Two weeks ago I wrote a post about the Camino Real (Royal Road) – The Road between Barichara and Guane which featured in a travel article I once wrote. I thought I would use this Wednesday literature space to present the entire article. I should preface by saying the title is sensationalized. There are arguably hundreds of other sites in Colombia which could be considered more obscure and satisfying for travelers who like getting off the beaten track. But I made my own short list from the places I had visited up to when I had written the article.
See if you can spot my son Jesus Mateo who features in the first photo when he was just 3 years old. He is now 9!
Colombia’s 5 Best Secrets
If it’s life you want, then its life you will get. Colombia is one of the world’s five richest countries in biological diversity, coupled with its unspoilt colonial heritage and colourful festivals. As the Colombian travel slogan says ‘the only risk is wanting to stay’.
Parque Jaime Duque – Bogota
This is Colombian culture at its most quirky yet fascinating best. If an eerie water tunnel boat ride through a medieval castle of Dante’s Divine Comedy isn’t quite your thing, then perhaps a guided tour of 113 scenes of the most pivotal moments of the history of man in the Universe is.
How to get there: From Bogota travel by Transmilenio bus to Portal Norte calle 170 then catch a bus to Autopista Norte and get off at Briceño.
Chicamocha Canyon and ‘Camino Real’ – Department of Santander
Located 50 km south of the city of Bucaramanga, Chicamocha canyon boasts spectacular landscapes and a wide variety of adventure activities. The aerial cable car ride allows tourists to view it in all its splendour. South of Chicamocha Canyon is the spiritually rejuvenating three-hour walk ‘Camino Real’ between two of Colombia’s most charming colonial towns Barichara and Guane – an almost surreal experience; a pilgrimage into a different age.
How to get there: Frequent buses travel north from Bogota to Bucaramanga or you may decide to stay in San Gil situated just 10 kilometers from Barichara. Alternatively, fly directly to Bucaramanga and take a bus south 1.5hours to Chicamocha or San Gil.
Islas del Rosarios and Playa Blanca – Cartagena
Sit back on the speedboat and hold onto your hat as you rocket past Cartagena’s ancient castle of San Fernando de Bocachica and arrive a little bit wetter at the island hotel. Go swimming or do some snorkeling, then succumb to your saltwater-induced appetite with a tasty hot pescado lunch. In the afternoon visit the aquarium and marvel at the acrobatic dolphin display. On the way back, drop in at the Playa Blanca, sit under a coconut tree and unwind with a delicious piña colada served straight from a coconut.
How to get there: Frequent flights, international and domestic, go to Cartagena. Boats leave from Muelle Turístico between 8am and 9am and return 4pm to 6 pm.
Mompòs – Department of Bolivar
Mompòs is a town bordered by boggy rivers and dense vegetation located on the eastern branch of the Magdalena Río in the northern Colombian interior. Time may have passed Mompòs by, but the tourists have just started exploring this once-forgotten land. The colonial architecture is something to behold as is the town’s specialty gold jewelry and furniture making.
How to get there: Mompòs is a bumpy six-hour bus ride from Cartagena. You’ll arrive at Maganguè and board a boat for Bodega and then continue by bus to Mompòs.
Laguna de La Cocha – Pasto
La Laguna de La Cocha is a high Andean lake located in the southern Andes of Colombia just 27km east of the city of Pasto in the Nariño Department. Hop on a boat to cross Colombia’s second largest natural body of freshwater and visit the flora sanctuary on the island Corota. More than just a breath of fresh air, La Cocha is a wetland ecosystem of international significance.
How to get there: Frequent flights operate to Pasto. Buses for the lake leave from in front of the Iglesia Santo Sepulcro at Calle 22, Carerra 7.
Colombia is a country full of many sites, out of the ordinary, to visit. 43 years ago I went on a honeymoon with my wife. As was the fashion at that time, we did it in the remembered hitchhiking from Peru, Ecuador, Colombia and Venezuela: round trip. Our trip was to visit the villages that were on the way and the impressive geography did the rest. With its exquisitely written history, those moments came to mind and gave my wife the opportunity to review the photos of our wedding. Good reading. Regards-
Firstly, congratulations on your 43 year old marriage! Thanks for sharing that gorgeous story of your Honeymoon trip with your wife all those years ago. I can’t imagine the wonderful memories you two must share of those 4 countries.
It was a journey not to forget and that could be done that way. Today, unthinkable. We are very grateful for the congratulations. A big hug.
I think it could be done that way with moto or bicycle, but hitchhiking no.
Cheers Manuel. I hope life is treating you well in Chile.
I can not complain. All good. Thank you.
