Category Archives: Colombia

Three Other Impressive Colombian Archaeological Sites

Colombia’s three most famous ancient archaeological sites are the impressive lost city, Teyuna, in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta on the country’s Caribbean Coast, and the enigmatic statues of San Agustín and the wondrous tombs of Tierradentro in the southern part of the nation.

 

Scattered throughout the country, though, are other, lesser-known ruins that travelers should add to their itineraries:

 

El Pueblito. Photo by Andrea Davoust.

  • Also on the Caribbean Coast, on a hilltop within Parque Nacional Tayrona, is another impressive city of the Tayrona people, called Chairama or El Pueblito. A stone road through the lush jungle leads up to these ruins that still preserve the engineering marvels of this nation. Also within Tayrona National Park are other ruins near Cañaveral and Bahía Neguanje.

 

  • Heading inland towards Bogotá, you arrive at the beautifully preserved colonial village of Villa de Leyva. Just to the north is one of Colombia’s most mysterious – and thought-provoking – archaeological ruins: El Infiernito. The main features of this site, officially called Parque Arqueológico de Monquirá, are two stone “forests.” One is an observatory that was used to track the sun’s course throughout the year. The other is a phallic forest that was used for fertility rites. Also on the grounds is an ancient tomb.

 

Muisca phallic monoliths at "El Infiernito" by Erik Cleves Kristensen http://www.flickr.com/photos/erikkristensen/4568477436/

  • Not all of Colombia’s archaeological riches are monuments. The country also has a plethora of petroglyphs, or rock paintings, and ancient stone roads. Near the village of Güicán and Parque Nacional El Cocuy, hikers can explore both. The Camino Deshecho leads past dozens of petroglyphs painted on rock out croppings, before arriving at some delicious hot springs.

 

 

Find out more about Colombia’s hidden archaeological riches in VIVA’s new Colombia Adventure Guideavailable in a variety of e-book applications directly from VIVA, as well as in print format from Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble. See why award-winning environmental-travel journalist, Tracy Barnett, says, “This edition of Viva Colombia! Adventure Guide does not disappoint; the insiders’ perspective, the detailed listings, the descriptive writing all add up to a guide you can count on.”

Earthquake Shakes Colombia

Sunday morning, a 7.3 earthquake struck southern Colombia. The epicenter was at La Vega (Cauca Department), a small village located nine kilometers (six miles) north-northwest of San Agustín, a tourist destination popular for its archaeological statuary sites.

 

For centuries, San Agustín's statues have silently watched the earth move many times. Photo by Lorraine Caputo

 

The quake, which occurred at 11:31 a.m. local time, was felt in virtually all of Colombia, as well as the northern 10 provinces of Ecuador and in Quito. No deaths have been reported.

 

Fernando Alegría, secretary of the government of La Vega, stated to the newspaper El País (Colombia) that there was no destruction in that village.

 

In Cali, damages were a bit more extensive. Two clinics – Santillana and Rey David – suffered cracks in their walls. One woman was hurt while escaping from her home. In Timbiquí (Cauca Department), near the Pacific Coast, 20 homes were damaged. Popayán, 64 kilometers (40 miles) south-southeast of the epicenter, was only shaken.

 

Bouselahane Amid, general director of Magdalena Rafting in San Agustín, said people felt it very lightly in that town. René Suter, owner of Finca El Maco, states there have been no reports of damages in Colombia’s Archaeological Capital. Apparently none of the region’s numerous ancient sites were affected. The tremor was also slightly felt in Mocoa, 259 kilometers (158 miles) east of San Agustín, according to Felipe Goforit of Hostal Casa del Río.

 

Damage from the strong earthquake was minimal because of the depth of the seismic event –168.3 kilometers (104.6 miles) beneath the surface of the earth.

 

Find out more about Colombia in VIVA’s new Colombia Adventure Guideavailable in a variety of e-book applications directly from VIVA, as well as in print format from Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble. See why award-winning environmental-travel journalist, Tracy Barnett, says, “This edition of Viva Colombia! Adventure Guide does not disappoint; the insiders’ perspective, the detailed listings, the descriptive writing all add up to a guide you can count on.”

Colombian drug lord Daniel Barrera captured in Venezuela

One of Colombia’s most powerful drug barons has been captured in neighboring Venezuela. Colombian president Juan Manual Santos reported that Daniel Barrera, also known as El Loco and Crazy Barrera, was arrested in San Cristobal, Venezuela, 24 kilometers (15 miles) from the Colombian border, on Tuesday 18th September. Barrera, who had alliances with both FARC (the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) and paramilitary groups, has been involved in drug trafficking in Colombia for over 20 years; he has been described as one of Colombia’s most wanted drug lords, and the boss of Eastern Colombia’s drug trade. Barrera had previously gone to extreme lengths to avoid capture, including having plastic surgery and burning his fingertips with acid.

