When planning my partner and I’s journey overland from Colombia to Ecuador, we had to find a place to stop along the way to break up the journey from Bogotá to the border. We could have stopped in the eclectic, salsa-loving city of Cali, but since we prefer smaller places, we decided to take a 12 hour overnight bus from Bogotá to the small city of Popayán. Popayán is known for its colonial architecture and as Colombia’s “White City” due to the historical centre which is filled with white buildings. It is surrounded by mountains, including the Purace Volcano. Once you’ve explored the colonial centre, it’s worth it to either attempt the Purace volcano climb (only allowed with a guide and trips aren’t made every day if you’re tight for time) or take a trip to the nearby indigenous village of Coconuco for some time in hot springs and an adrenaline-pumping bike ride. I booked the trip to Coconuco through my hostel, HostelTrail. It cost 55,000 Colombian Pesos, or about $25 Canadian. It included getting …
The idea of racing to get a camping spot in a hammock or inside a hardly-washed tent to spend an evening in Tayrona National Park was never particularly appealing to me. Although witnessing a sunrise and/or sunset on its magnificent beaches would be amazing, I decided that the conditions under which you spend the night were not appealing to me. So, along with a new friend, I daytripped to Tayrona National Park all in one day, and though it was a busy day, it can be done!
I originally read that Guatapé, a two hour trip outside of Medellin, was busy and crowded on weekends, and so, not being a fan of crowds, planned to visit on a Monday as a daytrip. But some things in our Medellin schedule had to get rearranged, and so we had to change our daytrip to fall on a Sunday. It turns out this was the best decision that could have happened – the vibe of Guatapé on a Sunday was one of my most fun days in Colombia.
It doesn’t have a UNESCO-certified historical centre, a recognizable tourist attraction, or a particularly happy recent history. Nonetheless, Medellin, home of the proud “paisas” of Colombia’s Antioquia province, is one of the most interesting cities I have ever visited.
Coming from a country with a zero tolerance policy to street art and graffiti (beyond commissioned murals, which also often get painted over), I was excited to experience the street art scene in Colombia, having heard about it from other travellers. I went on two free street art tours while in Colombia, one in Cartagena and one in Bogotá, both of which I highly recommend.
Gabriel Garcia Márquez’s Love in the Time of Cholera, though the primary location is never stated, is said to take place in Cartagena. At the very least, it was inspired by Cartagena – this was the place where Márquez dreamed; perhaps, even where Márquez’s version of magical realism was invented.
For many travellers to Peru, Cusco is seen as the quasi-“basecamp” for adventures to Machu Picchu, whether by bus and train or on the famous Inca Trail. Cusco, at an elevation around 3400 m above sea level, is a place to acclimatize to the altitude, especially if hiking in the Andes is imminent. But this historic capital of the Inca empire should be seen as a destination in its own right, and there’s plenty of things to see, do, and learn within the city and in its immediate surrounding area – so much so, that even after spending 5 days there, I still hadn’t seen everything.
The Colca Canyon is twice as deep as the Grand Canyon in the United States, and a must-see for any visitor to Southern Peru. There isn’t a ton of detailed information in the guidebooks about how to get to the Colca Canyon or actually do the hike. Tours can be booked in Arequipa, which is 160 km southeast of the canyon, but if you’re a) On a budget, b) Don’t want to spend your whole tour waking up super early for a bus, or c) Want to do the hike without a guide, I have some tips for you!
Nestled in southern Peru amongst canyons and volcanoes, Arequipa is Peru’s second largest city and a must-see destination if you’re visiting Peru. It’s best to dedicate one to two days to this often-called “White City” before you embark deeper into canyon country, such as a trek into the Colca Canyon (many of these treks can be booked directly from Arequipa as well). Here are some of the places that make for great exploring in Arequipa.
Most people visit Peru to see the legendary Machu Picchu, either by train or the Inca Trail hike, and you certainly can’t plan a visit to Peru without seeing it. But there is so much to the country than the UNESCO World Heritage Site.