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Santa Marta sign, Colombia

Travel Specialist Ceri finds treasure in Colombia


Ceri’s travel passion for this south American cornucopian culture chest began in 2004. With a long 19 years stretching since she last managed to take a trip back to Colombia she was naturally buzzing with excitement at the chance to revisit some of her most favourite gems, along with some very shiny new ones. Read on for a round-up of her top four experiences last month...
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1. Medellin

I never got to take in the big cities back then as they were deemed “dangerous”, although in truth I’d only experienced extremely friendly and welcoming locals wherever I went! So this time around I made a visit to Medellin No.1 on my list. I’ve long found it’s dark history fascinating, especially since Netflix brought the infamy of it’s violent and powerful drug cartels into the public arena through the popular Narcos.

I loved it! Sure it could be a little daunting, not least as you can feel dwarfed being surrounded by all those mountains – funny because London is five times as big but I never feel it because it’s mostly flat!

Botero sculpture in Medellin, Colombia
Ceri eats Dulce de Leche in Medellin, Colombia

Daniel, our local guide, helped me get over my fears and guided me effortlessly through the city, taking in the spectacular views whilst riding the cable cars. He was so knowledgeable about the history and more recent positive social transformation here, meaning improved accessibility to previously off-limits areas of the city. It was incredible to be able to explore them this time around.

The day we were there Colombia’s most celebrated artist, Fernando Botero, passed away. We got this news downtown in Plaza Botero where 23 of his voluptuously unique statues stand proudly. We couldn’t help feeling moved by local reaction, so out of respect we all toasted his life and stuffed ourselves with delicious sweet treats – wafers filled with Dulce de Leche, blackberry jam and grated cheese – lush!

2. Trying the Rio Claro

I was lucky enough to try out our new bite-sized trip at Rio Claro! Just three hours from Medellin, it’s well off the beaten track for non-Colombian tourists and my Spanish came in handy here.  I slept in an open walled lodge over-looking the river. This is built into the side of a canyon, complete with rock walls in the shower. Stunning!

This was delightful until night fell and the heavens opened to the craziest storm the natives had experienced for years. I wondered if it was the end of the world as I peered out of my mossie net. White flashes of lightning were illuminating the raging river below through sheets of rain, to the soundtrack of the loudest crashes of thunder ever heard in my life!

Nonetheless and sleep deprivation aside, I walked, swam, ziplined and rafted the river which was absolutely crystal, hence the name.  So beautiful and peaceful after the night, this is wild swimming at it’s finest, and beats Brighton beach any day (sorry to my fellow Salty Seabirds)!

Rio Claro in Colombia
Tayrona National Park with Sierra Nevada Mountains

3. Local Flavour on the Caribbean Coast

My driver on the Caribbean coast truly made my trip. Carlos was such a jolly character who made me laugh out loud and looked after me impressively. We explored along the main highway, sandwiched between Tayrona National park – think stunning untouched beaches – and the striking Sierra Nevada mountains. I would never have dreamt of seeing snow covered mountain peaks in the Caribbean, but I learned this is the tallest mountain range located next to the sea in the entire world (you can just see them in the distance in my pic)! His enthusiasm for “his bit of coast” was infectious.

He seemed to know everyone here too as he waved to pretty much everyone we saw as he showed me the best swimming spots along the many rivers we passed running down from the mountains (I concurred) and the best eateries at every stop. There were many – it was like a gastronomical tour of the coast as I discovered where the best bananas grew, who sold the best papayas and chorizo, and where to find the finest fresh fish empanadas. All that swimming and eating clearly called for a rest – I even caught him sleeping on the job whilst I took a break to check out some unique and interesting hotels with breathtaking views to add to our tours. I loved that he encouraged me to practise my Spanish and his highly positive outlook on life was inspiring. Thank you Carlos!

Ceri with local guide, Carlos, on the Colombian coast
Travel Specialist, Ceri, in the Cocora Valley

4. Trekking the Cocora Valley

An old favourite for me, I was delighted to get back to Cocora Valley. Walking amongst the scenic splendour of those giant palms never disappoints! Not far from Salento, my guide, Geo, collected me from my hotel and we rode in the back of a bright yellow Willys jeep. A relic from World War I, I was even allowed to have a go! I learned so much from Geo, from the ancient history of the indigenous tribes to why I shouldn’t be eating avocados – rigorous restrictions in the UK means multiple chemical use is enforced in their production for export, causing destruction of native flora and fauna. Naturally I won’t be eating any! The trails are stunning, so many to choose and countless breath-taking viewpoints and you can’t miss the hummingbirds here, plus endless species of tropical birds. I felt such a sense of calm and wellbeing, it’s all so beautiful I simply couldn’t stop taking photos…

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