President Juan Manuel Santos reported Barrera's capture (Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos by Connect2GDNet)

Barrera’s capture was the result of collaboration between U.S., British, Venezuelan and Colombian authorities, with the U.S. offering a $5 million award for information leading to his arrest. Barrera’s is the third detention of a Colombian drug baron this year, a reminder of Colombia’s progress in the past decade: in 2010,  the U.S. State Department declared that security conditions in the country had improved significantly. Tourist numbers have increased greatly in the past few years, from 0.5 million in 2003 to 1.4 million in 2010.

An End to Colombia’s Civil War?

With all the fanfare and excitement of the Olympic Games in London and the US’ presidential conventions, an event in Colombia has escaped the media’s eye: Peace negotiations between the Colombian government and the leftist guerrilla movement, Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (Farc), have resumed.

 

On August 26, news leaked that representatives of the two groups met in Havana, in preliminary rounds of negotiations held by Cuba and Norway. According to the Financial Times, in March, Colombia’s President Juan Manuel Santos met with Cuban President Raúl Castro and Venezuela’s President Hugo Chávez in Havana to lay the groundwork for initiating peace talks.

 

President Santos confirmed the rumors. He states that the talks would occur on three conditions: the Colombian military would continue anti-guerrilla operations throughout the country, the talks must lead to peace and that no errors of the past be repeated. He has extended the olive branch to the country’s other major leftist guerrilla organization, the ELN (Ejército de Liberación Nacional).

 

The Farc also confirmed these meetings in a conference held September 4 in Havana. The peace negotiations will begin in Oslo in October, and later move to Havana. Norway and Cuba will be the guarantors to the talks, with the additional presence of Venezuela and Chile.

 

OAS (Organization of American States) Secretary General José Miguel Insulza supports the peace process. He states, “May this process be carried out in good faith and with the conviction that its success can last to a lasting peace.”

 

The last time the Colombian government and the Farc sat down at the peace table was in 2002.

 

 

The third faction in Colombia’s on-going, 64-year-old civil war—the paramilitaries—are absent in these negotiations. During Álvaro Uribe’s eight years as president (2002-2010), this group was demilitarized in a highly publicized campaign. In the eyes of the government and the mainstream media, this group ceased to exist.

 

However, according to human and indigenous rights organizations, paramilitary forces continue to attack communities in isolated regions of the country. The Fellowship of Reconciliation’s Colombia Taskforce reports further attacks against San José de Apartadó, in northern Antioquia Department, which has spent 25 years as a peace community. In the deepest reaches of the Guajira, Comisión Intereclesial de Paz y Justicia cites cases against Wayu’u and Afro-Colombian settlements.

 

 

If successful, the peace talks between the Colombian government and the Farc may end attacks against other communities, like the Embera of the Chocó and the peace communities of the Nasa indigenous nation. In the remote countryside of Cauca Department, these villages mounted a protest against the presence of these two factions this past July, and talks were scheduled between the Nasa and government to deal with issues.

 

 

Find out more about Colombia in VIVA’s new Colombia Adventure Guideavailable in a variety of e-book applications directly from VIVA, as well as in print format from Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble. See why award-winning environmental-travel journalist, Tracy Barnett, says, “This edition of Viva Colombia! Adventure Guide does not disappoint; the insiders’ perspective, the detailed listings, the descriptive writing all add up to a guide you can count on.”

Colombian volcano, Nevado del Ruiz, erupts; authorities warn of further eruptions

Colombia’s Nevado del Ruiz volcano, which sits in the Parque Nacional Natural Los Nevados in the Zona Cafetera (or “Coffee zone”), 130 kilometers (80 mi) west of Bogota, erupted last Saturday, 30 June, after months of volcanic activity. The brief eruption took place at 5.37 p.m. local time, when the volcano expelled a 9.5 kilometer (6 mi) cloud of smoke, ash and gases, resulting in the evacuation of thousands of locals in the surrounding area and the suspension of commercial flights from the nearby towns of Armenia, Manizales and Pereira.

Nevado del Ruiz ("Nevado del Ruiz nos saludo 2" by Dr EG)

Fortunately, there have been no reports of injuries or damage to property, but authorities have warned that a further eruption is probable. Though the volcanic activity alert has now been lowered to orange after it was declared red following the eruption, scientists at the Vulcan and and Seismological Observatory in nearby Manizales say that the volcano continues to emit gases and ash, and that “new eruptions cannot be ruled out”. The recent activity is a nasty reminder of the deadly power of the 5321 meter (17,457 ft) volcano: on November 13 1985, a massive avalanche of mud and debris, caused by a small eruption, destroyed the town of Armero, killing an estimated 25,000 people. Avoid the area where possible, and keep up-to-date with travel and safety alerts: the website of the Manizales Vulcan and Seismological Observatory has daily updates (Spanish only), or check the Colombia travel advice page of the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

Find out more about Colombia in VIVA’s new Colombia Adventure Guideavailable in a variety of e-book applications directly from VIVA, as well as in print format from Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble.

