It was October when I entered the thick jungle of el Valle, in the Pacific region of Chocó. On the days before my arrival, my imagination led me to draw the black silhouette of the native people who live on the Pacific coast of Colombia. Images of dark and rainy days and many different shades of green invaded my mind. My fantasy was not mistaken about the predominant colors of the scene that awaited me.
For me, traveling to el Chocó is a journey to a land that seems to belong to another time, an ancient time that precedes us humans. I would call it a prehistoric place.
I recently visited the UNESCO World Heritage Site of San Agustin Archaeological Park in the stunningly beautiful landscape of southern Colombia. I hasten to add that this was not what I would class as a trip to a “typical” archaeological site, by which I mean I shockingly wasn’t bored after a quick roam.
This is because there is a wonderful, intoxicating air of mystery, which infiltrates the mind and makes it impossible to not get caught up in the surroundings. The site was partially excavated in the 1940’s and is the largest group of monuments and structures of its kind in South America.
Bizarre and mysterious statues
The volcanic rock sculptures in San Agustin are scattered amongst a setting of lush greenery and surrounding valleys complete with crashing waterfalls. They were largely made between 100AD and 1200AD, although some are thought to date back much further than this.
The statues are… how can I put this… kind of bizarre. And by kind of bizarre I mean really bizarre. They consist of warriors, an assortment of both real and mythical creatures, and probable deities associated with the culture of the long gone civilization.
A bad reputation can be a hard thing to shake off. For many years Colombia was not considered safe for any travelers and although things have got so much better in recent years, that message is only just beginning to filter through.
Colombian tourism is on the rise, but many people still ask us: Is Colombia safe? Security can be a particularly important issue for women traveling alone – I know at least one female friend who decided against coming to Colombia because she was worried about safety issues.
So, I interviewed several women who have traveled alone in Colombia, to see whether they felt there was any reason to be worried. Here are interviews 1 and 2:
Anna lives in Colombia now and first traveled in the country from July to December 2009, when she was on an exchange semester from her university. She traveled all over Colombia during weekends and vacations, sometimes alone and sometimes with friends
What were the highlights of your trip?
I love Providencia – it´s so virgin and beautiful! I´m also crazy about the Amazon, the “world’s lung”- it´s just amazing. I enjoyed the Coffeezone a lot as well and I love going to Villa de Leyva. Tayrona was great too of course… and Cartagena… and Popayán (especially the Purace National Park!)… I loved all of it! The only thing I didn’t like too much was Cali.
You don´t have to spend long in Colombia to realize what an important role music plays in Colombian culture. Whether you´re in a taxi, a supermarket or just walking down the street, music is always playing here, making you feel like you have a constant soundtrack to your life!
I wanted to write an article about Colombian music for this blog. However, the more I looked into it, the more I realized that this theme is far too large for one article.
Colombia is a vast country with a population of over 40 million people and a musical history and culture as diverse and varied as the people who live here.
So instead I´m planning to write several blog posts looking at different aspects of Colombian music, starting with one important genre of Colombian music which I hear every day (my neighbors are big fans): vallenato music.
What is vallenato music?
Vallenato is a popular and soulful type of Colombian folk music originating from the northern Caribbean coastal region. It was originally seen as the music of the lower classes and farmers, but now it´s popular with many people all over Colombia.
In my first blog post about Colombian Food, I talked about great big hearty dishes which make you feel like having a siesta the minute you finish eating them.
This blog entry shows that Colombians are not only experts at making big hearty dishes: they are also the kings and queens of snack food.
Whenever you start getting hunger pangs in Colombia just look around you: there´s sure to be someone selling food on the street. If not there´ll be a little shop or bakery nearby where you can stock up on tasty Colombian snacks.
Here is a short list of 4 delicious Colombian snacks to keep your hunger at bay:
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