One question I’m often asked is: Which is your favourite country? It is impossible to choose just one country, so I prefer to choose my favourite country in each continent (that’s hard enough!). In South America that’s Colombia. There is so much to see here a single blog is not enough. But, below is a pick of the things you can see and experience there.
Tomb in Alto de Segovia
Over steep steps we descend into darkness. When the man who lifted the lid at the top of the stairs turns on the light, our jaws drop in amazement. The walls around us are covered in geometric patterns painted in red, white and black. We have entered a tomb, which is between 1200 and 1600 years old. The graves have already been desecrated, most of the urns and remains removed.
I see tears running down the cheeks of my travelling companion. She lives 100 km from here and has often heard about these graves and other remains of the pre-Hispanic cultures. But now she is seeing it for the first time, with her own eyes and the experience is clearly an emotional one. Alto de Segovia, part of Tierradentro (literally: in the earth), is a network of tombs and is on the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites.
San Agustín Archaeological Park
We have been travelling for more than a week by car, horse and foot in this region, which has a surprising amount to offer. San Agustín Archaeological Park contains amazing sculptures of gods and mystical animals, which were made between the 1st and 8th century AD. There is no larger group of religious monuments and sculptures anywhere in South America.
Colombia became Roman Catholic with the arrival of the Spanish. But the San Andrés de Pisimbalá church clearly shows how the native population held on to its own style of architecture. The region to the south of Popayán has beautiful landscapes. Salto de Bordones waterfall is just one of the sites worth seeing.
The Spanish came to South America for gold. As well as seeing the colonial heart of the capital Bogotá, you really shouldn’t miss a visit to the excellent gold museum, which contains the largest collection of pre-Hispanic goldwork in the world.
For beautiful beaches and relaxing on and in the Caribbean Sea, your best option is perhaps the coast of Tayrona National Park.
Sculptor Botero: art for the people
The shapely figures by Colombia’s famous sculptor Botero stand on the streets of Medellín where anyone can climb on them. Art for the people!
For an extra special experience, you could go to the Totumo volcano where you can bathe in mud. Warm mud at that – the volcano is still active and you can often feel and see bubbles rising up from below and popping at the surface with a splat.
Colombia is full of churches and cathedrals, but the salt cathedral of Zapaquirá is in a class of its own. It was built in the tunnels of a salt mine 200 metres below the surface of the earth.
One of the many colonial cities in Colombia is Santa Fé de Antioquia. Here you can wander for hours through cobbled streets and squares, past old houses and churches. If you happen to be in Colombia around Easter, I recommend you join the famous Easter week processions of Popayán, during which centuries-old statues are carried through the streets.
The warnings I heard about Colombia before I left seemed to be about another planet. Cocaine? Guerrillas? Drugs cartels? Nowhere to be seen. Everywhere I went in the country, Colombia’s citizens were friendly enough to advise me on where and where not to go. Their kindness and advice helped to make me feel safe – and welcome.
GPS: 2.573837 -76.032892
From the end of March 2015, KLM will operate three direct flights a week to both Bogotá and Cali with 777-200 equipment.