Learn, Dance and Have Fun in Colombia’s Caribbean Museum

Bob Schulman

Travel editor, WatchBoom.com

Memo to first-time visitors to Colombia, especially if you’re heading to the pristine beaches, old-world colonial cities, jungles, deserts, eco-parks and diving meccas along the country’s Caribbean coast: The local tourism folks want you to know they’ve come up with a way to make you less of a stranger to the 150-mile-long coastal strip before you set out to see it.

2014-03-05-1.jpgColorful poster greets visitors to the museum.What they did was to build a high-tech interactive museum — the Museum of the Caribbean — where visitors can get immersed in the culture and history of the area. It’s in the regional capital of Barranquilla, a bustling city of a million people roughly half-way along the coast.

The museum fills five floors and has five sections: nature, people, words, action and expression. Guides take visitors on tours of the museum in which you’ll see and hear those five subjects come alive in everything from the early Indian roots of the region to the Spanish conquest to Colombia’s fight for independence to its modern-day culture.

2014-03-05-21.jpgMuseum guide explains evolution of local tools.You’ll notice the museum uses lots of ways to pep up your tour. For instance, you’ll watch history unfold on a huge panoramic screen… you’ll press buttons and tap icons to make the exhibits almost roll over and bark… you’ll step into booths where you’ll hear different kinds of Caribbean music. You’ll even get a chance to dance to the booty-shaking beats of tunes like bullerengue, chalupa and compas.

Other exhibits grab the attention of the museum’s visitors using imaginative stagecraft. Check out the way arrangement and lighting liven up what might have been a less than exciting collection of hammers, spades, chisels and other historic working tools of the region.

2014-03-05-3.jpgTourists pose on a cannon overlooking Cartagena.
So now you know all about the region’s Indian-Spanish-African culture and you’re ready for some serious sightseeing. Up high on your list will likely be a tour of the walled city of Cartagena a couple of hours down the coast west of Barranquilla. There, you can huff and puff your way up the ramparts of a towering Spanish super-fort overlooking a harbor where treasure galleons once gathered to sail to Spain.

After that you can get a taste of Cartagena’s colonial elegance by wandering around an area of this city of a million-plus people called “Old Town.” You’ll stroll through cobbled lanes lined with buildings painted in pastel blues, greens, yellows, reds, pinks and browns, many of them the mansions of shipping barons and bankers in the years of the treasure fleets.

2014-03-05-41.jpgHotels and condos are springing up outside the historic city of Santa Marta.Up the coast east of Barranquilla is the fast-growing resort area of Santa Marta (back in the museum you learned it was the first Spanish settlement in Colombia). Also waiting for you there are the nearby eco-treasures of two of the country’s 56 national parks, Tayrona — once the home of prehistoric hunter-gatherers (you learned all about them, too) — and the virgin mountain wonderland of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta (also spotlighted at the museum).

Staying there: Barranquilla, Cartagena and Santa Marta each offer dozens of tourist-class hotels in and around the cities.

Getting there: Flights from most major U.S. gateways to the recently upgraded jetport at Barranquilla are scheduled by way of flight connections at Miami, Bogota (Colombia) and Panama City (Panama). Nonstop flights to Cartagena are scheduled from gateways such as New York-JFK, Miami and Fort Lauderdale in addition to a number of connecting schedules.

All images by Bob Schulman

Source: Huffington Post

 

Colombia, Where Ancient And Modern Go Hand-In-Hand: NNN Travel

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Forget Rio: Colombia is the hottest new South American destination, offering secluded white sandy beaches, colonial architecture and amazing nightlife. It’s also one of the most progressive countries south of the border, with same-sex couples beginning to tie the knot in September 2013.

For a taste of what Colombia truly has to offer, we’ve mapped out a 12-day itinerary that hops from Cartagena to Medellin and on to Santa Marta.

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Grupo Maximo Agency is a one-stop shop for everything Colombia and specifically Cartagena. Spend a day touring the Old City or if you are the adventurous type, contact Cartagena Divers for some excellent scuba diving out at sea. Jump on a boat and zip out to Baru Island for the day if you’re searching for white sands and aquamarine, Caribbean waters.

