Escape from Bogota, Colombia

Street Art in Bogota

Hola Colombia!

Our flight from Mexico to Bogota was half empty. It was the first time that we had experienced a flight that was anything less than full for many years. The Coronavirus Pandemic was proving peskier than anticipated and had begun to effect travel. After much thought, we decided to continue our journey to Colombia and see how things developed. We were reluctant to miss out on the last leg of our trip.

The Historic Area Of Candelaria

A Cosy Home in Candelaria

We have to admit we were a little apprehensive about Bogota. Although we had heard that the area of Candelaria was somewhat shady, we booked an Airbnb apartment there for a few days. Despite security issues having improved dramatically over recent years, Candelaria still had a dubious reputation. As things turned out, we were glad that we stayed there. It was close to the museums, historical buildings, to say nothing of the impressive street art. As a matter of fact, we had no issues whatsoever and enjoyed Bogota much more than we thought we would.

Our little apartment had its own kitchen, lounge area, bathroom and bedroom. Not only was the building traditional in style, but it had a cute water feature and a rock garden. We also felt safe and secure. Click on the link below for the full details of our apartment on Airbnb for a great place to stay:

Our hideaway in Candelaria, Bogota

Street Art Galore!

Following breakfast on our second day in the city, we took the Bogota Street Art Tour It provided an excellent insight into the Bogota street art scene. Indeed, it was the highlight of our stay in Bogota. The tour also touched on politics and other aspects of city life. Jay was our knowledgeable guide and he talked about the recent riots which had taken place in the city.

One particular piece of street art was painted in honour of teenager, Dilon Cruz, who was killed by riot police. The tour was a well-spent three hours and if you ever find yourself in Bogota, we highly recommend taking this informative and captivating tour. Furthermore, the good news is that the tour is free, although donations are gratefully received.

A graffiti tribute to teenager Dilan Cruz who was killed by police in the 2019 protests

Museums of Bogota

As well as the street art tour, another highlight was a morning that we spent at the superb Gold Museum. As a matter of fact, we didn’t have high expectations, but we were blown away by the exhibits and size of the museum – all for a few Colombia pesos. Another museum of note is the Botero Museum, a lovely space complete with courtyard, exhibiting work by Botero and other international artists and sculptors. What is more, the Botero Museum is free to enter!

The Gold Museum

Budget Bogota

Candelaria is an interesting area to wander around and we spent much time sitting in the main square, where we sat on the cathedral steps people-watching. Additionally, there were some good restaurants and cafes in the vicinity and they were reasonably priced. Generally we found Bogota much more affordable than other major Latin American cities. Minimally priced (or free) tours and museums are plentiful, not to mention a wide range of cheap cafes and restaurants to choose from.

Street Entertainment in Candelaria

The Colonial Town of Villa de Leyva

After a few days, we took a bus through the countryside to Villa de Leyva, a beautiful colonial town in the countryside. As a matter of fact, the town is home to the largest plaza in South America. On the day we arrived we headed to a restaurant in the plaza and enjoyed a few hours as we watched the world go by. We ate pizza and had a few drinks while observing guests arriving for a wedding at the lovely church.

Relaxing on the Plaza, Villa de Leyva

The Weird and Wonderful Terracotta House!

The next day we went to the quirky Terracotta House located just outside town. It’s an amazing building made entirely of terracotta, and reminiscent of a giant hobbit house. Set in the countryside, it’s fascinating to explore inside and out, not to mention the cool sculptures which surround the house. Indeed, we love offbeat attractions and this one definitely made our top ten.

The Terracotta House, Villa de Leyva

Casa Museo Luis Alberto Alcuna

Casa Museo Luis Alberto Alcuna was also on the quirky side. Home of the Colombian artist, the courtyard was full of plants, flowers, sculptures and art. It’s worth a visit for the courtyard alone. There were very few visitors, which was somewhat surprising, as it is located on the plaza in the heart of Villa de Leyva.

Casa Museo Luis Alberto Alcuna, Villa de Leyva

Beautiful Barichara

Barichara was our next destination and it was pretty as a picture. There wasn’t much going on, but it was a wonderful place to wander around. We explored the town, taking in the cobbled streets, cute houses and churches. Additionally, we walked on an ancient trail from Barichara to the equally pretty village of Guane. The views over the valley were spectacular and we spotted an array of colourful birds.

The Ancient Trail from Barichara to Guane
View of the Cathedral, Barichara

Dining Delights of Barichara

Considering Barichara’s small size, it was home to some great restaurants. Noa Comida was a firm favourite – the staff were welcoming and friendly, not to mention the food, which was absolutely delicious. Ku had a shrimp pasta dish and T chose a curry. We also liked Shambala a vegetarian-friendly restaurant. Again the staff were super-friendly and attentive. Furthermore, for baked goods the go-to place was Panderia Central on the main plaza. A tempting array of sweet and savoury treats were too much to resist.

The Long Road to Cartagena

It was a long journey to Cartagena, which included a mini bus through the mountains as the rain pelted down. The driver made numerous attempts to overtake other vehicles on the narrow road. What is more, we had a five-hour wait at Bucaramanga bus station, followed by an overnight journey. At least, the night bus was comfortable and each seat had a personal screen with a choice of movies available.

