Tag: colombia

7 Must-Do’s in Cartagena…

Cartagena is an UNESCO World Heritage site located on Colombia’s Caribbean coast and is considered one of South America’s top colonial destinations, alongside Cuzco and Ouro Preto.

Though the most touristy place we visited in Colombia, the city has a lot to offer and I was drawn to promises of cobbled streets, sunny plazas and bougainvillea covered houses.  The magic of the old town conjures up feelings of romance, mystery and inspiration and our two nights spent here were filled with exploring the maze-like streets, photographing the beautiful architecture and drinking coffee in leafy plazas.

If you are planning to visit Colombia, a stop off in Cartagena is highly recommended.  Here are my 7 must-do’s while visiting the city…

Cartagena.jpg

1 – Walk Along the City Walls.  Cartagena’s Old Town lies inside its 13km long city walls constructed in the 16th century to protect the city after attacks from Sir Francis Drake.  The walls are still well preserved and its possible to walk nearly all the way around, providing views into the old town on one side and the ocean on the other.

2 – Wander Around the Old Town.  The best way to visit Cartagena’s old town is to simply wander around and see what you discover.  As well as impressive architecture and cute cafes there is so much life in Cartagena’s streets so enjoying taking in the kids playing footballs, the fruit vendors wearing traditional dress or the families playing cards outside their houses.  There is always something exciting going on no matter what time of day or night!

IMG_6675.jpg

(cartagena’s cathedral covered with work from local artists)

IMG_6661.jpg

(flower filled balconies)

3 – Photograph the Bougainvillea Covered Balconies.  Almost all the houses in Cartagena’s old town have flower filled balconies spilling out into the street.  The colors create a beautiful, vibrant atmosphere and provide some great photo opportunities.

4 – Check Out Some Amazing Street Art.  Incredible street art adorns the walls around the cool neighborhood of Getsemani.  Still part of the old town, though outside the city walls, Getsemani has a more raw, gritty feel with colorful graffiti covering most of the walls.  Join the free Street Art Tour leaving each morning at 10am or walk around alone and see what you discover.

img_6739

(getsemani street art)

5 – Try Some Street Food.  Cartagena has a reputation for serving some of the best street food in Colombia and it’s specialty is Arepas – a deep fried bread made from maize and stuffed with cheese, egg or meat.  For something more healthy you can find fruit vendors all over the city.  Recognizable for their colorful, traditional dress they sell all kinds of fresh, delicious, exotic fruits.

6 – Soak Up the Shopping.  If you love bohemian fashion then shopping in Cartagena is definitely a must.  There are street stalls and boutiques all over the old city selling colorful jewellery, sandals and bags.  Make sure to check out Casa Abba Boutique for some unique accessories and clothes made by amazing Colombia’s designers.

IMG_6695.jpg

IMG_6693.jpg(casa abba gallery boutique)

7 – Find Local Life Depicted in Scrap Metal.  If you want to learn about local life, check out the series of statues dotted around the plazas of the old town.  The statues are made to represent the daily life of the Cartagenians with fruit vendors, shoes shiners, dominoes matches and guitar players all made of scrap metal.

IMG_6682.jpg(scrap metal street statues)

After ten days relaxing on the secluded San Bernardo Islands we loved the vibrancy and color we found in our two night stop over in Cartagena.  Have you ever visited Cartagena? Let me know what you thought in the comments below…

Like what you read… Don’t forget to give me a follow on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook & Pinterest.

 

How to Travel the San Bernardo Islands like a Pro…

San Bernardo is an archipelago of ten islands forming half of Colombia’s ‘PNN Corales del Rosario and San Bernardo’ and are situated two hours off the coast of Cartagena in the Caribbean sea.

The islands are a well known destination for holidaying Colombians however are pretty off-the-beaten track for the regular tourist trail.  While planning our trip to Colombia this summer I kept coming across mentions of them from backpacker friends but could find little information about them online.  All I knew was that they were secluded islands with paradise beaches and off the beaten track – exactly what I was looking for!

