Colombia to Ecuador Land Crossing

Our trip in Colombia finally came to an end in Salento. The rest of the way involved heading South, sleeping in small towns and doing the Colombia to Ecuador land crossing. In all, this leg was an adventure upon itself.

First Stop – Popayan

We left Salento at 11am to arrive in Armenia, the nearest city and take a bus to Popayan. We reached Popayan at 7pm without any issues and the bus cost was 44,500 pesos (about USD 14.60) per person. Our hotel, Hotel Alcala was a stone’s throwaway from Popayan’s colonial white city. The cab ride from the terminal was about 10 mins.

Popayan, Colombia

To be honest, we knew little about the city and only used it as a stopover. However, the centre of the city, the white colonial buildings were beautiful. There are plenty of churches around as well. Though we never spent much time there, the city had amazing food and was unique due to its colour and architecture. There are some good day trips in the area as well.

Popayan, Colombia

First Bus Blues

We called up various bus companies to find out what time was the first bus to Ipiales. One company told us the earliest at 5:30am. When we got to the terminal at 5:00am, the bus company failed to recognize any such bus.

Another group of travelers talked to another company and they were quoted 30,000 pesos (USD 10) per person for a bus that may arrive between 5:30am and 6am. We opted for the safer option of using a bigger company with a confirmed bus at 6:30am for 35,000 pesos (USD 12) per person. As it turned out, we were shoved in the same bus but I managed to recovered our 10,000 pesos after protesting. The ride was crazy as we went through several high mountains, foggy roads and tunnels. It was also some of the most beautiful bus rides in Colombia.

Pit Stop – Ipiales

We arrived at Ipiales at 3pm. There is not much there except the most beautiful church, Las Lojas Sanctuary Church. Virgin de Las Lojas is popular in Colombia, Ecuador and many other parts of the world for helping people in need. We thought of doing a quick trip to the church before crossing the border.

There are collectivos from the bus terminal that drive people for 2500 pesos (less than USD 1) to the sanctuary. Upon getting there we left our backpacks at a shop for 2000 pesos each as we had to walk down to the valley.

The church is incredibly beautiful. Not only is it built on a ravine between two mountains, the glasses, the bricks and the architecture of the church is remarkable. We saw lots of churches and cathedrals in Colombia and this was by far the prettiest. A must do in Colombia!

Las Lojas Sanctuary Church, Ipiales, Colombia

We took another collectivo back to the terminal for same price. Now, we were ready to cross the border.

At the border

We changed our leftover Colombian money into USD, yes USD is used in Ecuador, at the bus terminal itself. We then hopped into a collectivo from the terminal to the border along with our locals.

Unfortunately, the driver never asked and we never told him that we needed an exit stamp from Colombia. He drove across the border and rest of the locals hopped into another collectivo. Clearly they didn’t need any stamps! We had to walk back over the bridge to the Colombian side and get an exit stamp. A great waste of time.

Tip: The border is open and it is very easy to make this mistake. Remember to get your exit stamp before going to Ecuador immigration. Get off the taxi before the bridge.

Entering Ecuador

Due to the confusion about the immigration, the long queue and Shruti’s Indian Passport took us around an hour to get the entry stamp for Ecuador. While we knew that Indians get Visa On Arrival for Ecuador, the officee in charge took longer than usual around 15 minutes. As a comparison, it took me less than 5 minutes.

We took a collectivo to Tulcan Terminal from Ecuador border for 75 cents each. The ride took about 15 minutes. While the border is open, many tourists visit Ecuador from Colombia making it busy. Please allow enough time to cross.

Tulcan to Otavalo

We took a bus as soon as we arrived in Tulcan at 7pm. The bus ticket was USD 3.50 per person. Our hostel had a check in till 10pm and we emailed them to not lock us out. The bus started at 7pm and it usually takes 3 hours to Otavalo. We thought we will get there just in time.

Unfortunately, the Ecuador police work opposite to Colombia. The bus was stopped twice, once closer to the terminal and second somewhere half way. The first police check involved going through our bags thoughroughly, every zip, every pocket. They made Australian customs look like amateurs. Strangely though, only we were checked. In Colombia, before the bus left the terminal, police officers would check IDs of most locals.

