Today was a beautiful day in Bogota, so we experienced the city on two wheels with a Bogota bike tour.
Biking in Bogota
Sunday is a big day for cyclists in Bogota Colombia because they close the streets to cars. You heard me right! A big chunk of main streets in Bogota are shut down for pedestrians and cyclists for Ciclovia, and we wanted to be part of it! Since we don’t travel with bikes, we participated in a bike tour with Bogota Bike Tours. For 35,000 COP (less than $16 Canadian), we got a 5 hour ride around the city with a lot of facts and fun!
Fuel for the Bike Tour
The best way to get ready for a bike tour is to eat! Since we didn’t eat dinner last night because of our massive lunch, we stopped at a street with lots of Colombian restaurants. We wanted an authentic breakfast and got it at La Puerta de La Tradicion. We consumed coffee, a milk soup called changua (which was delicious) and chorizo. The food was good, the service was too, and from there it was a quick walk to the bike shop.
Bogota Bike Tour
The English language bike tour left around 10:40am from Bogotá Bike Tours and took us approximately 8KM around the city, with a lot of stops along the way.
The guidebooks call it “The Old City,” or “The Walled City,” and the locals merely call it “El Centro” but either way they’re talking about a beautiful place to visit. Cartagena’s tourist area is a compelling mess of narrow streets filled with colorful buildings, art, crafts and people. Visitors to the city flock here for many reasons.
The Walled City of Cartagena
The exterior of the old city is marked by an old stone wall, which makes for a great walk overlooking the sea at dusk when the blazing sun isn’t burning you to a crisp. The wall runs for 11km and encompasses the port and the old city, including Getsemani.
Horse drawn carriages mix with taxis in the roads, and tourists work around vendors on the sidewalks. Stroll around and see beautiful old buildings, modern art sculptures, craft stalls and lovely plazas.
Get Lost in the Streets
I visited the old town multiple times over the course of my stay in this city, and “lost” every time, but I always saw something new and lovely. For me, getting lost in the streets of Cartagena’s tourist area is a day well spent. I loved wandering the streets taking countless photos of the gorgeous surroundings.
The beautiful Islas De San Bernardo, combined with the Islas Rosario (where I dove outside of Cartagena), make up one of Colombia’s national parks. There are 9 coastal coral islands in San Bernardo and I was going to stay on one of them, Isla Mucura.
These southernmost islands are much less busy than the Rosario islands, which makes sense since Cartagena is much busier than Tolu.
The manager of the hotel I was booked into arranged for my passage on the launch on Saturday morning between 8:30-9am. We left at 9:15. But not before everyone had to walk into the ocean and climb a ladder to get onto the boat! Not kidding, even the old folks climbed this ladder. And they were quite agile!
For my last weekend on my own, I wanted to explore the country around Cartagena. I looked in my Lonely Planet for ideas of a weekend getaway. Then I read it – 2 hours by bus to the south and a cute little beach town called Tolu! Sold! I took a trip to Tolu.
Planning for Tolu
I booked a hostel for Friday night in Tolu and packed my bag. Another independent adventure in Colombia! I couldn’t wait. And when I learned the school was closing at 1pm on Friday, I was even more excited. I could catch an earlier bus and check out the seaside town before nightfall. Fun!
Bus Ride to Tolu
The 2 hour bus ride turned out to be almost 4 (we left late and then got stuck behind something without moving for 40 minutes), so I missed the sunset. The bus leaves from the Terminal Transporte in Cartagena, supposedly every hour. I got to the terminal at 1:45P, was told the bus was at 2:30p and it left at 2:45p. The cost itself is very cheap, only 30,000 COP each way ($13.50 CAN, $10.50 US). The bus is air conditioned, has WIFI, reclining seats and shows movies. I am told this is standard for the distance bus services in Colombia. Not bad! I just wish it had been faster.
Four days of working/volunteeringin the heat demands a fun weekend. As I am in the Caribbean, it makes sense to go scuba diving. I found a well-reviewed dive shop, Diving Planet, and booked a two-dive day. Here’s what it was like for me diving Rosario Islands Colombia.
Rosario Islands: Where the Reefs Are
The majority of the reefs around here are around the Rosario Islands, which are approximately a 30 minute boat ride from the mainland. Far enough that it feels like a getaway from the city.