I read traveler forums which suggested staying on the main land in Cartagena or Tolu and visiting the islands on a boat tour.  The tours spend the day island hopping, finishing up on Isla Murcura for lunch and sunbathing time, before taking you back to the mainland before evening.

Following the crowds and organized tours aren’t really my vibe.  And I wanted to spend at least a week on the islands not one day.  So we decided to break away and visit the islands our own way.  Organization was a little difficult but the adventure meant we got to stay longer, bond with the locals and experience real island life.

Here is my guide to travel the San Bernardo islands like a pro…

San Bernardo.jpg

How to Get There…

From Cartgena take a two hour bus ride along the coast to Tolu.  (Side Note: Tolu makes a great place to spend the night if you want to see some authentic Colombia culture.)  From here jump on a morning boat tour visiting the San Bernardo Islands.  The tours last for a day but speak to your boat driver, explain where you want to be dropped off and schedule a day for them to come and collect you back.  It costs a little more for a ticket this way but the drivers are more than happy to oblige and its worth the extra cost to see the real beauty of the islands.

img_6505

(island vibes)

Where To Stay…

The main islands to sleep on are Isla Palma, Isla Tipitan or Isla Murcura and most of the accommodation options available are luxury resorts.  I much prefer hippie places with chilled out vibes, and after a lot of research I scouted out these three cool options.

Hostel Isla Murcura.   Our hostel of choice, we stayed here for ten days and loved it.  The hostel has a private beach and stilted cabanas overlooking the sea.  The bar and restaurant serve amazing food and the guys who work there are super cool.  There is no wifi so you can disconnect and spend the days swinging in hammocks and drinking fresh coconuts.

Casa En Nel Agua.  Located just off Isla Tipitan the hostel is build on stilts surrounded by sea and coral reefs.  This place looks cool if you want to stay somewhere totally unique.

La Playita Hostel.  Located on the more secluded Islas Furte this hostel is great if you want some adventure and action.  The hostel organize sufing, kite boarding and paddle boarding trips and offer private rooms, dorms and an open air restaurant and bar.

IMG_6443.jpg

(sunset views from hostel isla murcura)

What To Do…

Chill.  With no cars, roads or wifi there is little to do on the islands but chill, swing in hammocks and drink fresh coconuts.  Read books, journal, sunbath on white sand beaches and swim in crystal clear waters.

Discover the Beaches.  As well as our hostel’s private beach, Islas Murcura also has a public beach on the opposite side of the island.  Though it fills up with visiting tours over lunch the beach has a family fun vibe and come 3pm when the boat tours leave you will have the place all to yourself again.

Take a Night Time Plankton Tour.  Visit the mangrove lagoon on Isla Tipitan after dark and jump in the water to see the florescent plankton light up and glow around you.  It looks like your are surrounded by hundreds of tiny stars!

img_6436

(fishing and sunbathing on paradise beach)

What to Explore…

The Coral Reefs.  The islands are surrounded by coral reefs and it’s possible to see amazing marine life by snorkeling just off the island.  If you want something even more special organize a snorkel trip to ‘Chara’ an underwater gardens out at sea to view beautiful coral formations and groups of colorful fish.

The Coastline.  Isla Murcura is tiny and it’s possible get around the island pretty easily.  Go on foot to meet the locals and see the colorful shacks of the pueblo or rent a kayak and paddle around the islands for beautiful coastline views.  Bring a snorkel to see some fish or stop on the public beach for a coconut half way around.

Isla Sucre.  Neighboring island, Isla Sucre, is the most densely populated island on earth.  Its 350 sq m is occupied by 500 people who live in a mass of colorful shacks and concrete.  Explore the maze of alleyways weaving thought the community that is teaming with cooking smells, music, children playing, animals and generations of family living together.

img_6589(colorful shacks in the pueblo)

What To Eat…

Fresh Fish and Lobster Tails.   Head over to the public beach and try the delicious food being cooked up by the locals.  Choose from fish or lobster freshly caught and enjoy served with fried plantains, rice and salad.

