Monthly Archives: February 2013

Ajiaco soup is typically served with table cream, capers and avocado all mixed in just before eating.

Favorite Colombian Foods To Enjoy When Visiting

Favorite Colombian foods to enjoy when visiting will surprise you with their variety from Caribbean shoreline to Andean mountain traditions.  And what better way is there to start this experience than by learning more about what makes Colombian cuisine special. Like the country’s attractions itself, Colombia’s cuisine is highly influenced by its heritage and geographical characteristics. And with every bite you will recognize its history under Spanish colonization as well as indigenous Caribbean roots, with minor African, Arab and Asian influences because of trade. And considering the fact that all of all their supplies come fresh from the Pacific coast, Andean mountains and the ranchlands that are spread across the nation, you’d have a pretty eclectic and certainly delectable menu to choose from.

Ajiaco soup is typically served with table cream, capers and avocado all mixed in just before eating.

Ajiaco soup is typically served with table cream, capers and avocado all mixed in just before eating.

One of the most famous fares that come from Colombia is that of the Ajiaco, which would be their version of a potato soup. The recipes usually differ depending on the region. But you can always count on it to use ingredients like chicken, corn, various types of native potatoes, and guasca – an aromatic herb endemic to America that ensures the dish’ distinct flavor. Sometimes, this may also be served with cream, capers and avocado.

The Sanchocho, meanwhile, is a traditional Latin American cuisine, which is basically the local’s own interpretation of the Spanish dish known as Cocido. In Colombia, this is prepared with many kinds of meat, including ox tail, chicken and gallina, with potatoes, plantains, tomatoes, scallion, cilantro and corn, depending on what ingredients are available within the region.

Another one of the potential favorite foods you might pick out of Colombia is the tamales, which is traditional Mesoamerican dish made out of corn-based dough, steamed in a leaf wrapper. Sometimes, they are filled with fruits, vegetables, chilies, cheeses and meat, depending on what the preferences of the person preparing it are. But in Colombia, they are usually filled with chicken, whole corn kernels as well as carrot slices, served for breakfast with hot chocolate.

Finally, there’s Fritanga, which is another one of the favorite Colombian foods to enjoy when visiting that is distinct to the region. It is made of meats, fried plantains, yellow potatoes and chicharrones with aji sauce. Servings are usually plentiful so it is encouraged to be shared with friends. It’d be perfectly paired with Bollos or Garullas or even alternated with Picada, if you want more variety.

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Artwork by Fernando Botero at the Botero Museum in Bogotá, Colombia.

Top Reasons To Visit Colombian Art

One of the top reasons to visit Colombian art is that it encompasses 3,500 years of transformation, from indigenous to colonial and then modern, which makes the list of its local and international accomplishments too long to dwell on specifically. Nevertheless, if you are interested in the prowess of Colombians when it comes to this particular craft, then a short feature on its most world renowned artists and artworks should do. And this will start off by discussing the contributions of Fernando Botero, a world-renowned Colombian figurative artist.

Poporo Quimbaya and pestle. Phytomorphic (fruit-shaped) lime container, gold, 300 BCE - 1000 CE.

Poporo Quimbaya and pestle. Phytomorphic (fruit-shaped) lime container, gold, 300 BCE – 1000 CE.

Botero’s outputs are spread all across Colombia, from sculptures to paintings. And they commonly depict men and women engaged in daily life as well as historical events and characters, art milestones, still life and natural elements. But what set his work apart are the disproportions he infuses to each of them and the character, humor, irony, ingenuity and criticisms he details them with. Such a technique is now regarded as Boterismo and it is practiced by many aspiring art students. It is important that you get to know Botero because we is a well-revered and palpable figure in the country. Bogota in fact has a Museum that is solely dedicated to his genius.

Another famous Colombian artist worth mentioning is Alejandro Obregon. He is a painter, muralist, engraver and sculptor by trade. And he is among the artists who were credited with the artistic renewal of the Colombian art scene back in the 1950s, which is another top reason to visit Colombian art. His work, Cattle Drowning in the Magdalena River was recognized during the Gulf Caribbean Competition in the US back in 1956, and was awarded first prize. But what’s interesting to note is that he was competing with other popular and talented Colombian painters as well (like Enrique Garu, Eduardo Villamizar and Edgar Negret) which included Botero.

Artwork by Fernando Botero at the Botero Museum in Bogotá, Colombia.

Artwork by Fernando Botero at the Botero Museum in Bogotá, Colombia.

