As the world gets smaller and travel to less visited places becomes more popular, there is only one thing to do: Experience Them!
Colombia has been on my radar for quite a while, but to be honest, I was a bit concerned since I spent the late 70’s and early 80’s living in Miami, Florida when cocaine was everywhere, and Colombia was where it came from. Hence, I was basically living in the Miami Vice era and all the drugs and violence that came with it.
But times have changed, and Colombia is becoming one of the hot destinations. From Bogota, to Medellin, to Cartegena, there is a huge amount of diversity. Bogota, which is at an elevation of 9,000 feet, is Colombia’s capital and is filled with colonial history, as well as its own local cultures. Cartagena sits on the Caribbean Sea with both beaches and dense jungle wildlife, along with a colorful history. Medellin – previously one of the most dangerous cities in the world – is said to be a safe, growing city and is the heart of “coffee culture” and indigenous communities. And, well, that is about all I currently know. Oh, and more and more cruise ships are calling on Colombia. Hence my trip!
So: What is my trip and how did it come about? Well, various governmental agencies set up Buyer’s Markets where they fly in qualified travel agents to Bogota to meet with various vetted suppliers (tour operators, hotels, etc.) to introduce and promote travel in Colombia. ProColombia invited me. At pretty much at the same time, AmaWaterways announced that will be starting river cruises on the Magdalena River in Colombia starting in 2024. So my decision was made: I am off to Colombia!
In addition to this two-day event, ProColombia offers 3-4 day familiarization tours based in Bogota, Medellin, or Cartegena. Because of my hectic travel schedule both before and after this trip, I really needed to limit my time on planes and, thus, chose to take the Bogota tour. It is described as “an extraordinary gastronomic journey, visiting entrepreneurship and museums that will help you understand the country’s political past and present. Visiting museums, historical sites and thought-provoking art exhibitions.” I will, of course, and as you will read below, supplement my tour in the typical Goldring Travel Culinary & Cultural way!
My flight to Bogota arrives at 2:20 AM on February 17, 2023, so it will be straight to the Hilton Hotel at the convention center for a sleep. But at 10:00 AM I am off on a Private Culinary Tour of Bogota before meeting up with my tour group around 5:00 PM for a briefing, walking tour, and welcome dinner. Because most will not be used to the 9,000 elevation, it will be an early evening. (Being that I live at 6,500 feet and hike and ski above 8,000 feet, I think I’ll be just fine!)
Our culinary and cultural adventures start the next day in Bogota proper, but on the second day we head off to a sustainable coffee plantation for the day and night. Our third day returns to Bogota and includes a special lunch followed by trying out the “explosive” game of Tejo along with beer drinking. (Explosives and beer. What could possibly go wrong?!) Our fourth day heads out of Bogota again for a visit to the Salt Cathedral and Guatavita Lagoon before heading back to Bogota. The final morning is a visit to a local impoverished neighborhood that is making a comeback. It is a lot for four days, but it should be very interesting…and the schedule actually allows for me to have sufficient downtime to get some work done!
During the evening after the first day of the two-day Buyer’s Market, I have arranged for dinner Restaurante Leo, which describes itself as “A gastronomic journey through the ethnobotany of the cultures that inhabit the various Colombian biomes”. You knew I had to check this place out! It will be a three-hour, 12-course menu paired with local spirits, cocktails, and wines.
My final afternoon and evening will be free, as my flight back to the U.S. doesn’t depart until 1:45 AM. I am keeping my hotel room for a home base as well as for luggage storage, a nap, and a shower before heading home.
What will I do with that free time? Hopefully, by then I will have a much better understanding of Bogota and will find something else to explore.
Let me know if you have any questions, or if this creates an interest in visiting this South American country or, even book an AmaWaterways river cruise!