This of course delayed us and we didn’t get to Otavalo until 11pm. Luckily, the hostel received our email and a guy checked us in. Phew!

Long Day

In total, it took us 18.5 hours from Popayan, Colombia to Otavalo, Ecuador. Around an hour of that time in Colombia and at the border was avoidable. We are sure there are better ways of doing the land crossing and below is our suggestion so you do not exert yourself as we did.

Recommended Way for Colombia to Ecuador Land Crossing

We realized later that staying 2 nights in Popayan was a mistake. The highlights of Popayan can be done in couple of hours during the day.

Pasto should have been our second stopover. Ipiales is only 2 hours away from Pasto making the journey to Otavalo 5.5 hours and Quito 7.5 hours. Much better way for bus rides!

Summary

We practically crossed the border in two days.

Day 1 – Arrive at Popayan with plan to spend night there.

Day 2 – Leave at 5am in morning from Popayan and get to Otavalo by 11pm. Long day!

We recommend spanning the journey to three days if you have the time.

Day 1 – Arrive at Popayan with plan to spend night there.

Day 2 – Explore Popayan in the morning and catch bus to Pasto around 1pm. Spend the night in Pasto.

Day 3 – Leave from Pasto in the morning towards Ipiales. Spend 2 hours at Ipiales visiting the Sanctuary. Then cross border to Ecuador. You are likely to arrive in the evening at Otavalo or Quito, without exerti g yourself.

Traveling in Colombia

We initially planned on spending 25 days in Colombia, but ended up staying in this beautiful country for over 40 days. We fell in love with Colombia – the place, the people and the culture. Traveling in Colombia was really fun.

There are plenty of things to do in Colombia and every part is pretty in its own way. During our time here we visited popular cities, touristy towns, National Park, sleepy villages and did lots of hikes. Here is a map that shows all the places we visited while traveling in Colombia.

Against popular brief, Colombia is a very safe place to be. Apart from the lanes in Bogota, we did not feel unsafe in any other part of the country. There are police officers, and sometimes even army men, at almost every second block.

Colombians are very friendly people. They are always wanting to chat. Unfortunately, Shruti couldn’t say much in espanol, except Ola and Gracias! Most of her conversations start confidently and eventually died out because not everyone is good in charades.

Colombia has some of the most exotic fruits. We were surprised to know that lot of these fruits do not even have English names! Red beans and rice is staple diet along with plenty of fried food. And, lot of cheese.

Videos of Traveling in Colombia

Here are two videos we edited during our travel in Colombia. We have tried to keep the best parts. Hope you like it.

Btw, the songs used in the videos is the typical beat you would hear in Colombia.

List of Posts:

3 Days in Bogota

Taganga & Santa Marta

A Day in Minca

Tayrona National Park

2 Days in Cartagena

Sleepy Town Mompos

Medellin – Slums and Things to do

Guatape – Beautiful Town

Cocora Valley

Salento – A Beautiful Small Town

Drinks in Colombia

Colombia Photo Gallery

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Salento – Small Town in Colombia

After spending 2 weeks in Guatape, we decided to slowly make our way to Ecuador. This meant, we had to travel south. We had read and heard about Salento a lot so we decided to stop there for a few days.

Salento is a small town in the Zona Cafetera area of Colombia. It is famous for Colombian coffee, Valle del Cocora and the Colombian sport, Tejo. The village was home to coffee and milk farms until backpackers discovered it. Now, Salento is home to many hostels, tour operators and restaurants. Many backpackers have liked the place enough to stay back and open a business.

Salento

Getting to Salento

We left at 8am from Guatape to get to Medellin. The bus from Guatape gets to Transporte Terminal de Norte in Medellin, while the bus to Salento leaves from Transporte Terminal de Sur. We jumped in a cab and in 15 mins, we were in Terminal de Sur.

We had researched about getting to Salento from Medellin and most posts said we will have to change bus either at Pereira or Armenia, the bigger cities close by. After checking with a few bus companies, we learnt that there was a direct bus to Salento! Firstly, we were surprised and secondly, we loved the idea of just sitting in the bus without having to change constantly.

