Wednesday, January 19, 2011

COLOMBIA ♪ Music, Friends, Alegría

A land of hauntingly beautiful faces, diverse landscapes from coast to mountains to the expanse of the Amazon, exuberant friendliness, deliriously feet moving music... Colombia is blowing stereotypes out of the water.

Step foot inside Colombia... and you'll never be the same again. Colombians have such a boundless ardor for life, music, friends, family, dance'll fall under a spell, and will return again and again. A country hidden from the world for so long, Colombia is on the cultural travel map again!

Most people around the world hold on to anachronistic images of Colombia, and are afraid to visit. This photographer's trip proved otherwise. Colombia is open for business ... and the time of your life. 

Her cities fashionably modern ... 

her coast scenic...

her Amazon enchanting ...

her people downright charming and welcoming...

and her women, renowned as amongst the most beautiful in the world, but also smart, unpretentious...

This is a país of green mountains and valleys, cities with eternal spring, a blue coastline, one of the most sensually charged cities you'll ever visit...Cali, South America's salsa capital, amongst the friendliest people you'll ever meet, and some of the most arresting and diverse faces you'll ever see.


This writer landed in Medellin, a city set in a beautiful valley where spring is perennial and undiscovered covergirl faces appear at every turn. Medellin would be the prologue to the utter shock of discovery of Colombia in its culture, music, diversity and joy for life.

Traversing Colombia

From the towns and the Tayrona National Reserve on the Caribbean coast, to Zona Cafetera (Coffee Region) in the middle, to Cali in the south and the Amazon in the south east, Colombia should be amongst your very top destinations in the world.

Bohemian Taganga, gateway to Tayrona National Park

Sunset on the River Amazon, Leticia
Art in Medellin

Smiling faces in Cali

Art in Cartagena's Old Town
Outside Medellin


Leticia docks

Visiting first in December, the writer was thrown headlong into Colombia's colorful, bright Christmas celebrations or ferias.

Sabaneta, Medellin


Music !

There was an indescribable sensuousness about just being in Colombia. Unconsciously, the writer's senses started to seek out her soul.

He found it ... in her music.

At times irresistibly foot tapping salsa...

then gossamer sounds of folksy vallenato  ...

... her music weaves, spins and washes over, and in that moment one feels fleetingly what it might mean to be Colombian.

Vallenato, salsa, cumbia, champeta, reggaeton ... every evening in this long-shrouded land can be spent singing and dancing with her people... feet moving to an intoxicating, joyful rhythm. This is perhaps why Colombians smile so much ... there's music playing in their soul, even when you can't hear it ... unless you listen closely. 

Here's a blend of traditional cumbia and vallenato given wider sex appeal appeal by Fonseca, a hugely successful young artist .

The writer showed up in the pretty university town of Manizales just after New Year's...and backed into an all-star cast at the

Feria de Manizales


Colombian women... Paisas, Caleñas, Bogotanas, Costeñas ..all, are beautiful. Extraordinarily...

Colombiana Jenny Osorio, actress and model


Salsa!  With her simplicity, friendly people, superlative salsa dancing, and blue-green mountains, it's easy to get hooked on Cali.

This traveler found Colombia's heart in Cali... in her people.

Not as touristed as Bogota, Medellin, or Cartagena, Cali feels real, and friendships effortless and lasting.

The Cali Sound

Here's a rockin salsa tune 'Cali Pachanguero' that dancing Colombians go nuts over, by the famous Colombian band from Cali, Grupo Niche.  Actually a beautiful love song to Cali, it's an anthem at all parties, salsa events and ferias. 'Pachanguero' loosely means party animal.

A millas siento tu aroma,
cualquiera justo razona,
que Cali es Cali señoras, señores
lo demás es loma. 

For miles I feel your scent
For good reason 
Cali is Cali ladies and gentlemen 
The rest is hillside 

Caleños are simple, down to earth, happy, and crazy about salsa ... you can dance at hot salsa clubs to the newest beats, whether from Colombian greats like Guayacan, and for the romantic in you the beautiful sound of the duo Son de Cali, or overseas artists like Luis Enrique, all week long. Make sure you visit during Feria de Cali, a five day salsa carnival the last week of December. As they say down there, "Cali es Cali".

When backpackers and other tourists get past their hangups and visit Cali, they find it hard to leave. The rhythm is euphoric, the Cali sound and the sexy body movement - pure joy. Check out this hugely loved song and watch those kids dance that salsa.

Oiga, mire, vea
Vengase a Cali para que vea!
Oiga, mire, vea
Goce la feria para que vea!

Si usted va llegando
Vayase entonando
Que de baile en baile
Se va acomodando

Hey, look, see 
Come to Cali to see! 
Hey, look, see 
A joy the Feria to see! 

If you are coming 
Go away singing 
Dance that dance
Be accommodating

This writer believes wars in the northern hemisphere would end if more people heard, and danced, Salsa. 


Many tourists to Colombia like to head for Cartagena ... a hot, muggy coastal city heavily marketed in brochures for its inner walled town, a colonial era architectural enclave.

Cartagena has also given birth to some of the country's finest music, like José 'Joe' Arroyo's. Arroyo’s most famous song, Rebelión is an ode to 17th-century Cartagena symbolized by a young man's uprising against the ill-treatment of his bride and of his African brethren by the colonial rulers, and its chorus “No le pegue a la negra” .. “Don’t hit the black woman” .. brings tears to Colombians even today. Alvaro José Arroyo González, born in Cartagena in 1955, passed away just recently on July 26, 2011.