Exotic Fruit Smoothies.  Visit the drink vendors on the public beach to sample delicious fruit smoothies freshly blended from fruits picked from the forest.  Choose guava, starfruit, passion fruit or mango – yum!

Local Seafood.  Befriend local fisherman and restaurant owner Joel who works on the far end of the local beach and organize a fresh seafood catch for dinner.  His home cooking is delicious and eating on the beach under the stars is a beautiful experience.

img_6458

What to Bring…

Money.  There are no banks or ATM’s on the islands so bring as much money as you need.

Snorkel and Mask.  The islands are surrounded by beautiful coral reefs and its not possible to rent snorkels on the island so make sure to bring one with you.

Sun Cream and Bug Spray.  Bring essentials like sun cream and bug spray with you from the main land.  There is a tiny shop in the Pueblo used by the locals but it isn’t always very well stocked so if you think you are going to need something, bring it with you.

Have you traveled to the San Bernardo Islands?  If you have any travel tips or fun experiences please share in the comments below…

Like what you read… Don’t forget to give me a follow on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook & Pinterest.

8 Reasons to Travel Colombia

8 Reasons to Travel Colombia.jpg

Since traveling around South America back in 2009 it has always been my dream to return to this magical continent and visit Colombia.

On our initial trip we chose to skip Colombia, feeling hesitant about the countries safely and political situation, and instead opted for the more central route of Peru, Bolivia, Brazil & Argentina.  I loved our trip and I would never wished to change it, but so many of the backpackers we met on route told us of the magic of Colombia and what incredible experiences they had there and the dream to explore Colombia was sparked in me.

This summer, nearly seven years after my first visit, we decided to finally make my Colombia dreams a reality.  We finished up work at the end of July, left our laptops at home and headed off on a three and a half week adventure that was one of the best experiences of my life.

It is an absolutely breathtaking place, full of colour, life, soul and some of the kindest people I have ever met.  Its a place of great contrasts, of poverty and wealth, creativity and corruption.  And it’s a place of awe-inspiring natural diversity with mountain ranges, amazon forest, cultural cities and Caribbeans beaches.  It is one of the best places I have traveled to, so I wanted to share 8 reasons to inspire you to travel to Colombia too…

img_6719

Unbelievable Bogota.

A city of contrasts, where anything really can happen, Bogota is exciting, lively, hectic and artsy.  Soak up culture in La Candelaria, see the cities creative side on a Graffiti tour, sample the incredible restaurants and bars or explore the markets and connect with the locals.  Bogota is a whirlwind that has so much to offer!

Beautiful Untouched Beaches.

Offering chilled Caribbean charm or rugged wilderness on the Pacific coast, Colombia’s beaches are a stunning mix of white sand, clear waters, coral reefs and aquatic wildlife.

img_6629

Some Incredible Coffee.

Colombia’s coffee is produced in the central ‘Zona Cafeteria’.  It’s lush, green landscape makes for some beautiful views and you can even have a relaxing stay in a Coffee Finca.  You can also find incredible coffee all over the country.  Try getting a freshly brewed cup from a street seller and drink it in a plaza watching the world go by.

It’s Home to the Kindest People.

Colombia’s are so friendly and kind.  They treat you like a family member and welcome you to their country with open arms.

IMG_6706.jpg

Inspirational Street Art.

Bogota’s legalization of graffiti in 2011 marked a creative boom for the city.  Sky scrapers, urban buildings and public walls are now the canvas space for street artists to express themselves and share their political viewpoints.  Everywhere you look, the city is an incredible mix of colors, patterns and murals.

Cultural Cartagena.

A World Heritage UNESCO Site, Cartagena is a colonial gem with cobbled streets, colourful houses, pretty plazas and a rich cultural offering of museums, churches and galleries.

img_6700

Diversity of Adventures.