‘I cannot complain’. I like your English phrase here Manuel.
Cartagena – reminds me of Romancing the Stone! We just watched it with the kids a couple months or so ago. Your little guy is so cute in that photo!!!
‘Romancing the Stone’ was a family favourite growing up. I haven’t seen it since I arrived in Colombia. I need to revisit it! Yes, my little man looks great against the Taj Mahal true life replica. Thanks so much for commenting and your kind words Nadine.
Parque Jaime Duque looks awesome. I looked it up on Youtube…would love to visit that place. Mompòs sounds interesting also.
The founder Jaime Duque has the most incredible back story. Even the plane he flew the Colombian Olympic team to Melbourne in 1956 sits restored in the middle of the park.
The atmosphere I feel when I am in this park (his legacy to the Colombian people) is unlike any other. It’s kind of magical and utopian at the same time. The best elements of human history, diversion and nature are there. Thanks for commenting Max.
I loved the video I found about it. The giant statue is cool also. The plane I would love to see.
The video in You tube doesn’t do it the least bit of justice. It’s kind of old, grainy and poorly produced. But I’m still glad you loved it.
The statue with the globe in his hand is a great representation of the ‘global diversity and knowledge’ theme of the park.
Someone commented it’s the Disney World of Colombia…it looked cool and a fun place to be…tied to the history of the country.
Yeh, it’s my favourite place to revisit with the kids. I always feel at peace there. And I know my money is going to a good cause. It stagger’s me how one Colombian man’s vision has been converted into such a beautiful space with such educational and fun things to see and do.
Wow, impressive. I’d like to see ALL of these places……IF I ever leave Burbank again… or take a vacation again, lol. They all look beautiful. Chicamocha Canyon reminds me a teeny bit of a hike we did once in the San Gabriel Mountains that led to “The Bridge To Nowhere.”
Chicamocha is much more spectacular, but….this hike takes one up into the San Gabriel mountains to, eventually, a bridge that crosses a fork of the San Gabriel river (dry now). Over the bridge is the start of a tunnel going into the mountain, but it’s a dead end filled with rocks.
I like this description, though, for Mompos (and I like that name! It brings a smile to my face for some reason): “Mompòs is a bumpy six-hour bus ride from Cartagena. You’ll arrive at Maganguè and board a boat for Bodega and then continue by bus to Mompòs.”
I would insert after the “six-hour bumpy bus ride” that “you’ll arive at Magangue and vomit a lot in the public bathroom before you board a board for Bodega……” lol
I would also like to make a pilgrimage to visit the San Gabriel trail you mentioned. The post you linked was a very interesting read. I doubt Chicamocha is more spectacular. For me it’s about the feeling you get in the natural environment rather than what you see.
You made me laugh about Mompos. I imagine it could conjure up images of the bus ride Kathleen Turner took in ‘Romancing the Stone’. It’s probably not that far off the real thing haha.
It’s an adventure here for sure.
Yeah, I agree, the freeness of being in nature, away from cars and computers and restaurants, surrounded by only the wind in the trees and the birds flying by…that’s the real treat and such a balm for the soul. I guess what I meant was Chicamocha has a more dramatic view. You can’t really see anything at the Bridge to Nowhere, like it’s not perched on top of the mountain with all spreading out beneath it. But it’s a nice walk/hike getting there, not too easy, not too hard, and definitely enough time to get the stresses of modern life to peel away for a good while…..
I find it about as spiritually enlightening as it gets. When I trekked alone up to the peak of the Volcano Azufral in the far south of Colomhia and sat down by the green lake which was bubbling due the sulfur and not a soul in sight – I felt I was in seventh heaven. I had tears in my eyes. And I hardly shed tear which I know isn’t a good thing, right?
Haha, absolutely right, Matthew! You men have to cry more and let it out. Don’t shove it down! It’s not doing any good down there, lol !!!
Aunque estoy de acuerdo que es sensacionalista el título de éste articulo, me ha sorprendido que dentro de los cinco sitios que referencies, este el parque Jaime Duque; el cual realmente es fascinante y de visita obligada con los hijos. Debo reconocer que hace muchos años no voy, pero valoro la fundación que maneja este parque por su labor ambiental al haber convertido muchas hectáreas de su terreno en reserva ambiental
Hola Angelika! Ha sido un rato! Si el articulo es un poco sensacionalista pero no tanto con respeto a la turista porque pocos de estos siteos son recomendado en los lugares para visitar.
Me alegro que compartemos un similar sentimentalismo hacia el Parque Jaime Duque. You he estado dos veces con mis hijos. Me fascina tambien y ya quiero revisitarlo pero por la Pandemia, no se puede me imagino.