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There are many reasons to visit Cartagena, Colombia’s Caribbean gem, from its stunning old town, to its proximity to tropical islands and white-sand beaches, to its incredible Creole cuisine. For lovers of stylish boutique hotels, this fairy-tale city impresses with a wealth of affordable options, all of which offer great style (from traditional to quirky), impeccable service, and great rates.
Here are our three favorite Cartagena boutique hotels that won’t break the bank:
Biking is big in Colombia. So big that its capital city’s weekly Ciclovía event is now attended by up to three million people — or more than a third of the Bogotá’s population, — who come out to enjoy a car-free Sunday on many of the city’s major roads. While in Bogotá last month, we of course had to join local agency Bogotravel Tours for one of their cycling sightseeing tours to find out what all the buzz was about. Read more
If you have always wanted to visit the colorful cities of South America but were deterred by high fares and long flight times, this deal might just the ticket. LAN Airlines and its affiliates, all part of LATAM Airlines Group, are having a Premium Business Class sale to destinations in Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru.
Coffee, one of the world’s most universally beloved drinks, offers a taste of local culture with every sip, in whatever form it’s served (small but strong, organic and Fair Trade Certified, topped with whipped cream, or spiked with whiskey). Inspired by cool fall temperatures and a recent #TTOT (that’s Travel Talk on Twitter, a hashtag travelers should definitely check out if they’re not familiar with it), here we spill the beans on five destinations where caffeine-craving travelers can get their fix.
Vienna: The coffeehouse, or Kaffeehaus, is as much a staple of Viennese culture as the waltz and opera. In recent years, the number of traditional coffeehouses has dwindled as owners face competition from modern chains (yes, Starbucks has several locations here) and increasing real estate costs, but enjoying a cup is still a must-do during a visit. From decades-old institutions with soaring ceilings and immaculately dressed waiters to boho-hip joints that draw a young crowd, you can find the perfect spot for any sipping style.
Can’t-miss spots include Café Sperl, a gorgeous architectural gem that has been around since 1880; Café Sacher, known for its decadent Sacher-Torte; and Café Landtmann, with live music, a celebrity clientele, and live music.
The Salt Cathedral of Zipaquirá – an ancient salt mine and monumental masterpiece – draws the devout and the curious alike underground to an evocative subterranean temple. Buried more than 650 feet deep into a hillside about an hour outside of Bogota, Colombia, the mine brings precise engineering to a set of Catholic religious scenes. Depicted in intricate carvings, cavernous chambers, and the world’s largest underground cross, all of the sculptures are made entirely of salt. For religious pilgrims, or travelers who thrive on quirky and unusual sites (I fall into the latter category), you’ll find only two such underground salt cathedrals on the planet (you’ll have to trek to Poland for the other one). Here’s a full report on what to expect at one of the world’s subterranean wonders… Read more
Every cruise vacationer has a favorite port of call. For some it’s posh St. Bart’s in the Eastern Caribbean or St. Tropez in the Western Mediterranean. Others value the culture of Barcelona or the Nordic history of Copenhagen. These destinations are common port calls for most major cruise ships, but there a handful of emerging ports around the globe that are getting the attention of both cruise lines and travelers looking for something a little different. Check out these five lesser-known, but up-and-coming ports… Read more
Known as “The River of Five Colors,” “The River that Ran Away from Paradise,” and “Liquid Rainbow,” Caño Cristales is one of the most beautiful rivers in the world – for a few weeks of the year. During the short time between the wet and dry seasons, the river, which is located in the Sierra de la Macarena region of Colombia, flows with vibrant colors. With rich yellows, greens, blues, and especially reds, the river is a biological wonder that lives up to its name – literally the crystal spout river.
Delving into the science a bit, the red hue is created by Macarenia clavigera, a unique plant species that grows on the river floor. The beautiful color, which attracts tourists willing to travel to the remote area, can only be seen when the water level is just right – the flow is too strong during the wet season and the plants don’t receive enough sun to grow. During the dry season, there isn’t enough water to sustain plant life. Different species of moss and algae account for the spectrum of other colors that contribute to this natural phenomenon. Read more
Every destination has a taste or sound that burrows deep into our memory, instantly transporting us back. For me, In Cartagena, Colombia, the taste is mojitos and the sound is live music by a son cubano band.
