Tuesday, September 02, 2014
Change is coming rapidly to Bogota, with the spread of European style cuisine and lodgings-a matter of pride among Bogotanos. Yet the capitol of Columbia remains resolutely local, especially in the old Candelaria neighborhood.
In the middle of La Candelaria but on a quiet street you'll find Italian-owned Abadia Colonial, cast from a traditional Columbian residence. Rooms, simply furnished in period style, look out on a courtyard. Also notable: a glass-roofed dining area, from $68 dollars US. Those staying outside La Candelaria should try the homey Hotel Casona del Patio, in Chapinero, a quarter known for its bars; from $67.
The folksy, popular Casa de Citas Cafe Arte draws big weekend crowds with live music, salsa dancing and Peruvian dishes. You will taste country cooking the way it was prepared in Bolivar's day at La Puerta Falsa, founded in 1816. If it's full, check out two like-minded eateries nearby: the Antigua Santa Fe and La Puerta de la Tradicion, where you can sample Bogotano favorites such as ajiaco, a chicken-based stew.
Temperate weather reigns in Bogota; the driest conditions occur from December into March. Many newcomers feel the effects of Bogota's altitude (8660 feet). Common symptoms include shortness of breath, difficulty sleeping and mild dizziness. Acclimation usually occurs within a few days; limiting alcohol consumption aids the transition.
Columbia produces more emeralds than any other country. So, put that on your souvenir list. Columbia is also the world's second largest exporter of both coffee and flowers.
There is magic to be found in Columbia's many towns and cities, especially the walled city Cartagena, where stories of pirates, love and war are as alive and real as its welcoming cafes and restaurants.
Exploring Columbia may take you to the Caribbean Sea on the mini-paradise of San Andres island, where you can dive on dazzling coral reefs. Or head directly to Columbia's southern coast for a whale-watching jaunt. On Gorgona Island, just off the coast, nature lovers can hike nature trails or hang out on sparkling beaches.
Delve into more magic amid the intense green of the Amazon rain forest. You may also consider a visit to the San Agustin Archaeological Park where more than 500 imposing stone statues stand as testaments to the mythology of an ancient people who lived here and then mysteriously vanished. Or head up north to the Sierra Nevada de Santa Maria, whose peaks soar to 19,000 feet, and discover a lost city.
Whatever your interest, Columbia has something for you!