By 9.00 am we were in a taxi and on our way to Cartagena’s historical centre. We had breakfast and explored the scenic heart of the city as we couldn’t check into our Airbnb until the afternoon.

Centro Historico, Cartagena

An Unsettled Night in Cartagena

The apartment we had rented was on the 23rd of a double tower block in a slightly sketchy neighbourhood. After we visited a local supermarket to stock up for our week in Cartagena, we went online to discover that the Coronavirus situation was gaining momentum.

We spent an unsettled night listening to strong winds howling around the building. We also heard an occasional explosion, the cause of which we never established!

The Apartment Block we stayed in for two nights in Cartagena

Hola y Adios Cartagena!

After much deliberation, we decided that due to the escalating situation, we had no choice but to return to Bogota. We would have to try and secure an earlier flight back to the UK. That night we managed to bring our flight home forward by two weeks, but the pressure was building. We knew we needed to get back as soon as possible. We booked a flight to Bogota which was leaving the day after next. Our plan to head south to San Agustin was sadly abandoned.

The next day we walked back along the beachfront to El Centro. Our hearts were heavy as we knew that our trip was pretty much over. We left for Bogota the following day. When we arrived at the airport, we waited in line to try and change our flight, but we had no luck. Our only choice was to hang out in Bogota for six days and hope that our flight was not cancelled.

Return to Bogota

There was a good hotel situated conveniently close to the airport, which we booked into. Due to its cost and the lack of affordable food in the area, we decided not to stay more than a night and headed back to Candelaria. We knew that in Candelaria we would have a choice of cheap restaurants and a handy supermarket nearby. We booked the apartment that we had stayed in previously, which was more than half the price of the hotel.

Back at our apartment in Candelaria, one of the residents informed us that the city would be under lockdown starting the day after next. This would mean that shops and restaurants would be closed and that we may not be able to get to the airport should we need to. We spent one night there (we had booked five), before reluctantly making our way back to the airport hotel.

Back in Bogota!

Lockdown in Bogota

When we arrived back at the hotel, we discovered that our flight had been cancelled. There would be no more flights after the weekend. Our flight was scheduled for the Monday. Our only option would be to find an alternative flight leaving at the weekend. Prices were rising fast as we looked at them. We eventually found a flight via Panama City Miami and New York City. It was leaving the day after next for about twice the price we originally paid. We had no choice but to book it.

Back to the UK via Panama City, Miami and NYC

In the meantime, lockdown meant that we could only leave our room for breakfast. Our next meal of the day was room service in the early evening. It was a stressful time. We headed to the airport for our flight on the Friday. Many of the flights were being cancelled and there was an extremely high chance that one or more of ours might be. Unbelievably, the four flights that took us back to England left on schedule. We arrived in London on Monday morning.

It was a costly and stressful last week in Colombia and it was a case of our making the right decision at the right time. We were relatively lucky and are now back in the UK under lockdown. Although our funds are depleted, we are already planning our next adventure and keeping those travel dreams alive.

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  1. hi T and Ku, thanks for sharing your experience in Colombia 🙂 it was truly nice to read your impressions and see your photos, specially in Bogota, I really want to discover this city, including the local street art scene 🙂 every time I travel I always look for street art tours eheh stay safe and greetins from Portugal, PedroL

  2. Good read. You are lucky three times; you got most of your travel completed before the virus, and that you got home,and hopeful didn’t get the virus..cheers to future travel.

  3. So sorry you didn’t get to spend more time in Cartagena. We spent 3 glorious days there in Jan. 2019. We are definitely going back.

  4. I am gald you had great time and were able to came back to UK safe.
    Right time is important

  5. Haven’t been to Bogata and would love to visit Colombia one day…
    Love the murals throughout South America, they’re so vibrant and colourful, but also usually political.

  6. Thanks so much, Colombia’s street art is amazing and it’s really interesting to find out what it’s about too. Hope you get to go.

  7. Interesting place!

  8. Hola, Nice site you have. Great post on Bogota. Next time you must visit Medellin. Our current base of operation.We travel a lot and will keep you in mind for house/pet sitting. Our you listed on Trusted House-sitters or Mind My House?

    John and Susan

  9. We were there in February…Cartagena and Bogota….liked our time there .land ucky for us we escaped Covid19. Good you were able to get back to the UK.

  10. Well, that was a close call. Part of the adventure. Candelaria and the centre of Bogotá have improved over the last years, but still is not very safe. (I’ve been traveling to Colombia once or twice a year for 40 years and change)
    A shame about San Agustín. It is really a unique site. Better luck next time.

  11. Wow, that is a fascinating and freaky story! So glad you made it back home!!

  12. Love the street shot with the kites. I have seen this done many times with umbrellas, but never with kites. Thanks for sharing.

  13. Thanks so much for your comments.

  14. So sorry you had to cut your trip short but well done for making the sensible decision to come home rather than to wait to be bailed out by the government as many others did. Hope you return to Colombia soon and finish your exploring. I visited Cartagena some years back and have wanted to return to see more of Colombia for some time. This has given me some ideas about where to go!

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