The year is quickly drawing to a close. And for those thinking of holiday escapes on these shores, it’s best to start booking for airline tickets and accommodation with plenty of time.
Travel within Colombia has become more attractive this year with a devalued peso. And even though it gained some ground last month, dipping beneath the $3,000 COP to USD benchmark, the government would like to maintain a weak currency in order to boost exports and internal consumption of goods and services.
This includes travel.
Those who have been hit by the unexpected devaluation are international carriers that compete for passengers on North American and European routes and now must find ways of filling seats on busy holiday hubs as Colombians decide to spend their hard-earned pesos on a domestic end-of-year holiday.
Fortunately, Colombia has no shortage of destinations to ring in the New Year, and festivals which start when Noche Buena (Christmas) ends.
According to the Colombian Tourism Association, ANATO, this holiday season will put even more pressure on hotels and tourism infrastructure, as Cartagena, Cali and Santa Marta welcome foreign visitors, as well as the “all-inclusive” national ones.
With beach resorts booked to capacity, the question is where to go?
Laguna de Tota
While everyone craves a beach, the Andes do offer some great escapes. The Laguna de Tota is a high-altitude lake easily accessible by public transport from the town of Sogamoso in Boyacá.
It’s a beautiful lake hemmed-in by onion fields, marshes and wrapped in an idyllic Cundiboyacense landscape, where trout fishing, throwing disks at explosives (Tejo) and drinking beer in the main square of Aquitania are favourite pastimes.
There will be tourists when you turn up after a four hour bus ride from Bogotá, but you’ll be guaranteed a spot on the white sandy beach of Playa Blanca and plenty of rays, as it sits close to 10,000 feet above sea level. There are walks along the lake’s edge and pine forests for a picnic.
Playa de Belén
If you want to break away from the beaten path then Ocaña in Norte de Santander hosts December 28th and 29th the Desfile de Genitores and traditional music festival.
The place to stay is colonial Playa de Belén, just 25km south of this important city at the heart of cocoa (as in chocolate) growing region.
Be prepared for a Christmas spectacle in Playa de Belén, for as its name suggests, it’s a Bethlehem in miniature at the base of the Serranía del Perijá.
White painted colonial houses on the edge of an imposing park of megalithic rock formations, Los Estoraques, makes for a very Colombian version of Utah’s Zion canyon.
Cabo de la Vela
If you haven’t pre-paid for a hammock by the middle of the month you may have to “wing it” if heading north along the coast to La Guajira’s Cabo de la Vela. A popular destination anytime of the year, this small Wayúu fishing village is about as far as you can get from the hordes of vacationers bucking for a beach chair in Bocagrande.
But even though you’ll have to deal with the occasional bump in the night (probably from a neighbour) as you attempt to sleep suspended between posts, chances are there’ll be space on the beach to put your towel and a field to pitch a tent: all for under $20,000 pesos a night.
We hope you find these last-minute tips useful as we begin our final push to the end of 2015. Even though this temporada will be busier than usual, we are sure you’ll find much-needed relaxation at these far from hyped-up destinations.