Colombia is famously a nation of distinct regions – and perhaps even more famously a nation of strong musical tradition. Every part of the country has given rise to or adopted its own distinct musical style, from cumbia on the Caribbean coast to the piping Andean melodies in the southwest. But perhaps no place takes its musical birthright as seriously as the northern city of Valledupar, the proclaimed cradle of the folk style known as vallenato.
If you go to Valledupar looking for something other than vallenato, you may run out of activities fairly quickly, but there’s a certain charm to taking a long lunch – and then maybe a nap to avoid the brutal midday heat – and relaxing in the central plaza with a cup of icy pineapple juice.
Photo: Hernan Garcia Crespo
Bogotá is quickly becoming a major player on the street art scene, drawing international artists as well as creating plenty of homegrown talent. The central Candelaria neighborhood and the major thoroughfare of Calle 26, as well as many other neighborhoods, are living canvases, constantly evolving and adding new works.
Visitors and locals alike have long marveled at the innovative works coming out of the Colombian capital, and the international community is finally starting to take notice as well, with Bogotá popping up on lists of the world’s best cities for street art. With a long history, plenty of cause for social commentary and ever more buildings springing up across the city, local artists are unlikely to run out of inspiration – or canvas – anytime soon!
Here are some of the best places to see Bogotá’s best free art, and a few of the big-name artists to look out for. Who knows – one of them could be the next Banksy!
As if Ciclovía weren’t already enough to make Sundays in Bogotá magical, the second half of the weekend is a shopper’s heaven in the capital. From north to south, there are tons of options for browsing antiques, handcrafts, jewelry, bags, leather, housewares and all those weird things that will probably never get sold.
The US gets a lot of (well-deserved) attention for its stellar breakfast food, but Colombia knows how to hold its own when it comes to the most important meal of the day.
From the bustling central cities to the laid-back Caribbean coast to the rural campesino communities in the south, everyone stocks up on energy food – and, of course, lots of carbs – before heading out to greet the day. Any Colombian will tell you that food here varies immensely by region – and the battles between different areas for culinary supremacy are fierce. Each part of the country has its own spin on the beloved arepa, its own fruit juices, its own cheese, bread, potato dishes, rice – you get the picture. This is just one of the many things that makes traveling throughout Colombia such an adventure: you’re always trying new flavors and dishes, no matter where you go!
It could take pages to go through all of the options available for morning foodies, but here’s a quick primer on a few of the most typical Colombian breakfast dishes, ranging from the positively mouthwatering to the ones that might make you wish you’d never gotten out of bed. Of course, all of them come with a fresh-brewed cup of Colombian coffee!
Photo: Omar Baez Camarena
Colombia is a music-loving country. From the northern tip of the Guajira peninsula to the southern reaches of the Colombian Amazon, the nation pulses with the beats of drums, guitars, percussion and, yes, accordions.
But it’s not a homogenous sound – rather, it’s a symphony of different rhythms, instruments and beats. Each region of the country has its own distinct musical tradition, developed from different cultural influences and the backgrounds of the people living there.
Sometimes it seems like each and every individual town has its own particular musical styling. One of the most important and uniquely Colombian genres, however, is cumbia, a traditional rhythm that blends the musical influences of many of the diverse cultures and ethnicities on Colombia’s Caribbean coast and continues to provide inspiration for many of the most popular Colombian bands today.
Photo: La Noche en Blanco Bogota
This weekend, Bogotá’s bohemian La Soledad neighborhood stayed up well past its bedtime to celebrate the city’s artists and creative types with La Noche en Blanco (“White Night”).
The event, now in its second year in the capital, closed the streets of a popular central neighborhood to cars and opened them to pedestrians, bikers, dogs and art enthusiasts, who strolled freely between performance spaces and projection screens from 6 p.m. to 1 a.m. on Saturday, September 27.
It’s nearly impossible to go anywhere in Colombia without hearing music or seeing people dancing, but the second weekend of September kicks that rhythm into another gear, offering not one, but two world-class events for jazz lovers traveling to Colombia; from the Andean interior to the Caribbean coast.
Photo: Renato Ganoza
Colombia’s most famous caffeinated beverage may come from beans, but that doesn’t mean there’s nothing around for the tea-lovers out there (the sheer number of British expats living in the country should reassure anyone with concerns on the matter). Though tea isn’t literally growing out the ground like coffee, there are a number of cafes and shops dedicated to the fine art of producing a great cup of tea – if you want the leaves read, though, you’ll probably have to go elsewhere.
With its chilly Andean climate and international influence, Bogotá is one of the best places in the country to find a quality cup or two. So if you find yourself without much to do on a rainy Bogotá afternoon, grab a good book (or your iPad) and head to one of these steamy spots.
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.