To understand this country one must live it. Under a canopy of stars in Old Providence listening to the waves of the Sea of Seven Colours, or watching the sun rise over Cartagena bathing domes and colonial turrets in a golden hue, your adventure in Magic Realism is about to come true.
Colombia is a country where color and sound are an integral part of the landscape, stirring up emotions with every twist and turn, at every minute of the passing day. The Magic Realism which Nobel Laureate, Gabriel García Márquez, described in his novels didn’t well up in some faraway place, but rather from the writer’s hometown of Aracataca.
The yellow butterflies, which symbolize the flight of imagination of one of the world’s most prolific and complex minds, are real, and indeed, magical. You can see them blanketing the marshes of Salamanca Island, near Barranquilla, and transforming fields along the coast in a moving tapestry of life.
If the landscape inspires, so too the people. The costeños love life, and every year, this manifests itself with the Carnival of Barranquilla: a world-class event not to be missed in February. In Barranquilla, Gabo took up the pen as a reporter and in La Cueva, you can dine where the free spirits of a generation shaped the cultural identity of this nation.
Even though Magic Realism lies at the heart of the Colombian coast, it also manifests itself in the interior. The coffee harvest in the many painted villages up and down the Zona Cafetera are a sight to behold.
Take a ride in one of the emblematic Willys Jeeps, towards the Valle del Cocora to observe a majestic forest of Quindío Wax Palms rising up through the mist, and you’ll understand that what is real, is also very magical.
Then, you have the many ferias and festivals in this breathtakingly beautiful corner of the world, which celebrates music and gastronomy. Next January, from the 3rd to the 10th, you’ll be swept-off your feet by the festive Feria de Manizales. With its deep connection to Spain, activities include a corrida, a theatrical parade through its streets and the crowning of the beauty queen Miss Coffee International.
In the Coffee Region, locals take great pride in working the land and have stayed true to traditions. Enterprise is the Paisa way (name given to those who settled and inhabited Antioquia and the territory known as the ‘Viejo Caldas’), and from dawn to dusk, from the picking to drying of Colombia’s favourite bean – Arabica – there is a connection to the land, and one which continues to inspire novelists, painters, and artisans.
Now imagine days of sun on the archipelago of San Andrés, Providencia and Santa Catalina. From the comfort zone of a hammock to experiencing the floating sensation while snorkling in shimmering reefs, the islands are pure sensorial delights, and they even cater to your palate from the home cooked seafood stews in kitchens across Providencia’s Old Town to lobster dishes in the restaurants of San Luis, San Andrés.
This archipelago has its own rhythm, reggae, and in June, the island sways to the beats of its own carnival, the Carnaval de Providencia in which locals host a regatta and horse racing on the beach. The beauty pageant here, celebrates isleño culture and its history to the first settlers.
Cartagena is Magic Realism incarnate, and the stone ramparts of the Old City are ideal to capture the essence of a place steeped in history. With the ringing of bells and rumbling of street carts brimming with tropical fruits, this city, declared Patrimony of Humanity by UNESCO in 1984, comes to life.
Browse hardcovers of neatly-stacked novels under the old Clock Tower by the Plaza de la Aduana, where vendors still ply their trade, as if taken from the pages of Macondo, or buy local sweets at the pier, the Muelle de Pegasus.
As a global travel destination, there is plenty of boutique shopping in Cartagena, as well as some of the finest restaurants in the country. Hop over to the Islands of the Rosary and San Bernardo for scuba and an appreciation of pristine reefs. To quench ones thirst for history, the San Felipe Fort is an obligatory afternoon excursion, which offers stunning views of Cartagena.
While Macondo encompasses an imaginary territory, the main coastal highway, which connects Barranquilla with Santa Marta, crosses through Ciénaga, a town of graceful plantation-style homes, very picturesque Republican squares, and featured prominently in the works of the Nobel.
You will now be refreshed by the cool breeze, which swoops in from the summit of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta.
The lush, tropical rainforests are ideal for trekking, and the coves and beaches of Tayrona National Park, for relaxing. But before being totally immersed in nature — and plenty of it – enjoy the laid-back feel of Santa Marta.
Nestled in an arid valley at the base of the snow-capped mountain, Santa Marta offers the visitor a variety of accommodations: from hostels to boutique hotels and the all-inclusive resorts of Rodadero. To enhance your experience of Santa Marta, enjoy an afternoon boat ride along the coast or go bird watching in the hills behind the city.
While the solitude of Tayrona will make you wish your holiday lasts 100 years, part of the fun of traveling in a country is meeting fellow travelers and exchanging those essential “I was there” stories. After exploring the coffee region and the land that inspired Macondo, your ‘Colombia story’ is far from over, with the right words you may be at the beginning of writing your own bestseller.
You are welcome to explore every corner of Colombia, and the Magic Realism which lives on in each and every one of these.
For more information on the trip of a lifetime and the one you were meant to live, visit our website at www.colombia.travel.