Now, if you’ve researched about Colombia tourist attractions, you would know by now that canvas displays are not all of what the Colombian art movement has to offer. Sculptures, after all, are among the top tourist attractions of this nation. And in every town, there is always a piece of stone, wood or metal carving to see. But much of Colombia’s prowess in this art form has been demonstrated by its ancestors long ago, with beautiful relic finds in multiple local archeological sites. And although modern sculptures do steal the scene, there is much more to appreciate about the traditional Colombian artworks like the Tulico-Tamaco gold figure, the Muisca raft, El Infiernito and the line-up of zoomorphic sculptures found in San Augustin.

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Arrecifes beach in the Tayrona National Park in Santa Marta, Colombia

Top Reasons To Visit Colombian Beaches

The top reasons to visit Colombian beaches are because they are some of the best beaches in the world. And most of them have been featured repeatedly in print and television. This comes as no surprise given the quality experience they provide to those looking for rest and relaxation as well as adventure. But given how expansive Colombia shoreline actually is, you might find narrowing down the choices to be a bit confusing. Take note, on the Caribbean side, the Colombian coast is about 1,600 kilometers long. And facing the Pacific Ocean, there’s 1,300 kilometers of shoreline to factor in. That’s about 300 beaches to suit any kind of preference. In order to help you out, here are some of the best beach destinations in the country you should check out.

Arrecifes beach in the Tayrona National Park in Santa Marta, Colombia

Arrecifes beach in the Tayrona National Park in Santa Marta, Colombia

If you are headed off to Cartagena, then you should definitely check out Rosario Island, Baru Island or the beach at Isla San Bernardo. These just require 45 to 90 minutes travel from the main city of Cartagena and they offer clear, crystal waters and fine, sandy shorelines for the enjoyment of singles, couples and families, with a line-up of amenities that should complete the vacation experience. Cartagena in itself is a Caribbean beach resort city. So whether or not you seek the given attractions out, you’d still find yourself a stunning piece of paradise to lounge on.

If you are spending some time in San Andres, you better take advantage of its placid seas and its extensive coral barriers by visiting Bahia Sardina or San Luis Beach. Both are easy to access from downtown San Andres and are top reasons to visit Colombian beaches. They are among the few isolated Colombian beaches, so you can always expect to feel like a resort owner when you arrive. It’s not as commercialized as that of Cartagena so you’d still be able to appreciate being close to nature. But it’s not that secluded that you’d feel worried about not having your needs met.

San Andres Island, Colombia

San Andres Island, Colombia

Now, if you are off to Santa Marta, you’ll certainly have an exciting time since it has one of the loveliest bays in America. El Rodadero is just five minutes from the historical center and offers a great view of the sea with the mountains as backdrop. The sea is clean and calm, so swimmers do not have to worry about any dangers. The temperature is also tropical so it’d be perfect a little water sports or sun bathing. Aside from the aforementioned, other worthwhile Colombian beaches to visit within this region are those in Tayrona National Park, such as Neguanje and Canaveral.

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Puerto de Barranquilla

Top Tourist Attractions In Barranquilla

You could expect the top tourist attractions in Barranquilla to include beaches as it is the largest industrial city and port in the Colombian Carribean region. But those who have gone to this place can all agree that there’s more to the area than meets the eye. Barranquilla was established as a town back in 1813 although it had been in existence since 1629. When World War I and II came, it became a refuge for Europeans, who immigrated to the place and industrialized it. By the 1940’s, it then became the largest city in the country and the most modern in all of South America. And this paved the way for tourism, which the metropolis has made quite some accomplishments in.

Puerto de Barranquilla

Puerto de Barranquilla

As mentioned earlier, among the top tourist attractions in Barranquilla are its beautiful shorelines. But contrary to the usual expectation, these tourist spots are not actually found within the city itself. In spite of being close to the ocean, its geography does not permit Barranquilla to host beach tourist destinations. However, neighboring towns like that of Puerto Colombia hosts a lot of unspoiled, uncrowded beach fronts. And the best part of it is its just 15 kilometers away. Other prestigious nearby beaches include Puerto Velero, Cano Dulce, Santa Veronica and Sabanilla.

Within the city, you will find a lot of impressive colonial, neoclassical and art deco architecture, to name a few. And among the most visited is the Historic Center of Barranquilla, an area which reflects the commercial, cultural and political landscape of 17th and 18th century Colombia. Here, people will get to see Paseo de Bolivar, Plaza de San Nicolas, the Church of San Jose, and multiple samples of the city’s historical landmarks.

