Our Colombian Experience

Colombia has been inhabited since 12,000 BC by indigenous people. The Spaniards arrived here in the 15th century and established  “Gran Colombia”, whose territory consisted of what is now present day Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador, Panama and sections of Peru and Brazil. When you look at the flags of all those countries you will see the similarities. Independence from Spain was achieved in 1819. A name you will hear about throughout the country is Simon Bolivar, known as the “Liberator”, he was a Venezuelan military and political leader who led the independence and secession from the Spanish empire. 

We found Colombia to be very ethnically diverse. You have the indigenous people, the European settlers and the Africans on the North Coast that were brought over by the Portuguese in the slave trade. All have influenced the culture and cuisine of this nation. 

Colombia has the second highest biodiversity in the world after Brazil. It’s territory encompasses the Amazon, highlands, grasslands, deserts, islands and coastlines. It borders Venezuela to the East, Panama to the North and Brazil, Peru and Ecuador to the South. The climate year round throughout Colombia will not change much due to its proximity to the equator, however the change is dramatic throughout different regions of the country. You will need a jacket in the evening in Bogota, while shorts and a t-shirt will be more than sufficient in Cartagena and the coast. It gets hot!!

In recent history, Colombia wasn’t a place that tourists even considered even as recent as 10 years ago. The transformation that has happened here in the past decade is incredible. Colombia at one point was one of the most dangerous places in the world. You had the drug cartels of Medellin and Cali. Pablo Escobar terrorized the country for well over a decade. You had the left wing revolutionary group, FARC who aligned themselves with the Medellin Cartel and also the far right  Paramilitaries, who also got into the drug trade. The violence was rampant. Thankfully this country all started to change rapidly in February of 2016, when the peace deal between FARC and the Colombia government was signed by then President Juan Manuel Santos (who was awarded the Nobel peace prize) with FARC leader Rodrigo Londono, ending over 50 years of conflict. Almost instantly the country changed. The cartels of Cali and Medellin now long gone, the Paramilitaries demobilized. 

Now for our our recent travel experience in Colombia this past August. For two seasoned travelers like Ryan and I, it’s rare we get to go to a destination we’ve never been to before. We left on August 8th, I departed from Vancouver, Ryan from Calgary and we met in Toronto. For Canadians, this is definitely the best route to take. It avoids having to go through the US and clear customs there. Once you get to Toronto, it’s an easy 4 ½ hour flight to Bogota with Air Canada. We arrived the same day at  9:30 pm. Colombia is on Central time so you don’t get jet lag. We went through customs, baggage claim, collected our luggage and proceeded to the arrivals terminal where our driver and guide, Yohan, met us with and provided some commentary on the way to our hotel. Bogota is over 8500 feet in elevation, so yes you will get tired easily but you’ll sleep like a baby that first night. It was about a 40 minute drive to our hotel in the northern part of the city. Bogota is the Capital of Colombia with a population of over 11 million and is divided between the South and the North. The south is considered the downtown and is where “La Candelaria” neighbourhood is. The North is the more affluent area and is typically where most tourists stay. The south is the poor area of Bogota, and although quite safe during the day, in the evening it’s not advisable to walk around at night. For this reason, our advice is to stay in the Northern part of Bogota. Our group departure will stay there in March of 2022. We arrived at our comfortable and centrally located hotel “The Cite”  around 11 pm. We went out and grabbed a few beer and empanadas to satisfy Ryan’s bread addiction.. We went to one of the nearby BBC’s (aka Bogota Beer Company), a well known chain of pubs located all over the city. 


August 9th –  Bogota: This morning was at leisure. So we went for a walk around the neighbourhood. There are lots of parks in Bogota, one of the most popular ones is called “Parque 93”, and is  surrounded by coffee shops, restaurants and bars. We grabbed a coffee and then followed that up with lunch at an outdoor taqueria called “Dos Chingones”. Here is the menu below, the amounts are in Colombian Pesos. You just need to add “000”, $6 is $6000 Colombia pesos which is equal to $2.40 CAD. Club Colombia beer is $7,900 Colombia pesos which is about $3.25 CAD. 