Don’t miss a drive up to La Popa Monastery for a bird’s eye view of all of Cartagena. In the walled Old City, stroll through the shops and cafes as you make your way to Plaza Santa Domingo, easily found by locating the reclining female Botero sculpture in the southern corner. Need VIP access to the hottest clubs in town? Grupo Maximo Agency can hook you up with live music at Club Havana or easy access to one of the many discotheques in town like Cinema on Calle Arsenal or Studio 54 on Calle Larga.

tcherassi colombiaFor the fashion set, Tcherassi Hotel + Spa offers a sleek interior off the bustling streets of the Old City of Cartagena. The style of Silvia Tcherassi (the hotel’s Miami-based owner and famous Latin American fashion designer) touches each corner of this gem. Stop by for dinner or a drink but if you can, try to spend a few nights. Escape the tropical humidity on the roof where you’ll find a small pool that’s perfect for a cool dip. The rooms are large with vaulted ceilings and the bathrooms feature walk-in glass showers with fantastic rainfall shower heads.

Casa La Fe is ideally located on Plaza Fernandez de Madrid in the heart of Cartagena, offering a calm and relaxed atmosphere but with the convenience of the town’s antiquities and restaurants on the doorstep. The building dates from the Republican era and was restored to its former elegance by the current owners in 2005.

For the best roof pool in Cartagena, go straight to La Passion. Spend the afternoon lounging on poolside daybeds while sipping piña coladas as sounds of classical piano trickle over the walls from the ballet school next door. Few hotels have such character as La Passion, not to mention such an incredibly friendly staff and a rooftop breakfast to set your day on the right path.

Built within the walls of a former 17th century mansion, Casa Pestagua is a work of art.  The third floor “penthouse” is a1edited luxurious retreat and features a private roof Jacuzzi with ocean views of the sunset.  If you are looking for a great honeymoon, it doesn’t get more romantic than this.  The suite itself is massive with 20-foot exposed beam ceilings. The bathroom is draped in white marble with a walk-in shower recessed into the floor that takes up an entire side of the room. Stand under a deluge of water and feel like a Roman emperor.

karmairai If the city heat gets to you, book a few nights atKarmairi Hotel Spa which is a 20 minutes drive east of the old town. Enjoy the luxuries of being on your own private beach, right outside the city. This boutique hotel features an open air restaurant that spills out to a wide beach.  Recline at the pool before your spa treatment amongst the palm trees then dine at night under the stars with the ocean lapping upon the shore. Karmairi is the perfect escape from the Cartagena scene for a couple of nights. Nothing beats a morning jog along miles of empty beach.


Medellin

Medellin or “The City of Eternal Spring” sits amongst the Andes in a valley surrounded by peaks. Graced with a temperate climate, the city is a wonderful change from the humidity of the coast. Once plagued with crime, Medellin has experienced a renaissance of sorts in recent years and the world is starting to notice. In March of 2013 the city was named the most “Innovative City of the Year” in the Wall Street Journal, beating out both New York City and Tel Aviv. Don’t miss a stroll around Botero Plaza downtown or a vernacular ride up to Parque Arvi. The city’s Metro (or subway system) is clean, convenient and easy to use.

thecharleeNestled on a hillside in the fashionable neighborhood of Poblado, The Charlee Lifestyle Hotel feels like a touch of New York chic in the heart of the Andes. Rooms feature sliding glass walls that open up to huge balconies overlooking the entire city of Medellin. The hotel’s gym takes over the top two floors and membership is free for hotel guests. Check out the scene at the gym around 6p daily for a glance into the world of Medellin’s famed beautiful women and men.  At night, the rooftop turns into the club Envy, one of many all night parties in the neighborhood.

medellin art hotelA few blocks from The Charlee is Art Hotel, also in Poblado. With a dark lobby splashed with vibrant furniture and artwork, this industrial space boasts a stunning décor with a fabulous wine bar and a spa. Being steps from the nightlife and restaurants of Poblado make Art Hotel an excellent option for a few nights in Medellin.