The direct bus from Medellin to Salento leaves at 9am and 12pm everyday. The ticket was 43,000 pesos (USD 14) per head and the journey takes 6 hours. The scenery along the way is beautiful so maybe sure you are awake for some bits of the drive.

First Bad Weather

Although we had an amazing time in Salento, it will always be remembered for the bad weather during our trip. Apparently, Salenteños had been crying for rain which hadn’t been showing itself lately. Well, the Rain Gods answered the day we arrived and blessed the town heavily every single day we were there.

Luckily, the view, especially from the Mirador (viewing point) and the temperature of the rain meant that we didn’t quite hate it. We carried a rain jacket around and bought a pair of waterproof hiking shoes. No bad weather only bad clothes as they say in England!

View from Mirador on Raining Day, Salento

Coffee Finca

One of the things we wanted to do in Colombia was get a fresh cup of Colombian coffee. However, most Colombians don’t drink the best coffee, read about it in your Drinks in Colombia post. They drink it as a shot in the morning and it tastes horrible. 70% of the best coffee is exported to richer countries. The other 30% is kept by the coffee farms and sold in their shops.

Well, our first task in Salento was to walk down to a coffee farm and enjoy the coffee. As it happened, the coffee farms were around 4-5 kms away from main town. Since we were already on the path, we decided to just walk down. The path was all downhill and there were signs for the coffee farms with the distance remaining. However, the view of the valley below was incredible and we were glad to have walked.

Walk to Coffee Finca, Salento

Finca Ocaso, SalentoWe chose Finca Ocaso as it has some nice signs, offered an English tour and also because we reached it before any other fincas. The property was huge and it took us 10 minutes to walk from the door to the reception. Once inside we asked for the English language tour which was scheduled to begin an hour. We rested and killed some time in the game room.

Finca Ocaso, Salento

Coffee Tour, Finca Ocaso, SalentoWhen our turn came, we joined Paula, our guide and 15 other people. Our first job was to tie little baskets around our waists for coffee picking. Paula explained the basics of the coffee plant, its types, plantation, issues with various coffee species and Colombia’s place in the code world. Colombia is the 3rd largest producer of coffee in the world and its coffee fetches some of the best prices in the world.

Coffee Tour, Finca Ocaso, Salento

The next part was picking coffee. We all actually got into the coffee bushes and looked for red coffee beans. Mind you, Finca Ocaso is rain forest certified which meant there was a lot of trees in the area. I really got serious about it and headed deep into the bushes. It only occurred to me later that I never checked with Paula if there are snakes in the bushes. Eeek! After 15 minutes, we compared our coffee cherries and some people had more red than others.

We then took our cherries to the peeling machine. This was a manual machine used in yesteryears. Following this process was the drying, sorting, roasting and packing. In this farm, everything from the tree was used – the cover of the cherries, the dry husk of the cherries and the cherries which are not of the highest quality. Those are sold to local coffee companies to be consumed by Colombians.

Finally, after learning the process, some volunteers ground the coffee beans produced from the farms. Shruti then volunteered to put hot water into the coffee infuser to create the brew. Cups of the best Colombian coffee was then passed to each person in the tour. How did it taste? Not bitter at all, a little sour and easy to drink. It was quite refreshing and possibly one of the only cups of non-milk coffees that I loved.

Finca Ocaso, Salento

To remember our time, we bought a 250gm packet of coffee beans. As we hadn’t eaten all day, we ordered two bandejas with rice, soup, veges, meat (in my case) and a fresh glass of lemonade. A great meal in a beautiful location.

Bandeja, Salento

The return journey was not so fun though. It had been drizzling through the day but as soon as we left after our meal, it started pouring. There was no shelter or a taxi and we were forced to walk. The walk uphill combined with the rain was no fun. We tried waiting in the shelters but to no avail. Although the view of the valley was phenomenal, we couldn’t wait there forever. We ended up walking the whole way back in the rain, sometimes getting splashed by passing vehicles. Although it wasn’t the best walk, we still had fun and best of all we didn’t get sick!

Walking back to Salento from Coffee Farm in rain

Shopping in Armenia

After the coffee farm, our shoes were soaked to the point of no return. In addition, we had to hike the Valle Del Cocora. It would be impossible without good shoes. Moreover, we realised that our next destination, Ecuador was currently in the wet season which meant our current shoes were bad for this area.

