Monthly Archives: June 2013

Puerto Limon, Isla Fuerte

Top Reasons To Visit Isla Fuerte

A peaceful retreat away from the city is one of the top reasons to visit Isla Fuerte.  This little island off the coast of Cordoba is a little slice of heaven, with a rich marine and land flora and fauna, including about more than 80 species of birds.  Surprisingly, Isla Fuerte is under the Bolivar department.

Puerto Limon, Isla Fuerte

Puerto Limon, Isla Fuerte

This off-the-beaten-track tourist destination is only a well-kept secret of Colombian tourists from Cordoba, and a few travelers tenacious enough to do a little research about the island.  But if your curiosity is piqued, these top reasons to visit Isla Fuerte may be the nudge you need to book that flight and take that trip.

Friendly locals.  Only in Isla Fuerte can you find locals who’ll happily invite you to their home for a home-cooked meal or eager enough to explain the history and legends about the island, while touring you around.  Most of the settlers here are of African ancestry and have infused part of their culture into their cooking (which you can taste in the food they prepare).

Some peace and quiet.  Tucked away from the mainland Colombia, you will always have the chance to have the entire island for yourself, especially during off-peak season.

But don’t expect for 5-star accommodations and nightclubs.  The place is devoid of cars, restaurants and other amenities you will usually find in other crowded beaches.

But the lack of these accommodations also means, you won’t have to deal with boisterous tourists and garbage strewn shorelines.

Some of the most interesting trees in Colombia.  A stroll around the island will give you a chance to see some of the most interesting trees in the country.  One of Isla Fuerte’s famous trees is the Cashapona or the “walking tree”.  But this tree doesn’t “walk” as its name suggests.  The tree gained its moniker from the stilt-like root systems, and the aerial roots that grow from the stems and form another root system once it hits the ground.

Diving sites.  One of the top reasons to visit Isla Fuerte is the dive sites.  A trip to Isla Fuerte is never complete without exploring the dive sites off its coasts.

Some of the popular dive sites in Isla Fuerte are Bajo Bushnell which is known for its reefs filled with barracudas, giant gorgonias and horned corals, Burbujas and Los Pargos.

Playa Blanca

Top Reasons To Visit Choco

The top reasons to visit Choco are unknown to most people, even among tourists of Colombia. Chocó is a Colombian department located west of the country. It is the only department of Colombia with a border to Panama.

Playa Blanca

Playa Blanca

Reason one: The coastlines

Besides being the only Colombian department that borders Panama, Chocó is also alone in having two coastlines. One of them faces the Pacific Ocean while the other faces the Atlantic. The Atlantic coast is shorter so it has fewer beaches. The Pacific coast of Chocó is much longer.

Bahía Solano is one of the best beaches in the department. It occupies a narrow strip of white-sand beaches on the foothills of Baudó Mountains, facing the Pacific Ocean. Bahía Solano has much more to offer than just scenic beaches and clear waters for swimming. It also presents a myriad of opportunities. Fishing is a popular sport undertaken by many in its beaches, especially during May when they can catch the flying fish. By September, its coast turns into a vantage point for spotting migratory birds as they make their way. Between July and October, humpback whales can be seen from the shores of Bahía Solano. They visit the area for mating season. With the help of organized boat tours you can get close enough to hear humpback whales sing as part of their mating ritual.

Beaches suitable for swimming aren’t enough reason to go to Choco. So is having two coastlines. But the recreational and wildlife spotting opportunities they present are included in the top reasons to visit Choco.

Reason two: Unspoiled natural beauty

The natural resources of Chocó remain unexploited to this day. The thich rainforest which comprises most of the department is still unspoiled. An untouched natural beauty is one of the top reasons to visit Chocó as well. It almost certainly equates to a thriving ecosystem with a wide variety of flora and fauna.

The biodiversity hotspot of Chocó is El Chocó. It encompasses both dry and moist tropical forests. The ecotouristic area extends to three more South American countries, namely Peru, Ecuador, and Panama. An unspoiled beauty is one of the top reasons to visit Choco.

The Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta

Top Tourist Attractions In Cesar

Most of the top tourist attractions in Cesar are in Valledupar. Valledupar is the capital of Cesar, a Colombian department located in Andino. It is bordered by the departments of La Guajira to its north, Magdalena and Bolivar to its west, and Santander to its south and west. The country of Venezuela lies on its eastern border. If it weren’t for its capital, Cesar wouldn’t be on the radar of tourists who visit Colombia.

Valledupar is known as the greenest city in Colombia. It has a number of eco parks and other natural attractions. It is also a place for history having been occupied during the Spanish colonial era. Furthermore, the city has earned its spot as a major cultural hub after giving birth to vallenato music.

The Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta

The Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta

1. Festival de la leyenda Vallenata celebrates vallenato music whose origins can be traced to the city. It is undeniably one of the top tourist attractions in Cesar. At which time, vallenato bands compete against each other, attracting huge crowds in the process. The event is held annually, during the last week of April.

2. Alfonso López Pumarejo Square is ideal for rediscovering the colonial past of the city and perhaps, the rest of Cololombia. Located in downtown Velledupar, it is home to some nicely preserved Spanish colonial architecture.

3. Guatapurí River is a major point of interest in the city. Also known as Rio Guatapurí in Spanish, it comes from Curiba Lake and flows through the east of Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta before reaching Cesar River. It spans 80 km long. The river is a nice place to take a swim. In fact, it is usually filled with people during weekends and holidays. An alternative to Guatapurí is the Badillo River.

4. Nabusimake is a secluded town where you can witness and experience the traditions and cultures of the Arhuaca tribe. For local handicrafts, you can visit the village of La Mina instead.

5. Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta is a mountainous region worth traveling to if you want to enjoy scenic hikes. The savannah section of Cesar Department is an interesting place to visit as well for remarkable sceneries. Both the savannah and Sierra Nevada de Santa Maria are included in the top tourist attractions in Cesar.

6. Ecoparks such as Los Besotes and Paraver offer unique sights and activities. Los Besotes more renowned for its bird watching opportunities as well as hikes to the verdant park. Paraver is suited for seeing a wide array of flora and fauna.

7. Monuments and parks abound in Valledupar and they are among the must-sees in Cesar. Among them are El Folclor Vallenato, Los Gallos, Los Poporos, María Mulata, Mi Pedazo de Acordeón, and Revolución en Marcha.

Arauca

Top Tourist Attractions In Villa de Santa Bárbara de Arauca

Despite the armed conflicts in the Arauca department, the charms of the top tourist attractions in Villa de Santa Barbara de Arauca (or Arauca City) hasn’t worn off and has continued to lure the bravest of travellers.  Located along the River Arauca on the Venezuelan border, Villa de Santa Barbara de Arauca is one of the largest municipalities in the Orinoco region.  It is also home to some of the most interesting and breath taking tourist destinations in Colombia.

Arauca

Arauca

To name a few, here are some of the most notable top tourist attractions in Villa de Santa Barbara de Arauca.

Jose Antonio Paez Bridge

Built in the late 1960’s, this bridge in Arauca was built for the mere purpose of allowing ease of transportation of crude oil between Venezuela and Colombia.  From the bridge, you’ll be treated to the spectacular view of the Araucan plains as well as the Arauca River, especially when the sun is setting.

The Malecon Uptown

The Malecon uptown is located near the border separating Arauca and Venezuela.  From here, you can see the little islands where the Guahibo tribe lives, by treading the thriving Arauco path.  The place was renovated in 2002 to improve its facilities.

Aguaparque las toninas

For a safer way to beat the summer heat, Arauca’s famous Aguaparque las toninas is a good place to hang out.  The resort has something for every member of the family:  Olympic sized swimming pools, slides and children’s pools.  Water games and competitions are sometimes held here.

Aguaparque las toninas is located five minutes away from Villa de Santa Barbara de Aruaca via Piquetierra.

Saravena

Aside from being the main and most important source of crude oil in Arauca, Saravena is also home to some of the top tourist attractions in Villa de Santa Barbara de Arauca, such as the Bojada beaches and Sun Valley.

Villa de Santa Barbara de Arauca itself

Take a walk around the city proper itself and you’ll find some of the most interesting museums and landmarks, showcasing the city’s cultural and historical heritage.  Among the notable landmarks in the city are Park of the Poets, Museum of Culture, and the Velodrome.

