A Complete Guide To Hiking Valle De Cocora, Colombia

A Complete Guide To Hiking Valle De Cocora, Colombia

Valle de Cocora – AKA Cocora Valley for English speakes – is one of the most enchanting places in Colombia. This cloud forest is easily reached from Salento, a small town in the heart of Colombia Coffee Region. A lot of people combine their visit of Salento with that of this splendid valley. What makes it so famous are its wax palm trees, which here can be as tall as 60 and even 70 meters. These trees, knowns as Colombia’s national trees, are actually at risk of extinction.

The landscape in this part of Colombia is simply lush, with meadows as green as they get, with cows lazily chewing on grass. In a way, it will remind you of Switzerland for how green it is – with the *slight* difference that instead of seeing pine trees, you will see wax palm trees.

Needless to say, the best way to enjoy Valle de Cocora is on a hike. This post explains everything you should know before hiking Cocora Valley, with plenty of practical tips to make the most of it.

Salento Valle de Cocora

The gorgeous Valle de Cocora is a must see

Hiking Valle De Cocora

The starting point to hike the Valle de Cocora is the parking lot where you’ll be dropped off by the jeep you’ll likely take to get there from Salento (more on how to get there below). At the parking lot you’ll find people offering horse rides, a number of small shops, and a place where you can rent rubber boots – which you probably need.

Once there, you have the option of going two different ways.

If you continue straight, you’ll pick the short trail and head straight to Cocora. If you turn right where the blue iron gate is, you’ll pick the longer loop. Your decision on which trail to pick should be based on the amount of time you have available, on the time of day you are starting, and on the weather. Keep in mind that chances of rain are extremely high in this part of Colombia, and that on almost any given day, it starts raining at about 12:00 pm.

TIP: Plan to start hiking as early as possible to minimize the chances of being caught in the rain.

The short trail

OVERALL WALKING TiME – Between 60 and 90 minutes.

DIFFICULTY LEVEL – Easy.

Pick the short trail if time is an issue, if you’ve had a late start and if the weather isn’t really good. This trail doesn’t really go through the forest and you won’t get to see Acaime Hummingbird Sanctuary, but you’ll get plenty of photo opportunities of the amazing wax palm trees from the beautiful meadow.

Acaime hummingbird sanctuary

A pretty hummingbird at Acaime sanctuary

The long loop

OVERALL WALKING TIME – Between 5 and 6 hours, depending on the conditions of the trail, and on how often you stop for photos and to admire the views. It takes 4 full hours to get to the wax palm trees.

DIFFICULTY LEVEL – Moderate to hard, depending on how muddy the trail is.

Pick the long loop if you are keen on getting deeper into the forest and want a bit more of a challenge. This trail is significantly steeper than the short one, and you will have to cross several wooden suspension bridges. However, you will be rewarded with the best views of the valley and even of the waterfall. You will be crossing the river via a number of rickety bridges (although that’s a big word!) a bunch of times.

A few km into the hike you will get to Acaime, a hummingbird sanctuary where you can stop to rest and have a drink of hot chocolate with cheese, a typical drink in Colombia, while admiring the lovely, colorful birds as they zip by. Admission is 5000 Colombian Pesos (COP) (little less than $1.5 USD) and includes a drink. 

Once you leave Acaime, continue walking up the hill on the left and you will be at Finca La Montaña in just about one hour. This is the best viewpoint of the hike. From there, you will start descending to the wax palm trees for another hour or hour and a half. This is the last stop before you walking back to the parking lot.

GOOD TO KNOW: You can walk both trails (the short trail and the long loop) on the same day. In this case, you will have to follow the short path on the left first, and get to the wax palm trees in about one hour. From there, you can walk the long loop clockwise, heading to Finca La Montaña first, then the hummingbird sanctuary, and finally walking back down to the parking lot.

PRO TIP: Do not attempt to walk both trails after heavy rains. Trails get very muddy, and walking the long loop clockwise means having to go down on a very steep trail which, when muddy, will be extremely slippery.

Cocora Valley

Cows are a common sight when hiking Cocora Valley

What To Expect When Hiking In Valle De Cocora

If you walk the short trail you literally have nothing to worry about – it’s as easy as it can possibly be. The long loop presents way more difficulties, because it can be steep in parts, there will be several suspension bridges to cross, and especially because the trail can be VERY muddy – with mud getting all the way up your knees.

TIP: The best way to avoid getting trapped in the mud is to keep moving. Walk as fast as possible to get past the muddiest bits.

Another thing you have to keep in mind is the persistent rain. After all, there is a good reason why this part of the country is so lush and green. If you can learn to appreciate the rain and the fog, this will be one of the most memorable hikes in your life.

Wax palm trees

The cloud forest of Cocora Valley and its tall wax palm trees

Practical Information For Your Hike Of Cocora Valley

Getting to the beginning of the trail

The best way to reach Valle de Cocora and the beginning of the trail from Salento is by jeep. Jeeps depart six times per day – at 6:10 am, 7:30 am, 9:30 am, 11:30 am, 2:00 pm and 4:00 pm – from the main square in town, and carry up to 7 passengers comfortably, but usually load way more. The ride lasts about 30 minutes and costs 8000 COP round trip – just over $2 USD.

Jeeps returning to Salento depart from the same spot where passengers are dropped off. The last one departs at 6:00 pm.

Hiking fees

The fee to walk both trails is 4000 COP, which just over a US Dollar. 

The fee to enter the Cocora Valley is another 4000 COP.

Hiking independently

The trails in Cocora Valley are easy enough to follow so the hikes can be done independently. I recommend downloading a trail map such as those on Wikiloc and to keep close attention to the trail. Don’t hike the trails alone – especially as it is so muddy that you may slip and fall.

Make sure to read my post “11 Reasons Why Hiking Alone May Be A Bad Idea.”

Guided hikes

A few companies in Salento offer guided hikes in Valle de Cocora. I hiked independently, so I honestly can’t recommend a company over the other. The only guided hike I could find online is a two day one that follows the long loop. The tour costs around €170, but includes transportation, meals and even accommodation for one night. You can book it here.

Food and drinks

There is no place to get food and water along the hike, so you really need to pack some – take a picnic with you or at least some snacks – for the duration of the hike. I recommend carrying 2 liters of water as a minimum, especially if you are fortunate enough to hike when the sun is shining.

wax palm trees

The gorgeous wax palm trees in Cocora Valley

When to hike Valle de Cocora

Cocora Valley is gorgeous no matter the weather, and that’s about the only good news you’ll get. Chances are it’ll be raining when you visit. The driest month in the region is July, whereas apparently October is the wettest one. I was there at the beginning of March and it rained every single day. My advice is to just take rain for granted and plan your hike and get dressed accordingly. 