Therefore, we decided to spend a day in Armenia looking for shoes. Getting transportation to it was easy. One way ride costs 3,400pesos (USD 1) per person. When we arrived in Armenia, we realised that the town was similar to small Indian towns. It had a market for bikes and bike parts, a market only for clothes, a market for shoes and other one for electronics.

With our limited Spanish in hand, we headed into shoe shops. We tried a few but the quality just wasn’t right. As we walked from one shop to another, the lady from the previous shop followed us in. It seemed that she owned a few shoe shops. She patiently helped us both try many shoes. We had to make sure we get shoes which would be waterproof but the shoes had no specific mention of this. In the end, we paid 85,000 pesos (under USD 30) which seemed a bargain.

Since it was one of our last times shopping in Colombia, I must take a moment to commend the shop keepers in Colombia. They were always welcoming with their “a la orden”, helped us as much as possible and were never pushy. Thanks Colombianos!

Tejo

Tejo, SalentoTejo is a Colombian sport which involves throwing a metal object from a distance onto a clay pit which has a metal ring with some triangles full of gunpowder. As the metal object hits the gunpowder triangle over the metal ring, there is an explosion. It requires some skill, patience and a lot of alcohol. There is a point system and the closest metal object to ring gets 1 point, blowing a triangle gets 3 points, getting in between the metal ring gets 6 points and blowing more than one triangle gets 9 points. Simple!

Tejo, Salento

Tejo, SalentoWe visited Los Amigos in Salento which is the most well known place to play Tejo. The cost to play was 1000 pesos (33 cents) and you had to order alcohol. While there, we met David and Sylvia from UK who were tourists like us. All of us realised that we sucked real bad at this game. However, we persisted and the final score was 21-20 to the POMS due to a late surge. It was all in fun and we had some great laughs later bursting the triangles from close proximity.

 

Tattoo

Shruti had wanted to extend her tattoo for a while. While in Salento, we saw a tattoo shop, Eternal Present Tattoo, and talked to the artist about it. The price was good but we couldn’t get it done that day as we had to hike the Cocora Valley next day. At this point, even I decided to get my first tattoo. We went home, decided on our fonts and the designs.

Finally, after the hike and some rest, we arrived at the tattoo parlour around 6pm. The tattoo artist heard us out individually on what we wanted, designed the tattoos and when we were happy, he started with the work.

Eternal Present Tattoo, Salento

Eternal Present Tattoo, SalentoShruti was first and she nearly cried in pain as it was on her foot. Her current tattoo depicts a place she loves – somewhere with sun, water and peace. For about 3 years now she has wanted to extend the tattoo with the word “wanderlust” across her foot. Of course that would hurt, but she says it is worth the pain! And now she is even more happier, she has an aeroplane on her ankle.

Eternal Present Tattoo, Salento

Eternal Present Tattoo, SalentoFor my first tattoo, I was surprisingly calm. I guess I had wanted to get the words – Prajna, Sila and Samadhi from Buddhism tattooed for a long time but had never gone through with it. As the artist started his work, I realized why I hadn’t! The pain was not unbearable but it was difficult to stay still. It was like a needle being pulled through my skin. I could not even imagine how people do it all over their bodies.

Eternal Present Tattoo, Salento

Anyway, it was over and the result for both of us looked good. It turns out the artist was also influenced by Buddhism and the name of his shop was also Buddhist-influenced. The total cost of both tattoos was 220,000 pesos (around USD 70). Meaningful tattoo for a great price, Thanks Salento!

Eternal Present Tattoo, Salento

Food

There are plenty of great food options in Salento due to the backpacker influence. Our hotel, Casa La Eliana provided fresh baked pita bread with hummus. I also enjoyed a great trucha (trout) with patacon (flat fried banana) at a local shop.

Trout, Salento

We visited Brunch Place which was a backpackers favourite. The breakfast was great and cheap. We also encountered Beta Town which was a restaurant with soccer field, tejo spot, darts and plenty of place to chill. We ended up getting massive burgers for dinner and massive breakfast as well.

