Why not kill off those post-Christmas blues by planning some adventures for 2018? Here are tips for getting out and enjoying this beautiful country in the coming year.
El Cocuy: the roof of Colombia.
If you’re a hardy walker and acclimatised to thin air, why not head to the remarkable snowy El Cocuy range in back-water Boyacá. This stunning national park – rated as one of the top ten high-altitude trekking sites in the world – recently re-opened to tourists (though parts may still be off-limits) and is formed of glaciated peaks rising above stunning Andean highlands. And even if you are not a mountaineer there is plenty to see and do here from hot springs, horse rides to just relaxing in colonial-era hotels sipping mint tea and chilling on the views. Find out more at www.pnncocuy.com
Playa Castilletes at Tayrona.
Camp in a coconut grove and wake to find the tracks of a giant sea turtle that made its nest meters from your tent. Castilletes is a private beach inside the park, close to the Zaino entrance, and offers camping and basic rooms in an old bungalow, and small restaurant. The beach is vast, and the campsite usually emptier and cleaner than the overcrowded park campsites. From here you can walk the main tracks to the official park’s beaches (there is also a lesser-used coast path) and also back to the roadside cafes and shops at the Zaino entrance (good if you are on a budget). www.campingcastilletesparquetayrona.com.
La Chorrera, Colombia’s big spout.
This 570-meter high water cascade is one of the most magical sights of the country, and just an hour or two from Bogotá in the dramatic eastern escarpment of the Cordillera Oriental. It is also a conservation success story on land purchased and protected by local families who some years ago agreed to preserve the cloud forest that surrounds the waterfall – Colombia’s highest – and create a private reserve with camping and adventure activities (horse riding, climbing etc). The park can be reached by public transport (bus and rural jeeps) and offers a stunning four-hour walk to the falls and back. To avoid the crowds go mid-week. For directions see the official website at www.lachorrera.com.co.
The untamed beaches of Chocó.
Where better to walk than the west coast of the Chocó, where green jungle hills and crystal-clear rivers run into the blue-green expanse of the rolling Pacific. From most of Colombia you can only arrive by small plane, from then on all transport is by boat, either small motorboats (and they will feel small in is large restless ocean) or in canoes being poled up jungle rivers to discover hidden waterfalls and poisonous frogs. Local friendly fishing folk are riding the tourist wave by openings simple cabins with startling sunset views and fresh-caught fish for dinner (or you can catch it yourself), though there are also some expensive ‘ecolodges’ along the coast. Our top spot was around Guachalito, an hour’s boat ride south of Nuquí with beach walks to the local surf spot of Termales. There is also diving, game fishing and watching Humpback whales (from June to October). The Chocó coast can be expensive (two flights) to get too, and can get rained in, but the reward is an unparalleled wild paradise. Check out www.visitchoco.com
Braving jungle treetops in Leticia
Of all the daft things I did last year, the most “how-the-hell-did-I- get-here” moment was squirming up a climbing rope over 40 meters up into the jungle canopy close to the Amazon town of Leticia. I booked the family on the ‘canopy adventure’ expecting it to be a stately scientific jaunt to the top of the rainforest. Instead it was a very hands-on high adrenaline adventure involving harnesses, carabiners, precarious plan-bridges strung between trees, and some buttock-clenching ziplines way above the jungle floor. All the time in infernal heat being pursued by hungry mosquitoes. The only reason I finished it was so not to be out-done by the gung-go granny from Cali behind me who was whooping and hollering – and enjoying herself only as Caleñas can – for the whole two-hour tour. Looking back, it was one of our highlights from last year which the kids loved. Though perhaps once in my life is enough. There are several sites offering canopy trips close to Leticia town, try www.tanimboca.org.
So that’s a list for 2018, hope you get out there and enjoy.