With this in mind, and considering that usually starts between 12:00 and 2:00 pm, you will want to head out for your hike nice and early, and make it a point to be on the first jeep. 

Essential items to wear and carry 

With such high chances of rain you have to be properly geared. This is what you need to wear and bring:

TIP: If you are hiking after some heavy rain and the trail is expected to be very muddy, ditch your hiking boots altogether and rent a pair of rubber mud boots from the small shop at the beginning of the trail. 

Further readings about Colombia

For more information and for inspiration on other incredible places to visit in Colombia, check out my posts:

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19 Unmissable Things To Do In Bogota

19 Unmissable Things To Do In Bogota

There are many interesting things to do in Bogota. The capital of Colombia, a city of no less than 7.5 million people, well deserves to be explored and has plenty of things to see and do to keep you entertained – though many mistakenly decide to only spend a few hours there, while on a layover to go elsewhere.

It’s a pity, really. Bogota has a lot to offer, a lot more than meets the eye, and despite being such a vast metropolis, the vibe is friendly and the locals are extremely welcoming.

Perched at 2600 meters above sea level in the Andes, Bogota it’s a world apart from the sunny Cartagena. The average temperature here is 14 degrees Celsius, and it pretty much rains every day. It’s a bit like England! Yet, you can’t help but warming to it. 

Are you curious to find out more? This posts highlights the things you shouldn’t miss in Bogota, and includes a few tips on how to make the most of the city. You may also want to learn more about the country by reading these facts about Colombia.

things to do in BogotaThe beautiful cathedral in Plaza Bolivar

19 Things To Do In Bogota That You Shouldn’t Miss

Go to Plaza de Bolivar

Located in the historic heart of Bogota, Plaza de Bolivar is actually as eclectic as it gets in terms of architectural styles. The Capitolio Nacional, where the congress sits, is built in a neoclassical style. The Alcaldia (the City Hall) is built in French style and dates back to the early 20th century.

The Catedral Primada, which is on the eastern side of the square, is Bogota’s largest church and was built in neoclassical style. The only example of colonial style architecture in the square is the Capilla del Sagrario, which is right next to the Cathedral. Whichever way you look at it, Plaza de Bolivar is an interesting place and visiting is one of the things to do in Bogota.

Admire San Francisco Church

The Iglesia de San Francisco is Bogota’s oldest church. Located right in front of the Gold Museum (more about that below), it doesn’t look like much from the outside, but I assure you the interior is magnificent. Don’t trust me? Pop in for a moment – it’s free anyways!

things to do in Bogota

Make sure to visit Candelaria – it’s one of the things to do in Bogota

Walk around La Candelaria

Visiting La Candelaria is one of the ultimate things to do in Bogota to appreciate the colonial feel of the city. It’s a lovely neighborhood of cobbled alleys, museums galore, theaters, cafés and street art. It’s also where you will find the National Shrine of Our Lady of Carmen, a Gothic church with a unique red-and-white striped pattern that was built between 1926 and 1938.

The area has some good hostels and other places to stay, and some fairly good restaurants too.

La Candelaria one of the safest neighborhood in Bogota, so you can explore by yourself. But if you are curious to learn more about its history and how it evolved into becoming a place for artists, you may as well join a guided tour such as this Bogota full day grand city tour or this La Candelaria, Mount Montserrate and Museo del Oro full day tour.

Things to do in Bogota

Visiting Cerro Montserrate is one of the unmissable things to do in Bogota

Enjoy the view from Monserrate

Among the unmissable places to visit in Bogota there’s Cerro de Monserrate. This peak towers over Bogota with its 3200 meters. It’s been a place of pilgrimage since the 1600s and a church was built at the top in the 1650s. The views of the city from Monserrate are impressive, but the site is also famous for the statue of El Señor Caido – which depicts Jesus Christ right after being taken off the cross. There is also a park, which is nice to explore.

To get to Monserrate, you have three options:

CABLE CAR – Called Teleferico, it gives you the best views of the city. Tickets are COP 12000 ($3.50 USD) one way.

FUNICULAR – Best on a Sunday, when the cable car gets too busy. The price is the same as that of the Teleferico.

WALK – If you feel fit and the altitude doesn’t bother you, you can walk all the way up the more than 1500 steps to the top. Although there are meant to be uniformed guards on the trail, robberies are often reported so take precautions should you decide to walk it – and by all means don’t go alone.

TIP: Bogota gets terribly congested with traffic, and as the day goes along, the pollution increases and the views from Cerro Monserrate become less clear. Go up quite early in the morning for clear views. Also, keep in mind that the temperature inevitably drops even more compared to the already cold city, so bring up an extra layer.

Enjoy a different view from Torre Colpatria  

You can get a good 360 degrees view of Bogota from its tallest skyscraper, Torre Colpatria, where you can access the mirador (viewpoint) on the 48th floor. Make sure to go as it is one of the things to do in Bogota.

Bogota

Visit La Zona Rosa

Zona Rosa, whose official name is Zona T, is the upscale area of Bogota – with all the luxury shops, restaurants and hotels and some of the best bars and nightlife in the city. It’s definitely where to go in Bogota if you want to treat yourself to a good dinner, but keep in mind that prices are going to be higher than in the rest of the city.

In Zona Rosa you’ll also find the famous Andres Carne de Res, a restaurant which originally opened in Chia but that now also has opened here in Bogota. It’s more than just a restaurant – here you can spend the night dancing to salsa and merengue tunes.

GOOD TO KNOW: The gay friendly part of Bogota is Zona G, which also has some great bars.

Explore Chapinero

Chapinero is one of the nicest areas of the city and if you want to get out of the main tourist trail, visiting is what to do in Bogota. It’s where a large university is located, so the vibe is young and friendly. Here, you’ll find some very good restaurants – though not as expensive as those of Zona Rosa, and good places to stay that are a world away from the backpackers’ places of Candelaria.

TIP: Make sure to also go to Usaquen, the trendiest neighborhood in town. It’s packed with nice cafés and bars, and lots of vintage stores and it’s home to a cool market.

things to do in Bogota

Biking is the best way to move around Bogota

Explore Bogota by bike

One of the things that impressed me the most about Bogota is how biking friendly the city is. There’s something like 300 km of biking lanes, that have been built since 1998, and locals regularly use this mode of transportation to go about their daily business. Needless to say, one of the top things to do in Bogota to properly see it is joining a bike tour such as this one. 

Most of them start in La Candelaria and make several stops throughout the day, to visit museums, have a taste of street food, admire street art. Tours vary depending on the events going on in the city.

