What areas of Colombia did you guys cycle through?
The map below shows our route in Colombia. Originally, we were headed to Cartagena, but we found a smaller boat in Portobello, Panama, that would take us to Colombia much cheaper, but this route brought us further South. So instead of just leaving Colombia by heading South, we wanted to see more of this country, so we headed up North to Cartagena, then did a question mark looking route through the country. The additional miles were well worth it, we saw some banana groves and some beautiful beach scenery!
View Colombia in a larger map
Did you guys feel safe in Colombia?
Before we left on our journey, we also had questions as to whether Colombia would be a safe venture for us. There were many that tried (with great intentions) to persuade us to skip Colombia, all together (we had already skipped Mexico and much of Central America because of this). We finally sat down and said ‘enough is enough’, this is an adventure and no adventure has zero risk! We do make safety a priority, but the people that we have spoken to (who have actually traveled there recently) say it is safe. We were not disappointed.
So, yes, in our opinion, Colombia was very safe. In point of fact, we feel that Colombia has been the safest country that we have traveled in thus far (we are currently writing from Ica, Peru). There have been many military check-points throughout the whole country. We have never had any issues with the military, nor have they searched any of our bags. They were professional and helpful when we had questions.
Did we have any issues with the people there?
One issue is that the people are so friendly there, that when talking to them, it would never be a short conversation. We would sometimes get coffee, a dinner, an invite to stay another evening and so on. When having to climb another 1,000 to 3,000 feet with a few hours of daylight left, we would indeed have to stay another day. But looking back, this has not been a burden, rather, it has been the foundation of our journey! We have met so many people here and developed such deep relationships with them that when we left, it was never a ‘dry eye goodbye’!
Still unsure! See the pictures below!
I call areas that we were warned about from the locals and the State Department, and areas we felt were a bit dodgy: Red Zones. If we traveled through any of these areas, we did so with caution and we passed through it as early in the day as we could.
We were warned about three areas by locals (time period: 2012/2013):
1) Puerto Tejada (wiki)
– This one is a biggie! We have been told by countless people about this town in the Southwestern part of Colombia, as far a 1,500 miles away! The closer to the town we got, the more I asked if Puerto Tejada we safe. Candice could have killed me everytime I asked people about this, and sure enough the answer was always the same: “Ladrones”, “Peligroso”, “No bueno para ustedes”!
2) Medellin (wiki)
– A few people in the town of Turbo said there were a few bad districts there that had people that would rob us (robber in spanish: Ladrones).
– We met many people from Medellin, throughout Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru, and we found them to be extremely nice and very outgoing. Our only regret is that we didn’t make it there!
3) San Onofre (wiki)
We were warned by two ladies on a motorcycle that there were many robbers on this specific dirt road leading into town (from the South), and that we should hurry to get to a hotel before it gets dark.
Two other red zone areas (Time period: 2012/2013):
1) Barranquilla (wiki)
We felt that Barranquilla was a bit dodgy, but we had no problems at all there.
2) Popayan (wiki)
We met a fellow cyclist (Matias Recondo from Italy) going the other direction, who had been cycle-touring for two years, who had been robbed of his camera. He told us that he has had no issues what so ever until that point.
Although we had no issues in any of the areas above, it is important to keep in mind that people are aware of your presence, especially if you are a ‘gringo’ or a ‘gringa’! And sometimes that may be enough to warrant a bad guys attention, even if you aren’t donning Mr. T’s gold necklace array!
Is there a favorite place in Colombia that you have visited?
– This is a tough one! Our favorite places varied based on interaction with people, scenery, food, activities, and more.
– Arboletes had a mud volcano that was amazing
– Coveñas had beaches and a family that was extremely hospitable
– Cartagena had the amazing fortress walls of the Castle of San Felipe de Barajas and neat New Orleans type streets and markets.
– Rio Negro and San Gil had beautiful cobble-stone streets, churches, people, and expresso coffee!
– Chicamocha Canyon: was an amazing sight your eyes will never recover from!
– Tunja had some fantastic churches, museums, food, and people.
– Bogota’s Historic District: had museums that would take weeks to learn about and a plaza that is beautiful!
– Everywhere: the people were friendly no matter where we were! They were patient with our broken Spanish and were very interested in us and our expedition!