el cielo colombiaFor an evening of fine dining, reserve a table at El Cielo, just a couple blocks from The Charlee Hotel. In an elegant, intimate atmosphere experience the full “quince momentos” menu… 15 Moments that you will be talking about for weeks. This is experiential dining at its best, with each sense teased through dinner starting with the rose scented hand “clay” at the beginning of the meal to the martinis that bubble in a haze of liquid nitrogen fog and the crackle of the explosive dessert.

burrotekAside from nightlife and dining, do not leave Medellin without exploring the nature that surrounds the city.  Burrotek Tours leads day trips into the mountains on horseback as well as trips outside of the city limits to nearby Guatape.

After a couple of hours on a horse, lunch is served overlooking the city and if you’re lucky, it will be homemade pork and chicken tamales!


Santa Marta & Parque Nacional Natural Tayrona

Santa Marta is South America’s oldest surviving city and the second most important colonial city on Colombia’s Caribbean coast, after Cartagena.  The seaside town offers fabulous restaurants, historic plazas and tons of bars and cafes.   Though the actual beach in town is not fantastic, Santa Marta is a great jumping off point to reach the famed beaches within Parque Nacional Natural Tayrona as well as Ciudad Perdida (The Lost City).  Right in the heart of Santa Marta there are several high-end boutique hotels that we highly recommend.

casa isabella colombiaCasa Isabella is a stone’s throw from Parque de los Novios in the center of the Old City of Santa Marta.  If you are lucky enough to book the penthouse you’ll enjoy a private roof jacuzzi that is spectacular. Rooms include wifi, complimentary iPads and Apple TV as well as restored furniture and handmade adornments.  Breakfast is served outside, one floor up on an outdoor shaded deck.  The staff is warm and friendly and hugely helpful in setting up any plans around town.

Casa de Leda is located closer to the shopping district and feels like an oasis in the heart of Santa Marta.  The roof features open air dining and the huge, modern rooms feature vaulted ceilings, tons of natural lightcasa de leda and all the amenities of a luxury resort.  First owned by a wealthy family of Santa Marta’s golden age, the original house where Casa de Leda sits dates back to the late 19th century.   Escape the humid Caribbean air inside the hotel where the walls are lined with cascades of green vines and equipped with a cooling mist system.  Historic Santa Marta Cathedral is steps from the hotel’s entrance. Flat screen TVs in every room have media players with music stations and video libraries.

Casa Verde is a small boutique accommodation that was originally built in the 1920s. It has recently been fully restored into a five-room hotel close to the vibrant downtown area that is the home to beautiful parks, restaurants and historic buildings.  Inside the walls of Casa Verde there is a peaceful silence while right outside its walls are the bustling streets of Santa Marta.

There are several great options to dine in Santa Marta.  ouzo-pizzaeditedOn the edge of Parque de los Novios, try Ouzo for what many say is the best dinner in town.  Try the grilled octopus appetizer, a favorite on the menu, or one of the thin crust pizzas cooked in the central brick oven.  For lunch, hit Agave Azul for incredibly Mexican food.  Order a fresh mango margarita and a steak taco that will knock your socks off!

A quick 45 minute taxi ride east from Santa Marta and you will find yourself outside one of the main entrances of Parque Nacional Natural Tayrona.  Book a couple nights at Villa Maria vlla mariafor a room overlooking the mountains to the southwest and the ocean to the northeast.  Walk through the hotel’s garden where the owners grow pineapples, avocados, oranges and bananas.  If you cross the street and walk down a path through some palm trees you’ll find yourself on miles of untouched white sand.  Be careful in the surf as these beaches are known to be quite treacherous at certain times of year.  But definitely enjoy the solitude.  For a $35 (US) entrance fee, spend a day inside Tayrona Park.  By horseback you can reach secluded beaches that are only accessible by foot or horse path.  Be warned that the trails are somewhat rocky so if you are not an experienced rider, consider walking. 

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Source: NewNowNext

¿Cuáles son tus 5 productos más colombianos del mercado? #LaRespuestaEsCOlombia

En respuesta a Toya Viudes de @ColombiaDeUna presentamos algunos de nuestros Productos Favoritos de #Colombia.

