Culture, Coffee and Cuisine in Colombia
Updated: Jan 2
If I had to pick three words to describe Colombia they would be --authentic, unspoiled and unexpected. After years of being tied to drug cartels and guerrilla warfare, Colombia has spent the last few decades emerging as a culturally rich and naturally breathtaking country. Like many, I held my own preconceived notions, but was pleasantly surprised by the friendly, prideful people, each with their own story to tell about their country coming back to life.
Not once did I feel unsafe or threatened, in fact those fears were so far from my mind that I couldn’t help but dive into the culture. With very little English spoken, it is a wonderful place for individuals or families looking to put their Spanish into practice. For those who are not fluent in Spanish, guides are readily available and highly recommended.
Colombia has a moderate climate, making it a year-round destination. It rivals the charm of many European countries--without the European price tag. Foodies will love sampling the local cuisine in the markets and restaurants and coffee addicts will be in heaven sipping the local brew. Non-stop flights from Miami conveniently get you on the ground in under three hours.
I visited three areas: Bogotá, the Coffee Region and Cartagena--each with their own unique vibe.
Bogotá is the high-altitude, culturally rich capital of Colombia. It’s home to excellent food, fascinating history, vibrant art and engaging people.
Go on a food tour through the city markets where you’ll see some of the strangest fruit and food items you’ve ever seen. Don’t let looks fool you--even the most bizarre-looking items are extremely tasty.
Check out the city’s thriving street art scene. It does a great job of telling the story of the resiliency of the Colombian people and is reflective of the political and cultural environment; not to mention, the bright, bold colors are captivating.
Take part in the city’s traditional family Sunday outing, the Ciclovía. Every Sunday from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m., the main streets are closed to all cars and bikers, walkers and joggers turn out in droves to exercise and wander the streets in an environmentally friendly way. Shops are bustling and the streets feature entertainers. It is a great way to experience life as a local since millions of people participate each week.
After Ciclovía head to the Sunday flea market to shop for some really cool, locally made gifts. The colors are so bright and bold it literally looks like you are walking through a rainbow.
Take part in a local coffee tasting or enjoy some hot chocolate...with a slice of cheese! Sounds odd, but it’s a local specialty and it is delicious!
Visit the Central Bank Museum, which features both colonial and modern art and includes works from world-renowned artists such as Boltero, Monet, Picasso and Chagall.
Where to Stay
This old apartment-building-turned-hotel feels like you are staying in someone’s personal home. Valets greet you at the door as you enter a lobby that features a spectacular spiral wooden staircase, brick archways and an authentic Colombian feel.
Two towers hold 40 bright and spacious rooms. No two are the same, but think exposed beams and unique nooks and crannies. One of the neatest features are the intricate, hand-carved wooden doors throughout the hotel. They are works of art in and of themselves. A daily breakfast is served in a mosaic-tiled, open air courtyard that you won’t want to leave. And to help visitors adjust to the altitude, cocoa tea is readily available and oxygen is pumped into the on-site gym.
Book with me for the following Four Seasons Preferred Partners amenities: Daily full American breakfast for two, spa credit of $100, upgrade upon arrival based on availability, complimentary WiFi.
Just an hour and a half by plane from Bogota, set among the colossal Andes Mountains, is Colombia's coffee region. Perfect for nature lovers and individuals or families looking to get out of the city and experience rural Colombian life.
Visit Cocora Valley, home of the tallest wax palms on Earth. There you can take an easy hike up to where you are surrounded by a surreal cloud forest.
Visit small artisanal towns like Salento and Filandia, which are filled with small pueblos, bright colors and friendly locals, including many stray dogs.
Play a game of tejo! Similar to cornhole, players are divided into two teams and throw metal disks into a clay box. When they hit, gunpowder explodes like a firecracker! It’s a local favorite and a ton of fun.
Visit a coffee plantation and learn about the various stages of making coffee--then try a sample!
Where to Stay
With a Spanish-style roof and bamboo pillars, this rustic but comfortable hotel sits on a 500-acre working farm. Beautiful gardens and the majestic Andes Mountains are your backdrop, with hummingbirds buzzing outside your window.
With tremendous pride in both their service and their culture, the staff is attentive and welcoming. Breakfast is served on the front porch and includes some of the freshest and most delicious fruit I’ve ever tasted. Dinner rotates locations each night---from an indoor dining room to an outdoor BBQ--offering you different foods, as well as, different perspectives of nature. In addition to coffee tours, hiking, horseback riding and hangliding are enough to keep you entertained, while staying off the grid.
The combination of old world colonial architecture, South American hospitality and Caribbean lifestyle make Cartagena a perfect blend of everything you could want from a vacation destination.
Take a walking tour of Old Town and soak in the city’s rich history--cathedrals, buildings, museums. Walking through the colonial European architecture of the Walled City and then seeing skyscrapers towering over you outside the walls is such an interesting juxtaposition of old and new.
Visit the hip Getsemani neighborhood where musicians serenade you on the streets, lively bistros are filled with locals and vivid murals decorate the buildings.
Learn about the local cuisine (think lots of seafood) with a hands-on cooking class.
Get out your dance shoes and take a salsa class from a pro.
Take a 30 minute boat ride to Islas del Rosario. A highlight of my trip, these Caribbean islands are the perfect spot to snorkel, island hop, picnic and boat. Grab a drink at Blue Apple Beach House a super hip, buzzy beach club.
Where to Stay
A private oasis in the city, Casa San Agustin is a boutique hotel comprised of three historic houses that offers 20 rooms and 11 suites. One of its buildings originally operated as a cistern for the city! This hotel is perfect for couples looking to combine relaxation and city life. The small but private pool sits in a beautiful courtyard that feels very spa-like. There is also an actual spa onsite, and complimentary bikes are available for touring the city.
Book with me for the following Virtuoso amenities: Breakfast for two daily, $100 food and beverage credit, upgrade upon arrival based on availability, early check in/late check out based on availability
This former convent-turned-five-star-hotel does a great job of blending beach vibes with historic architecture--an odd combination that somehow feels perfect. Each of the 120 rooms and suites surround a serene, palm-tree filled courtyard that features a huge pool--great for families to take a dip after a day of sightseeing. The suites are spacious and each one is named after a different artist! With views of the Caribbean Sea and within walking distance of many sights, the location is ideal.
Book with me for the following Virtuoso amenities: Breakfast for two daily, $100 spa credit, upgrade upon arrival based on availability, early check in/late check out based on availability