We heard other travelers gush about Colombia before our trip and now it is our turn. We fell in love with Colombia! What an amazing country through and through. From north to south, from city to countryside, from five star hotel to campground, Colombia was good to us in every way. What a fabulous country, people, food, music. In eight months of travel, it is the only country we have considered leaving everything behind and moving to.
Our longest and favorite stop in Colombia was in Boquia. A tiny town outside the popular and better known Salento, in the middle of Zona Cafetera (coffee zone) and at the south entrance of the Los Nevados National Park. We spent two weeks at a hostel called El Mocambo, where we moved out of our van and into a room in an old farmhouse. Our time in Boquia just represented everything we love about Colombia.
El Mocambo, THE Hostel to Stay at in Boquia (or nearby Salento)
We loved staying at El Mocambo. It IS the dream home Simon and I talk about. Where we were surrounded by green pastures, cattle, horses, butterflies, moos of cows and crows of roosters, luscious hills, the sight of farmers herding cattle between pastures, horses free roaming and grazing. And the weather was perfect. It was exactly like it looks in the pictures every day, never too hot or too cold, nor too wet, too windy, or too sunny. It is the kind of place that brings down your blood pressure and in the morning you look forward to waking up to be outside and take it all in.
Every day the kids were faced with tough choices….Do we go catch butterflies in the garden or the cow pasture? Or dragonflies by the natural spring-fed pond? Or we can go visit the cows, or play with Eddie the dog, or the three new kittens and their mama? When we first arrived, the kittens were very wary of humans and would run away from us. By the time we left, my kids were picking them up and rocking them in the hammock. There were so many cool bugs to keep Ty happy – we even got a praying mantis that laid an egg sack in the critter box!
The hostel was the kind of place where we could stay put all day and not feel bored. It would be so nice if we could transport all of this back to California. When Ty gets really comfortable at a place, he likes to roam around bare feet. One of the unexpected perks about being in the countryside is that his feet stayed clean even after being bare feet all day.
All over Colombia, we have been humbled by the kindness of the people. Other places may have beautiful surroundings too but something about the fun and warmth of Colombians made this place extra special. From El Mocambo, Ty’s favorite had to be Diego, who was a musician from Bogota living long term at the hostel. While I was away on a multi-day trek, Diego was extra nice to Ty and made him some cool jewelry with leather, beads and feather. Sadly we don’t have a picture of him. To this day Ty still talks about going back to “Diego’s place”.
The hostel only had a handful of rooms so it felt homey. But we also enjoyed having the company of other travelers who passed through. It was fun getting to know a few German students who were studying in Medellin, an Ecuadorean family on a road trip to Colombia, another German couple who used to live in Colombia and now visiting with their new baby girl. Most of the time the guests added to the experience. Except one night when I was away on the trek, Simon had a night that sounded like a setup to a horror movie. A crazy American couple got high on booze and drugs and were acting insane all over the hostel. Simon ended up moving the kids out of our room into the camper for the night to keep them safe. Other than that one little experience that had nothing to do with Colombia, everything else was great!
Salento, The Town
We were lucky to have stayed in Boquia with the conveniences of Salento just a 10 minute drive away. Salento gets very busy with Colombian weekenders and international tourists, mostly backpackers. For us, it is a bit too touristy, but the heart of the old fashioned town is very charming with a lot of pride and history. We were told that Salento didn’t even have local visitors 20 years ago. It was considered unsafe because of guerrillas in the surrounding mountains. But today it is completely different.
For some reason the pretty Salento is well known among backpackers but other non-Latin tourists haven’t really discovered this place. The town has many hostels but only a couple real hotels. I think it is only a matter of time, as Salento and its coffee farms to me is like Napa and its wine. For now, accommodation and food are very well priced, especially with the strong American Dollar.
Lots of Trails to Explore on Foot or Horse
You can spend weeks hiking in and around Salento. In the Los Nevados National Park just a 20 minute ride away, there are lots of multi or day hike options. I did one to a mountain called Paramillo del Quindio and met others who were doing other mountains, glaciers, or through-hikes between Manizales and Salento, or Salento and Ibague. The through hikes sound pretty interesting. I was told that the guerrillas used to move kidnapped people between towns in a similar way. But again, that is in the past.
There is always a nice cup of coffee waiting too, for this area is famous for coffee farms. But we had such a good time at Hacienda Guayabal that we didn’t feel like visiting another one. On the trails, we visited a waterfall and hiked to see the wax palms. Ty did his first two mile hike all by himself. The uphill mile took an hour and a half with lots of stops to catch butterflies. We really do bring the critter box and net everywhere we go. We were so proud of him and he did it all in his $5 rainboots.
And we can’t forget the horses. If you like horses, you can ride all over the local hills surrounding Salento. In town and on the lone highway leading to Salento, locals on horses are a common sight. We rode almost every day either as a family or Simon rode solo with the horse guide Omar who taught him a few tricks.
We can’t say enough good things about Colombia and miss our time there. If we weren’t keen on seeing Patagonia, we might just head back and spend the rest of our time there.