After 3 long years, I’ve finally been fortunate enough to get back into the backpacking scene with a trip to Colombia. Colombia has been on my list since I started backpacking in some of the countries of Central and South America as it seems to be the favourite country of everyone who I have met who has visited. It was a bit of a process to get here, but I’m happy that it’s finally happening.
I left Canada from Ottawa since I was attending one of my best friend from university’s wedding. One of the blessings and curses of emerging from the pandemic in my late 20s is that my summer is peppered with wedding dates of some of my best friends. It’s a really special and wonderful time of my life, but also calls for some creativity with trip planning.
My flight to Bogota connected in Toronto, which was an absolute nightmare. There were so many stressed people on my plane from Ottawa trying to make international connections, and when I got to the international terminal it was the worst I’ve ever seen it. Thousands of people, not enough places to sit, and 99% of the flights delayed by at least an hour. I was in it for the long haul because my already 6 hour layover and 11pm flight extended to 9.5 hours and a 2:30am departure. Everyone was so tired when we finally landed in Bogota that my section of the plane didn’t realize it was time to get off. The flight attendant had to remind everyone to wake up and get off the plane.
The delays didn’t really bother me, but I was worried about my checked bag making it to my destination. Thankfully, my bag made it and my airport pickup from my hostel received my frantic flight update Whatsapp messages from Toronto. I arrived at the hostel, napped for several hours, and then started exploring the city.
Bogota is a beautiful city in the mountains and most closely reminds me of Cusco from the places I have visited in this part of the world. The high altitude, graffiti, and cobbled streets make for some very nice walks. Everything is also very inexpensive, which is great news for my cost of travel. I think I will spend less in my three weeks here than I normally would at home in Vancouver.
After breakfast I decided to join the walking tour. This turned into a food tour because the company wasn’t running and English walking tour that day because I didn’t sign up in advance. It was awesome! Our guide took us to a variety of restaurants and street food stands, and we tried various local snacks and meals throughout the tour.
An interesting highlight of the tour was trying hot chocolate with cheese in it, which apparently is a Colombian comfort drink. It was a soft and mild cheese that reminded me of cheese curds (minus the texture). I was happy to try it but I don’t think I’ll be ordering it again.
Overall, I thought the food tour was excellent. It ended at this barista school where we were shown some of the many ways that coffee is brewed, and some people ordered cappuccinos with latte art. I stuck with black coffee and it was delicious, as expected. I was so full after the food tour was over!
After the food tour, I spent the evening making friends in my hostel. So far everyone I’ve met has been lovely, and there has been a ton of solo travellers. It’s been fun to share stories from my other travels and I generally feel that the travelling energy is even more positive and friendly compared to before the pandemic.
The next day, I set out to hike up the mountain at the border of Bogota – called Monserrate. My plan with friends was to hike up the mountain and then take the funicular down, but the trail is apparently closed on Tuesdays for maintenance so we decided to take the funicular both ways instead. The top of the mountain had a beautiful viewing area, a gigantic church, and stations of the cross statues scattered around the garden area.
After coming down from the mountain, I signed up for an afternoon bike tour through my hostel with Bogota Bike Tours. It was an interesting experience to show up at the office and determine that I was the only person signed up for the afternoon tour! My guide, Maria, was a lovely local around my age and also a teacher, so of course we connected immediately. It was so special to be able to be privately led through the bike lanes and streets of Bogota.
We biked all around the city, first through the main touristy area and then to some other neighbourhoods. Our first stop out of the centre was a market where we sampled about 15 different kinds of tropical fruit, many of which belonging to the passionfruit family. We also tried a local variety of avocado, which was giant and green but tasted really nice with salt. Apparently we don’t see this variety in Canada because it doesn’t travel very well.
After the market, Maria took me to a coffee roastery where I was able to drink some really good coffee and check out the roasting process behind the scenes. We then biked to a neighbourhood with gorgeous houses that looked like they belonged in England, and Maria showed me this interesting brewery/book store cafe that I’m super excited to check out when I am back in Bogota at the end of my trip.
In the evening, I spent time with my friends from the hostel and we went out together. Since it was led by our hostel we felt super safe and had a great time!
I had such a great experience in Bogota, and I feel that I still have so much to do and see there when I am back in a couple of weeks. It’s been awesome to be back in the backpacking and travel scene again after such a long break due to the pandemic. I met tons of other travellers and we had a lot of fun together – I’m not sure if it’s the post pandemic energy, Colombia traveller energy, or that I’m just better at backpacking and meeting people now, but the vibe has been super positive so far.
On Wednesday I headed to Medellín – stay tuned for my next post on the adventures I’ve been getting up to in this amazing city.