This Caribbean city is the best known to Americans, with its 6.8 miles of walls built by the Spanish. Its historic center was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its 400-year-old colonial mansions, churches and monasteries, and for South America’s most complete set of fortifications. This romantic location is a favorite for honeymooners, who can explore its flower-decked plazas and stone-paved streets on foot or in a horse-drawn carriage. From the gold museum to the dazzling sunsets to nights filled with salsa dancing, there’s always plenty to do in Cartagena. A short boat trip takes visitors to the Rosario Islands, where the crystal-clear Caribbean is bordered by beautiful white sand beaches.
Hotel Casa San AgustÌn, located in the heart of Colombia’s most iconic city, immerses guests in the allure, history and culture of classic Cartagena. The elegant small hotel encompasses three exquisitely restored 17th century colonial homes, with a preserved aqueduct contained within its walls. The property includes 20 guestrooms and 11 spacious suites, as well as private plunge pools and the globally acclaimed Alma Restaurant. Historic charm meets contemporary luxury at the hotel, where original frescoes and centuries-old wood-beamed ceilings seamlessly blend with modern amenities.
Also on the Caribbean coast, lively Santa Marta is a beach town known for its colorful nightlife and seafood restaurants. But like Cartagena, it has its share of history. Clients will find the Tairona Gold Museum in the town’s oldest house, built in 1530. Before the Spanish arrived, this land was home of the Tayrona, who built their cities on terraces carved into the steep mountains. In the Taironaka Nature Reserve is a museum with artifacts and exhibits on their history and culture, along with restored terraces.
Don Pepe Boutique Hotel in Santa Marta, has 12 carefully detailed rooms, private terraces, a Spa offering luxury therapies. The Bacota restaurant combines flavors of the world, served with careful attention from their committed staff.
Medellin, a beautiful city ringed by mountains, erupts into festival mode at least twice a year. Each August it bursts into bloom - literally - with the Feria de Las Flores, a week-long extravaganza of flowers that is highlighted by a parade of silleteros. These flower sellers build elaborate displays of brilliant blossoms, which they carry on giant boards. Throughout the week are parades, fireworks, musical events, competitions and a full range of activities for the whole family.
For the entire month of December, Medellin is aglow with Los Alumbrados, the festival of Christmas lights. More than 30 million LED bulbs create a holiday fairyland all along the Medellin River and in parks and plazas throughout the city. Lights outline bridges, hang from trees and create arches along the streets and promenades. In the river, water spouts are bathed in lights that change color in time with music, with colored projections dancing in the plumes of water. The wide park bordering the river is filled with giant illuminated Christmas scenes and holiday-themed displays that rise as high as 75 feet.
Even without a festival, Medellin will delight clients with its arts and cultural scene, designer shopping and buoyant nightlife. Hometown of the artist Fernando Botero, the city showcases his work on Plaza Botero, where there are 23 of his larger-than-life bronze sculptures. The museum facing the square exhibits several galleries of his paintings. Parks line Medellin’s river, and the Botanical Garden is a shady place to stroll - suggest lunch in its airy café.
Due to open April 2019, Cannúa, a first-of-its-kind, 18-room boutique hotel set within a protected forest in Antioquia, Colombia, is scheduled to open in April 2019. This hillside escape, located 90 minutes from the innovative metropolis of MedellÌn, will be a place of rejuvenation, reconnection and cultural discovery, all within the heart of the Colombian countryside. www.cannua.com
For packaged tours that offer a combination of cities and destinations within Colombia, it is best to seek the advice of a qualified tour operator.
Tara Tours recently announced their new program called “Colombia’s big three: Bogota, Medellin and the Historical colonial city of Cartagena.” The new program will spend 8 days/7 nights exploring these beautiful cities. www.taratours.com
EcoAmerica Tours offers a nine-day package, “The Wonders of Colombia,” giving travelers a taste of all that Colombia has to offer: beaches, cities, and countryside.
Condor Tours and Travel has a “Introduction to Colombia” FAM trip, November 3-9, 2019 experiencing Bogota, Villa De Leyva and surrounding area, then heading to Cartagena to explore. You can also add-on an extension to Medellin. www.condortoursandtravel.com
You’ll have no trouble booking flights to Colombia. About 250 flights a week connect nine U.S. cities (Miami, Los Angeles, New York, Atlanta, Houston, Washington D.C., Orlando, Dallas and Fort Lauderdale) with the Colombian cities of Cartagena, Medellin, Bogota, Barranquilla, Armenia and Cali.