Nuestra Riqueza es Inmensa.

#LaRespuestaEsCOlombia

Esperamos a todos les guste este mostrario disponible en nuestra:

Red de Pinterest.com/RedesColombia
~ Galería Virtual de Colombia al Mundo

Colombia ~ Anthony Bourdain Parts Unknown Sunday @ 9 pm ET on CNN

The public face of Colombia has changed immensely over the past ten years and is still changing for the better. Tony will explore several regions of the country from the mountains down to the Caribbean coast to the coca leaf growing inlands formerly controlled by drug cartels.

Don’t fear Colombia, enjoy it

I’d thought my unconditional love for Colombia was well established there. I’d visited for speaking engagements. I’d made a giddily enthusiastic episode of a previous series in Medellin and Cartagena. I’d waxed poetically and often about how well I’ve always been treated, how thrilling it is to see how far the country has come from its bad old days.

I’m a fan of its people, its music, its food and its disarmingly injured pride.

But coming out of the remote jungle village of Miraflores, I made a mistake.

I tweeted a photo of myself standing under a shade tree surrounded by young Colombian military recruits.

My old friend and Top Chef colleague Tom Colicchio tweeted right back: “Too soon” — connecting the appearance of machine guns with the then recent Newtown massacre.

I tweeted back that “this is what it looks like in FARC country.”

Of course I meant “territory recently controlled by the FARC,” the unpleasant Marxist guerilla group who’d been terrorizing Colombia for decades with kidnappings, assassinations and worse. They operate hand in glove with the cartels — essentially shaking them down and providing them with protection — in return for funds. And, indeed, not too long before I arrived at the dirt airstrip, merchants in the small town are said to have accepted payment for basic goods and services with coca paste.

Now, Miraflores is swarming with army and police. The FARC, by almost all accounts, have been beaten back significantly.

The phrase “FARC country” was not, however, interpreted as intended, as meaning an area, a neighborhood, a territory once under FARC control. Not in Colombia.

Colombians were outraged.

“I do NOT live in FARC country” and “How come you glorify those bastards?” were common responses. The twittersphere blew up with pissed off, deeply offended Colombians reading second-hand reports of what I was believed to have said. Many misidentified the young soldiers in the photo as being guerillas.

Our fixers and drivers were very, very unhappy — in the uncomfortable position of being closely associated with someone (me) who was (for the next couple of days, anyway) widely thought to be a FARC sympathizer.

Things bled into the print media, and it was a tough couple of days.

It was a clumsy, ill-worded and foolish thing for me to have done.

Colombia is NOT, for the record, “a FARC country.” Far from it.

As I should well have known, the struggle between the FARC, the cartels and various right-wing militias has been deeply felt by nearly every Colombian family. Opinions — even perceived opinions — can have consequences. Just about everybody you talk to — even in a present day Colombia that is much, much safer and secure — has lost someone to violence from one side or the other.

Colombians — more than anyone — have paid a terrible price in lives for the world’s seemingly bottomless appetite for cocaine, and for the greed of a relative few. And if you ever wondered “how come they don’t get a handle on things down there,” all you need to do is look at the place. The country is huge. It is about 70% sparsely populated (and gorgeous) jungle, mountains and coastline opening up onto both the Caribbean and the Pacific. It is ideologically divided. And it has neighbor problems. Venezuela next door has been all too happy to provide safe haven and even covert military assistance to the FARC. Panama’s Darien Gap offers some of the world’s most impenetrable jungles.

Colombia has been very successful in recent years in its war on cartel- and FARC-related violence. But the ludicrous futility of any fully successful “war on drugs” is apparent with a single look out of a plane window.

In spite of all its painful history, Colombia is emerging as what SHOULD be a vacation wonderland.

Have I said yet how beautiful the place is? It’s incredible.

It’s fun. And, yes, it’s safe. Every day, more so.

 parts-unknown-anthony-bourdain-episode-3-on-colombia CNN

Cartagena has some of the most beautiful colonial architecture you’re likely to find anywhere in Latin America. A great bar scene. Amazing food and architecture.