Our guide picked us up at 1 pm to do some site inspections of several. You will see these in our private/tailor made section of this website. We visited the 4 Seasons Casa Andina, Artisan DC and the Sofitel Victoria Regia. All excellent hotels in their own right and really just a matter of taste. We picked the Sofitel for our group departures because we felt it was the right  combination of quality, location and price. Some rooms have a balcony and a small patio table and chairs to sit outside and have a morning cup of coffee. One of the rooms we saw looked out upon the street in front that is known for having many great local and international dining options.


That street as of August 2019 is undergoing extensive renovations, however it will be long completed before we arrive in November of 2020. After the visits, we returned to our hotel and this evening went to dinner at “Local by Rausch” a fine dining restaurant that has reinvented traditional Colombian dishes.  The majority of the ingredients are sourced locally. The owners are brothers and are leading the way in the gastronomic revolution of Colombia . We ordered numerous dishes in a “tapas style” from ceviche, empanadas, octopus, prawn appy and several other delicious morsels of food that we can’t remember the name of. The temperature really doesn’t change year round. It will never get that hot during the day. Expect temperatures of between 16-19 degrees year round. It was sunny while we were here and it was closer to 19 degrees during the day. Recommend pants, shirt and a light jacket. In the evening definitely wear pants and maybe a sweater, it can get pretty cool with temperatures closer to 10-12 degrees celsius. 

August 10th – Bogota:  Our guide and driver picked us up at 9 am. Our first stop was “Monserrate Hill”, a 30 minute drive before we reached the base. It is another 2500 ft in elevation to reach the top, which can either be done by foot or by tram. We took the tram (aka funicular) which takes about 12 minutes to get to the top. We’re including “Monserrate” on our group departure on our 3rd day in Bogota, enabling everybody the time to acclimatize to the altitude of Bogota. Once you get to the top, walk slow cause you will catch yourself out of breath quite quickly. You will be rewarded with the best view in all of Bogota. You can see how large the city and all its neighbourhoods are. Providing a great lay of the land prior to descending into the downtown of the city.  

La Candelaria area is visible in the picture above with all the high rise buildings. Only 15 minute away, we stopped at the Paloquemao market, a traditional market where the locals come to purchase their fresh fruits, vegetables and meats. Here we sampled 8-10 types of fruits indigenous to Colombia.

We went to the flower market.  Roses are very inexpensive in Colombia-$1 will get you a dozen!. 4 billion roses are exported to the United States each year. 200 million roses grow here in the Savanna outside Bogota. Tip for you, don’t stand behind a flower cart.I took this picture about a second before it backed into me. 

After nursing my bruise, we continued to “La Candelaria” the historic downtown section of Bogota. The majority of the buildings were built in the colonial era style.

Just to the left of where this picture above was taken you have the Colombia Justice Palace, which was sieged in 1985 by M19 rebels that were backed by Pablo Escobar. 

We continued our tour of this area by walking up to the Botero Museum (famous Colombian artist known for paintings and sculptures in exaggerated rotund sizes). Located a few blocks up the street just to the left of the Cathedral. In this area you will see very colourful buildings adorned with graffiti that line the narrow cobblestone streets. We went for an excellent late lunch at Prudencia, also in this same charming area. Had some leisure time around here to explore and do some shopping before driving back to our hotel. 

This evening we made reservations at Andres DC, located only a short drive from our hotel. It’s in a very lively area, lots of bars/pubs, restaurants, shopping malls. Andres DC is a six story dining and entertainment complex. You’ve got lively Colombian music playing, lots of large tables for groups and a dance floor. An airy atrium in the middle of the complex allows you to look up or down and see what’s happening on the other floors. Kitchy style decor, actors performing, patrons dancing, it’s a fun evening out. 

