Colombia (March 16-24, 2024)

Colombia (March 16-24, 2024)

  • Author: Adele Grunberg
  • Date Posted: Mar 24, 2024
  • Address: Pereira, Colombia

I return to South America, this time to Colombia, a country three times the size of Texas, 35% of which is Amazonian, 30% of which is mountainous. From southern Colombia going north, the Andes divide into three separate ranges. The trip I join visits three regions: the coffee-growing area around Pereira; the northern Caribbean Coast, location of the Sierra Nevada Mountains; and the historic capital city of Cartagena.

Colombia is a mega diversity that has 2000 species of birds including 83 that are known to be endemic, 9 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, 314 ecosystems, and is number 3 in world coffee cultivation. Tourism is relatively new.

I know I have waxed rhapsodic about some of the places I’ve been fortunate to visit and I must add to this list the mountains and valleys of Pereira. On our second day, I take a spectacular 8 mile loop hike in Valle del Cocora, with 2,000’ of elevation gain to 10,000’. I notice I get slower and slower the older I get. But on the upside, I am able to spend more time viewing the beautiful scenery! The trail includes 6 suspension bridges, always a challenge for me. This is where the Wax Palm, the Colombian National Tree, can be found. There are about 3,000 of them in this area, some growing 60-80 meters tall, and living 200 years. They grow at elevations between 2,000 and 3,500 meters.

At sunset each evening, there is a loud chorus of buzzing, whistling, and clicking of various insects announcing the end of the day. It is at once cacophonous and lovely.

The next region we visit is in the far north on the Caribbean coast, the sea on one side, the Sierra Nevada Mountains on the other. These are the highest coastal mountains in the world, the tallest, Santa Marta, over 19,000’ in elevation. The area around Santa Marta is much less prosperous than Pereira. It was first colonized by slaves brought from West Africa to Cartagena. Their descendants live here today. Their well-known music blends West African and Latin styles.

Speaking of music, one late afternoon, I attend a salsa class by the beach, an unforgettably sweaty experience!

The following day, several of us do a 12 mile hike through Tayrona National Park. The first 9 miles go through villages and forest, finishing at a wide, scenic beach, where delicious fruit drinks are served and I cool off in the Caribbean before finishing the hike. I can’t remember being hotter or sweatier, but then I remember, oh yes, it was yesterday!

Another day, we have an exceptional local guide who tells us Colombia was turbulent 30 years ago and since then, conditions have improved with the eradication of cocaine exports. He describes his philosophy of life and that of the like-minded who consider themselves stewards of the earth. These diverse people, many of whom are descended from the Tayron people, are committed to a clean environment, love of nature, community, education, and peace. They consider the earth their spiritual house and value connection with others as well as self-reflection. Their beliefs are neither dogmatic nor religious. From my perspective, an expansive way to view the world.

Our final destination is the walled capital of Cartagena, a vibrant city full of history, gorgeous architecture, music, and dance. Settled by indigenous people long before the Spanish arrived in 1533, it then became an important deep water port transporting gold to Spain and the entry point for slaves transported from West Africa. The city was instrumental in expanding the Spanish empire through much of South America. Slavery was abolished in 1851. Cartagena became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1984.

Getsemani, a neighborhood in Cartagena, was, until 10 years ago, crime-ridden and dangerous. Since then, it has been reclaimed by the community and is full of murals, colorfully painted houses, and delicious food.



  1. An incredible trip by an incredible woman.

  2. I love it all!!!

    • You’re incredible Judge Grunberg! I wish I could do the same thing when I reach your age. Take care!

  3. Another informative and inspirational postcard. Can’t wait to hear more about your trip!

    • Gorgeous photographs of your amazing journey. As always, I traveled vicariously with you. Thank you.

  4. Sure looks like an incredible trip!! I’m sure your guides were so thankful to have a thoughtful, adventurous traveler like yourself in their midst <3

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