Join the Ciclovia Sundays

Speaking of bikes, one of the most fun things to do on Sundays is joining the Ciclovia. That’s when more than 100 km of roads are closed to traffic, and the locals get to use them to bike, skate, rollerblade, run and even walk the dogs. You can rent a bike to join in the fun. And if you get hungry you can stop at the many stalls that pop up at the side of the street.

Bogota

Street art is thriving in Bogota

Admire all the street art

If you love street art, you’ll be in for a treat. Bogota street art is thriving, and has been so for decades – despite the fact that graffiti artists had to work at nights and under cover not to be caught by the police.

In 2011, Diego Felipe Becerra was shot by two police officers as he painted his famous Felix de Cat, causing such a reaction from the rest of the artists community and the public that the two officers were eventually arrested. That’s when graffiti art was finally legalized in certain parts of the city, and it became an integral part of Bogota identity.

You can join a guided tour of Bogota street art that will take you to the most impressive pieces – some work on a donation basis, most you have to pay. You can book it here.

Visit the incredible museums  

Colombia’s capital has some excellent museums and art galleries, and visiting them is among the things to do in Bogota on a rainy day.

Here are the best museums in Bogota:

MUSEO DEL ORO – Thought to be the most important gold museums in the world, the exhibit displays beautiful jewelry and ornaments used by indigenous Colombians before the arrival of Colón. It’s a great way to learn a bit more about the Colombian indigenous culture. Tickets cost $1 USD. Free on Sundays. 

MUSEO BOTERO – If you have to pick just one museum to visit in town, go to Museo Botero. It’s a great gallery, funded by a donation by Botero (Colombia’s most famous artist) himself. Other than his paintings, you’ll also be able to see works of Picasso, Mirò, Renoir, Dali, Matisse and Monet. It’s located in La Candelaria and visiting is free.

MUSEO NACIONAL DE COLOMBIA – Located in a former prison, it is a great museum to learn about the country’s history before and after Spanish colonization. Admission is $1 USD – free on Sundays. 

MUSEO SANTA CLARA – This 17th century church was deconsecrated in the 1960s and became a museum dedicated to baroque art – there are many incredible paintings on display!

Other interesting museums include the Museo de Arte Colonial and the Museo Historico Policia (Historical Museum of the National Police), which is a rather quirky museum with dummies of drug dealers of the likes of Pablo Escobar.

Bogota

Hang out in Simon Bolivar Park 

Simon Bolivar is to Bogota what Central Park is to New York: it’s the biggest park in the city, created in 1979, and it gets incredibly busy at weekends. It’s the perfect place to visit at the weekend, for a picnic, to hang out by the lake, rent a bike and take a stroll. During the summer, lots of concerts are held in the park.   

Visit Bogota Botanical Garden

Another nice park you may want to visit to get a break from the chaos of the city is Bogota Botanical Garden. It only costs $1 USD to get in!

Mingle with the locals at the market

Bogota isn’t a touristy city – you can get much of a local feel here wherever you go, really. Yet, if you want to get a good understanding of the local vibe and way of life, a visit to one of the local markets is a must. The market in Plaza Paloquemao (literally burned stick!) has an incredible array of fresh produce, flowers, eggs, seafood and meat. You’ll also get to taste a lot of street food. Visiting is definitely among the things to do in Bogota.

things to do in Bogota

Eating arepas is one of the things to do in Bogota

Go on a food tour

One of the things to do in Bogota is trying local food. Colombia is a country with an incredible array of fruit that you won’t get to see anywhere else in the world. Most people who travel to Colombia complain that food is either incredibly bland, or too deep fried. In my month in Colombia, I actually tried a few things that were delicious, and I enjoyed the earthy, warm soups that are served any time of day. Bogota is a great dining destination.

Some of Colombia’s must try are:

  • AREPAS – Corn patties that can be plain or filled with cheese. It’s a common street food.
  • BANDEJA PAISA – A full meal of rice, beans, avocado, arepa, fried eggs and often also some grilled meat.
  • SANCOCHO DE GALLINA – A chicken soup with potaoes, onions, corn and whatever else is available;
  • AJACO – Similar to sancocho de gallina, this soup is typical from the Bogota region and is served with rice and avocado.
  • EMPANADA – Similar to arepa, it’s stuffed with meat or cheese, folded and fried.
  • HORMIGA CULONAS – A local delicacy, it’s literally bigbutt ants. 
  • PAPA RELLENA – Just your stuffed potatoes.

While the best restaurants in Bogota are in Zona Rosa, your best bet for excellent food that is also cheap is the street, and if you dig well, you’ll find some delicious stuff. It’s just by chance that I have discovered La Puerta Falsa (literally, the False Door), a small place that serves some of the best local staples.

If you have just arrived in Colombia and feel overwhelmed by the incredible offer of food, you may want to opt for a food tour (even better, a street food tour) to taste all the local specialties. For more information, click here.

things to do in Bogota

Tasting coffee is a must

Learn about coffee

In a country that exports some of the best quality coffee in the world, you will want to learn about the secrets to a good coffee. While the Eje Cafetero, the coffee region of Colombia is at some 10 hours drive from Bogota, you can still appreciate coffee in the capital and a coffee tour certainly is one of the things to do in Bogota. There even are guided coffee crawl tours (yes, seriously!). You can even join this specialty coffee workshop. 

Taste some beer

Latin America was never big on good beer – no matter how hard I tried in Costa Rica or even Panama, I never found a beer that I truly enjoyed. Except in Colombia, which has its own great breweries and where you can get draft beer.

The most famous brewery is Bogota Beer Company, which has opened several locations across the city where you can walk in to enjoy some good pub food and what is unarguably the best beer in the country. They even do beer tours of the city – it certainly is one of the things to do in Bogota if you like your pint! You can book your beer tour here.

bogota

Learn how to salsa

Salsa is to Colombia what tango is to Argentina. You really have no choice here: when in Bogota, you have to sign up for a salsa class, and / or go to a salsa club. There are several in the city, but the best ones are Quiebracanto Club and Sandunguera. 

GOOD TO KNOW: If salsa really isn’t your idea of fun, then you may want to head to Salitre Magico, Bogota Amusement Park. There is a small entry fee of $1.50 USD, or you can pay $9 to enter and enjoy unlimited rides.

Villa de Leyva

Villa de Leyva is a nice place for day trips from Bogota

Take a day trip to out of the city 

Bogota is lovely, but the surroundings are amazing too. The following places can be easily visited on day trips from Bogota.