Another one of the top tourist attractions in Barranquilla that attracts a diverse demographic is the local zoo, which houses an eclectic collection of colorful native and foreign animals, with an emphasis on Colombian fauna and the protection of the country’s endangered species. It has about 140 types of creatures in its care in all categories, from mammals to fishes, birds, amphibians, reptiles and primates. But its most popular lure is that of the Flamingos (locally known as Flamencos), which are often seen as pink because of their healthy state.

Barranquilla Cathedral

Barranquilla Cathedral

As a final entry to this list of the top reasons to visit Barranquilla, you should definitely consider visiting the Barranquilla Country Club and Caujaral, which ranks among the best golf courses in Colombia, and perhaps play a few rounds. The currency exchange rate is pretty advantageous if you come from the U.S. or Europe. So you do not have to feel conscious about the expenses. If you do not play golf, then you’d certainly enjoy the view and amenities present. These particular hotspots were designed by the well-respected Northrop and Joe Lee and provide guests a topical golfing landscape, surrounded by exotic plants and animals.

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Monument to the dance and music of cumbia in El Banco.

Top Things To Know About Colombian Music

One of the top things to know about Colombian music is at present it is represented internationally by the artist Shakira. But what she has provided for the world is just a glimpse the totality. There is much more to the sounds and songs that hail from this part of the globe. And you’d be surprised at how impressive and entertaining local renderings are than what has been shared in mainstream media.

Monument to the dance and music of cumbia in El Banco.

Monument to the dance and music of cumbia in El Banco.

Top things to know about Colombian music is that it is an expression of the country’s culture; a reflection of its history. And as colorful as both are, music from Colombia is also multidimensional, with styles differing between regions. Much of the variety comes from its African, Indigenous, European, American and Caribbean influences, not to mention Cuban and Jamaican. And although one cannot truly say that there is a distinct musical signature to the sounds and songs produced within the country as the same characteristics are shared with other Latin American nations, there are, however, plenty to appreciate about them.

The music of Colombia is usually upbeat and accompanied by string and percussion instruments. But if you study them closely, you’d discover layers of complexity. Traditional Colombian music, for instance, can be classified into four distinct zones – the Atlantic/Caribbean, Pacific Coast, Andean and Easter Plains. And they typically convey unique attributes. Caribbean music, for example, pulsates and vibrates while Pacific music is more percussive and reflective of its Spanish ancestry. Andean music, meanwhile, is often sad and slow, whereas music coming from the Eastern Plains are more melodic.

Two of the musical rhythms that have conquered majority of the country include salsa and vallenato, which are both Caribbean. Salsa music was first born out of Puerto Rico and Cuba. But it eventually spread to Colombia and is now widely practiced and enjoyed. In fact, salsa bands are a very common sight in bars, clubs and restaurants around Colombia. And salsa music is a major influence among contemporary musicians. Vallenato, contrary to salsa, is a music that was discovered out of the country’s very own farmlands. And it actually literally means “born in the valley”. It is specifically played with an accordion and has its own local festival, celebrated during April.

Other than the aforementioned, there are additional top things to know about Colombian music that you should explore.  However it would be more of an experience if you travel there to actually hear them instead of read about them on the internet.

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The main park in Ibagué, named after Simón Bolívar.

Top Tourist Attractions In Ibague

The top tourist attractions in Ibague offers people an eclectic vacation experience as it is one of the primary destinations in the continent. Also known as the “Musical City of Colombia”, this town provides not only provides musical education at its finest but also an abundance of musical events that should keep you excited every time you come. As an added bonus, Ibague also hosts majestic natural sights, stunning architectural landmarks and impressive commercial facilities. So you are bound to have a good time here, no matter what your pleasure is.

The main park in Ibagué, named after Simón Bolívar.

The main park in Ibagué, named after Simón Bolívar.

Among the most celebrated top tourist attractions in Ibague is the annual Folk Festival, which is launched just before the feasts of Saint Peter and Saint John. During this time, tourists get treated to the best of the Andean folklore and rhythms with sanjuaneros, bambucos and pasillos. You will see people dancing and parks as well as plazas transformed into musical stages. And of course, the streets will also be filled with beautiful women dressed in flamboyant outfits.