August 11th: Flying to Pereira|Santa Rosa de Cabal

We got picked up mid-morning by Yohan and our driver and taken to the Bogota airport for our 30 minute flight to Pereira – which forms part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site known as the “Coffee Cultural Landscape of Colombia”.  The temperature was noticeably warmer due mainly to the fact that we dropped about 1200 metres in altitude (3800 ft). The city itself isn’t anything to write home about, it’s really just the gateway tourist fly into and then from there stay in one of the charming towns in the surrounding countryside. As we started driving out of Pereira we started to see the lush green hills, quaint colonial style homes, flowers in bloom. This is the Colombia that I had imagined. It was so peaceful and relaxing and what struck me the most was the incredible cleanliness of this area. After a 45 minute drive we reached Hacienda Santa Clara, located just outside the small town of Santa Rosa de Cabal. As we arrived into the driveway we were impressed by its landscaped grounds. A charming family run property overlooking a coffee plantation. Immediately we were greeted by the owner and were checked in straight away from their outdoor reception desk. Only 16 rooms, with 2 floors, outdoor restaurant and a spa with a jacuzzi and sauna. 


The al fresco restaurant serves a delicious breakfast, lunch and dinner. We stayed here for 3 nights and our bill for 3 breakfasts, 3 lunches and 3 dinners including a few Colombia Club cervezas was about 285,000 Colombian pesos ($110 CAD) for the two of us.  

The view from our room was also pretty terrific. We really felt at home at this place and will be using this property for our upcoming group departures. After putting our luggage away, we sat outside and enjoyed a substantial lunch. We then walked down the hill into town to explore. We didn’t really know where we were going just kept walking and we noticed a tall church that we assumed would be the centre of town. As luck would have it, it was. With the zocalo (public park) in the centre and cafes, the church and shops surrounding it. We hung out here for a bit soaking up the atmosphere, eating ice cream and drinking what else other than “coffee”. We took a taxi back up to the Hacienda in the evening for about 10,000 COP ($3.50 CDN).  

August 12th: Filandia|Salento|Cocora Valley – We got picked by our driver and guide, Christian at 9 am. He was only 26 years old and has been guiding for 8 years. Excellent guide, very knowledgeable and mature way beyond his years. He provided excellent commentary on our way to the Valle de Cocora (Cocora Valley). 

Our first stop after 40 minutes of driving through hilly landscapes and verdant countryside was Filandia, a quaint town of only about 6000 and blessed with spectacular views. The name Filandia, comes from “Filia” (daughter), “Andia” (Andes); daughter of the Andes. We first stopped at this lookout point to admire the 360 degree view. Coffee is the main agricultural product here, however because of its diverse ecosystem it’s also ideal for the production of numerous fruits and vegetables.

The town itself felt like a ghost town when we arrived mid-morning, perhaps everybody was having a siesta. The town has Spanish architecture and building colours of liberal red and conserative blue reflect the town’s history of colonization.  There are two types of coffee in this world – Arabic and Robusta. In Colombia they use 100% Arabica beans. Arabica grows at altitudes beyond 1500 metres.Here is a trivia question. Who are the highest per capita coffee drinkers in the world? Answer…Finland.  

A brief stroll to the end of this street took us to the town centre with its Catholic Church and zocalo (park) typical of most Colombian cities and towns. We had some time at leisure to have a coffee at a cafe and then some hand made ice cream.


We then continued on to another beautiful town called Salento. This one was similar to Filandia but with plenty more tourists and noticeably busier. This is the largest main town that is closest to the Cocora Valley. The drive is absolutely breathtaking.


We were amazed by the vistas of the valley and am also ashamed to admit after all these years of travel that I had never even heard of the Cocora Valley.  Home to the world’s tallest palm trees, the Wax Palm tree is endemic to this region and grows to heights of 60 metres and is the national tree of Colombia. We took countless pictures and videos here.


There are numerous trails you can take should you choose or simply admire the scenery from the road. There is the option to go horseback riding here as well. We did some light hiking to take some more pictures and then got back in the car to have some lunch. Personally this day turned out to be one of my most memorable travel days of my life. It’s a place where you just find a scenic spot, sit down, inhale the fresh air and take a moment to appreciate the beauty and just be thankful to have the opportunity to be here and witness this incredible natural creation.


After a tasty seafood lunch at an outdoor restaurant nearby…we continued 12 km down the road to Salento for a brief stop and then continued our 90 minute drive back to Hacienda Santa Clara to retire for the evening. 