Chicaque Natural Park

One of the easiest day trips from Bogota is Chicaque Natural Park, which is just 30 minutes south west of the city. There you will find a gorgeous cloud forest and plenty of trails to hike. You can visit independently or on a guided tour such as this one. There is a $4 USD admission fee.
 
GOOD TO KNOW: There are tree houses in the park where you can actually spend the night. 

Zipaquira and the Salt Cathedral  

The Salt Catedral, which was born out of an old salt mine, is one of the most fascinating things to see in Colombia. It’s located near Zipaquira, 50 km north of Bogota. The Cathedral was open to the public in 1995 and can host up to 8400 people.

PRACTICAL INFORMATION: You can get to Zipaquira on a combination of public transportation, or else you can join a guided tour such as this one or this one.

Guatavita

Guatavita Lagoon

La Laguna de Guatavita is located at around 18 km from Guatavita, which in and of itself is quite an interesting place to visit. The lagoon is a sacred lake and the ritual center of the Muisca indigenous peoples. It’s where the myth of El Dorado was born. Visits to Guatavita often include a tour of the Museo del Oro of Bogota, as this includes a lot of pieces coming from the Guatavita region. 

PRACTICAL INFORMATION: You can go to Guatavita by a combination of public transportation, or opt for a guided tour such as this Zipaquira Salt Cathedral and Lake Guatavita tour from Bogota.

Chingaza National Park

A great place to visit from Bogota if you are keen on hiking is Chingaza National Park. Known as the place where Bogota’s water comes from, it’s at about two hours from the city. If you are keen on visiting, you are better off booking a guided tour such as this one, which also includes a hike to Laguna de Butrago. 

Villa de Leyva

Villa del Leyva is a gorgeous small colonial town at about 3 hours drive from Bogota. It’s a lovely place to explore for a day, though if you have more time I actually recommend to spend at least a weekend there. It’s where people from Bogota go for a getaway from the city. If you are pressed for time but you still want to visit, you are better of booking a guided day tour such as this one.

things to do in Bogota

There are a lot of good places to stay in Bogota

Practical Tips To Organize Your Trip To Bogota

Guided tours of Bogota

If you feel you need some guidance when exploring Bogota, you may want to join a guided tour. BeyondColombia organizes free walking tours of the city – you just have to tip the guide. Alternatively, the following are some good options:

Guided tours of Colombia that go to Bogota

If you would like to visit Colombia and Bogota, but have have little interest in organizing your trip, you should consider joining a guided tour. G Adventures runs some excellent ones and all of them depart from the capital city. I have selected the most interesting ones:

Where to stay in Bogota

Most people who visit Bogota stay in La Candelaria, where you’ll find the majority of boutique hotels and hostels. A few good ones can also be found in Chapinero and Zona Rosa.

Here’s a selection of the best places to stay in Bogota:

Make sure to also read my post A Complete Guide To Where To Stay In Bogota.”

Bogota

How to get to Bogota

By bus

Bogota is very well connected to the rest of the country by an incredible web of bus routes. The main bus station is La Terminal, around 5 km west of the city center in an area called La Salitre. There, you’ll find buses going to and coming from the rest of the country.

For buses from Cartagena to Bogota, click here.

For buses from Medellin to Bogota, click here.

For buses from Barranquilla to Bogota, click here.

By plane

Bogota airport is called El Dorado (the airport code is BOG) and it’s one of the most important ones in Latin America, with has flights to various locations in the country and to the rest of the world.

From there, you have various options to get to the city. 

TRANSMILENIO –This is one of the best ways of moving around Bogota and the most budget friendly way of getting from the airport to the city – it only costs COP 2500 (around $0.70 USD). The bus will go all the way to Universidades, the closest stop to La Candelaria. To use the Transmilenio, you will have to buy a Tullave Card – it costs COP 5000 ($1.50 USD). It works on a top up basis so  you can recharge it in a the station or in several shops.  

TAXI AND UBER – Taxis are a great way to travel from the airport to the city. A ride will be in the range of $15 USD if you are getting off at La Candelaria, but much like in most of South America, you will have to haggle the price. Uber is another good option and a bit cheaper than the taxi, but it only works if you have data – you will have to book it once you are in the terminal and can use its free Wi-Fi, or need to have a local SIM (more about that in a bit).

PRIVATE SHUTTLE – This is by far the easiest and most comfortable way of getting from the airport to Bogota. You just have to make sure to book it in advance. You can book your Bogota airport transfer here.

Bogota

Moving around

Unless you want to move around by bike, you can count on Bogota’s very efficient bus system. Here are the various options:

TRANSMILENIO – Bogota doesn’t have a metro but you can use the Transmilenio, which are probably the best way to move around as they run on a dedicated lane in the center of the road. A ride costs a mere $0.70 USD – as explained before, you need to get a Tullave Card and top it up any time you need credit. Transmilenio runs from 4:30 am to midnight.

BUS – Public buses in Bogota run on the road just like all cars, so they move around incredibly slowly. What’s good about them is that they actually reach a wider area than the Transmilenio, and you can use the Tullave card on them.

TAXI AND UBER – Unless it’s the middle of the night and you can’t get a bus, taxis aren’t a great way of moving around town. They work on a meter system and with the terrible traffic jams in Bogota they take about forever. The same goes for Uber, which however is a bit cheaper.

Safety in Bogota

Colombia is one of the best places to travel alone. I didn’t have any issue when I visited Bogota, and in the last few years crime rates have decreased thanks to the efforts of the police forces. Check the latest reports on safety here. However I recommend you use your caution when you walk around, especially at night. When in doubt, opt to take a taxi.

Getting a SIM card may be a good idea when in Colombia – you can use it for local calls, and to surf the web or use apps such as Uber. The good news is that you can easily get yours as soon as you land – there are shops at the airport. There are various providers, but Claro is by far the one with the best coverage and most competitive prices. 

Make sure to also purchase travel insurance before visiting Colombia. You can get one here.

Further readings

Are you planning a trip to Colombia? Make sure to read my posts:

What are your favorite things to do in Bogota?

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A Concise Guide To Villa De Leyva, Colombia

A Concise Guide To Villa De Leyva, Colombia

Villa de Leyva, Colombia: few cities in the country are so charming and so full of atmosphere. Hardly on the radar of people who travel to this part of South America, I ended up there as I wanted to break the journey from San Gil to Bogota. Little did I know that I’d fall in love with it.

Such a lovely little town this is, and such a perfectly kept example of colonial style architecture, that it was declared a National Monument in 1954. It’s the kind of place where modern architecture is pretty much unseen.

