A Taste of Captivating Colombia.

Join my Journey this spring to Colombia. Mention Latin America and Colombia, and your first descriptions might be dazzling mountain peaks, coffee farms, salsa music, a cathedral made of salt, sunshine and most likely, a history of crime. Colombia has all of these. Its people are stylish and sophisticated, few countries have managed the turnaround rebranding achieved by Colombia achieved in the last 15 years. Headlines noting unstable politics and city crime are now in the past. Improved trade and a growing tourism market have transformed the image. Travel now before it becomes a tourist mecca. Like South America in miniature, Colombia is a lively pastiche of Andean cities, Amazon basin, stately haciendas, marvelous artists, and charming colonial towns.

I arrive Bogota and will head directly to the Four Seasons Hotel Casa Medina. The Four Seasons Hotel Casa Medina entwines its 1940s colonial history with a splash of contemporary Colombia. A leafy suburban mansion set in the heart of the capital is an ideal retreat for those escaping the hustle and bustle of the city – settle down beside cozy fireplaces. Casa Medina is situated in the heart of Zona G, also known as the ‘gourmet zone’ of Bogotá. Within a one-mile radius there are more than a dozen restaurants and bars of a medium- to high-quality, situated in a safe area which is easy to explore on foot. Small details across the hotel pay homage to its founding architect, Santiago Medina, with stained-glass windows depicting a picture of birds and flowers – Medina’s passions. There are fireplaces in 16 of the 62 rooms, I’ve requested a cozy suite with fireplace.

Catching up from the trek from California, the first few days are filled with city touring and museum visits, including the historic La Candelaria where the two most noteworthy museums are the Gold & Botero Museums. Always schedule a Siesta in your planning!

After a few days of sightseeing and divine dining, head to the Coffee region to Hacienda Bambusa. Driving down the winding lane that leads to this hotel, you may feel like you’re approaching a working farm. What you actually come across is a carefully preserved, two-level hacienda that was the home of the Montoya family. Well-maintained gardens that are often busy with hummingbirds and farmland grazed by herds of white Cebu Brahman cattle encircle this intimate property.

Built around a tiny interior courtyard with a small fountain, the seven rooms face onto a balustraded gallery. They all have some outdoor space, and there are plenty of quiet corners in the gardens and by the swimming pool,

Many options include a classic day visiting the town of Salento as well as walk/hike, at whatever difficulty is comfortable in Corcora Valley.

Visit reborn city of Medellin. Venture out from Colombia’s second city to find a world in perpetual bloom. From its art and culinary scenes to the breathtaking Andes Mountains I can’t wait to experience the magic of Medellin.

The City of Eternal Spring – Known for its combination of warm days and cool nights, Medellin’s temperate climate in the Andes Mountains makes it an ideal destination year-round. From exploring this exciting city to adventuring out into the verdant countryside, soak in the incredible views. In Medellin, enchantment can be found around every corner, at every bend in the trail.

The Art of Medellin. In Medellin, guests are welcomed with open arms by paisas, as the locals are called. Wander to El Poblado to shop in the clothing boutiques filled with unique pieces made by Colombian designers. The grid of streets are overgrown in palms and gardens, cafes and chic shops. Don’t miss Makeno, a light flooded concept store that has approximately 100 Colombian fashion and accessory designers. A magical place where you can purchase high quality products with great design content. Visitors can check out Comuna 13 and its dynamic street art with a local artist, followed by contemporary fine art at the Medellin Museum of Modern Art. Medellin is the birthplace of Fernando Botero, his sculptures dot downtown and one can view the large collection of sketches and personal items he donated to the Antioquia Museum.

Siesta in Luxury – Of course, my team partners with the best five-star property in the city. Indulge in the luxury that Medellin offers while still experiencing the authenticity of the city and its people. I will be staying at El Cielo Hotel – of course, I have already reserved a table at the eponymous restaurant by superstar chef Juan Manuel Barrientos.

Perhaps more than anywhere else in Colombia today, Medellin is an example of just how far the country has come in the last 20 years –it has been recognized as one of the most innovative cities in the world. It is precisely this incredible transformation that makes Medellin a must for any visitor to Colombia looking to really appreciate and learn about the progress. Both the Festival of Flowers and the Christmas-time Festival of Lights are unique times to visit Medellin, with its beautifully mild climate, average 72 F, there really is not a bad time to visit what’s known as the “City of Eternal Spring.”

My team can curate an eight-day Journey which includes day trips to the small village of Santa Elena or up to 15 days.

