see places apart from the conventional, and we relied heavily on the expertise of the kimkim team. Our priorities were visiting the Colombian Amazon and Cartagena (we loved the 1984 movie Romancing the Stone).

We would love to hear your impressions of Bogotá and Cartagena. How were your experiences in the two cities different?

Colorful Colombian cemetery (photo courtesy of Bonnie Sibley)

The size difference is striking. Driving into Bogotá is like driving into a sea of traffic—we couldn’t believe how long it took to get to La Candelaria, the historic area where we stayed! Cartagena is much smaller and the traffic in the area around the walled city and Getsemani was much lighter. The hot and humid climate of Cartagena was in stark contrast to the cooler mountain climate of Bogotá. And we adapted much better to Cartagena at sea-level than to Bogotá’s higher altitude.

The food in coastal Cartagena was mostly seafood based, and they served delicious ceviche. In Bogotá, the best dishes were the soups— particularly Ajiaco, a creamy potato, chicken, and corn soup. Both cities were rich in history. We saw many great museums and took in the view from Mount Monseratte while in Bogotá. In Cartagena, we spent our time walking the streets of both the old town and Getsemani, where we found beautiful street art.

If you could pick one or two favorite memories from your trip, what would they be? 

Cocora Valley, home of the wax palms (photo courtesy of Bonnie Sibley)

Hiking the Camino Real between Barichara and Guane was incredible. My husband was not able to experience the 3-6 mile (depending on who you talk to) walk with me, so I was alone with the beauty, peace, and tranquility of the lush green countryside. Viewing the wax palms in Cocora Valley, Sorento was also a treat. We couldn’t get enough of the curious beauty of the valley and these most unusual trees.

What were the most surprising things about Colombia? Any advice for other travelers?

Pristine, cactus-lined cobblestone streets (photo courtesy of Bonnie Sibley)

We were struck by the cleanliness and organization of the country— we felt very safe throughout the trip. If we did it again, we'd probably skip Tayrona Park. We love hiking, but the amount of mud we slogged through for 2 hours each way wasn't ideal!

And last but not least: where are you planning to go on your next adventure?

We are going to Portugal to relive some of the memories of our 1975 adventure and create some new ones as a couple.

Bonnie and Dave's trip was planned through kimkim by Marine Guérin, our local travel specialist based in Colombia.