Villa de Leyva was founded in 1572. It’s blessed with pleasant weather year round – warmer than the nearby Tunja, and not nearly as hot as the Caribbean coast. It’s close to some of the most beautiful landscapes of Colombia, and if you visit you’ll find abundant opportunities to hike, bike, and enjoy good food in one of the many restaurants.

In recent years, Villa de Leyva became a favorite weekend destinations for people who live in Bogota and wish to get away from the chaos of the capital – so don’t be surprised if the town gets more crowded on Saturdays and Sundays.

In this post, I highlight the best things to do in Villa de Leyva and share some practical tips to organize your trip there.

Villa de Leyva street

A lovely cobbled alley in Villa de Leyva

13 Things To Do In Villa De Leyva, Colombia

Admire the view from Mirador El Santo

For incredible views of Villa de Leyva make sure to hike to Mirador El Santo. It’s an easy walk from the center of town – just head in the direction of the market, going up the Calle 12 or 13 and then follow the easy trail. It’s around 30 minutes to get to the Mirador, and just about the same amount of time to get back.

TIP: Go in the early morning to have the place to yourself. 

Hang out in Plaza Mayor

Plaza Mayor is the ultimate place to hang out and people watch in Villa de Leyva. This is one of the largest squares in the Americas; beautifully paved and surrounded by well kept white colonial buildings. In the late afternoon, people start crowding the square to chat and have a drink. Dortkneipe is a cool small pub where you can get some draught beer – it’s on one of the corners of the square.

Villa de Leyva

Admire all the colonial style architecture

This may come as rather obvious, but one of the best things to do in Villa de Leyva is walking around to appreciate the beautiful colonial architecture. For fine examples, make sure to pop into Casa de Juan de Castellanos, Casa Quintero and Casona La Guaca, which have been perfectly restored. They are all located on Carrera 9 and currently house coffee shops, restaurants and lovely boutiques.

Visit Casa Museo de Luis Alberto Acuña

Luis Alberto Acuña is a Colombian artist whose paintings, statues and writings were heavily inspired by the culture and beliefs of the Muisca indigenous people – who lived in the Cordillera Central of Colombia – and even by more contemporary art. The museum is entirely dedicated to his work and it’s a pleasant place to spend an hour or two.

Visit the Museo Paleontologico

At about 1 km northeast from the center of Villa de Leyva, at the Museo Paleontologico you’ll be able to observe fossils from the time when the area was a seabed – from 100 to 150 million years ago. It takes about 30 to 45 minutes to explore it. Guided tours are offered, but only in Spanish.

Ecce Homo Monastery

Ecce Homo Monastery can be visited from Villa de Leyva

Explore the local market

Every Saturday there is a market that is held about three blocks southeast of Plaza Mayor. It’s a nice place to shop for groceries and for people watching. Make sure to go in the morning for more action.

Visit Ain Karim vineyard

Did you know that Colombia has an up and coming wine production? Well, I didn’t either. But apparently, Colombia wine scene has come a long way – and Villa de Leyva is a great place to get a feel for this. There, you will find the Ain Karim winery – once known as Marques de Villa de Leyva – which is famous for producing some excellent wines. There is a good selection of reds, whites and even rose wines, and you can go on a walking tour of the vineyard and then to some wine tasting.

Terracotta House Villa de Leyva

The Terracotta House surely is an interesting building

Visit the Terracotta House

The Terracotta House is a very large house that is entirely made of clay. It’s thought to be the largest piece of pottery in the world. The interesting fact is that it actually is a fully functioning house with toilets, a kitchen and all modern appliances. The house is located at about 20 minutes walk from Plaza Mayor. It takes around 45 minutes to visit.

Go to the Laguna de Iguaque

On the mountains outside Villa de Leyva you’ll find the Iguaque Flora and Fauna Sanctuary, where the Sacred Iguaque Lagoon is located. The Muisca indigenous people who once lived in this part of Colombia thought this was the cradle of humanity, and it was a sacred area for them.

If you like hiking, this is the best place to go that is close to town. The trail called Paramo de Iguaque will take you up to 7 hours during which you will be rewarded with amazing views and incredible nature. Keep in mind that the trail may be very muddy and slippery, and consider there may be high chances of rain at any time of year.

The trail is easy enough to be done independently, but several agencies in town offer guided hikes.

Make sure to check out my post 11 Reasons Why Hiking Alone May Be A Bad Idea.”

TIP: Remember to carry enough water for the duration of the hike, and to bring sun screen and a rain jacket.

El Infiernito

El Infiernito is an interesting place to visit

Go to El Infiernito archeological site

El Infernito archeological site is a good place to get a better understanding of the Muisca indigenous peoples. Its name was actually assigned by the Catholic colonizers in an attempt to encourage local people to associate the site to the devil and thus feel the fear of God. The site, which actually was a Muisca solar observatory and is made of giant statues that represent fertility is located on the hills outside of town.

Go to El Fosil

As I have said before, the area where Villa de Leyva is located used to be a massive seabed around 150 million years ago. At about one hour from town, you will find El Fosil, a massive fossil of a baby kronosaurus that dates back to 120 million years ago. It is thought to be the world’s most complete example of this marine reptile.

Go to the Pozos Azules

The Pozos Azules are actually man made small lakes which have a bright blue color that is due to the presence of natural salts and minerals in the soil around them. The lakes glow more or less depending on the light – so don’t go if it is overcast. They are at about 45 minutes walk from Plaza Mayor.

Visit Convento del Santo Ecce Homo

At about 16 km out of town you will find this beautiful convent that is worth visiting. The convent, which was founded in 1620, is a massive sandstone and adobe building that features a beautiful internal courtyard. As the sandstone used for the building comes from the region, you may even spot some fossils in it.

Villa de Leyva finds

Interesting finds on the streets of Villa de Leyva

Practical Tips To Organize Your Trip To Villa De Leyva, Colombia

Taking a day trip to Villa de Leyva

I don’t recommend going to Villa de Leyva just for a day. This small colonial town has such a lovely atmosphere, and there are quite a few good bars and restaurants you may want to check – it would be a pity to miss the opportunity. However, if time is an issue, you can consider going there on a day trip from Bogota such as this Villa de Leyva trip by private transportation or this Bogota Villa de Leyva tour.

Guided tours of Colombia that also go to Villa de Leyva

If you would like to visit Colombia and include Villa de Leyva in your trip, but have no time for planning or would rather leave the daunting task to the experts, you can count on several excellent guided tours of Colombia. The two mentioned below are excellent G Adventure tours that include visits of Villa de Leyva:

Villa de Leyva building

A typical colonial building as found in Villa de Leyva

Where to stay in Villa de Leyva

Despite being a small town, Villa de Leyva has a good range of accommodation options. These are the best places to stay in town:

How to get to Villa de Leyva

Villa de Leyva is at about 75 miles (120 km) from Bogota. to which it is well connected by bus. Several daily buses connect the two cities. Despite the seemingly short distance, the ride actually lasts around 3 hours. The largest city nearby is Tunja, to which there are buses that depart every 15 minutes. From there you can connect to many other places, including San Gil and Bogota.