But if you are not that interested in such events, there’s San Jorge Botanical Garden and Foundation Orchids that provide you with a closer encounter with nature and a better appreciation of the beauty of Colombia. San Jorge is found at the edge of the city and boasts of over 500 species of plants, accommodated within 7 kilometers of land. Visitors who come here can tour the place through several trails. And they could also take picnics in designated areas. Foundation Orchids, meanwhile, as a nature reserve presents an impressive collection of orchids, both foreign and locally endemic, including Colombia’s natural flower, the endangered Cattleya trianae. And it also highlights interesting and challenging trails for park visitors to enjoy.

Panoramic view of the city of Ibagué from Parque Botanico San Jorge

Panoramic view of the city of Ibagué from Parque Botanico San Jorge

Another one of the top tourist attractions in Ibague is La Martinica, an ecotourism landmark that affords people a venue for camping, wildlife immersion and plain old rest and relaxation. It is adjacent to the River Combeima, which gives folks a refreshing outlet to enjoy. There’s also spa treatments and horseback riding amenities for those who are interested. And depending on the season, this area can be a great place for a myriad of extreme sports activities.

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The City of Pereira

Top Tourist Attractions In Pereira

The top tourist attractions in Pereira are composed of many delights. And if you are a big fan of Colombian coffee, then you must definitely spend some time as this small valley town serves as the center of the traditional coffee growing in the region. It is in close proximity to Bogota, Cali and Medellin as well as located smack in the middle of the country’s main highways, so you can easily access it from any direction.

The City of Pereira

The City of Pereira

If you ever find yourself going here, then you should definitely spend some time visiting the Matacena City Zoo, which is basically 17 hectares of farmland which houses a collection of 800 animals, differentiated into 150 species, which hail from Asia, Africa, and the Americas. The place also has a beautiful botanical garden and a playground on site. So if you have children with you, then it will definitely be worth the travel.

If you are on your own or with friends, it’s highly advisable that you check out Lake Otun, in the Nevados National Park which is just a few kilometers away from Pereira. Here, you can engage in some recreational fishing as it contains a large population of rainbow trout. Furthermore, you could do some bird watching as it is the breeding ground of a number of threatened and endangered Colombian bird species. Just be careful about how you treat your waste in this area because among all the top tourist attractions in Pereira, this one serves as a source of drinking water. Now, while in the area, you might also want to visit Santa Isabel, which is a shield volcano, located southwest of Nevados, in the Tolima department of Colombia.

Lions at the Matecaña City Zoo, Pereira.

Lions at the Matecaña City Zoo, Pereira.

In the city, you could spend some time in the Technological University of Pereira and their planetarium, which has been highlighted as an otherworldly experience. Or you could seek out the remnants of Spanish occupation in some of its colonial structures, starting with The Cathedral of Our Lady of Poverty and ending with the Museum of Art Pereira and Jaime Mejia Archeological Museum. After sunset, make sure you also check out the bars as the top tourist attractions in Pereira includes its flamboyant and energetic club scene, to which it attributes its title as the “night city”.

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Metro de Medellín (Colombia)

Top Things To Know About Colombian Transportation

The top things to know about Colombian transportation is that it is similar to other South American countries.  And they are pretty much reflective of their Spanish roots as well as the lifestyle they have been accustomed to. If you are curious about how to get around the country, then you’ve come to the right post. But you need to first determine where your intended destination is before you actually figure out what you ride in.

Metro de Medellín (Colombia)

Metro de Medellín (Colombia)

If you are just traveling within the cities, then you’ll most likely encounter buses, motorcycles, trains, taxis and car rentals as your primary mode of Colombian transportation. If you are not as familiar with the environment, it would be best if you take advantage of taxi services. They are pretty common in larger areas like Bogota, Medellin and Cali. And they are typically colored yellow so they are not hard to miss. The fare will differ of course, depending on how near or far your destination is. But the minimum charge is usually set at $3,600 Colombian peso.

If you are on a budget though, you could take cheaper transportation options like Bogota’s TranMileno and Cali’s MIO, which is a system of bright red buses that look like a train. They are usually traveling in one lane so they do not catch any traffic. They travel by route so you can’t expect to be taken to where you exactly want to go. But if you plan your route carefully, you can avoid encountering any issues along the way.

Only Medellin features an actual train station in all of Colombia and it charges about $1,400 for one way ticket prices. They do offer discounts for students and senior citizens. So you have to carry your identification with you all the time. The train runs to famous tourist attractions in Medellin too, so that should be an added convenience. And from there, you can easily transfer to the MetroCable and enjoy stunning views of the city.

