An amazing week by Aracanto
Apr 14 - Apr 23, 2023
What an amazing week!
Margoth helped us put together a fantastic, varied 8-day sampling of Colombia, starting in Bogotá and the surrounding Andean Highlands, making a quick detour to the Coffee Region, and ending with some (relatively) relaxed days on the Caribbean Coast.
We really enjoyed all the different experiences, from the unique, remote, soaking wet landscape of the páramos, to the hot, bustling streets of Cartagena, and ending with a blissful day on Isla Barú.
We had Byron as our guide for our first four days, touring Bogotá and the surrounding area. He was absolutely brilliant — knowledgeable, friendly, and professional from the first minute to the last.
Our favorite excursion was the Chorrera waterfall hike, a fun adventure with Byron which took us through some of the most beautiful countryside we have ever seen.
The cooking class at Sazagua was also wonderful, even though by that time we were exhausted -- the chef was quite the character, and kept us laughing as we made some delicious food which I will be attempting to recreate at home!
The rum tasting in Cartagena was a really fun way to start off the more relaxing third of our trip, and the tropical fruit tasting also surpassed our expectations. I have a lot of allergies, and was worried that I wouldn’t be able to participate very much, but with Margoth’s help, the staff at Oh La La went way out of their way to accommodate me and make things fun for both of us.
Our guides in the Coffee Region and in Cartagena were also competent and professional, if less fantastic than Byron. In particular, our Coffee Region guide was quite negative about the Cocora Valley, and while we were interested and saddened to learn that most of the famous wax palms are slowly dying (and cannot be replaced due to the removal of the surrounding forest to make way for agriculture), his overall disparagement of tourism in the area was depressing, surprising to hear from a tour guide, and even seemed hypocritical considering that he was contributing to erosion in the park by walking on the grassy slopes instead of the step paths. He did perk up some while showing us Filandia and teaching us about the local coffee, which are clearly his preferred activities.
Our drivers throughout the trip were all skillful and professional, and most were also very friendly, sometimes feeling like extra guides. I especially enjoyed chatting with Alexander in the Coffee Region, Johannis (sp? Our driver to Chingaza), and the driver who took us to our hotel in Cartagena (whoops, forgot his name), and we were impressed with the way Edwin skillfully handled some mechanical problems on the way back from Chorrera.
We were initially a bit nervous to travel to Colombia after growing up hearing bad things in the news, which was part of the reason we decided to use a tour company, even though I am usually an independent traveler. In the end we felt safe throughout the trip and it went very well, but when a few things did go wrong (a bit of altitude sickness, the aforementioned car trouble), Margoth and her team were so responsive and got things right back on track. We felt very taken care of and were able to spend our time enjoying instead of stressing or worrying about details. I am now considering going through Kimkim again for future trips.
We were very impressed with Colombia as a country and with Aracanto as a tour company, and would highly recommend both to anyone looking for a South American adventure.
Great place to ‘land’ in Colombia. The rooms were spacious and the breakfast was awesome.
Really lovely hotel. We loved our cooking class and watching the birds at breakfast. This wouldn’t be the best place to stay for someone afraid of dogs, as several (big, friendly) live on site… then again, Colombia wouldn’t be the best country for someone afraid of dogs.
Lovely beach resort. The swimming area is a bit small and they close both the beach and the pools right at sunset, a bit early for my taste. It can be a bit of a hike from your room to the lobby and restaurants, but for check in and check out they bring you and your luggage on a golf cart.
This was a great find, with a fantastic location, a small pool, a great breakfast, etc — and the staff were so helpful and kind (when my friend wasn’t feeling well one morning, they made her a special soup for breakfast!) Excellent experience and value, but I do recommend bringing earplugs as it got a bit noisy at night.
Very smooth pick up at the airport and drop off at the hotel
We loved this tour for our first day in Colombia. There was a fair amount of driving, but we enjoyed seeing the countryside along the way. During the short hike to the lake we learned a lot about the Muisca people, the history of exploitation by Europeans, and the local plants. Our guide Byron was knowledgeable about everything! We had a quick lunch at a local bakery, and then it was off to Zipaquirá Salt Cathedral, which was really unique and cool. I was astonished to learn that it is still a working salt mine in addition to an active church!
This was a lovely way to spend our morning in Bogotá. Usaquén is a cute area and we quite enjoyed shopping at the flea market, though I could have spent even more time there. At the chocolate tasting, we learned a lot about how chocolate is made and how the terrain and the process contribute to its flavor profile. I also got to try the famous local snack of chocolate and cheese!
We saw the highlights of the Gold Museum and explored the pretty neighborhood of Candelaria and busy Bolivar Square. Our guide, Byron, was very knowledgeable. Unfortunately, because of spending the morning in Usaquén, we were a bit rushed and did not have time to go up to Monserrate, but the weather was not great for a view anyway.
It was a lovely and special meal, but not the best I have experienced… mostly because the pacing was a little off especially at the beginning (three times, we had just put the food in our mouths, with no chance to savor or discuss it, and they were already whisking it away and describing the next thing… and yet the whole experience still took over two hours). The reservation process was also rather bizarre, and they didn’t seem to understand the recommended procedure of calling a cab for us (eventually, and awkwardly, they called us an Uber). Still, I very much enjoyed washing my hands with chocolate and watching the flaming brandy at the next table over, and several of the courses were both creative and uniquely delicious.
It was very cool to learn about and see this unique landscape. The drive there and back through the countryside was also beautiful. I appreciated how the team stopped whenever I wanted to take a closer look or a picture of a roadside shrine, abandoned factory, or tiny calf. If you are on the fence about which excursion(s) to take from Bogotá, I would prioritize Chorrera and Guatavita over this one (especially because you can see a little bit of the páramo landscape on those tours as well), but if you have time, it is great to see these Andean wetlands and the unique forms of vegetation that thrive here.
This was our single favorite excursion during our trip to Colombia. The countryside was beautiful from the car and the hike, and the waterfalls themselves were spectacular. You get to go behind Chiflón, and close enough to Chorrera to feel the mighty, wet wind blowing from the cascade.
The sites were beautiful, but this wasn't the best experience of the trip, partially because we were exhausted, partially because the trip was a little rushed due to delays after our plane came in late the night before, and partly because our guide wasn't very excited about Cocora Valley -- it's clear he goes there too often and thinks tourism is having a detrimental effect on the local nature, which we can understand, but it was a bit of a bummer especially when we were quite tired. The towns were very cute and we loved the overlook from Filandia.
This was really fun. We were worried about cooking since we were tired after five busy days of touristing, but the chef kept us laughing the whole time. The dish we made was a delicious chicken dish somewhere between a risotto and a curry. I will definitely be making it again at home with the recipe, spices, and pot we were gifted!
A fantastic start to our time in Cartagena. We got to try 8 very different rums, and the bartender was very friendly.
This is a very lively restaurant with live performances. The food was very good as well. It was on the louder side for my taste and was a bit of a confusing wait to get drinks and seats.
Nice informative walking tour of the old town, I learned a lot about the history of the area and the meaning of the knockers on the doors. It was super hot up on the old city walls, so we stopped for refreshments before continuing to the fruit tasting. I was worried I wouldn't be able to participate much in the fruit tasting due to my allergies, but they went above and beyond to accommodate me. I enjoyed it much more than I expected to due to the friendly staff and the experience of seeing and tasting so many different things. The last part of the tour took us through some of the street art of Getsemani, which was also cool to see.