Colombia's Wayuu tribe celebrate their annual cultural festival

Last week the Wayuu tribe, an ethnic group from the Guajira Penisula on Colombia’s north-east Caribbean coast, celebrated their 26th annual Festival de la Cultura Wayuu - Wayuu’s Cultural Festival. The festival, which takes place in the town of Uribia (the Wayuu’s largest settlement), is a demonstration and promotion of the Wayuu’s traditional rituals, customs, skills, socialization, music, and more. This year’s theme was the La Cocina Wayuu - Wayuu’s cuisine. The three-day event included cultural talks and lectures, music and dance presentations, plays, exhibits, the popular traditional games (think horse and donkey racing, wrestling, archery, and stone-throwing) and, of course, offerings of typical Wayuu dishes - particularly goat, which forms a principle part of the cuisine.

A Wayuu Ranch (Rancheria Wayúu by Tanenhaus)

The Wayuu, who number approximately 145,000 in Colombia (and around another 293,000 in neighboring Venezuela), are divided into 16 clans, each with its own territory, symbol and animal. The Wayuu language is Wayuunaiki; new generations also speak Spanish however, but much importance is placed on the preservation of the native language. Though the tribe follow traditional gender roles (women are responsible for the household chores and taking care of the children, while men fish, rear goats and fetch firewood), Wayuu identification is passed on through the women: the youngest daughter inherits property, and, in cases of alijuna (marriage with a non-Wayuu), the child is only Wayuu if the mother is. Women are also the leaders of Wayuu society.

Wayuu women weaving traditional handicrafts (On The Road Again Día 4: Cabo de la vela-Manaure-Santa Marta by pattoncito)

Find out more about Colombia and its indigenous groups in VIVA’s new Colombia Adventure Guideavailable in a variety of e-book applications directly from VIVA, as well as in print format from Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble.

Bogotá's 5 best vegetarian restaurants

In a country whose unofficial national dish is the bandeja paisa -  a meat-heavy platter that includes pork, ground beef and sausage – it can be a little difficult to find vegetarian-friendly fare. However, Colombia’s capital city, Bogotá, has a surprising number of restaurants dedicated to vegetarians and lovers of vegetarian cuisine. Here are our top five veggie picks:

  • Boulevard Sésamo (Av. Jiminez, 4-64). A popular vegetarian haunt offering budget-priced lunches, Boulevard Sésamo has speedy service, a salad bar, vegan options and vegetarian versions of typical Colombian comfort food.
  • La Esquina (Ca. 9, 60-91, Chapinero). A light and airy second-floor restaurant with impressively attentive service and some of the best vegetarian sancocho soup around (sancocho is a hearty stew that combines plantains, pumpkin, yucca, potatoes, garlic and cilantro). Packed with plenty of fresh herbs, La Esquina’s food is far from the insipid veggie stereotype.
  • Loto Azul (Ca. 5a, 14-02, La Candelaria). For more than two decades Loto Azul has been serving up delightful vegetarian dishes to both Bogotanos and foreigners. Besides whipping up set-menus accompanied by a fresh salad bar, there’s vegetarian lasagnas, sandwiches and buffets.

Quinua & Amaranto, Bogota (Quinua & Amaranto - Bogotá, La Candeleria 2006 by hannah_y_juan)

  • Pan de Nobles (Ca. 9, 60-91). Downstairs from La Esquina is Pan de Nobles, an excellent vegan bakery with a vegan take-out restaurant just across the road.  Try the restaurant’s incredible vegan burgers.
  • Quinua y Amaranto (Ca. 11,2-95). Located in the historic La Candelaria neighborhood, the charming and atmospherically decorated Quinua y Amaranto gets pretty packed due to its popularity. Great tortilla española (Spanish omelet) and balanced set menus.
Find out more about Bogotá, Colombian cuisine and Colombia in VIVA’s new Colombia Adventure Guideavailable in a variety of e-book applications directly from VIVA, as well as in print format from Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble.

 

The miracle of Medellín

That Medellín was once known as the most dangerous city in the world makes its transition (just some 15 to 20 years later) to a safe, culturally-rich and pleasant city particularly remarkable. Once known for drug violence and gang wars, Colombia’s second largest city has become one of its wealthiest, and it is an enchanting place to soak up a lively cultural and nightlife scene. Medellín’s climate - invariably sunny and springlike – is also an attraction. Of course, like any other large city, it’s not without crime, and tourists (as well as taking the usual safety precautions) should avoid the slums that line the city’s hillsides.