If you are traveling between cities, you might have to get a rental car since no public Colombian transportation provides that much coverage. If you are headed to port towns like Cartagena or Puerto Bolivar though, you could check out seaports for scheduled ship transports. However, if you have enough money to support a plane fare, then you should go for this convenience since it should only require you a few hours.

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River Magdalena Delta

Top Tourist Attractions In Soledad

If you want to know more about the top tourist attractions in Soledad, then you’ve found the right reference. And you’d be glad to know that you are making the right choice by planning a short vacation to this Colombian town. Founded back in 1598 and just lying 18 miles from the mouth of the Magdalena River, Soledad is regarded as one of the most commercial and industrialized metropolitans in the country. And since it is accessible by highway and merely a 3 mile drive from Barranquilla’s Ernesto Cortissoz International Airport, foreign visitors will not have any problem getting their way here and its main tourist spots.

Soledad

Soledad

One of the things Soledad is famous for is the local Aeronautical Museum, which features an important collection of aeronautical history and other technologically related displays, mixed with a little science. It is interesting to note that it is the only the one of its kind in the country. And if you are lucky, you might even be able to catch a guided tour. Another one of the top tourist attractions in Soledad is its colonial architecture, which is proudly represented by the Church of Soledad. But walking through the surrounding streets should already give you a sneak peek into how life was during the Spanish occupation.

Now, once you’ve covered this part of the top tourist attractions in Soledad, then you should arrange for yourself a boat tour of the Magdalena River, which is typically provided by either tourism companies or locals. The amenities will not be as fancy as what you would experience in more experienced cities. But the view you see, especially during sunset, will be well worth the compromise.

River Magdalena Delta

River Magdalena Delta

For dinner, you might want to order a serving of Soledad’s famous butifarra (a dried Catalan sausage), which can only be found and eaten here, with yucca, fried arepa and caribanola cassava. If you are lucky enough to come during the Mecumbre Festival or the National Festival of the Cumbia and the Cumbiana, then you’d have plenty of alternative fishes and celebrations to partake in. Nonetheless, for ordinary days, you could still have a great time hanging out in local bars within the area or its neighboring municipalities.

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Sebastian de Belalcazar monument

Top Tourist Attractions In Cali

The top tourist attractions in Cali, Colombia are mostly comprised of historical and cultural landmarks such as the Sebastian de Belalcazar monument and the neighborhood of San Antonio. But there are a few natural and modern tourist spots you can also indulge in during your stay. So you do not have to worry about your itinerary being too limited.

Sebastian de Belalcazar monument

Sebastian de Belalcazar monument

Santiago de Cali, as it is otherwise known, offers a lot of interesting sights and activities as it is one of the fastest growing economies in Colombia. And with a geographical location close to mountain ranges and prominent South American rivers, there is very little doubt of having quite a vacation experience in this place.

One of the most worthwhile top tourist attractions in Cali is the Artisan Park Loma de la Cruz, which was opened back in 1990. Here, visitors can find dozens of craftspeople displaying and selling authentic Colombian handicrafts at affordable rates. But what is most fascinating about the place is its legend. In one version, it is said that the park is haunted by the ghost of a slain black slave who was mutilated by his patron for marrying another slave. And in another, that slave was supposedly hanged for murdering his mother or wife.

Another great place to visit while in Cali is the local zoo, which comes fifth among all of Latin America’s zoos. This attraction has been managed by a foundation since 1981 and it encompasses about 10 hectares of habitat for 1,200 animals. The zoo has five sections for different kinds of species and each category houses hundreds at a time; which is not at all surprising given that Latin America is one of the most bio diversified places in the world. But of course, there are also other foreign animal species mixed in with the continent’s prized natural treasures. And anyone from a 5 year old kid to a 40 year old man would surely enjoy seeing them in action.

Farallones de Cali

Farallones de Cali

But if you are into a different kind of rush, you should check out Farallones de Cali National Natural Park and try out the variety of activities it allows people to experience. This national park is actually the largest in Colombia and it has more than 30 rivers and four types of natural vegetation. Thrill seekers who come here usually do to paraglide while nature lovers take advantage of its trekking trails and lush ecosystem. Those who are just looking to chill out enjoy visit this place for its cool weather.

Alternative modern top tourist attractions in Cali include Parque del Perro, which has a line-up of restaurants and bars, and Juanchito, which has a lot of Salsa discotheques.

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