Rosario and San Bernardo Corals National Natural Park

Top Reasons To Visit San Jacinto

There are plenty of top reasons to visit San Jacinto even if it is not as impressive as other Colombian towns. The people here are friendly and the environment is undoubtedly relaxing. Besides, San Jacinto’s ecotourism features are quite astounding even for a destination its size. For those who are not familiar with this place, San Jacinto is actually found in the northern side of the country. And it belongs to the department of Bolivar. It is blessed with numerous hills, mountains and streams. But some of the most amazing highlights it presents are found a few miles away from its center.

Rosario and San Bernardo Corals National Natural Park

Rosario and San Bernardo Corals National Natural Park

Among the top reasons to visit San Jacinto is the Natural Marine National Park Corales del Rosario and San Bernardo. It is about 165 kilometers away from town and provides a myriad of unique ecosystems that promise to provide guests with the most exciting excursion options imaginable. Here, you’ll  be able to access wetlands, mangroves, prairie grass beds, and sandy beaches with just a few minutes hike. Moreover, there are plenty of coral reefs offshore you can snorkel or dive into. The marine wildlife in this area is amazing with its collection of urchins, starfishes, crustaceans, fishes, and mollusks; not to mention seabirds.

Up next on the top reasons to visit San Jacinto is the Wildlife Sanctuary Los Colorados, a small protected area found in Monets de Maria. It covers about 1000 hectares of native forest right in the heart of Montes de Maria. And it hosts hundreds of spider and red monkeys as well as 280 species of birds – some of which include the blue and yellow macaw, the hummingbird, and the parakeet. Of course, it also has other mammals in smaller quantities like the red deer and saino. But it is its monkey population that makes it very special. The Sanctuary of Fauna and Flora – The Corchal “El Mono Hernandez” is just a few kilometers away from Corales del Rosario and offers a similar environment with the latter for tourism interests. But what makes it as compelling to visit as the given are the mangrove species it introduces people to. Sure, it may not be as exciting. But do take note that these types of flora serve as habitat to a variety of animals. So who knows what treasure you may find exploring this site.

Popayán downtown in Colombia

Top Reasons To Visit Popayan

Lovers of history and architecture will find many top reasons to visit Popayan, capital of Cauca and a city located in southwest Colombia. These reasons range from the practical to sights you can expect from the city.

Popayán downtown in Colombia

Popayán downtown in Colombia

Reason #1: Popayan dates back to the colonial era.

The old colonial city was founded by Sebastian de Belalcazar on 1537 in behalf of Spain. As of this writing, Popayan is around 470 years old. Spanish occupation helped shape most of the city’s architecture, therefore earning its title as “the white city”. Spanish colonials are also responsible for much of Popayan’s historical attractions.

Reason #2: Ease of travel.

Buses and taxis are commonly used in Colombia, not just for traveling within a city but also between cities. This makes getting to Popayan cheap and easy. A more convenieent way of traveling would be to take a plane. Scheduled flights to the city are available from Bogota. Buses and taxis may also be used to get around Popayan but not always necessary. One of the top reasons to visit Popayan is that because of its small land, you can pretty much explore most of its attractions by foot.

Reason #3: It’s one of the most picturesque cities in South America.

As expected of any colonial era city, Popayan has a wealth of historical and architectural landmarks. They are among the top reasons to visit Popayan. These structures make it one of the most scenic cities throughout Latin America.

The most impressive sights are normally churches such as Iglesia de San Francisco and Iglesia La Ermita. Government buildings like Gobernacion follow suit as interesting attractions. The school grounds of Universidad del Cauca have colonial buildings as well. Puente del Humilladero is yet another noteworthy landmark that contributes to the city’s colonial charm. It is a Roman-style walking bridge that goes over a city river.

Last but not least is Parque de Caldas, the central square of the city. It was named after Francisco Jose de Caldas who designed Torre del Reloj, a clock tower located on one side of the square. The clock tower was constructed in Croydon, England and was shipped to Colombia as a gift.

Los Estoraques Unique Natural Area, Norte de Santander Colombia

Top Tourist Attractions In North Santander

Bringing together colonial charms and a rich and diverse landscape, the top tourist attractions in North Santander (Norte de Santander) is worth experiencing while you’re there in Colombia.  Bordered by Venezuela to the east and north, and by neighbouring departments:  Santander and Boyaca in the south,  South Santander and Cesar in the east, this haven has a lot to offer, from spectacular rock formations and semi-desert landscapes and colonial architecture.