August 13th: Finca del Cafe Coffee Plantation


Christian and our driver arrived right on schedule at 9 am and we drove no more than 20 minutes before arriving at Finca Del Cafe. This is an actual working coffee plantation that also functions as a bed and breakfast with only 5 or 6 rooms, a pool and a central and communal lounge area where guests congregate. We learn about the roasting process and then walked down into the plantation and tried our hand at picking the coffee beans right off the plants..we will not quit our day jobs.


We continued walking through the plantation….….and then Ryan tried his hand at grinding the coffee beans..as you can tell Christian wasn’t impressed. Finally at the end we got to all have a fresh cup of hot coffee..yum! Colombia coffee tends to be softer and a little sweet. Adding sugar is never necessary. In Colombia they drink their coffee black. Back to our Hacienda for lunch and the remainder of our day was at leisure. 

August 14th: Santa Rosa De Cabal|Pereira|Medellin

This was a very early wakeup call and traffic turns out is pretty light at 5 am. It was about a 35 minute drive back to the airport in Pereira. Our flight departed at 7am and connected through Bogota. We got off the plane and had about a 2 hour layover before continuing on to Medellin. 


Pretty cool flying in to Medellin, the city is built in a valley and it really is stunning. What you notice is just how green and lush it is. It’s climate is predominantly a springtime climate year round. Very comfortable, never too hot, never too cold. Which makes it a favourite for many expats. A fascinating city with a very turbulent past. A place that I never thought I would ever have the opportunity to travel to. The incredible transformation of Colombia is more evident here than anywhere else in the country. We stayed at the Park 10 hotel, located in the Poblado neighbourhood of Medellin. The most affluent part of the city where many high ranking politicians, business leaders and Colombia’s elite reside. When we arrived they had just completed construction on the longest tunnel in South America. The President of Colombia was in town to celebrate the occasion. We didn’t have the chance to take the tunnel on this trip as we arrived one day too early. Otherwise we would have been able to go through it on the way from the airport to the city. Our driver took us around the Poblado area, which has no shortage of great restaurants, cocktail lounges and shopping all within a few blocks of our hotel. 

August 15th:Medellin

This morning we were picked up at our hotel after breakfast and taken to downtown Medellin. Certain sections of downtown are pretty gritty, nothing in comparison to how it was before. We got out of the car at “La Plazoleta de las Esculturas”. This public space is where there are 23 large bronze statues by the renowned Colombian artist Fernando Botero. 

We made our way to one of the local metro stations to take the metro cable which gives you an incredible bird’s eye view of the city. They carry passengers over all the barrios and rooftops and congested streets in glass pods. It really is a great way to observe life below. In some places we were only about 30 feet above people’s homes. This roundtrip ride takes around 30 minutes in total. Following this we made a brief stop for lunch, and then got into our vehicle to go to “Comuna 13”..

Comuna 13 was at point one of the most dangerous barrios of Medellin. Narrow and steep streets reminiscent of San Francisco. This area at one point was the battleground of cartels and FARC. Not a day would have gone by where there wasn’t a shooting. The incredible transformation is none more evident than right here. In the 80’s and 90’s and even in the early 2000’s this area was controlled by guerrillas, gangs and paramilitary forces. The transformation really began in 2011 when the Colombian government started investing a lot of money into the infracture of Comuna 13. They added an escalator and the cable car system which connected the residents of Comuna 13 with the rest of Medellin. As the area started to transform itself, a really cool music and arts scene emerged. Tourists started to come, which in turn benefitted this local economy. Finally giving hope and opportunity to the youth where previously the only option was to join a gang. The talent is so evident as you walk around this area and so inspiring. We felt entirely comfortable with no feeling of ever being unsafe at any point.  


It was such a moving and incredibly positive experience to have come here. After Comuna 13, we drove in the late afternoon back to our hotel. We made a brief stop along the way to see the place where Pablo Escobar was killed in 1993. His place of hiding was discovered by a Colombian electronic surveillance team that used radio trilateration technology and found him in “Los Olivos”, a middle class barrio in Medellin. With authorities closing in a firefight ensued and he attempted to escape by running across the roofs of adjoining houses. He was shot and killed on the rooftop by Colombian National Police. The building is now an English language school. 

