Back now from our recent trip to Colombia, I’ve already shared details of our experience in Bogota — a vibrant if still complicated gem of a city. That we loved Bogota so much was a bit of a surprise to us, given that Cartagena is much more my speed when it comes to my typical vacation preferences. It’s got that Caribbean heat and humidity, plus beaches and islands. It’s charming, lively, and picturesque beyond words. So rather than droning on too much, I want to simply show you scenes from our three days in Cartagena through snapshots. I hope they both gesture at the city’s beauty and culture, as well as suggest a reasonably paced sample itinerary for would-be visitors. And off we go!
On our connecting flights into Colombia earlier this month, we encountered a horrible person. This is not unusual on a plane, but the encounter was so pronounced that it left a prolonged bad taste that colored the beginning of our trip.
We were flying into Cartagena, where we began our Colombian adventure. The guy on the plane, an American, had long ago fallen in love with the city and had visited there 78 times, he said (but who’s counting?) — and had bought property and established some kind of nonprofit. He was in love with Cartagena, obviously, and told us we’d love it.
Then when we told him we were heading to Bogota as our next stop, he said this, actually out loud and not in his head: “You’re going to absolutely hate it. First of all, you’ll probably get kidnapped. And then of course, you’ll be sick from the altitude, which would ruin your whole trip even if you weren’t kidnapped. Also it’s freezing. I wish you had my email address so you could tell me afterward how much you hated it and I was right.”
Legit, this monologue happened. At one point I told him, “OK, stop talking now.” Neighboring passengers rolled eyes. It got awkward.
Much as we wanted to, we found that we couldn’t immediately brush it off. While in Cartagena, David and I asked several people (Colombians) how we might expect to find Bogota when we got there. And, frankly, we were not comforted by their answers. Many people underscored the danger of assault and also the altitude and weather challenges.
So several days later, by the time we took off from Cartagena on our way to Bogota, and someone sitting next to me on the plane made the sign of the cross, I felt a sense of dread.
But spoiler: In the end? We absolutely loved Bogota. Maybe even more than we did Cartagena, though that city is more of the seaside Caribbean vibe that is typically more my vacation speed. Here are all the reasons Bogota ranks high on our list of experiences:
If you, like us, are devouring the new Netflix series Narcos, Colombia may not be super-high on your list of travel destinations. But the country now is far from what it was in those drug cartel-controlled years. And it is courting tourists to come check out its warmth and culture and natural beauty.
I got the idea to visit Colombia when we were in Tulum earlier in the summer with a big group of friends celebrating a wedding. On the day following the nuptials, several of us took a hungover walk from the beach to shop for souvenirs (for instance, the shirt Jordan wore to his travel-theme first-birthday party, and the one Maya wore in this fierce smizing pic — werk). On that slow saunter, a friend who had recently returned from a super-fun vacation in Colombia during which she danced the nights away with her husband (romantico!) told us we had to go and we’d love it.
I am excitable and impressionable when it comes to holiday ideas. And I also love certain serendipities that make a visit to a place seem fated, like an enthusiastic convo about one place while in another fabulous place amid warm and wonderful people.
Plus, I won’t lie: Wherever there is a new Four Seasons hotel opening, that’s where I want to be. So the chips fell into place, the grandparents got on board to babysit, and we booked some flights. Woo!