Medellin_by jduquetr

Medellín has a way of luring visitors into staying longer than they had intended. It spoils its guests with an abundance of compelling features, ranging from a flourishing nightlife scene (second only to Cali’s), to churches, museums and offbeat activites like riding a cable car over the city’s shanty towns. More awaits the visitor beyond nightlife and museums, however. Medellín emphasizes the arts, and there are regular free concerts in the city’s theaters and improvised performances in the streets. Stroll to the Parque de los Pies Descalzos to marvel at modern architecture, then take a walk in the leafy Botanical Gardens. Try to catch the Flower Festival in late July and early August, a brightly-colorful, week-long festival that takes over the city, and check out the International Poetry Festival in July, when poets from all over the world participate in readings in Medellín’s theaters and parks.

Medellín Plaza_by robertschrader

Find out more about Medellín and Colombia in VIVA’s new Colombia Adventure Guideavailable in a variety of e-book applications directly from VIVA, as well as in print format from Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble.

10 Things You Didn't Know About Colombia

Think Colombia is all about drugs and guerrilla warfare?  Think again! Here’s ten surprising facts about this wonderfully diverse country:

  1. There are 80 different indigenous nations in Colombia, speaking 180 languages
  2. Colombia has the world’s greatest diversity of orchid species (3,500) and birds (1,754 species)
  3. Tourism in Colombia rose 48 percent between 2005 and 2006; in the first six months of 2011, it increased 14.3 percent from 2010
  4. Colombia has 3,208 km (1,993 miles) of Pacific and Caribbean coastline – home to some of the most gorgeous beaches on the continent
  5. Colombia has one of the highest rates of economic growth in Latin America

    Colombia has the world's largest species of birds (Buff-tailed Coronet 101204 by Langham Birder)

  6. Colombia is the second biggest producer of coffee in the world (after Brazil), providing 12 percent of the world’s coffee.
  7. Ninety-five percent of the world’s emeralds come from Colombia
  8. Colombia’s Pacific coast is home to the golden dart frog; one gram of its poison is enough to kill about 15,000 humans
  9. Football is Colombia’s most popular sport; the national football team has been to the FIFA World Cup playoffs four times.
  10. Ants, worms, cows udder and guinea pig are all part of the Colombian cuisine

    Colombia is the second biggest producer of coffee in the world (Reserve coffee farm in Colombia by Katie Fallon Virgina Tech University)

    Find out more about Colombia in VIVA’s new Colombia Adventure Guideavailable in a variety of e-book applications directly from VIVA, as well as in print format from Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble.

Colombia: in the footsteps of Simón Bolívar

Simón José Antonio de la Santísima Trinidad Bolívar y Palacios Ponte y Blanco, or simply Simón Bolívar (1783-1830), was born into a wealthy Venezuelan family. At age 14, he entered the military academy, and then spent several years in Europe before returning to Venezuela in 1807. In 1810, the Congress of United Provinces of New Granada gave him command of an independence army. Bolívar soon earned himself the nickname “El Libertador” (the Liberator). For the next decade and half, he led battle from Angostura (now Ciudad Bolívar) in Venezuela to Ayacucho, Peru. During these years he faced a temporary exile and various assassination attempts.

A statue ot Bolívar in Washington, USA (Simon Bolivar by cliff1066)

The first Congress of Gran Colombia (1821), uniting Venezuela, Colombia and Ecuador, was held in Villa del Rosario, near Cucutá in Colombia; Bolívar was elected President. Gran Colombia, however, was doomed to failure. Once the common enemy–the Spanish–was vanquished, petty regional rivalries surfaced almost immediately which tore the young nation apart. Disheartened by Gran Colombia’s demise, Bolívar journeyed down the Río Magdalena, making his way to his native Caracas. By the time he reached Santa Marta, he was weak. He was given refuge at Quinta de San Pedro Alejandrino, where he died of tuberculosis. His body was laid out for public viewing in Santa Marta’s Casa de la Aduana, and then buried in the Cathedral. In 1839 his body was transferred to his native Caracas.

Santa Marta Cathedral by J. Stephen Conn

Besides many plazas being named for Bolívar, Colombia has other sites honoring him: Quinta Bolívar in BogotáCasa de Bolívar in Bucaramanga and Museo Bolivariano-Casa de Bolivar in Soledad, near Barranquilla.  Today, Bolívar’s philosophies continue to be influential in the Bolivariano countries (so-called for those he liberated: Venezuela, Colombia, Panama, Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia) and elsewhere in Latin America.

Bolívar's death bed (Quinta de San Pedro Alejandrino by kmuller00)