As if there weren’t already enough happening in Colombia in August — with Bogotá’s Summer Festival, Medellín’s Flower Festival and the Petronio Álvarez celebration of Afro-Colombian music and culture in Cali – central Colombia’s favorite colonial town, Villa de Leyva, has to get in on the action with a colorful celebration of its own.
Though ceviche originated (and may have been perfected, depending on who you ask) in Peru, Colombia’s Atlantic coast has put its own distinctive spin on it – camarones en salsa rosada, anyone?
Cartagena’s diverse and excellent food scene has the challenge of trying to cater to locals and international tourists alike, which has led restaurants to try to outdo each other when it comes to this coastal favorite. Each place – and each resident — has an individual interpretation of what makes a good ceviche, and the possibilities, from Asian fusion to traditional corvina, are almost as colorful as the city’s famous architecture. These are some of the best places in the city to go to get a taste of the full spectrum of flavors.
Photo: Jorge Gomez
I know August isn’t a popular month back where I’m from, but it’s my favorite month in Bogotá. For Bogotanos, there are generally only two seasons: if it’s sunny, it’s summer; if it’s raining, it’s winter. This can be intensely confusing for anyone who was taught that it’s impossible to have more than one season in a given day, but that’s generally how it works. Except in August.
When Nobel-prize-winning author Gabriel García Márquez passed away on April 17, it felt like Colombia as a whole went into mourning. Though Gabo, as he was affectionately known, had lived in Mexico City for years prior to his death, Colombians still felt a strong connection to the grandfather of magical realism. He was a beloved figure among Colombians of all ages – upon his death, Colombian President Santos described him as “the greatest Colombian who ever lived.”
Photo: Hugo Pardo Kuklinski
Brazil has its cachaça, Argentina has laid claim to Malbec, Peru and Chile are perpetually fighting over who has the “real” pisco, and we all know that Nicaragua and Cuba are the places to go for top-shelf rum. When it comes to cocktail hour, Colombia is often the forgotten stepchild, without a readily identifiable liquor to help define it on the world stage.
But just because Colombia hasn’t pioneered something with the popularity of the caipirinha or the pisco sour, that doesn’t mean this dance-crazy country doesn’t love its liquor. Does it ever.
Nestled on the western side of the Guajira peninsula, a remote spit of desert split between Colombia and Venezuela that juts out into the Caribbean, the pocket-sized town of Cabo de la Vela has quietly become a major eco-tourism destination – for those daring enough to brave the trip to try to find it. A two-hour drive from the nearest highway, Cabo de la Vela is the definition of “off the beaten path,” a tiny fishing village with a few houses and restaurants, a nearby lighthouse and some of the most beautiful water on Colombia’s Caribbean coast.
Photo: McKay Savage
It’s nearly impossible to spend more than a day in Bogotá without being peer-pressured by locals to make the trek out to the nearby town of Zipaquirá. The main attraction in town is the Salt Cathedral, a somewhat peculiar, religiously-inclined sort of museum inside a massive salt mine – however, the city is also a lovely example of a typical central Andean village, and there’s plenty to see in addition to walking through the Stations of the Cross in an underground salt mine.
Photo: Hugo Martins Oliveira
It’s the most wonderful time of the year — or technically, every four years! Yes, that’s right, it’s time once again for the world’s great football powers (and a few underdog challengers) to clash for the honor of reigning soccer superiority. Like the rest of Latin America, Colombians will be glued to their televisions for the next few weeks — but if you haven’t got your own TV, where to glue yourself to make sure you don’t miss a single goal?
Cartagena’s swanky restaurants may get most of the attention, but there’s a gastronomic haven springing up in the middle of the sun-kissed beaches about four hours up the coast. Once a small town catering mostly to surfers and backpackers, the last few years have seen a boom in international cuisine in Santa Marta, bringing chefs and flavors from everywhere from the United States to Lebanon. Folks may arrive in Santa Marta just expecting to enjoy a few days at the beach, but nobody leaves hungry. Here are a few of the best places to dine in town before heading off to the nearby Tayrona National Park:
Photo: Jonathan Hood
First-time visitors to the famous Caribbean colonial city of Cartagena may be disappointed to discover that the beaches in the city are frankly nothing to write home about – they’re crowded, filled with vendors shouting over one another and not especially picturesque. For the real Caribbean beach experience, most folks head out of town to the famous Playa Blanca.
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