Bogotá and Cartagena
After about one month and a week in Central America we made one last quick stop in Costa Rica and were on our way to Colombia where we’ll be until after Christmas.
We departed San Juan del Sur around 7am and made our way to the Costa Rican border with a friend. There are no direct buses to the border from San Juan without going through Rivas first (also known as where third parties attempt to rip you off). In order to get to Ometepe and San Juan del Sur we had to go through Rivas, and we really did not want to make a 3rd trip there. We opted to share a cab with a friend to the border, a 45 minute bus ride that cost $10 each. From there we found a Transnica Bus who was on its way to San Jose and was able to fit 3 extra passengers for $12 each. We had an AirBnb near the airport, so we got off there and wished our friend a safe journey for the remainder of her trip.
The next day we departed from San Jose for Bogotá, Colombia. Bogotá’s climate was a much appreciated change, it’s typically 20°C (66°F) all year. We had researched public transportation in Bogotá and realized they have a clever and efficient bus system, TransMilenio, we were able to buy a card for the two of us at the airport and take a bus to our hotel. We chose to stay at Colombia at Home, and loved it. The owners were extremely friendly and helpful. It is not located in a typical tourist area, however it’s on the outskirts of the vibrant Chapinero neighborhood. For our first evening we explored the neighborhood and ate at Mini Mal. We were blown away by the quality and presentation of the food, it’s relatively affordable, but felt like high-end dining.
On our second day we took a graffiti tour–our guide was really informative and gave us a well-rounded introduction to street art in Bogotá. We managed to squeeze in a visit to Museo del Oro before we had to head back early to do laundry. In the evening we went to the posh Parc 93 neighborhood and ate at Andres Expres–delicious. We then got our craft beer fix in at Bogotá Beer Company. We proceeded to take some of our knowledge from our graffiti tour and explored Carrera 13 in the Chapinero in the late evening to view the art on the doors from the closed shops. This area is known for being a bit sketchy, but since it was a Saturday evening we felt safe as many people were out–that unfortunately didn’t stop a bartender in a rather strange club from ripping us off.
We slept in a bit on day three and then went to Cerro de Monserrate. Besides hiking (out of the question), you must buy a ticket to either take the tram or the funicular. Since it was Sunday, the price was half off, however that also meant it was quite crowded. We waited over an hour to get up to Cerro de Monserrate, but the views were well worth the wait. The rest of the day was spent enjoying Plaza de Bolívar, including having lunch at the famous La Puerta Falsa restaurant. We ate a typical meal of ajiaco soup and tamales, including hot chocolate with cheese.
We headed back into the suffocating heat after a short plane ride to Cartagena. Cartagena reminded us of a larger, and perhaps more expensive, version of San Juan, Puerto Rico. It’s a city where you can explore the historical, colonial old town, and within a few minutes be amongst flashy high rises, and then relax on a beach. We opted to stay in the historical center for two nights and then stayed at the large, nearby island of Tierra Bomba for a night. For the most part, we mainly enjoyed Cartagena in the evening once the heat had subsided. Since we visited in December, the place is packed with many families on vacation from other places in Colombia. We were surprised to find that many of the people from Cartagena came off as a bit cold, upon talking with a family from Medellin, they actually brought this point up to me. They said that even being Colombian, they are treated indifferently, and that the rest of the country is much kinder and hospitable.
In Tierra Bomba we stayed at the Beach Hostel. We arrived in the afternoon, and the place was packed. However, by 5pm we were the only people left and it was clear we were the only people to actually stay the night. We found this quite strange as the price wasn’t too much more compared to what we paid on the mainland. Plus, we received vouchers for all of our meals. It was amazing to have dinner alone, in our cabana watching the the city light up across the water. Since our flight the next day to Medellín was very late, they allowed us to check out at 2 and stay until 5, giving us time to enjoy a full beach day and still be able to shower and clean up before our flight.