Medellin is a modern, sophisticated, enormously enjoyable place to spend time. It’s as far from its image as a murder capital as you can imagine.

And people are heartbreakingly welcoming and happy to see visitors who have come to their beautiful country for something other than to talk about narcos and violence.

Cali is a party town to rival Miami. The beaches along the coasts are as unspoiled as your wildest fantasies.

And yet many people still don’t go.

I would urge you to put aside the stereotypes.

If you want to find bad people in Colombia, you can surely find them, as you could in New York or Los Angeles. But nowhere have my crew and I been treated better or with more kindness and generosity. I’d bring my family on vacation there in a heartbeat. And hope to soon. As I said before: Colombians are proud. Let them show you what they are proud of.

That said, this week’s Colombia episode of ‘Parts Unknown’ marks another great moment in Bourdainian stupidity.

Faithful viewers of my previous program on that other, less good network, might remember my previous misadventure on an ATV. You’d think I would have learned from that experience, a long barrel roll down a sand dune wrapped around a few hundred pounds of metal and machinery. I was very, very lucky to have emerged from that experience with limbs and skull intact. That maybe I’d be smart enough to realize that maybe off road vehicles were just not for me.

No.

In Colombia, I saddled up once again, and as you’ll see managed to fly off the seat, drive my head straight into the ground (helmet-less, of course) and (my producers insist) somehow succeed in running over my own head.

Though I was “out” for a brief microsecond there, I remember bounding to my feet, unwilling to be embarrassed by the glaringly obvious: I should have worn the helmet they offered. I should have driven more carefully. I probably shouldn’t have been — given my record — driving the damn thing at all.

Comedy Gold.

Source: CNN – Parts Unknown

Colombia: Why Visit Now?

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Interview with Luis German Restrepo, U.S. Executive Director of Proexport Colombia, the government agency charged with promoting tourism, exports and investment for the fast-growing Latin American nation.

Q: Colombia has become an “it destination” recently. Can you shed light on the increased interest from travelers?

A: The beauty of Colombia is that there is something for everyone: We have some of the best beaches in the world, fantastic restaurants and a rich history. As a result, Colombia was named one of the “25 Must-See Destinations for 2013” by more than 350 Virtuoso luxury travel advisors. In spite of the global economic downturn, the arrival of foreign travelers to Colombia has kept a steady growth over the last decade reaching around 1.7 million on visitors in 2012, a 7% growth when compared to 2011 and positioning the United States as our main source market with 350,000 tourists last year. (Source: The National Administrative Department of Statistics; DANE)

Q: Why are so many people traveling to Colombia now?

A: Being Colombia the second most bio-diverse country in the world, the country offers activities to all types of travelers. From nature and adventure in Santander, Santa Marta and the coffee cultural landscape; to history and culture in Cartagena de Indias and Bogota; to pristine white sand beaches in San Andres, Providencia and Santa Catalina, visitors can enjoy extreme and unique activities suitable for young travelers, families and adults. In addition, Colombia is conveniently located with close proximity to the United States — a trip from Miami to Cartagena de Indias is just 2.5 hours away or 5.5 hours from New York to Bogota.

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La verdad de Colombia

Gobierno invertirá este año más 117 mil millones de pesos en infraestructura turística

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• Dentro de estos recursos se incluye una inversión por 40 mil millones de pesos en infraestructura y productos turísticos destinados al Paisaje Cultural Cafetero en los departamentos de Quindío, Caldas, Risaralda y el norte del Valle.

• Este año se invertirán 11 mil millones de pesos más en la promoción turística de Colombia, dichos recursos pasarán de 29 mil a 40 mil millones de pesos.

Bogotá, 27 feb (SIG). El Presidente Juan Manuel Santos anunció hoy que este año el Gobierno Nacional invertirá más de 117 mil millones de pesos en infraestructura turística en el país.

Así lo dio a conocer el Mandatario durante la inauguración de la Vitrina Turística de Anato 2013, que se adelanta en Corferias.

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