August 16: Medellin|Guatape|Medellin 

This morning we left early to drive to Guatape. It’s about a 2 hour drive to reach this stunning lake district. We made a brief stop to grab a snack at a place where they make bread stuffed with melted. Absolutely delicious! Freshly baked and right out of the oven. You’re driving through hilly green landscapes lined with fruit orchards, avocado trees and many other types of fruits and vegetables are grown here. We arrived at the lake and boarded a small 14 passenger boat to take a 30 minute cruise around the lake. Many affluent Colombians and sports celebrities have their homes on the lake. One of Pablo Escobar’s former mansions, which he named “La Manuela”, after his daughter, can be seen here. At one stage the estate covered 20 acres, consisting of the mansion with a pool, tennis courts, soccer field, stables, a guest house, seaplane dock and a special driveway for motorcycles and a helipad.


After the cruise we drove nearby to to see the famous “El Penol” Rock and climb the 700+ steps to get up to the very top. There is no elevators and it is definitely a grueling walk up to the top.

If you do make it however you’re rewarded with some pretty fantastic views…

Views of the lakes from the top of El Peñól rock. 

After hanging out at the top, we made our way back down the stairs. We definitely recommend holding on to the guard rail on the way down. The stairs are steep and each step is quite short. 

We got back into the car and drove to the town of Guatape about 25 minutes away. It’s a really colourful town with the main zocalo. We stopped there for lunch and spent about 30 minutes wandering around the little side streets.

We then drove back to Medellin around 5 pm. It was quite a long day and we wished we had the opportunity to spend some more time here. So for next year’s group tour that is exactly what we’re going to do. We’ve decided to overnight in a lakefront property in Guatape. So instead of a full day return from Medellin, we’re able to have a much more leisurely experience. This way we also avoid the rush hour traffic coming back into Medellin. 

August 17: Medellin|Santa Marta|Tayrona National Park

The nice thing about Colombia is all the domestic flights are short. Our flight from Medellin to Santa Marta in the North on the Caribbean Coast was only about 90 minutes. Here the temperature got significantly warmer. It was about 21 degrees in Medellin when we left and arrived to be met with 32 degree temperatures and high humidity. Santa Marta is the gateway airport to explore Colombia’s most famous national park, Tayrona. The Sierra Santa Marta mountain range is the highest in the world at a coastline. Edgar, our guide, met us at the airport. We were greeted by Cumbia music and you could hear the banging drums from baggage claim. Our drive to our property from Santa Marta, was about 45 minutes. We checked into our jungle villa hideaway located right in the heart of Tayrona National Park. It’s a very unique property comprised of individual villas built on stilts in the middle of the jungle with views overlooking the ocean. We got there a bit early for check in, so the bell boys took our luggage and we sat in the outdoor thatched roof palapa restaurant and ate some lunch, enjoyed a few beers and really soaked in the sights and sounds of being in the jungle. All the villas are interconnected by trails. Once our room was ready, we followed the bellboys across this bouncy suspension bridge and were taken to the furthest villa.


Here was our villa…rustic yet charming with all the amenities necessary. Most importantly…air conditioning. Ours was the last villa on the left. We entered inside and notified the bellboys that an extra bed was in order. All these villas come with a private balcony and we had a great view.

Here was the view from our balcony..

Once settled in, we did some exploring. Went for a 20 minute walk down to the local beach. You go through a meandering path that takes you underneath the highway and you just follow the arrows and eventually you arrive. We hung out on hammocks at the beach, enjoyed some Colombian Club beer and ordered some snacks. Rest of the day was at leisure. Internet at the Villa Maria is only somewhat accessible at the restaurant and pool area. We had an excellent dinner at the hotel that evening. We noticed things move a little slower in this area as well as in Cartagena.  So don’t expect quick and efficient service..just relax and ask yourself why you’re in such a rush..