Cocora Valley

Leaving Guatape, we headed towards Salento. Before we get into everything Salento, we wanted to share our experience at one of the most amazing parts of Colombia, Valle Del Cocora, Cocora Valley. It is close to Salento in the Quindio province of Colombia. It is famous for its beautiful hills and the Colombian National Tree – Wax Palm, known as Cocora in espanol.

Cocora Trees, Wax Palm Trees, Cocora Valley, Colombia

Getting to Cocora Valley

There are plenty of Willys going to the valley at set times during the day, though based on observation, they usually ride off once they have 10 passengers – 2 sitting in front, 6 at the back and 2 standing outside! Willys are old jeeps bought from the army and repaired. They usually have a silver horse on the bonnet similar to the Jaguar on the Jaguar brand.

Willys, Salento, ColombiaThe drive costs 3,900 pesos (USD 1.3) per person, takes approximately 30 minutes and is quite scenic. Along the way there are plenty of dairy farms and grazing pastures with cows sitting and chewing cud.

The jeep drops you off at a fork in the road which is the start of the trail. On the right is a dirt road which takes you to Estrella La Agua and Finca Acaime. If you are interested in doing the complete loop that takes about 5 hours, head this way.

Start of Cocora Valley Loop, Colombia

On the left, there is a gravel road which goes to farms surrounding the palm trees. It is also possible to do the loop in this direction, though you will see the Valley of Cocora as one of the first things. Then, you can either continue to hike to Finca La Montaña or return. This route is recommended if you just want to visit the Valley of Cocora without doing the loop. The walk to the valley is about 40 mins.

Rural Beauty

We had decided to do the complete 5 hours loop and so took the path towards Finca Acaime from the fork. The trail was uneven and rough with rocks, horse shit and large puddles. We had bought water resistant shoes from Armenia only because we had heard about the rain and the puddles on the trail. Those shoes paid off!

Rough Trail, Cocora Valley, Colombia

Despite the difficulties, the trail was scenic though mostly uphill. Lush green pastures lined both sides of the trail with the hills having wax palms. In addition, there was a stream coming down the mountains which provided the background music for the trail. We were lucky to get blue skies here which made the view simply stunning.

Rough Trail, Cocora Valley, Colombia

Tip: Ignore the signs to Estrella La Agua, unless you are interested in additional 2 to 3 hours of hike.

Hiking Through Forest

Further on, the trail led higher into the hills and came a hike through a forest. There was very little sunshine and a lot of water around. At times, it was hard to find the trail and we had to split up and search.

Jungle Trail, Cocora Valley, Colombia

The other interesting thing on the trail were the bridges created over the stream. While we were there, the stream was only small and it was possible to cross it on foot. However, during the rains the stream might be a torrent. Hence, the bridges. These bridges were made of metal ropes and wooden pallets. Walking on it was fun and dangerous at the same time as the bridge would start swinging in both direction.

Jungle Trail, Cocora Valley, Colombia

After the 6th flimsy bridge, there is a fork again. The path on the right leads to Acaime, the spot with humming birds and drink, while the path on the left leads to Finca La Montaña. We decided to head to Acaime first, relax a bit and then return towards Finca La Montaña.

Fork in the trail, Cocora Valley, Colombia

In total, we crossed 6 bridges and 1 wooden log bridge twice during the complete loop. Believe me there were some nervous moments.

Log Bridge, Cocora Valley, Colombia

Humming Birds

We walked to Finca Acaime which was a farm and a shelter for the humming birds. Various varieties of humming birds and other small birds live in the valley forest. Humming birds were just fluttering around everywhere!

Humming Birds, Acaime, Cocora Valley, Colombia

Hot chocolate drink, Acaime, Cocora Valley, ColombiaThe cost to enter the finca was 5,000 pesos (USD 1.5) but they provided a drink, a place to sit, relax, watch the birds and take in the beauty of the area. As an added extra, some coati ant-eaters came in to have some water. Cute guys!

Coati Anteaters, Acaime, Cocora Valley, Colombia

Tough Climb

We stayed half an hour at Acaime and then headed back towards Finca la Montaña. We should have guessed from the name that we were literally climbing up the mountain. The climb was strenuous and we had to take a break after every few minutes. The climb up is tough but not technically challenging. Just remind yourself that the climb is worth it!