Moments after the music strikes up, locals are on the dance floor, entangled in twosomes or gatherings of old friends. Both inside and out of the old walled city of Cartagena, there are bars, clubs, and outdoor venues where ceiling fans spin, mint leaves are muddled, and the band takes the stage several times a night. For music, mojitos, or both, here are some favorite places to drink and dance in Cartagena. Read more
Oasis Collections, an American-run, South American-based short-term apartment rental agency – and self-dubbed “curators of stylish pads” – has recently launched a series of budget-friendly upscale vacation rentals, spanning some of South America’s hottest destinations, for under $250/night. Read more
Twenty years ago, tourism to Medellin, Colombia’s second-largest city, was entirely unheard of. The world capital of cocaine production, Medellin was overrun with drug traffickers (none so feared as ruthless kingpin Pablo Escobar) and the cartel-backed street violence here was downright paralyzing. Proof of what’s possible in just two decades (Escobar was killed by police in ’93, and the city has been on a steady incline ever since), Medellin is slowly emerging as a dynamic urban center, with safer streets (though petty street crime is still a threat), innovative architecture and infrastructure, and a bevy of new museums, parks, hotels, and eateries. Freshly back from a week on the ground there, and just ahead of JetBlue’s new routes to Medellin (launching June 13), I’ve got some quick value-friendly tips on what to see and where to sleep in the “City of Eternal Spring” (a nod to its pleasant weather, year-round). Read more
Bogotá is abuzz with development. New direct flights have made access to this bustling Colombian capital easier, cheaper, and more comfortable than ever before. Hotels are popping up across the city at breakneck speed (like the much-anticipated W Hotel, set to debut next year), including two of our favorite additions, personally vetted during my trip there last week: the smart-splurge B.O.G. Hotel and great-value Royal Sonesta Bogotá. And if you’re looking for firsthand tips on what to do and see once you touch down, our very own Jim Sherman has reported on some on-the-ground tips from his recent trip. Read more
Hot spring retreats can border on the humdrum – you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all. Or so I thought. Then I heard about Colombia’s Santa Rosa de Cabal, which is not only blessed with natural therapeutic thermal springs (one of which is actually fed by a piping-hot waterfall!), but surrounded by impossibly lush landscapes of rolling hills, fertile pastureland, and soaring mountain peaks, all set in Colombia’s picturesque “Coffee Triangle.” After 10 months of trotting the globe, soaking my weary bones in warm waters, in wondrous natural surroundings, sounded like just the ticket for some much needed R & R. Read more
No matter where we call home, we share one thing in common: gathering around the table to break bread and crack open a bottle or two. Sometimes when the conversation and local liquor get flowing, the result is a big old headache the following morning.
Approaches to alleviating the hangover vary by destination. Some are healthy, some are indulgent, and some are plain crazy – while others turn to a cheeky afternoon drink as the ultimate cure. Here are five hangover cures from around the globe. Read more
While exploring charming Cartagena, Colombia, a colonial gem of a city fronting the Caribbean, I bumped into a group of New Yorkers who had just flown in on a nonstop 4.5-hour JetBlue flight from NYC. Exciting news! The airline recently launched the only nonstop service between New York’s JFK and Cartagena this fall, making it easier (and cheaper!) than ever before for Northeast-area travelers to make their way to this sexy South American hotspot. Read more
Upon arrival in Cartagena, you’re immediately struck by the Caribbean feel of the city. The pastel colored low-rise buildings, high humidity, and infectious salsa music reminds you that this coastal enclave is very much part of the Caribbean. The old town of Cartagena, a walled city, is charming and designed for casual strolls with its small shops, cafés, bars, and several inviting squares. Stop by the Charleston Santa Teresa around sunset for a rooftop ron punch (rum punch) or mojito and enjoy the sunset over the sea. Read more
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