Bogotá, coffee triangle & caribbean coast - 7 days , Colombia - Jan 31 - Feb 7, 2018
My wife and I had arranged a holiday to Peru and took advantage of the international flights connecting via Bogota to spend a week in Colombia on the return journey.
I then researched via the internet for itineraries and transport options around Colombia, which is when I came across the Kimkim site for the first time. From then on the trip fell into place very nicely with Elisabeth from Aventur making contact with a suggested itinerary based on my stated preferences. A few changes were made at my request, and were accommodated by Elisabeth readily until we had the perfect itinerary for us. The proposal we received was detailed and clear, and included all transfers, guided tours and internal flights as well as a breakdown of hotels booked and inclusive meals . Everything was covered. The payment system was simple and secure via credit card.
The holiday itself was super, having come off the back of a great time spent in Peru I was concerned that our Colombia stay might have been overshadowed, but not at all! The variety of Colombia was reflected in our itinerary and made for a great experience.
Following our arrival at Bogota airport our polite private transfer driver was waiting at 'Arrivals' and drove us to our standard accomodation in the Candeleria area of Bogota which we found to be a bustling and lively part of the city. I admit that the press and government advice regarding security and safety in Bogota did have us slightly on edge but spending the best part of 2 days there we did not feel threatened at all, but we were sensible about where we walked and careful that we didn't make ourselves look like tempting targets. That said , we did see a bag snatched from a young woman on the walk to the Monserrate funicular/ cable car station, but police were very quickly on the scene.
Our guided bike tour around Bogota, ably guided by ex pat Californian Mike 'the bike', was a great experience where he introduced us to the key sites over quite an area of the city centre, to places that we would not have ventured on our own or on foot. We really covered quite a distance in the 5 hours. In addition to seeing key sites Mike explained historical connections and context to the places that we saw as well as generally giving us an understanding of Bogota and Colombian society, culture. politics, and yes the past influences from the darker side of the Colombian economy.
Time spent in a neighbourhood cafe where they roast their own beans in the back was a worthwhile experience (we were given a peak at the process in action at the back of the shop), and the time that we spent wandering through the central fruit/veg market between stalls tasting different fruits was great. Mike seemed to know everyone!
Ending with a drink and a game of the national sport 'Tejo' which involves throwing rocks at paper wraps filled with gunpowder on a clay base the whole tour was definitely a success. I would recommend the Bogota bike tour to anyone who can ride a bike.
Food options in Candeleria were endless, we ended up having an evening meal in an Israeli restaurant just down the road from the hotel and it was nice food at a good price.
We were transfered on time to the airport for our internal flight to Armenia from where we were transfered to our hotel(Salento Real) in Salento, which was a very nice place just at the edge of the town centre. It was a good location because we were staying over the weekend and the town gets very busy, we were 2 minutes from the wonderful centre but not efftected by the noise at bedtime.
We had a leisurely guided tour to see the Wax palms in the nearby Cocora valley which involved a bit of light hiking, amazing views and lots of flower and bird spotting. Our guide, Blane, was passionate about the environment and had us catapulting wax palm seeds into the jungle to help spread the area where they are growing(as he explained, they are under some threat from agricultural development) Blane had us climb a wax palm(not easy!) followed by him playing the flute pipes while we had a rest at a view point. Then to a restaurant with a view for lunch, where we ate trout on a crispy plantain flat bread, delicious.
In the afernoon we were led, again by Blane, to a small scale coffee plantation, about 45 minutes walk, which was a very informative experience.
The next day we were taken on a full day driven tour of the Quindio villages/ small towns, guided by David who again was a very capable guide with environmental matters being part of the discussion. The villages were varied and beautiful, we took the time to experience churches, crafts , local flora and architecture as well as a coffee producers with a difference, a fermented raw milk cafe and a Bar of memories, all quirky and interesting. We had a 'locals lunch' by the Rio Verde and all in all a great day.
Salento town itself is a fantastic destination, beautiful buildings and open spaces, with a buzzing plaza and central streets with old fashioned entertainment and fair rides, lots of craft shops and bars/ restaurant of good quality.
We transfered early the next morning to Cartagena(internal flights) on the Caribean coast. On arrival at Cartagena airport there was a slight confusion with the transfer driver who was there on time(as it later turned out) but had the incorrect name for pickup, which led to a short delay while we called Aventur on the office number to fix it. Within minutes the mixup was resolved and we were matched up with our driver.
It was just gone lunchtime when we arrived at the hotel(Casa Deco), which is an attractive old boutique place with friendly, helpful staff. The hotel made a room ready early for us while we had some lunch around the corner and then we were met on time at the hotel by our guide for a walking tour of Cartagena. The city is a beautiful, fascinating place, with a rich colonial history but we did find the guided tour which was suposed to be 4 hours but was barely over 2 hours quite light on historical, architectural and cultural details and we came away feeling underwhelmed by the experience... maybe the guide was having an off day!
Anyway, we had a great meal out later and enjoyed the hospitality of the hotel, including the pool.
The next day was speedboat ride to one of the Rosario islands, Isla Bella, which was tiny but beautiful. after an hours boat ride we spent a few hours lounging on the beach-front paradise, enjoyed an inclusive meal and caught the speedboat back, which was a scarily exciting journey, as the wind(and waves) had picked up. We got quite wet but not a problem in the tropical heat and it was quite a laugh.
Another great night out and the next day gave us the morning to explore the city ramparts, and have lunch before getting our transfers back to Cartegena airport to start our journey home.
I have gone on at some length with this review because I wanted anyone reading to get an idea that the trip was a great experience and well organised by Elisabeth (Eventur) with a good selection of interesting activities along the way. The balance of planned activities and free time worked well for us, others way want more time to relax, or want to be more full on. I am confident from our experience that all holiday styles would be ably catered for by Elisabeth.
The Trip was well organised and the itinerary was spot on, with the only exception being the name mix up on arrival at Cartegena, which lets be honest is nothing, and was sorted without delay.
So well done to Aventur, thanks to Kimkim for getting us connected, and our gratitude to Elisabeth for taking care of us so well.