Way to Finca la Montaña, Cocora Valley, Colombia

After 30 minutes of blood, sweat and tears climbing up a mountain, we reached Fina la Montaña. There wasn’t a lot there except the amazing view, lots of tourists doing the loop and a small shop. The best thing though was the rest of the way to Cocora Valley was downhill. Finally!

View from Finca la Montaña, Cocora Valley, Colombia

Walking Down to Cocora Valley

The road from the finca was a gravel road built on the side of the mountain. At first, we didn’t see much. A little view of the valley here and there. After about half an hour on the road, we got our first glimpse of the Cocora Valley with the clouds rolling in and palms standing mighty tall.

Cocora Valley, Colombia

As we went further, we came to a view point high on a rolling green hill right in the middle of the palms. Being surrounded by the palms overlooking the valley, we realised that we were in the best looking place in Colombia. We were finally viewing the Cocora Valley.

Cocora Valley, Colombia

That feeling continued as we finally saw what a cloud forest looks like. The clouds rolled in and covered up the valley slowly. Distant thunder, forest, high trees, rolling hills and clouds. Ah, beauty of nature!

DSC04055

Our final stop was alongside the valley which had a few farms over the green hills and hundreds of palm trees. The beauty of this stretch of the valley is hard to explain. The farm animals, the huge palms, green hills and the clouds. Photographs may capture the scene but they certainly can’t capture the feeling one gets after trekking through 10 kms of forest and mountain.

Cocora Valley, Colombia

Having said that, we took lots of photos and videos in Cocora Valley as we were sure we wouldn’t see anything like this again. We walked along the hills on the gravel road, which led us to where we had started. Surely, a complete loop!

As we jumped in one of the Willys ready to head back to Salento, the skies opened up. Luckily, we avoided the rain as we left the valley. Definitely another highlight of the trip!

Estimated Times and Advice

We had heard that the Cocora Valley loop is about 5 hours long. However, we were unsure about the fitness needed for that time. We are pretty unfit at this moment of our trip and we managed to complete the loop in just over 5 hours. So I suppose, if you were fit, you could complete the loop in 4 hours.

Also, wear steady shoes for the hike. There is lots of mud and stones around. Water-roof shoes or rain boots (these can be hired at the shops where the loop begins) are a must.

It is recommended to start your day early so you can enjoy the valley as the clouds roll in. But if you delay, you may encounter rain. We were at the Salento Square at 7:15am, and managed to start our ride in Willy towards the valley at 7:25am. We were on the loop trail by 8am.

Lastly, dress comfortably. In the morning it is quite chilly, but 15 mins into the trail, we had to get rid of our jackets. We recommend wearing comfortable, light-coloured t-shirt with a jacket that can protect you from chills and rain. Also, carry enough water and some snacks, such as nuts, for the trail.

Here are our times:

Start to Finca Acaime – 1 hour 50 minutes with stops

Halt at Finca Acaime – 30 mins

Finca Acaime to the fork that leads to Finca la Montaña – 20 mins (remember you need to cross the wooden log bridge only)

From fork to Finca la Montaña – 35 mins of slow but steady climb up the steep mountain

Finca Acaime to Finca la Montaña – 55 mins in total

Halt at Finca la Montaña – 10 mins

Finca la Montaña to end of loop – 1 hr 45 mins with many halts

Total time – 5 hours 10 mins

Cocora Valley, Colombia

Drinks in Colombia

Before we arrived in Colombia, we had only heard of the beer Aguila and Colombian coffee. After spending 6 weeks in Colombia, we discovered a whole range of drinks in Colombia for all purposes.

Fresh Fruits

Colombia should be known around the world for its exotic fruits! There are many different types of fruits that we had never seen or heard of. In fact, many fruits here do not even have an English equivalent. Moreover, Colombians have a culture of enjoying fruits, whether it be drinking fresh juices or eating them. There are juice stalls everywhere.

Fruit Stall, Colombia

While in Colombia, we tried few exotic fruit juices:

Mora – Mora is blackberry but the taste is nothing like the bottled juices. Made fresh it tastes amazing.

Lulo – Lulo is a citrus fruit in Colombia with no equivalent in English.