Cartagena's brochure appeal of a colonial past has such a draw on tourists, that most never set out to explore the rest of Colombia, places far more engaging than Cartagena... and to really understand and admire this complex and beautiful country which is trying so hard to shed the images of its tragic history.

Cartagena's inner walled city is certainly well preserved and worth a stay for tourists, though backpackers prefer the outdoor adventures and prettier landscape further along the coast in Santa Marta, Taganga, and the Tayrona National Park.

Saying Goodbye

As the time came for the writer to leave Colombia, he reflected on the friendly approachability of her people...

and the sights and images of this festive, once secluded culture...

This was to be a land to return to. 

Go to Colombia...

Revel in her simple beauty...

her sensuality...

 ... "the only risk is wanting to stay"

Go salsa fellow travelers. Colombia is a jewel ... a musical and sensual lust-for-life culture.

Colombia ...  a long due destination.

Travel Tips
  1. For airlines within Colombia, this is a helpful list . Aires usually has the best promos.
  2. International flights land in Bogota, Medellin, Cali, and even Cartagena.
  3. Use a travel guidebook or online resources to research and book hotels or hostels.
  4. The younger, private-educated crowd in large cities speaks English to some degree, but generally in Colombia you'd be best served to know at least passable Español.
  5. Buses connect most towns and cities in Colombia. The roads are generally good, but heed warnings about rains, night time routes that could be dangerous, and crazy drivers. Stick to the best bus companies.
  6. Music: Colombia is a haven for music and dance lovers. For Salsa, visit Cali. For Vallenato, pretty much any town in Colombia, but it originated in the northeast. For international-style music and night life, Medellin and Bogota are good bets.
  7. Don't buy into the marketing that surrounds Cartagena .. it's not that brilliant a destination, and Colombia has far more to offer. If in Cartagena, explore nearby islands and go east down the coast to Tayrona National Park.
  8. Go easy on the Aguardiente ... it may seem like an innocent, clear alcoholic drink but it can knock you out.
  9. Make friends. Colombians are incredibly friendly ... and misunderstood.
  10. Safety: Colombia is actually a safe and pleasant destination. As with all South American cities, you should exercise normal caution and commonsense in all Colombian cities and towns. Be aware of your surroundings, don't wander off into unknown barrios, make local friends, buddy up, don't flash fancy cameras and smartphones, take taxis at night. In the remote instance that you're mugged in any South American city, largely a result of being careless and straying into dodgy areas, do not resist.. simply let them take your belongings, as the moral threshold can be very low. 



  1. Simply beautiful photos. I'm sold.

  2. It's true. Colombia is a beautiful place in all of her aspects. Wonderful photos. x

  3. You are absolutely correct. I am in Barranquilla right now, heading to cartagena tomorrow and will be back next month to Bogota and Cali.

    Do not believe the hype - I have felt less safe in parts of Europe than in Colombia. The people are super friendly and charming.

  4. This post made my night!! I spent 3 months in Colombia last year and am about to head back for the rest of the year!

    I was happy to read what you wrote about Cali on the TT forum - I didn't make it there last time but am thinking of staying there this go round and perhaps teaching English. I've heard mixed reviews about the place, but the way you described it piqued my interest.

    I may be back to pick your brain some more ;) Thanks again for the lovely pics & video!

  5. You have no idea how happy this post makes me!
    As a colombian it is really hard and boring to deal with the negative drug-related stereotypes all the time, but your pictures, words, and videos prove otherwise.
    Thank you for taking the time to explore our country and for promoting it in a positive way!
    Come back anytime you like, I'm sure we'll make you feel at home ;).

  6. You got it right. Colombia has a lot to offer, beautiful scenery to keep in memory, warm people who love to chat with visitors and are willing to show you the most spectacular places that you probably would miss by yourself. Thank you for promoting our country in such a wonderful way. I will look forward to see a post about my homeland Lago Calima in your blog, it looks you missed it in your trip to Cali. Next time, don’t forget to visit us.

    By the way, Congratulations, the best blog I’ve ever read (or watch).

  7. so great post, it makes me happy :)
    I am heading for Colombia in november, really looking forward to it

    a dutchguy stocked in sweden :)

  8. Thanks, great photos, nice interesting, brief comments. I will be there in few months! Can´t wait.

  9. Like other's I'm on a Mission to promote post at a time. Bien Hecho! a real look into the faces/places that make Colombia the amazing country it is!

    Saludos Y k le vaya bonita!

  10. The author's 2nd paragragh says it all "Step a foot inside Colombia".... by the way i first visited colombia in april 2011, came back in Nov /Dec 2011, back in Jan/Feb 2012 and now back again in April 2012, having now spent 6 months out of 12 in paradise.... Canadian guy...

  11. What kind of camera were you carrying around and were you ever concerned about openly carrying a camera?

  12. Camera question above: When traveling anywhere in South America, be aware of your surroundings, make local friends or hostel friends, and bring out your expensive DSLR only when you have all bases covered.

  13. Hola,

    It’s great to read your blog!

    Thought you might be interested in visiting our beautiful spot at some stage while you are in Colombia - we offer a pretty special experience in our new hostel and private dining restaurant, in a stunning rural area just outside of Manizales!

    We have also developed a new travel guide to Colombia that tries to showcase some interesting or off-the-beaten-track destinations - you can check it out here (some of readers may be interested to if they are planning on traveling in Colombia!):

    Let us know what you think!!

    Kate and Diego


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