MESSAGE: Colombia’s Coast *Video*
Colombia’s Caribbean coast covers more than 50 square miles, or about 10% of all of Colombia’s territory. It has a fun island feel, including colorful houses surround central plazas, dancing in the street, and reggaeton music blaring from houses and cars.
I enjoyed the several weeks I spent in the area. Here’re 7 ways you too can enjoy Colombia’s coastal flavor.
MEET (Cool Meet Ups) – Cartagena’s Old City. A major tourist destination for Colombians as well as foreigners, Cartagena is one of the region’s first Spanish colonial cities. Founded in the early 1500s and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the city built its iconic wall (made of crushed coral) to protect itself against repeated attacked by European colonialists and pirates.
Today Cartagena is well-preserved, especially the Old City, where you can wander the multi-hued, cobbled-stoned streets and sit a sip a coffee in one of the ubiquitous plazas. Sound nice? It is!
EAT (Tasty Eats) – Arepas. A mainstay of the Colombian diet, arepas are a type of corn cake made with a pre-cooked corn flour called masarepa. Arepas can be fried, grilled, baked or boiled and are usually eaten for breakfast with butter or cream cheese. (Although they can also be eaten as a side dish.)
I had my first arepas during my jungle trek and I have to admit, they tasted a bit dry to me. But maybe I just didn’t give ‘em a chance…Want to try them out? Here’s an arepas recipe.
SEE (Must-see Sights) – Tayrona National Park. Famous for its beautiful beaches, you can only reach Tayrona via a 1-hour boat ride, on the back of a horse, or by hiking a 2-3 hours. The park encompasses about 60 square miles of land, as well as about 12 miles of coastline.
I elected to spend my birthday here at the beach and had a fabulous time. Don’t miss the chance to go and experience the seclusion in person! Here’s a snippet of what’s waiting for you:
Can’t see the video? Click on this link: Erin at Tayrona
SHOP (Gotta Have) – Mochila Bag. These “Bolsos tipico Colombiano” (typical Colombian bags) are hand-woven with cotton or wool. It takes about 40 hours to weave one bag and each is designed and produced by a single woman.
Want one of these beauties? You can buy a bag direct from a company called Cumbiart, made by a woman in the Wayuu, an indigenous tribe from La Guajira, in northern Colombia. You can also buy a mochila bag from the online artisan shopping site Etsy.
ACTIVITY (Gotta Do) – The Trek to “Lost Trek.” I can’t say enough about this fabulous experience. Here’re a few of my posts on exploring these pre-Colombian ruins:
- Ciudad Perdida, Colombia’s “Lost City” + *Video*
- Trekking in Colombia’s Jungle
- Packing for 5 Days in the Jungle
- Jungle Camp Tour +*Video*
GIVE (Greatest Need) – Land Mines. Last month Colombia reached the dishonorable figure of 10,001 land mine victims, becoming the second most-affected country in the world (behind Afghanistan).
Over the last two decades, land mines have killed or injured 6,222 military and 3,779 civilians, including 968 children and young people. This year alone, 45 minors have been victims of land mines, 11 of whom have died. This is already an increase from 2011, which reached a total of 44 incidents involving minors and land mines in Colombia.
The land mines were originally placed by the leftist rebel group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). And while the FARC and the Colombian government are currently in peace talks, there remain thousands of mines scattered across the country. FARC used mines to protect their cocaine trade.
ENJOY (Extra Fun) – Diving in Taganga. I heard mixed reviews about the diving in the seaside town of Taganga. Some said it was amazing, with the most popular dive site near the small island of Aguja, part of Tayrona National Park.
Others indicated the diving was merely mediocre. Needless to day, everyone suggested you need to carefully check the equipment and the company you use. This time around, I decided to pass on this bit of fun.