Corozo – A small red fruit only consumable as juice. It tastes a little like cranberry.

Tomate Arbol – This is tree tomato which obviously tastes tomate like. It is usually used to add to other fruits for juices.

Maracuya – A common juice in Colombia it is basically a yellow passionfruit.

Feijoa – We only had this juice once in Bogota and never saw it again. Apparently the fruit is called Pineapple guava.

Guanabana – Camillo at Rock A Town hoste in Guatape decided to make us a juice of it. It tasted kind of milky.

These are all the Colombian fruits which we were able to taste. We also had fresh pineapple, strawberry, papaya and mango fruits and enjoyed fresh lemonade and coconut lime juices. Most places offer the choice of plain juices with water or with milk. Whichever option you chose, the juices are delicious and refreshing.

Fruit Juices, Colombia

To make it even better, you can mix two or more fruits. The price usually ranges between 3000 pesos (USD 1) and 6000 pesos (USD 2) depending on the options chosen.

Fruit Juices, Colombia

I am not one for fruits and fruit juices but somehow the weather and the culture makes juices a perfect match. And in any case, juices are a healthier option to beer and coffee! Having said that, it doesn’t mean we didn’t drink beer or coffee.

Coffee

Colombian coffee is known all over the world. It is served in cups in the café around the world. However, when you come to Colombia, you realise that most Colombians have never drank that high class coffee at all.

Although the coffee chain sell the barista style coffee just like anywhere else in the world, this type of coffee is simply too expensive for many Colombians. A cappuccino at Dunkin Donuts cost me 3,500 pesos (just over USD 1). For that price, you can get a coffee and an empanada (fried snack) making a full breakfast.

In general, there are two types of popular coffees on the streets of Colombia, tinto and con leche – means black and with milk. Both of these use the ground coffee from a box instead of the high quality from the coffee region. They drink it short, sweet and hot.

On the other hand, we visited a coffee farm in Salento, Quindio which is right in the middle of Zona Cafeteria of Colombia. There we learnt that Colombia focuses on producing Arabica coffee. At the end of production, there are two types of coffee produced – class 1 & class 2 Colombia Coffee. Class 1 coffee gets exported to other countries while class 2 is consumed by locals. Now everything makes sense!

Enjoying the best coffee, Colombia

We tried class 1 coffee and it was one of the best coffees in the world. The taste was not bitter at all. Colombians don’t consider bitter coffee to be high class. In fact, Colombia’s enjoy their coffee without sugar and without milk. We wish we could have that day in day out!

Milk Based

We tried a few regional homemade milk based drinks in Bogota and Mompox. Avena which was a mix of oatmeal and milk is usually drank cold and can substitute a meal. It is sweet and filling.

Chicha in Mompox, on the other hand, is made from milk, sugar and rice. It is served cold but not as filling as avena. In any case, both these drinks are perfect for hot afternoons.

Chicha, Colombia

In addition, any of the juices listed above can be drank with milk making it healthy and filing.

Guess what? I found lassi in Colombia. They call it Kumis and it is the same as the sweet lassi made in homes in India.

Alcohol

While we are not the biggest drinkers, we do like to try different types of drinks. We tried a few while in Colombia:

Club Colombia Red and Black – readily available but we hated its taste. It is too bitter for our liking.

Aguila Normal and Light – This is our regular beer in Colombia. We actually tasted it in Sydney and have liked it ever since. Its taste is just perfect and its best drank freezing cold.

Costeñita – We had this beer in Mompox and loved it but the sad thing is that we haven’t seen it since. It was very smooth to drink.

Costeña – A bogota beer which tastes similar to Coopers pale ale. Not bad!

Redd’s apple ale – It tastes very much like a cider but apparently it is not cider. Made in Colombia but is USA owned.

Aguardiente – A local brew of Antioquia, it is popular in all of Colombia. It is a better tasting sambucca made of sugar cane and anise flavored.

Chicha in Bogota – Chicha was sweet with a little sugar and very pulpy. It tasted like drinking apple pulp.

Local Rum – Medellin & Ron Caldas – Medellin rum was the average rum for Colombians to get drunk on. On the other hand, Ron Caldas was more expensive and smooth.