Trip to Colombia - Jun 24 - Jul 3, 2018
Overall, this was a rewarding trip, however, not without some issues. In general, too much time was spent traveling from place to place, especially with some of the long car rides for activities that were only a few hours in length. EVERY flight we took on Avianca experienced delays, significant delays or cancelation. By and large, our guides were excellent, except for our experience on Day 2 going to Chingaza (see below). No events / activities were planned for any of the evenings and it might have been nice if we had been able to attend some sort of cultural event or to be directed to a special restaurant. Some specific comments follow:
Day 1- Edgar met us at the Hotel just as the World Cup match ended with Colombia's victory. He was excellent. He took us around the park nearby, to a Sunday craft market, and he made several good dining suggestions. He was also our guide on Day 3 which was also an excellent tour of places in Bogota. At our request, he brought us to the main food and flower market and introduced us to numerous indigenous fruits. In retrospect, we should have flown to Pereida at the end of Day 3 to give us more time in coffee country.
Day 2 - Chingaza was interesting but not worth the long trip. We met our guide in La Calera but the vehicle was not large enough for all the passengers. At the park, it was cold, raining, windy and at high altitude. We needed extra layers of clothing and waterproof footwear. Our guide was completely immersed in her discussion of the surrounding environment, would not stop talking for the entire time we were with her and didn't properly assess my wife's level of discomfort and desire to return. The park was interesting but I think it likely that there may have been other activities near Bogota that would have be more interesting.
Day 4 - By far the best day of the trip. The visit to the coffee farm was without a doubt the highlight of the trip. We very much liked our guide, Juan.
Day 5 - Salento and the Cocora Vally hike were nice but we needed to end early to fly to Medellin. Worst day of travel on the entire trip. No direct flights on Avianca so we needed return to Bogota. Our first connecting flight was cancelled and the later flight was 2 hours delayed. In all, it took us 8 hours. It would have faster to drive and even faster to fly on EasyFly direct in 1 hour.
Day 6 - Medellin, we had a nice morning touring Medellin but it probably should have been the entire day. We did not see as much as we would have liked. Then we spent two hours driving to Guatape, a beautiful town with some stops along the way. Unfortunately, we arrived in Guatape late in the day and during a rain downpour and were not able to walk around much. The visit to the town should be been the priority of the trip, not the side stops. Long drive back resulted in a very late dinner.
Day 7 - Rafting. The trip itself was great and worthwhile but our departure from Medellin should have been earlier, not 11am. Consequently, we didn't get back to Medellin until it was almost too late to go out to dinner.
Day 8 - Cartagena. Excellent day touring the City with Richard.
Day 9 - Isla del Encanto. Two problems. 1) We were not instructed to bring towels and I had to rent them for 60,000 COP. 2) The guides explained the set up of the resort to all the passengers in Spanish on the boat before docking. After docking, they repeated the explanation to a group in English. It was a busy day (national holiday). By the time they finished us giving information about the resort, more boats had docked and every cabana chair on the beach and near the beach were taken by people who had exited the boats earlier. We asked the staff to help but pretty much got a cold shoulder. Given that we probably paid twice as much as everyone else, we were fairly irritated by this sequence of events. Otherwise, the visit was nice.
Day 10, we spent in the old city on our own before going to the airport.