August 18th: Tayrona National Park hike


We got picked up at 9 am by Edgar (our guide) and our driver. The drive to the entrance to the Tayrona National Park trail is only about 20 minutes. The roundtrip hike is 16 km. It’s not for everybody, but if you’re active and in good shape its really a great experience. Key things to bring: a backpack, large bottle of water, sunblock and bug spray. Many people wear pants during the hike. I found it a little too hot and humid to want to do that. So I just made sure I put on a double coat of bug spray on my legs. The trail takes you on a meandering path through several secluded beaches, scenic viewpoints, jungle foliage, and some muddy sections. Don’t wear that new pair of runners. Ryan and I went at a pretty good clip. We arrived at Cabo San Juan beach around 11 am almost an hour ahead of schedule. Great place to just relax, eat lunch and enjoy swimming in water that is the temperature of your bathtub. Go to our Trip Merchant Facebook page to see more pictures of our time in Tayrona. 


August 19th: Tayrona to Cartagena

In order to get to Cartagena from Tayrona you have to drive approximately 4 hours along the coast. Passing by numerous small fishing towns. The largest city is Barranquilla, where both Sofia Vergara and Shakira were born. We arrived in Cartagena around 4 pm. The city is divided into two main sections: The Old Walled City and Boca Grande. The Walled City is a labyrinth of streets, plazas, and colonial buildings. Boca Grande seen on the horizon and only minutes away along the ocean from the old town is reminiscent of Miami’s South Beach. As soon as you drive through one of the gates entering the Old Town you instantly realize your someplace special. A mix of the French Quarter of  New Orleans, old streets of Havana and San Miguel de Allende.  


We checked into the Santa Catalina Hotel located within the walled city. Really good location and a comfortable 4 star hotel with a rooftop pool. Then made our way for our 5 pm reservation at Cafe Del Mar to watch the sunset. This is a popular, yet touristy place that is built into the walls and can accomodate what seemed like a 1000 people. Good for cocktails, groups to sit together and listen to electronic music. We were fortunate to have gotten a table right at the wall overlooking the ocean. Once the sun goes down they play live music. It’s a little touristy, but the experience is nice if you’ve got the right table. In the picture you can see the skyline of Boca Grande. Many expats have been buying up property in that area. Cartagena has the most expensive real estate in all of Colombia. 

August 20th: Cartagena

Our private tour guide and driver arrived at 9 am and we got into the back of the car, which had two bottles of water waiting for us. First stop: San Felipe Fortress located just outside the walls of the old city. As soon as we got out of the car we hit a wall of heat. Walk slow, drink lots of water, put on a hat and find shade wherever you can. From the entrance you walk up a wide passageway up to the top. It’s not that far, but the incline is moderately steep. Once up there we were given the history of the fortress by our guide. It was built on San Lazaro hill to defend the city from pirate attacks. As part of the tour you also get to go into the underground passageways of the fortress. 

Cartagena was a very important port city for the Spanish and strategically located between the Magdalena and Sinu rivers  Enabling trade to come in and out and be able to take goods and bring them into the interior with ease through its river system. Named after the Spanish City of Cartagena, its official name is Cartagena de Indias in order to distinguish its name from the Spanish City.  

Following the San Felipe Fortress we continued to our next stop, the Iglesia de La Popa. This convent dates back to the 1600’s and offers the best view of all of Cartagena. 

We drove back down to the old city and our guide took us to our scheduled hotel inspections. The purpose was to familiarize ourselves with some key properties we’re using for our private/tailor made product line as well as deciding which hotel would be best suited for our group departures. We visited the Bastion Luxury Hotel, Casa San Agustin, Quadrifolio, Ananda Hotel and last but not least the Sofitel Legend Cartagena. All the properties were great in their own way and are each suitable to different tastes. Our pick was the Sofitel Legend for our group departures. It’s a wow property, great location, impressive lobby as soon as you enter it feels like you’ve stepped back a few centuries in time. There is a central courtyard filled with tropical birds, traditional colonial architecture and housed in what was a former convent. There is a crypt located in the middle of the bar. The pool area and spa is fantastic! Although, I was able to take the entire tour of this property I didn’t get to stay overnight. So my wife and I have now booked to come here this December and stay for 1 week. On our group departure in March of 2022 we will spend the last 4 nights of the trip here!  


August 21st and 22nd: Cartagena

Our last main tour that we had organized in Cartagena was a street food tour. The city has a great culinary tradition and many influences from the Spanish, Portuguese and also African influence from the slaves that were brought here. Some dishes are actually quite similar to what you have in New Orleans. We had a local chef take us on a condensed foodie tour. Our first stop was this street food vendor that has been in operation at this exact location for over 50 years.  We stopped at several other spots to sample some other local specialties while at the same time learning about the culinary history of the city. We also got several suggestions of places to eat and best places to watch the sunset. 