How to move around 

Villa de Leyva is fairly small, so you can easily walk around. To get to the nearby sites, you can count on a good fleet of local taxis. If you want to visit various sites outside of town on the same day, make sure to hire a taxi to take you to all the various places and haggle a flat fee for the day.

When to visit Villa de Leyva

Villa de Leyva enjoys a mild weather compared to the rest of Colombia. It is not nearly as hot as it is on the Caribbean coast, and it doesn’t rain nearly as much as it does in Bogota. With the weather pretty much the same year round, any time is a good time to visit Villa de Leyva.

Other useful information

If you want to read more about Colombia, or want to have a guide you can carry with you for any time you don’t have Wi-Fi, you may want to buy one of the following:

As for any other trip, I recommend getting a good travel insurance for your trip to Colombia. Make sure to read my post Why You Need A Good Travel Insurance.” Get your travel insurance here.

Further readings about Colombia

For more inspiration on places to visit and things to do in Colombia, check out my posts:

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The Best Things To Do In Valparaíso In 3 Days

The Best Things To Do In Valparaíso In 3 Days

If you’re planning a trip to Chile, there are probably two cities you’ll visit: Santiago and Valparaíso. Chile’s famous industrial port city offers a different slice of life in Chile. Unlike the ultra urban and modern capital city of Santiago, Valparaíso is more gritty, grimy, and definitely more colorful. Like San Francisco, it has pacific weather, and it’s not uncommon to see the marine layer moving to and from the shore. It’s a place where cultural immersion is as easy as turning into the bar on the corner or strolling through the markets.

If you’re planning a trip to Chile and on the fence about spending a few days in ‘Valpo,’ here’s what you need to know. Read on for suggestions about the things to do in Valparaiso, plus a suggested itinerary for 3 days in Valparaíso. Read on to learn everything you need to plan your trip!

things to do in Valparaiso

The Best Things Do In Valparaíso

What you will enjoy about Valparaíso is that it’s a city that feels lived in. It’s not glamorous, it’s not clean – it’s a place where local Chileans (they’re called Porteños) are living and working and enjoying nights drinking wine on their terraces while the dogs bark across the city.

That said, that means there aren’t a lot of “traditional” sights or experiences in Valparaíso. Wandering, strolling, and dining at your leisure are all perfectly reasonable ways to spend time in Valparaíso – and are in fact among the top things to do in Valparaíso.

Nonetheless, if you’re still keen to know what sights there are, here’s a short list of the best things to do in Valparaiso

Ride the Funiculars

Arguably the most distinct experience you can have in Valparaíso, the funiculars that ascend and descend some of the city’s most steep hills are fun to ride even if you’re not headed anywhere in particular. There are 7-16 funiculars in Valparaíso in operation at any time (some are undergoing renovation), and all are open to the public.

Most funiculars cost 100 CLP (about $0.15) each way.

If you are keen on a guided tour that also includes riding the funicular, you may want to check out this one.

things to do in Valparaiso

Admire the Street Art

Valparaíso is world-renowned for its street art – and it’s literally everywhere. From the main buildings and streets to every small alley, you can find colorful art that includes almost every topic and theme. 

Street art is technically illegal in Valparaíso, but as you’ll see that makes no difference. You can wander at will to discover art in whatever area you’re in, or visit the neighborhoods of Cerro Alegre and Bellavista, which are some of the most artfully populated places. If you care for a guided tour, you may wish to check out this one.

3 days in Valparaiso

A street art walk or tour is one of the things to do in Valparaiso

Take a (Free) Walking Tour

If you want a bit more guidance on street art, one of the best ways to see the best art is by doing a walking tour. Most walking tours are free or for-donation. They’re usually led by a guide in a striped white-and-red shirt, giving you the sense you’re following Waldo to his favorite spots in the city – which is why they call their guides “Wallys!”

Tours are typically 2.5-3 hours long and usually visit some of the most famous neighborhoods like Cerro Alegre. You can expect to need to climb some hills or stairs, so be sure to wear good walking shoes. You can book your walking tour here.

Visit La Sebastiana

La Sebastiana is the seaside home of Chile’s famed poet Pablo Neruda. Like La Chascona in Santiago, La Sebastiana is unusual in design and style, and exists as a museum now. La Sebastiana is located near the apex of the Bellavista neighborhood and hill, so you can expect to climb a bit to get there. 

The museum is open to limited guests on a first come, first serve basis, so it’s best to arrive early in the morning for the fewest crowds and best views of the city.

day trip from Valparaiso

Day-Trip to Cachagua & Horcón

If you want to explore the surrounding area that doesn’t include wine tasting, a day-trip to Cachagua and Horcón is a good option. You’ll need to rent a car to make this trip, but there are rental agencies in central Valparaíso, including near the central bus station.

It’s a 1.5-hour drive from Valparaíso to the small city of Cachagua, passing through neighboring ritzy Viña del Mar and extended coastal countryside. Cachagua is most known for its offshore island, also called Cachagua. There, you’ll find one of the few places near the populated cities of Chile where you can see penguins. Yep, penguins!

You can walk up the 5-kilometer (3-mile) rough trail along the coast. That gives you great views of the island and the coastline. If you’re lucky, you can see otters or seals playing in the waterway between the mainland and the island. 

On the way back to Valparaíso from Cachagua, make a detour to visit the small coastal town of Horcón. While Horcón is mostly ideal as a less urban seaside getaway, there’s one sight that is worth the time to visit: the Puente de los Deseos (Bridge of Wishes). This short bridge-to-nowhere (literally it goes from the mainland to a small rock) is covered completely with colorful ribbons. Each ribbon has a wish, hope, or dream written upon it. It’s obviously Instagram worthy, but it’s also a beautiful spot to feel connected to fellow humanity.

valparaiso chilean wine

Terrace Dining

Honestly, one of the best things to do in Valparaíso isn’t an organized experience or tour. It’s not a specific sight. It’s just this thing you’d do every day if you lived in Valparaíso: dining on the terraces, admiring the view.

Wander until you find a restaurant with a great view and a nearby restaurant. Some of the tallest, popular hills, will offer you the most and best options. Ask for a table on the terrace. Order a Pisco sour and the catch of the day. ¡Buon provecho!

