Excited to get back to South America and traveling instead of just vacation, Sadie and I took off to Colombia for three weeks. We spent about a week in Medellín, Minca (North Coast) and Salento (Central Coffee Region) respectively. The big thing to know is that Colombia is pretty safe now (aside from a couple specific regions) with a very active tourist industry that seems likely to keep it that way. If you follow basic traveler safety tips for any foreigner who is rich by local standards, you’ll have a fine time.
One of the things we were most excited about in Colombia was a summit attempt on a 17,000+ ft glaciated volcano in the Northern Andes: Nevado del Tolima. The ascent is pretty non-technical and guides don’t require any previous mountaineering knowledge or fitness restriction. There are multiple guide services and itinerary for this trek between 3-5 days, some with a stop over to a natural hot springs, some extending to hit the two other nearby glaciated peaks. We booked a guide for four days with SAWA Travel with 12,000 ft of gain and picked up one extra person on the itinerary for a little lower cost (still $450 pp). We wanted to use a guide to help us navigate logistics, local weather and contribute to the local economy. I think a guide is required to attempt the summit, but I’m not sure.
There is a lot of interesting story about finding this canyon, our guide, getting to San Carlos and about the area. However, if you are here just to know about the canyoneering descent, I’ll get right to that and talk about the rest later. We descended the La Chorrera – Inferior (lower) section of this canyon with many 100+ ft less-than-vertical rappels often involving (but not through) flowing water during what seemed like low-flow conditions (it hadn’t rained in a couple weeks). It was a great, non-touristy canyoneering experience guided by Manuel of Eco Guías Colombia who provided gear and wetsuits (one fit me at 6’6”!) and was exactly the authentic canyoneering experience I was looking for.
While there are over a dozen coffee tours in Salento (and dozens more elsewhere in the county) to choose from that give you the general information on how coffee is grown, harvested and produced… I wanted to specifically try “Coffee Cupping” (i.e. coffee tasting) because I’ve never liked the taste of coffee but wanted to see what ‘good coffee’ tasted like and how it varied. For this reason (and because Ocaso was close to where we were staying) we chose the “Premium Coffee Tour” from Ocaso. This was 100.000 COP ($29) per person in Jan-2024.
When you think of Colombia there are two consumable products that start with “C” that come to mind and one of them is Coffee! Anywhere there is coffee and tourists in Colombia, there are coffee farm tours. We had a great time on some cocoa tours in Costa Rica and love learning about local things while traveling so went on a couple of them. Here is what we learned: