A personal account from Highlights of Colombia
In February, I was fortunate to join the first departure of our new tour - Highlights of Colombia & Peru. This was an opportunity for me to experience a new Jules Verne tour first hand and to discover the countries in the same way as our guests.
Cartagena, our first stop, was a fascinating mix of Colombian, Caribbean, African and Spanish influences. Within the town there we many contrasts such as the Inquisition museum and modern harbour with a compact and historic old town (that Francis Drake once attacked!). Our central and characteristic hotel allowed us to explore the city with ease. I can recommend Epoca or the nearby literary café to taste Colombian coffee. I also enjoyed a ‘Caribbean’ restaurant and tapas at a historic hotel.
Next, we continued onto Bogotá. Bogotá ’s Gold Museum (the subject of a major exhibition at the British Museum in 2013) was a real highlight. Our guide, Nicol, who was a former anthropology student explained that this was the source of the El Dorado legend - there is so much gold that only Tutankhamun’s treasures can compare!
We also embarked on a graffiti tour which displayed a different but equally fascinating side of Colombia ‘from politics to pop art and street dance’.
In Peru I was fascinated by a genuine Sunday market as we were able to see local farmers and vendors selling and exchanging goods. During our time in Sacred Valley we stayed in Casa Andina, a beautiful hotel in an attractive location with an excellent restaurant. I made a Pisco Sour and saw the stars from the observatory under expert guidance.
Our visit to the strange site of Moray (Peruvian ‘crop circles’) and the Salineras with multiple salt ponds allowed us to experience walking at altitude, ready for Machu Picchu. On the Vistadome train I felt we were penetrating the jungle en route to Machu Picchu, following the Urubamba river downstream. Despite some mist and rain, Machu Picchu was the highlight of the tour. There was plenty of walking but it was not too difficult, and it was incredible to see a lost city undiscovered by the Spanish Conquistadores.
The final three nights of our tour were spent in Cusco, which revealed further Inca sites. We also had the opportunity to visit the Machu Picchu museum which showed the re-discovery of the site by Hiram Bingham and 300 artefacts returned in 2011. The Pre-Colombian museum, however, was the best in my mind; it was well laid out with many artefacts including gold and silver from pre-Inca and Inca civilisations.