Colombia off the beaten track

Because I’ve always wanted to…

Issue 33 / October 2018

Autumnal greetings to you all,

I loved Colombia so much when I went there in December last year that I vowed I would return soon.  This June I went to see those areas which I did not have sufficient time to visit before – it’s a big country with so much to do and see.  A number of laterallife travellers have followed in my footsteps this summer and all have come back raving about this most exciting of destinations!  I would like to tell you about some of the highlights of my recent trip …..

Laterally yours,

One Love, Palomino, Santa Marta.

One Love – the owner is a Bob Marley fan!  A few miles up a sleepy jungle track you come across this beautiful place set on a hill overlooking the Palomino River and jungle clad mountains on all sides.  Half a dozen comfortably equipped bungalows, wonderful food, stunning bird life and a beach on the riverside from where you can safely swim.  For the right people this place is knock-out – it really has the wow factor!

Villa Playa, Tayrona, Santa Marta.

The setting is almost unbeatable – the river, the spit of beach, the wild sea on the other side. Whoever built this house clearly had the power and money to commandeer a private corner in this landscape that is quite extraordinary. It’s a house rather than a hotel. Six big, beautiful rooms. Fantastic common areas. Run by a bunch of smiley Colombian women. Villa Playa is special because it’s a beautiful house, in a truly fabulous setting. Stare at the views and do nothing else. Or take long walks down 25km of deserted beach. I loved my stay here but one day was way too short. Children under 16 not allowed

Casa Galavanta, Sierra Nevada Mountains, Santa Marta.

Casa Galavanta is a private home high up in the Sierra Nevada mountains overlooking the Caribbean coast and the city of Santa Marta. The drive up there is certainly challenging but it’s well worth it.  This is a simple but beautiful house completely in keeping with its environment – the views from the deck are staggering. You really don’t need to do anything here other than sit on the deck but there is plenty of trekking and bird-watching galore, and an interesting visit to a local coffee farm.  The in-house chef is superb at his craft and a 2/3 day stay here is perfect.

Santa Clara, Cartegena.

This is a hotel of international standards but probably as ‘lateral’ as a big hotel can be; it is a piece of history with all the service and mod cons that you would expect from a classic 5 star hotel. But it’s a bit more than that – it’s also very attractive with a relaxing but fun atmosphere in a fantastic location overlooking the sea in old Cartagena.  The historical part of this ancient monastery really makes this hotel experience exceptional.  I stayed here for 4 nights and enjoyed every moment of the hotel itself and this fascinating city.  Its restaurants are divine!

Hacienda Bambusa, Armenia, Coffee Region.

Hacienda Bambusa, in the lush southern part of Colombia’s coffee region, forms part of an enormous farm with abundant fruit, veg and cacao crops, Bambusa is a courtyard house with a selection of stylish rooms which look out on to the attractive gardens frequented by humming birds extracting nectar from the feeders on the balconies.  A wonderful place for families with plenty of activities and outings, like bamboo rafting.  This, along with Buenavista (adults only) is my favourite hotel in the coffee region.  Four nights is the preferred stay as there’s so much to do in this area.

El Cantil, Nuqui, Pacific Coast.

You may take off from Medellin airport in the city centre, quickly rising up over the Andes’ dense jungle below, see huge snaking rivers, and 45 minutes later arrive on this wild and remote outpost on the Pacific Coast of Colombia called Nuqui.  El Cantil is the place to stay.  Its USP from July to October  – is whale watching – big playful humpbacks!  Accommodation is very simple but the adventure is well worth it.

Calanoa Amazonas, Amazon, Leticia.

Colombia has around 250km of Amazon river frontage – Brazil and Peru have many thousands.  Capital of the Amazon state is Leticia, a 2-hour flight from Bogota.  50km upstream from Leticia sees you arriving at this simple, remote but well worth visiting 6- room tented camp.  Boat trips to see the pink and grey river dolphin, abundant and varied birdlife along with local villages are all a part of the daily menu here.  The Amazon is only 7km wide in this place!  Staying at Calanoa Amazonas is my recommendation.

Los Llanos, Cora Cora Tented Camp.

My final stop was Los Llanos, gateway to the Orinoco Wetland basin.  This is where the Andes end and the flat endless plains running through to Venezuela commence.  This is cattle, caiman, capibara and bird country, big time.  The area reminded me immediately of the Pantanal in Brazil.

Los Llanos, Hato Mata de Palmo ranch house.

A 2 hour drive from Los Llanos and you arrive at the ranch house of Hato Mata de Palma, a working ranch.  You can as I did stay in one of the 3 rooms at the ranch, living and breathing the daily activities of a gaucho!  Alternatively, a luxurious tented camp called Cora Cora has been set up 5 minutes’ drive from the ranch, similar to a private African safari camp set up.  This area was the most wonderful end to my second trip around the more lateral part of Colombia, a country all those who can must visit.

Up Periscope: Kasbah Bab Ourika, Atlas mountains, Morocco.

This September we made a return visit to this most wonderful place in the foothills of the Atlas Mountains.  The views are completely breathtaking, as fine as any I’ve seen in the world.  I cannot recommend Kasbah Bab Ourika too highly for a heavenly, life-affirming getaway just a 3 hour flight from London.

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