Here was one of the restaurant recommendations from our street food tour chef. It’s called Baruko, and it’s known as being the best Peruvian restaurant in Cartagena. It is located on a street called “Calle De Nuestra Senora Del Carmen”. As we walked to the restaurant we saw countless restaurants with incredible ambience and fabulous looking menus, definitely the place to go to if you want to treat yourself to a special night out. 

And the food did not disappoint. This dish right here was one of the best meals I’ve had in my life..

Our last night in Cartagena we were told to go to the Movich Hotel to watch the sunset. You be the judge on the view…a perfect ending to an unforgettable travel experience. 

Every once in awhile you encounter a destination that captures your heart and imagination. Colombia is that place. A country that for so many years was a destination to avoid. It has had many struggles in the last several decades. The days of Pablo Escobar are in its past. The peace agreement signed a few years ago between FARC and the Colombian Government has stabilized the country. FARC is no longer a presence and has largely disbanded. I’ve traveled all my life and have been to so many wonderful places and had many many great experiences. This country is now my favourite destination I’ve ever traveled to. The diversity in all the places we visited, the people, the delicious food, the magical towns and cities. Colombia exceeded all my expectations. You must consider this as a destination to put at the very top of your list.

By Tom MacLean (Co-Founder of Trip Merchant)



Simply put, Colombia far exceeded my expectations. If you’ve always been intrigued with the destination of Colombia, then the time is now. If you’ve never really had it on your radar, then add it, as you’ll be surprised how impressive it is!

The diversity of this country is outstanding; mountains, coffee regions, vibrant/bustling cities, Spanish Colonial architecture, authentic villages/towns, variety of animal and bird species, lakes, jungles, beaches, and adventure experiences….the list goes on. The people were also very welcoming and friendly. From what you’ve heard and perhaps seen on TV, ignore any preconceived notions that Colombia is a dangerous place. As it relates to narcos/the Pablo Escobar era that was over 20 years ago and lots has changed since then. I felt and you will feel safe travelling throughout Colombia. With our upcoming small group departure you will feel especially secure and comfortable while we provide a seamless, stress free vacation.

Colombia is a resilient nation and it’s very clear the Colombians are proud people. Everywhere you go you seem to see the Colombian flag or their colours on display. Colombia is home to the salsa and the locals love to dance (my dance moves are a work in progress by the way!). You may not know this but Colombia is one of the most ethnically and linguistically diverse countries in the world, so you are bound to experience various cultures in the regions you visit.

Colombia’s tourism industry is on the rise! Over the last decade, it’s tourism numbers have increased by 300%! With the largest boost in the last 2 years and the future is bright.

 My highlights from our recent experience in August:

  • Walking through the Communa 13 in Medellin with the stunning graffiti artwork
  • The day trip to Guatape to observe its beautiful lake scenery
  • Visiting a coffee plantation and actually picking coffee to roasting it
  • Exploring the maze-like streets and taking in the Spanish/Caribbean culture of   Cartagena on our street food tour
  • The day trip to Cocora, Filandia and Salento – unique scenery in Cocora and who doesn’t love small authentic towns??
  • Also, I will never forget about the cuisine. The food was delicious! Can’t wait to eat there next year…

My Spanish is not bad (but definitely not great by any stretch), but aside from some areas, English is not widely spoken throughout the country. Our guides of course spoke very good English. For the times we had at leisure, having Tom was very beneficial. He is fluent in Spanish, which made my communication with the locals, well, seamless. Travelling with Tom and with him being bilingual, you will feel comfortable throughout our trip to Colombia in March of 2022 (maybe even help you get a bargain at the markets).

Rest assured we have spent lots of time to make sure we designed the best itinerary for you that offers tremendous value. We lived and breathed Colombia first hand and packaged a unique program with many amazing experiences/inclusions.

I can’t wait to return and look forward to those that decide to join us on this upcoming journey!

-Ryan Mikucki (Co-Founder of Trip Merchant)

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