Los Estoraques Unique Natural Area,  Norte de Santander Colombia

Los Estoraques Unique Natural Area, Norte de Santander Colombia

Here are some of the highlights you must never miss out when you pass by North Santander:

Pamplona

With its colonial infrastructures and environment, a stroll down the idyllic municipality of Pamplona is like being taken back to the 1800’s.  Pamplona is home to various historical structures which is pivotal in the independence of the municipality.  One such example is the Casa de Doña Agueda Gallardo, where meetings were held before the July 4, 1810 coup.  But today, it is the current location of the Virtual Library of the University of Pamplona.

Other notable establishments in the area are the House of the Royal Treasury, which was once the colonial governor’s residence, and the Colonial House Museum where visitors can view exhibits of historical artefacts as well as enjoy activities such as workshops and artistic and cultural trainings for children.

In addition, Pamplona is also known for their churches.  Notable churches in Pamplona include the Shrine of Humilladero and the Metropolitan Cathedral.

San Jose de Cucuta

Commonly referred to as Cucuta, North Santander’s capital brings the best of both worlds:  old colonial monuments and infrastructures juxtaposed with modern architectures and facilities, making it to the list of top tourist attractions in North Santander.

Some of the best highlights in San Jose de Cucuta are the Monument to the Christ the King, which gives you a breath-taking  view of the entire Cucuta and the various monuments dedicated to the most important people in North Santander, such as the Monument of Santander located in the middle of the Santander square.

Los Estoraques Unique Natural Area Park

Adorned with carved columns, and unique rock formations, the Unique Natural Area Los Estoraques is one of the top tourist attractions in North Santander.  Various columns and figures are formed and sculpted by thousands of years of erosion.

In addition to the unique rock formations and columns, Los estoraques is also home to a plethora of local flora and fauna (albeit a small population due to the fragile ecosystem of the location), natural pools and the Le Teneria stream.

Colonial church in downtown Monteria at Cordoba, Colombia

Top Reasons To Visit Cordoba

When people encounter the top reasons to visit Córdoba, they immediately think of Spain. But there’s also a department in Colombia that goes by the same name. Although not as popular as its Spanish counterpart, the department of Colombia makes a decent travel destination despite increasing paramilitary presence and problems with drug trafficking. Córdoba is located north of the country on its Caribbean region. It has the Caribbean Sea to the north with the departments of Sucre, Bolivar, and Antioquia around its borders.

Colonial church in downtown Monteria at Cordoba, Colombia

Colonial church in downtown Monteria at Cordoba, Colombia

Reason #1: Visit Montería and experience the Colombian culture first-hand.

Montería is the capital city of Córdoba. It lies 31 miles from the Caribbean Sea along the Sinú River. As capital, not only is it the economic center of Córdoba but also the heart of its culture. It boasts the most unique cultural heritage among all cities in the region due to the combined influences of indigenous Zenú Indians, descendants of Africans and Spanish colonials, and Arab immigrants.

The sombrero vueltiao or vueltiado originates from this city, specifically the Zenú inhabitants. It evolved into becoming a national symbol for Colombia even though it mostly represents the country’s Caribbean region. The hat is made of caña flecha, a kind of cane that is cultivated in Colombia. It is traditionally worn by vallenato artists and cumbia dancers. Furthermore, Montería is the origin of porro. Porro is a folkloric style of music and dance that became popular in Colombia between the 1940s and 1970s. Since then it has evolved into different variations and types.

The Colombian culture that drives Montería city is one of the top reasons to visit Córdoba.

Reason #2: Escape into rural Colombia.

Córdoba offers a rural Colombian experience right outside Montería. Villages like Berástegui, Cereté, Ciénaga de Oro, Moñitos, Planeta Rica, and San Pelayo are home to haciendas where you can either relax or embark on adventures. Sports fishing, horseback riding, nature sightseeing, and trekking are just some of the activities you can do in rural areas of the department. And they are included in the top reasons to visit Córdoba.

Reason #3: Córdoba is a kid-friendly destination.

Córdoba may be a land filled with culture and recreation but the Colombian department also has child-friendly attractions. One such example is the Los Caimanes Zoo Park located between Buenavista and Planeta Rica. The zoo features animal shows that will surely entertain the little ones. It also has accommodations and a restaurant within the premises for easy accessibility of their facilities.

Panorama view of Yopal, from La Iguana Natural Park (Parque Natural La Iguana)

Top Tourist Attractions In Yopal

The following is a list of the top tourist attractions in Yopal. Yopal is the capital of Casanare, Colombia. It rests on the foothills of Cordillera Oriental, along River Cravo Sur. Its name was derived from the Indian word yopo which means “heart” but a species of timber trees with the same name also happen to flourish in the region. In fact, there is a whole forest of yopo trees in the city. The first inhabitant of Yopal was Elijah Seeded who built a house in 1915 on what is now the city centre. Within years, a town was formed and Yopal eventually became a municipality. Today, the city is best known for its natural hotspots.

Panorama view of Yopal, from La Iguana Natural Park (Parque Natural La Iguana)

Panorama view of Yopal, from La Iguana Natural Park (Parque Natural La Iguana)

1. La Guatoca

It is a natural swimming pool located north of Yopal, about 20 miles away via the nose. The trip usually takes around 30 minutes after which you will be greeted by crystal clear waters formed by a narrow creek. La Guatoca is surrounded by thick vegetation and makes a wonderful place to relax.

There is a small shop located nearby where you can buy foods and drinks as well as see framed pictures of the few people who have perished here. You can also learn more about the folklore surrounding La Guatoca in this shop. Stories tell of a guardian that helps keep the balance of nature in surrounding areas.

2. Quebrada La Niata

Situated 15 km north of the city, Quebrada La Niata is one of the top tourist attractions in Yopal. It can be accessed via the Marginal Jungle Highway. The nature spot is frequented because of its crystalline creeks which form pristine water wells ideal for swimming. Beaches have been set up around some of these water pools.

3. La Iguana Natural Park

The park spans for 268 acres across the Casanare from the La Cabuya bridge to the Matepantano Canal. You can access it by going down the stone staircase on River Estado and crossing the bamboo bridge. La Iguana National Park features well-marked nature trails that meander through forests as well as recreational facilities. For ecotourists, this is one of the top tourist attractions in Yopal.

Lake Tota, the largest lake in Colombia

Top Things To Know About Lake Tota

Before you embark on your journey to this famous Boyaca destination, it’s important that you are acquainted with the top things to know about Lake Tota.  This lake is a tributary to the Upia River, which in turn flows to the Orinoco River basin.

Lake Tota, the largest lake in Colombia

Lake Tota, the largest lake in Colombia

Lake Tota is surrounded by quaint towns and villages, such as Aquitana, Tota, Iza and Cuitiva.

Here are some of the top things to know about Lake Tota, aside from those mentioned above.

Lake Monster.  One of the most interesting top things to know about Lake Tota is that it is home to the mythical Lake Tota Monster.   According to local accounts, the monster is described as resembling a giant black snake, similar to the monstrous snake battled by the mythical hero of the Muisca culture.

Whether the legend holds water or not (pun not intended), it still adds to the charm of Lake Tota, making it an interesting destination in the Boyaca department

Land for Farming.  The word “Tota” actually means “Land for Farming” in the indigenous dialect.  Its rich soils are perfect for growing one of the Boyaca department’s largest agricultural economy, onions.  90% of the onions consumed by Colombia come from the rich, farm lands around Lake Tota.

Playa Blanca.  Pictures of this cove are often mistaken for that of a seaside beach.  But who can blame them?   Lake Tota’s cove is lined with fine white sands, similar to those you can see in other famous beaches around the world.

Playa Blanca is a great place to spend with your family and friends, where you can enjoy water sports and activities such as sailing, or simply soaking up some sun and bathing in their clear blue waters.

Iza.  Lake Tota’s close proximity to Iza allows you to enjoy the wonders this town has to offer.  After a tiring day of travelling to Lake Tota’s Playa Cove, or after getting your fill of butter garlic or grilled trout, heading out to Iza’s thermal springs is a perfect way to cap the day.