Valparaiso

A 3-Day Itinerary for Valparaíso

Now that you have all the details about the unmissable things to do in Valparaíso, it’s time to put them together. Here’s how to make the most of 3 days in Valparaíso.

Day 1: Arrive from Santiago & Explore Cerro Alegre

A morning bus from Santiago will deposit you in Valparaíso by midday. This gives you plenty of time to drop your bags at your hotel or Airbnb, then explore on your own until sunset.

The best place to head on your first day is Cerro Alegre, epicenter of street art and activity for visitors to Valparaíso. Make your first funicular ride aboard Concepción or Reina Victoria, depending on which side of the hill you’re approaching from. Then you can wander up and down the hill, through the colorful alleyways – especially Galvez – until you’re hungry.

Enjoy dinner on the terrace at Hotel Fauna, my top recommended restaurant in Valparaíso. Enjoy the view, and a glass of their Pisco Fauna, a house recipe Pisco Sour.

Valparaiso

Day 2: Walking Tour & Visiting Bellavista

While there are walking tours in the afternoon, I recommend booking one in the morning. The 10:00 am “offbeat” Valparaíso walking tour I found (but didn’t go on) is a 2.5- to 3-hour tour and is offered by donation. You’ll see Cerro Alegre’s colorful streets on the tour, which will help you get oriented to Valparaíso’s quirkier side. If you want a more traditional walking tour, that same company offers a Valparaíso highlights walking tour everyday at 3:00 pm.

In the afternoon, ascend Espiritu Santo to the Bellavista hill and neighborhood. This is one of the nicer neighborhoods, and you’ll notice this as you ascend to the top of the hill. After all, it’s called bella vista (beautiful view). You can end the day with an extended dinner and drinks at Oda Pacífico before making your way home.

Cachagua-Day-Trip-1

Day 3: Day Trip to Cachagua or Casablanca Valley

While I’m always a bit hesitant to recommend a day trip when you’re on a short trip to a specific city, I do think that people love seeing the surrounding region and Valparaíso specifically has some really distinct Chilean day trip options.

I’ve detailed both the Casablanca Valley wine tasting and penguin-hiking itinerary in Cachagua in the above section about the best things to do in Valparaíso, so refer to that section if you’re interested in either of these.

In the evening, you can catch a late bus back to Santiago, or stay another night in Valparaíso. Since buses run so frequently, you can even wait to decide after you’ve finished your wine tasting or spent the day hiking along the coast!

Valparaiso

Practical Information To Plan Your Trip To Valparaiso

The best time to visit Valparaíso 

Valparaíso is located on the Pacific Coast, so its weather is somehow similar to that of San Francisco – at least as fall approaches as when I was visiting. You will often experience the marine layer sitting out above the ocean during the morning and in the evening; and at times a mild fog or low cloud will cover over the city, keeping it chilly and which kept and humid. 

The best months to visit Valparaíso will be October to February, the late spring and summer months. In early September and late March, cooler weather will likely persist, with lower chances of sunny and warm days. 

How to get to Valparaíso from Santiago

Buses from Santiago to Valparaíso depart regularly from Pajaritos station and go all the way to Rodoviario bus station, from where you will have to take a taxi to reach your accommodation. One way tickets cost between 5,000-7,000 CLP ($7.50-$10.50).

Valparaiso-Street-Art-3

Getting Around Valparaíso

For a city of hills, you might wonder about your options for traveling around the city. Here’s a quick breakdown of how to get around Valparaíso.

BY PUBLIC TRANSIT: There are two primary transit options in Valparaíso: buses and funiculars (discussed above). Buses only run along the flat roads at the base of Valparaíso’s many hills, along the waterfront. There are buses to everywhere within the city center as well as the surrounding communities. They are mostly used by locals going to and from work, and are affordable at up to 410 CLP ($0.60) per ride.

OTHER TRANSIT OPTIONS: If you’re physically able, walking is the best way to get around Valparaíso. However, be aware that there are exceptionally steep hills in some parts of the city. That said, there’s nothing quite like the feeling of reaching a great viewpoint of Valparaíso from a stairwell or steep alleyway. Make sure to pack a pair of very comfortable shoes as the streets can be a bit uneven!

Where to stay in Valparaíso

There is no shortage of good accommodation options in Valparaíso. Things to consider when picking a place to stay are the location – especially, how steep is the hill you’ll have to climb to get there; and the view – a room with a view is certainly recommended. Having said so, here are a few good places to stay:

LA GALERIA – A good bed and breakfast with comfortable – albeit a bit small rooms.

FAUNA HOTEL – One of the most budget friendly options. There is a restaurant with a terrace and great views.

THIS AIRBNB has a fantastic terrace and funky decorations and can fit up to 7 persons.

Further readings

Are you planning a trip to Chile? Make sure to read my other posts!

This post was written by Valerie Stimac Bailey of Valerie & Valise. Valerie grew up in Alaska, so it’s no surprise she loves sharing stories from there and the rest of the American West. On her blog, you can find resources to have unforgettable experiences throughout the western U.S. including California, Hawaii, and yes, The Last Frontier. 
 

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7 Reasons To Visit The Basque Country

7 Reasons To Visit The Basque Country

If you happen to travel to the North of Spain, you really should visit the Basque Country. Known as Euskadi in the Basque language, or Pais Vasco in Spanish, this is where the Camino del Norte to Santiago de Compostela (St. James Way Northern Route) starts from. It’s a place you will easily fall in love with, as it is packed with beautiful cities, small villages galore, breathtaking landscapes, delicious food and even better wines. 

Are you curious to find out more about this incredible part of Spain? Continue reading to discover why you should go, and get a few tips to make the most of it.

visit Basque Country

The beautiful Plaza Mayor is a must for those who visit Bilbao

7 Reasons To Visit The Basque Country

The cities are beautiful

Bilbao is the largest city in the Basque Country, and it was hardly more than a big industrial city until the 1990s. Fast-forward 20 years and if  you visit Bilbao you will find a lively city, with state of the art museums, a perfectly kept Casco Viejo (historic quarter), fine restaurants and coffee shops, a great market and lots of beautiful shops. To make the most of the city, you may want to join a guided tour such as this Bilbao like a local: customized guided tour or this this Bilbao 3 hour guided bike tour.

But there are more cities to visit in the area.

Vitoria is often overlooked by most people who visit the Basque Country, yet it is incredibly pleasant and I would recommend stopping by. It has a gorgeous 13th century cathedral, a beautifully kept historic center, and some fine art galleries. You can visit Vitoria on day trips from Bilbao such as this Vitoria and Rioja day tour.