Check out of Medellin for a drive out to Cannua Eco-Lodge. En route to Cannua, you’ll stop at the small town of Carmen de Viboral. Known for its local traditions of pottery making and ceramic art, Carmen de Viboral is a beautiful town whose buildings, monuments, and even their streetlights are adorned with unique ceramic pieces. Each wall of the town could have a mural, a ceramic design or even on its facade in an attempt to beautify the town while also paying respect to its generational tradition of ceramic artwork. 

Continue onto the small town of Marinilla to check in to the lodge Cannua. Cannua is an eco-lodge that opened its doors in late 2019 after many years of planning, studying the local environment, and employing the local community in its construction. With an emphasis on permaculture, Cannua was built within the nature, not on top of it.

Cannua Lodge

Optional tours that can be added onto your stay at Cannua: Rum, chocolate, and/or coffee tastings. Bird watching with an expert guide. Cheese-making with local farmers and livestock. Fuller day tours and hikes to Guatape, Carmen de Viboral, and other towns are available for those spending more time at Cannua.

Then, check out and transfer to Medellin airport for your flight onward to Cartagena.  Check in Casa San Agustin interesting places nearby the Hotel: Santo Toribio Church, Gold Museum, Inquisition Palace, Cathedral and old churches of Spanish Colonial era.

Arrive in time for a sunset cocktail at Café del Mar or one of the city’s rooftop bars is a great way to kick off your stay. The colorful streets are made for exploration on foot, so after breakfast you’ll meet your guide for a walking tour of the walled city center.

During your walk, we can arrange for an architect to join you and accompany you through the narrow and colorful alleys, to explain all the special characteristics of the monuments, churches, convents, and private houses that reflect all the influences – Moorish, colonial, military, Arabic, Spanish and North American – that have made Cartagena what it is today.

Before dinner, one of our favorite local bartenders will invite you to a tasting of several top-quality Caribbean rums. Rum is by far the most consumed alcohol in Latin America, and during the tasting you’ll also learn about the history of the spirit as well as the different styles and their origins. This is the perfect way to start a great evening in Cartagena!

Enjoy a day at leisure to explore Cartagena on your own. Or we can arrange additional exploration such as one of the favorite options: Explore the city’s art scene with a bilingual expert, focusing either on contemporary art museums and galleries. For shopaholics, a fashion specialist will get you special access to the top designers’ shops in Cartagena, featuring both Colombian and international designers.

Eat your way through Cartagena with tasting menus of typical dishes at four different restaurants. Or hit the traditional Bazurto market and then get to work in a Caribbean cooking class.

Explore Cartagena with an expert on the life of Gabriel García Marquez. Head out of the city to learn about the unique paso horses and go for a ride along the beach. The author of “Love in the Time of Cholera” and “One Hundred Years of Solitude” died in Mexico City, however in Colombia when he died, a marathon public reading of Garcia Marquez’s No One Writes to the Colonel took place at 1,400 public libraries. The Culture Ministry distributed 12,000 copies of the book for the occasion.

Gabriel García Marquez

Private Boat Island Hopping optional. Or, you may want to spend the entire day enjoying the Caribbean to its fullest.

The Rosario Islands are a coral reef comprising 27 islands, located about one hour by boat from Cartagena. Its natural landscapes, crystal clear water and coral reefs, home to diverse flora and fauna, are of course the main attraction.

Rosario Islands

Sail on a private motorboat or yacht, enjoy a joy ride and watch the Caribbean’s water as it changes color right in front of your eyes. You will stop at spots to snorkel and swim, as well as for lunch at one of our favorite rustic beach hotels. On board, your guide will have a choice of drinks and snacks for you as well! 

Until Next Time- check out and head home!

Summer Sampler – The Pearl of the Adriatic Dubrovnik

My summer sojourn on the amazing SeaDream Yacht, if only the heat didn’t slow me down! I began my yacht odyssey in Dubrovnik, a destination our clients love and more importantly, we adore our VIP team here – Magic happens in Croatia!

So many reasons to visit Croatia and in particular, the southern city of Dubrovnik. It is the most visited city in the country. As one of the last remaining walled towns in the world, stroll the cobbled streets and walk through time. Dubrovnik’s weather and stunning views and an easy town to wander, make it an amazing destination. Oh, continue on for the best hotel notes.

Rooftop Prosciutto and Wine Bar Villa Dubrovnik Croatia

A city of red-tiled roof tops, beautiful architecture, stone walls, ancient churches, the city has regained its grandeur after the horrific Balkan war. A medieval town along the breathtaking Adriatic coast, the old stone fortress and defensive wall, very walkable limestone streets are a perfect combination of an old town in a fairy tale like picture book.