Whatever type of adventure you like Colombia offers it all.  From sleeping in river-side lodges on Amazon excursions, climbing mountains in the Andes, trekking to the ancient Lost City or exploring one of the many National Parks, Colombia’s excitement and adventure comes in many forms.

Music & Dancing on Every Street Corner.

No matter where we were in Colombia there was always music booming from speaker systems and locals dancing together and having fun.  The energy for life is contagious and it’s one of the reasons why I love South America.

Have you ever traveled in Colombia? I would love to hear about your experiences in the comments below…

Like what you read… Don’t forget to give me a follow on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook & Pinterest.

 

 

 

 

What to do When you have Itchy Feet…

If you read my blog regularly (thank you!) then you will know how much I love traveling and how I am always dreaming about new places I want to visit and discover.  Apart from fashion, traveling is my favorite thing to do with my time and I have invested so much time and energy into taking big trips and seeing the world.  That’s because traveling inspires me, the discovery and new experiences it brings helps me to grow and change the way I see the world and it makes me feel happy and excited about life.  I honestly feel so lucky for all the incredible places I have visited so far and I can’t wait for all the future trips I plan on taking.

Right now we are starting to research for our summer trip and we are thinking Colombia in South America!  So I have been reading a lot of travel guides and searching travel blogs for tips about top places to visit in Colombia.  All this makes me super excited because Colombia sounds amazing!  And it also brings back beautiful memories of my gap year traveling around South America! But it is also giving me pretty itchy feet and making me yearn for my South American travels right now.

I am lucky because it will only be about ten weeks until we take our summer trip but I know there have been times when there have been no trips on the horizon and my life has been consumed by day to day things and working.  And in times like this its easy to feel like travel is far away and out of sync with your lifestyle.  So today I wanted to share with you my five easy ideas to do when you have itchy feet and how to bring adventure into your life when you can’t travel anywhere.

What to Do When You Have Itchy Feet.jpg

Research.

Even if you don’t have any trips coming up in the immediate future always keep yourself open to the idea of traveling by doing research.  Read travel magazines and blogs, save and rip out articles of places you want to visit, make a Pinterest Board of travel ideas or make a travel book of places you dream of visiting.  Keeping you travel dreams in mind increase the chances of you actually making them a reality and gives you things to feel excited for in the future.

Inspire Yourself.

Search for new sources of inspiration by watching travel documentary’s, reading magazines like National Geographic, visiting photography and anthropology exhibitions, reading travel books and journals and watching adventure films.  Following the adventures of others will open you mind and bring you inspiration for exciting things you can to do in the future.

Embrace Your Local Scene.

Find out what exciting things your local scene has to offer and make an effort to visit them in your free time.  If you are really busy dedicate one day a month to having fun and take off for an adventure in your city or local area.  Visit museum or exhibitions, soak up the culture in another near-by town, go hiking or cycling and explore the countryside or check out local festivals and events.  You may be surprised how much your area has to offer and it will give you appreciation of the amazing place you live in.  To find out about whats going on check Trip Advisors of your town, blog posts, facebook events and local magazines and newspapers.

Push Yourself to Try New Things.

Create adventure in your day to day life by pushing yourself to try new things and create new experiences.  Eat out at new restaurants, take some fun classes, try new sports, experiment with cooking exotic foods, visit parts of your city you haven’t seen before.  Including new things in your life keeps you feeling inspired and energized, helps you learn and grow and can even open doors to new opportunities and introduce you to new people.

Get Creative.

Remember and feel gratitude for all the amazing trips you have always taking by finding creative ways to honor them.  Create scrap books or your trips or make a photo wall in your home showing all your favorite trips and experiences.  Honoring your past travels in this way will help to keep them alive and fill your life with positivity and achievement.

Like what you read… Don’t forget to give me a follow on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook & Pinterest.