After hearing many good and bad stories about Colombia we decided to bite the bullet and make plans to visit the country. Took some time to figure out a route, places of interest, select hotels, and hire guides. Everything turned out perfect with beautiful hotels which include a superb breakfast for around $50 per night in double room, very knowledgeable guides, friendly people all over the country, excellent and extremely cheap food on local restaurants. Feel very safe and we were warned by our guides were not to go at night. Here is a brief summary.
First I used different internet sources- TRip Advisor, Bookings etc - to educate myself and my group of 4 retired couples to get prepared for the trip.
WE start the first 4 days in Bogota and stayed at Windham Bogota which include free shuttle from the airport. Was able to work out an excellent schedule, very convenient and flexible with our guide Alex weeks in advance. Went to places like Monserrate, Casa Bonita, Gold Museum, Salt Cathedral, Parque Jaime, Casa Loka, Guatavita just to mention a few of the 15-20 places we visit at a very good pace.
Took a flight to Cartagena for 3 days and stayed at Hotel 3 Banderas, an exquisite Colonia Home in a very quiet and convenience location. Visit almost everything walking, using the free guide tour and the HOH red wagon. Will always remember having an excellent one-pound fish for lunch at Robertos (local restaurant) for less than $2.00
Next we flew to Medellin for 5 days and stayed at Eco Hub Hotel. There we hired another excellent guide- Julian who also took us to Comuna 13, Guatape, El Hueco, Cable Car and 5-6 other places. Medellin have and excellent Metro system and we used it for 2 days to move ourselves around and explore the city.
Then took another flight to Pereira the capital of the Eje Cafetalero and Mr. Julian Gallegos picked us at the airport and took us to Hacienda Estrella del Monte where we were treated like Kings. Extremely friend people, excellent in-house restaurant with great food. We needed this relaxing, casual and beautiful stay after coming from the big cities with heavy traffic, pollution and very crowded environment. All you see here are beautiful flowers everywhere, beautiful landscape and beautiful coffee and fruits plantations all over. The Hacienda is located in the small town of Circacia which is like the center of all the beautiful places and attractions to see at Eje Cafetalero. We went to unbelievable places like Cocora Valley, Coffee plantation tour, Salento, Filandia, Parque del Cafe and enjoy the local culture and folklore like never before in the many trips we have been throughout the World.
This place is so enjoyable that 7 days passed very very fast, and we will be back soon to the Hacienda.
Just a few tips:
In Colombia rains every day 3-4 times every were. Take your rain jacket so you can keep moving and seeing things despite of the rain. Most of the time is light rain. Temperature can go down to 40F on rainy and stormy days at night.
The exchange rate is very favorable for the US dollar. They accept mainly Visa in most places but always have $50-$100 change in Colombia money (COP) for the small restaurants, shop, and local transportation. Very easy to find a local bank, automatic cashier or Casa De Cambio for the exchange.
Try to get a local guide beforehand or ask at the Hotel for recommendations. We were charged between a $100- $150 per day for the 8 of us. That's between $12-$19 per person for 8-10 hours of transportation, tolls, pickup at Hotel and guide service. Much cheaper and convenient than taking a Tour.
It rains a lot in Colombia so there are many landslides along the main roads. We experience two of this a loose almost 2 hours of time while they clean up the road. So that is why you should take the long trips by plane. Avianca, Latam and some others have very inexpensive flights to all these locations ($30-$50) for a 40 minute flight vs a 6-8 hours ride on the road.
Look for Trip Advisor recommendations for Hotels and restaurants you would not regret it. Good Luck.