When my mom was planning our travels around Colombia, I was little to no help. I was in India, with intermittent access to Internet, attending a yoga teacher training course that kept my days full with meditation, yoga, and lectures. I told her, “Go for it! Whatever you want to do, I’ll do, and whatever we end up doing will be great, because we will be together.” This gave her free range to plan whatever she wanted. She utilized a Lonely Planet book and TripAdvisor, and ended up planning an incredible, off the beaten path, 9 day adventure-packed journey around Colombia.
The journey started in Bogota, Colombia with a group of flower enthusiasts known as the World Flower Council. With this group, we visited a local market, breezed through the Gold Museum, walked around the city and stopped in the beautiful Botero Museum, full of statues and paintings done by Colombia’s own Fernando Botero. We also had the chance to visit the countryside outside of Bogota and to see three different and distinct flower farms: Jaroma Roses, Alexandra Farms, and Eclipse Gardens.
From Bogota we caught a plane to Cali, Colombia, where we enjoyed four days of learning about floral design and connecting with hundreds of other people involved in the flower world, all in the name of “World Peace through flowers”.
Our solo travels started out the Monday morning after we finished up with the World Flower Council and Iberiada floral summit. We set off on a day-trip to Cordobá, where we embarked on a wild ride on a “brujita”, a wooden bench cart which is pushed by a motorcycle on a train track to the jungle town of San Cipriano. We spent the day enjoying all San Cipriano had to offer: a cool and refreshing river to swim in, delicious fresh fish meals and coconut muffin tortas, and an extremely rugged yet rewarding hike through the jungle to a waterfall.
The next day we set off for the town of Silvia, near Popayán, where we spent hours and hours walking around the town’s Tuesday market and mingling with traditionally dressed locals.
From there, we set off on the mountain roads less traveled to get to San Andrés de Pisimbalá. The drive was full of breathtaking moments brought on by the both the spectacular mountain views, as well as the treacherous driving conditions. It was all worth it in the end, because our hotel in San Andrés, La Portada de Hospedaje, had the most genuine, hospitable owners and the best food of our whole trip.
We spent our day in San Andrés on horseback, riding through the mountainsides of the archaeological sites of Tierradentro, climbing down steep stairs to see some amazing ancient tombs which were well-preserved with their wall paintings and carvings.
When it came time to leave Tierradentro, we drove through the hot desert-like Huila region of Colombia, pausing to take a look at one of the biggest rivers in the country, The Magdalena, before we arrived at the microscopic airport in Neiva, where we caught a domestic flight to Medellin, the city of eternal spring.
Medellin was impressive right from the start. As we spent nearly 30 minutes driving down a mountainside to get towards the impeccably clean El Poblado neighborhood we were able to observe the sprawling city and its beautiful mix of green space. While in Medellin, we took a free walking tour, which explained a lot about the city’s difficult past while highlighting its transformation which makes it the “New Medellin” that it is today.
Just outside of Medellin are the flower metropolis farmlands of Santa Elena, and we spent one day touring a beautiful hydrangea farm, learning about the growth process, and also oogling over the 3000 species of award-winning orchids that made up the personal collection of the owner.
After a few days in the city, it was time to get back in touch with nature, so we set off for El Cañón de Rio Claro, a beautiful and completely affordable private nature reserve. The two nights we spent there were absolute bliss, with our open air room allowing us to have a birds eye view of the lush jungle that enveloped us. We could hear and see the river rushing below and we were at the same level as the colorful toucans who perched in the trees across the river. The reserve also has an amazing and intense hike through a marble cave, which involved trekking through the jungle, jumping into deep pools in the dark cave, and walking through stretches where creepy nocturnal birds cackle like goblins.
When our time in Rio Claro came to an end, we knew we only had one day left before we would separate our paths. We spent the last day driving to the massive rock known as El Peñol, and climbing the 740 steps to the top where we were able to indulge in a 360 degree view of the surrounding flooded mountains. The rock is near the cute and colorful town of Guatape, and after we descended from El Peñol we wandered the town, enjoying the beautifully painted houses.
One more long drive brought us back to the same hotel we had left only a few days earlier in Medellin. There we unpacked and re-packed, shared photos and reflected on the amazing trip which had just come to an end. My mom’s great energy and good attitude always make her my favorite traveling partner, and when I had to say goodbye the next morning I knew my travels would be quite a bit different as I continued on exploring Colombia without her.