The beautiful San Sebastian is one of the most popular cities in the Basque Country, and it is easy to see why! It has some of the nicest beaches in Spain, with waves that are perfect for surfing, and that can be enjoyed throughout the year. Playa de la Concha beach is charming when empty (there is a gorgeous view of it from Mount Idalgo and Palacio Miramar). Nightlife in San Sebastian is thriving and the food scene – with all the pinxtos (more about those later) you can gorge on. To make the most of San Sebastian you may join a guided tour such as this San Sebastian bike tour or this San Sebastian walking tour

Finally,Laguardia, a walled city founded in the 10th century, is another gorgeous find packed with narrow allwys and a cozy, relaxed atmosphere.

Visit Basque Country

Those who visit Bilbao can’t miss on the Guggenheim

There are some fine architecture and art pieces

Should you visit Bilbao you will be astonished by the incredible Guggenheim museum – and rightly so. Designed by Frank Gehry, this is one of the finest example of contemporary architecture. It is an incredible structure that at the same time resembles a ship, a tower, flying fins, cliffs.

The Guggenheim remains one of the best sights in the Basque Country not only because of the building, but also for the groundbreaking art exhibitions it hosts – either permanent or contemporary. Last time I visited, there was an incredible installation by Japanese artist Fujiko Nakaya, which I initially mistook for “just morning mist obstructing my view” (I swear that caused much laughter among my friends). Imagine my stupor when I learned it was an exhibit by which steam is sprayed in the outside area of the museum every hour.

To make the most of the Guggenheim you may want to join a guided tour such as this one or book your Guggenheim museum skip the line ticket

But the Guggenheim isn’t the only architectural wonder you will come across when you visit the Basque Country. Gehry also planned the building of Hotel Marqués de Riscal, in Elciego. This is completely immersed in the vineyards, so the scenery is stunning. And the hotel simply fabulous, both inside and obviously outside.

visit Basque Country

Gatzelugatxe is a beautiful hermitage that shouldn’t be missed on a trip to the Basque Country

The sanctuaries look fantastic – literally

Game of Thrones fan will know that one of the most famous filming locations is actually in the Basque Country! The stunning heritage of Gatzelugatxe, near Bermeo in the Bay of Biscay. It really is an unmissable place to visit.

You can get there easily by public transportation from Bilbao. The path to get down from the parking lot to the hermitage gets muddy and slippery, but it is short and doable and the views along the way are breathtaking. 

Care for a guided tour? You may want to check out this Gatzletugatxe and Gernika tour from Bilbao or this Basque coast from Bilbao.

Visit Basque Country

The scenery in the Basque Country is gorgeous

The scenery is stunning

The Basque Country is among the rainiest parts of Spain, located as it is on the Atlantic coast. The combination of beautiful green hills, cliffs and beaches means that the scenery is always breathtaking, and that there are some great nature and wildlife reserves, as well as hiking trails. One more reason to go!

Basque Country

Whenever I visit the Basque Country, I get to enjoy delicious wine

There are some fantastic wineries

You can’t visit the Basque Country without trying its wines. You see, I come from a wine producing region – Sardinia – and I have often gone out of my way to tour famous wine regions such as those of Mendoza, in Argentina.

There are many bodegas you can visit in this part of Spain. The ones I recommend are Talai Berri, which makes some excellent txakoli wine – an endemic grape of the Basque Country that makes a crisp, fruity wine. The winery is located in a gorgeous setting, with views of the vineyards.

The other one is Bodega Marqués de Riscal in Elciego. Let alone that this is the home of the gorgeous hotel designed by Frank O. Gehry that I mentioned above, the winery is simply stunning – imagine old barrels, precious vintage bottles – and the wine delicious.

For guided wine tasting tours, click here or here.

Visit Bilbao

The market is a must for those who visit Bilbao

The food is always delicious

If you only need one reason to visit the Basque Country, let me tell you it will be its cuisine. Fish and seafood are always on offer, and the pinxtos – the equivalent of the southern tapas – here have been taken on a higher level, becoming real works of art.

One of the coolest things to do, instead of sitting down for a traditional meal, is going from one pintxos place to the other, having various kinds and all the while enjoying a good glass of wine, just as the locals do. The best places to do that are Bilbao and San Sebastian. Not sure where to start? Join a guided tour such as this Bilbao guided pintxos tour or this gourmet pintxos tour of San Sebastian.

Basque Country

Beautiful scenery, fabulous sights: this is the Basque Country

Practical Information To Plan Your Trip To The Basque Country

How to get to the Basque Country

There are various airports in the Basque Country, though the one with the most connections is that of Bilbao, which is also served by several budget airlines.

GOOD TO KNOW: Bilbao airport was designed by famous Spanish architect Calatrava (the same who designed the Puente de la Mujer in Buenos Aires).

Where to stay and eat in the Basque Country

You will find a great range of accommodation and eating options in the Basque Country. San Sebastian is known as the gourmet capital of Spain, but good restaurants are easily found all over the region.

BILBAO: Stay at Melia Hotel, a fabulous modern building at walking distance from the main attractions, with spacious and cozy rooms. Eat at La Ribera, on the other side of Bilbao market, for a great choice of fish and meat dishes, as well as excellent vegetarian options.

SAN SEBASTIAN: Stay at Hotel Barcelò Costa Vasca, which has an excellent wellness centre. Enjoy pinxtos at Nestor and Ganbara, in the historic quarter of the city. Always look at what the locals eat – they know what’s fresh!

VITORIA: Stay at the lovely and cozy Hotel Silken Ciudad De Vitoria, right off the city centre. Enjoy a great seafood dinner at El Portalon, right behind the main square, in the historic town.

LAGUARDIA: Eat at the excellent Hospedería Los Parades (which also is a lovely hotel) and enjoy the fresh food and the great service.

Weather in the Basque Country

The Basque Country is among the rainiest regions of Spain. No matter what time of the year you intend to visit, there will eventually be some rain – the thin, persistent rain that is so typical of this part of the country to the point it has its own name: txirimiri. Make sure to pack an umbrella and bring a rain proof jacket. 

Language in the Basque Country

Though everyone speaks Spanish in the Basque Country, and walking around Bilbao Spanish is the language you will usually hear, the Basque Country has its own language, Basque (Euskara). Most people also speak really good English, so you won’t have any troubles getting by even if you don’t speak Spanish.

Further readings

Are you traveling to Spain? Make sure to read my other posts:

Legal disclaimer: This article is written in partnership with Spain Tourism Board and the local tourism board of The Basque Country, and in cooperation with The Travel Mob as part of the #InGreenSpain campaign. All the views and opinions expressed are my own and based on my personal experience. The views expressed are honest and factual without any bias.

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