As Colombia’s capital city, many people fly in and fly out of Bogota to more glamorous Colombian destinations but I recommend staying for a few days. We liked Bogota so much we returned for a second visit this summer and loved it even more. Now, with two multi-day visits almost exactly five years apart, here’s what we loved and why to visit Bogota.
Many people hike up this hill with great views of the city, but we chose to ride up on our first day due to the altitude. And even then, after years living at sea level, I got dizzy and light-headed up there. Monserrate is over 3,000 meters above sea level, with great views of Bogota. It is the site of a 17th century church, and is a big tourist attraction which can be reached by cable car, funicular, or hiking. We did the cable car up and funicular down, but I’m sure the hike is good once you’re acclimated to the altitude.
The views are stunning, the church is pretty, and Monserrate has a whole section of restaurants serving Colombian food and drink. If we’d known, we would have waited to eat lunch! Even with the dizziness and general discomfort from altitude adjustment, Monserrate was a pleasure to visit and the intermittent showers made for some moody photographs.
Since we started living aboard Sava in 2018, we’ve wanted to visit the San Blas islands. Small islands in pristine Caribbean waters, barely inhabited except by friendly people living off the land, and protected reefs you are only allowed to snorkel and free dive, the San Blas Islands sounded like a dream, and in many ways it was. It took us much longer than we thought to get there, but we did, spent 2.5 weeks, and had lots of adventures in the San Blas islands!
About The San Blas Islands
The San Blas Islands is an archipelago of 365 islands in the northeastern Caribbean of Panama. Occupied and governed by the Kuna/Guna people, less than half of the islands are inhabited. The San Blas are one of Panama’s top vacation destinations because of their natural beauty in the Caribbean sea. So yes, you can visit and stay in the islands: in hostels, resorts, or on a boat. We are lucky to bring our home with us and moved around the San Blas over our 2.5 week visit.
One of the best things about sailing in the San Blas islands is the assortment of beautiful anchorages. Everywhere we stopped had clear water, gorgeous skies, marine life, and tropical islands to admire from afar or walk along. Anchoring in this paradise wasn’t free: twice we were visited by tribe officials who charged us for use of the waters. Additionally, residents ask for small fees for visiting the beaches or building bonfires. No complaints, as it wasn’t that expensive and is worth it for visiting such lovely places far from the crowds.
We love Cartagena! It’s fun, scenic, and the food is delicious. While Colombians complain that Cartagena is expensive, we found the prices reasonable compared to most other parts of the world, demonstrating how affordable the rest of Colombia is! In our five months in Cartagena, with side trips here and there, we ate out a lot. Why not? Cartagena’s restaurant scene is vibrant, varied, and affordable. I did a lot of research before coming, but many acclaimed restaurants closed during the pandemic, so my list is where to eat in Cartagena now.
When we first got to Cartagena, there was a curfew in effect and the town was empty. We ate a lot of lunches rather than have to rush through dinner at 6PM. Now hours are back to normal, and tourists are back, so I recommend reservations.
When home is a sailboat with a 65 foot high metal mast and you’re alone in the middle of the ocean, you don’t want to see lightning. A lightning storm is a nightmare. We had a very small taste in Colombia and it didn’t prepare us for the scary lightning storm our first night sailing from Colombia to Panama.
It’s rainy season in Panama and electric storms are common. We saw flashes in the sky throughout the day Saturday, but weren’t concerned. We didn’t think it would get worse. And we were wrong.
Colombia has some of the world’s most dangerous animals. Jaguars, poisonous frogs, spiders, and snakes are all endemic to this country. The fourth largest country in South America, Colombia has Atlantic and Pacific Coastlines, the Amazon, and the Andes mountains, so it’s no surprise its animals are diverse and plentiful. We’ve been to a few different parts of the country and seen a wide variety of animals of Colombia, many that were new to me, and some in strange places.
I love sloths and was so excited to see them in a public park in Cartagena. They aren’t always easy to spot but when they are I can watch them do nothing all day. Which is pretty much what they do. In addition to the local Parque Centenario, we also spotted sloths in the beautiful Cartagena botanical gardens outside of the city.