The size of Dubrovnik is ideal, small enough if you want to visit its beautiful old town in one day by just walking around. And large enough if you want more and like to be active. You can hike the Sdr hill – take the cable car one way up and then walk down to admire the stunning, bird’s eye view over the old town as well as the many islands dotting the crystal clear, azure Adriatic Sea. Active travelers will be entertained and challenged with kayaking, hiking, or cycling. One of my guides commanded: you must swim every day, the water is a tonic to youth – the purity has no comparisons.

Croatian writer Predrag Matvejević wrote:The Atlantic and the Pacific are seas of distance, the Mediterranean a sea of propinquity, the Adriatic a sea of intimacy. – Mediterranean: a cultural landscape.

swan dive into the Adriatic Sea from the cliff side beach club!

Cross the massive threshold through the wooden gates into the old town, to the main street, Stradun., known locally as Placa. One.three miles of stone walls built between the 11th and 13th centuries offer breathtaking views. The main square has a church or palace on almost every corner. Spectacular churches and palaces include St. Savior Church, Dubrovnik Cathedral and Rector’s Palace. My Jewish guide, former professor, noted that the Synagogue was closed today and there is a small Muslim Temple nearby. Fallen Catholic girls still shell out Euros for candles, just in case their parents and grandparents are in heaven. Do consider a late afternoon hike up the 175 steps to explore the Lovrijenac Fortress, built atop a 100-foot rock looking out toward Venice.

My favorite time of the day is late afternoon – the tourists take a break before dinner and the labyrinth of streets are quieter, the sun sparkles off the limestone buildings the street cafes are chic and inviting, a quiet place to contemplate life in an ancient walled town. Game of Thrones added a certain cachet – I didn’t engage, much was filmed here if you are an enthusiast.

Hotels – In my humble opinion, there is only one place to stay. Villa Dubrovnik – there aren’t many five-star properties, I feel the location and setting are perfect!

My summer trek, like many others wasn’t easy – a malfunctioning Air France jet delayed me in Paris, however, the captain said he would commandeer the next arriving jet and with some delay, we did depart CDG. Best act of macho aviation navigation I’ve ever witnessed!

My itin had a wee note: roof top Cocktail Bar at Villa Dubrovnik – I had a mission! Their Michelin restaurant, Pjerin, is multiple courses and is best saved for another evening! Drop bags and straight up to moon gaze, framed by Dubrovniks Old Town and the sea. Prosciutto and Wine Bar is stylishly adorned with comfy sofas under a canopied pagoda, champagne finally, after the globe hopping. It was my end of day perch during my all to brief visit.

A modernist gem of a hotel in the historic heart of the Adriatic. Set into the rocky cliffs on the most magical stretch of Dalmatian coast, Villa Dubrovnik is a stylish retreat for travelers in need of deluxe privacy and first-class hospitality. It’s not walking distance to Old Town, we have drivers, not to worry! The seaside setting is calm, quiet and exquisite.

The hotel’s pristine white architecture is a stunning contrast to the rocky landscape and sapphire Adriatic. Super yachts drift impressively on the immediate horizon, the island of Lokrum is the post card perfect backdrop. Afternoon soundtrack: splash of divers braving the rocky cliffs, motorboats puttering past, melting ice cubes crackling in fizzy drinks…endless summer from the rocky cliffs.

Vilal Dubrovnik, Croatia

The property’s clean, nautical lines evoke an understated refinement, and the modern decor is matched by an out-of-this-world Michelin gastronomic experience that revisits rich culinary traditions of the Mediterranean in a contemporary style.

Villa Dubrovnik

An infinity pool at the edge of the sea and a cliff side beach club dares guests to swan dive from the rocky perch. Me, under the big white umbrella, captivated for hours by the daunting divers and swimmers lazing and lapping about the pristine sea.

My coffee is always delivered, without the first bowl of coffee, I can barely utter a sentence let alone try to find the on button on those pod. machines – some love them, not I. Then amble up to the al fresco bar restaurant Giardino. The relaxing outdoor bistro is set against the historical parapet that overlooks Old City walls and island of Lokrum. Doze under the shade of maritime pines, it’s an ideal location for brunch or a late afternoon lunch serving fresh salads to fresh local sea food. Oh, great people watching as well.

Villa Dubrovnik closed at end of summer for a top to bottom refurnishing, but already has bookings for most of June 2024…don’t tarry!

Oh, Highly Recommend, Villa Dubrovnik!