Our Colombia in Pictures [PHOTO ESSAY]

Our Colombia in Pictures [PHOTO ESSAY]
July 26, 2011 Lainie Liberti
jumping for joy in manizales

Jumping for joy in Manizales, Colombia

What does Colombia look like? 3 months, 12 cities, 48 photos, 2 videos = Our Colombia!

Every picture tells a story, don’t it?

Sit back, relax and take this trip through Colombia with us!

This post is a pictorial essay of our  experiences in the magical country of Colombia. Colombia was our first South American country and we had an amazing action packed, cultural experience, even though we had a tad of a struggle getting there. This exercise of  looking back helps me to appreciate  all the wonderful experiences we’ve had in Colombia and recognizing that the Big Delay getting there was completely worth it! We hope you enjoy this photo essay:


Our first stop was in the beautiful Colonial city of Cartegena. The historical walled city provides the perfect backdrop for a bold tale of allure, lust and adventure, leaving no doubt why the 80′s blockbuster Romancing the Stone was filmed there. Miro and I strolled wide-eyed in the old city, soaking in the pastel facades covered by bright bougainvilleas, people dressed in brilliant white bustling between shops, and primal drum beat Afro-Caribbean music throbbing in the streets. Sucked into the city’s swirling energy, Miro and I spent several days exploring the streets of El Centro.


Cartegena, Colombia

Horse drawn buggy in one of the many plazas in the old city. A rich history haunted the city, even remnants from the Spanish Inquisition.

Miro resting on the historic walls surrounding the city. The walls were built to keep the pirates out, and the people & the city’s wealth safely protected inside. More on the history of Cartagena, be sure to listen to Podcast Episode #17 – Travel – It’s a Family Affair.

Miro napping the fresh Caribbean air.

Outside the walled city of Cartagena lies the warm Caribbean waters. This shot was taken at sunset of the locals splashing in the warm waters.

La Boquilla

La Boquilla is a traditional Caribbean town,  located just seven km outside of Cartagena. This town had a rustic feel and was the home to the coast’s working class.

boys of the carribean
These are the beautiful children of La Boquilla . We had the opportunity to meet the village boys. I soon discovered they loved having their photos taken. I also discovered these skinny boys liked to pose in positions that they perceived to be macho, trying to bulking up their young bodies to emulate an image of “man”. It was fascinating to watch, and they all seemed fabulously comfortable displaying their version machismo grandeur. I was reminded of a peacock watching their scrawny limbs flex and contract to look seemingly larger than they were. But I saw them for the most perfect little boys they were.

This little girl greeted us after our boat ride through the mangroves. She had the most beautiful eyes.

Volcan el Lodo del Totumo

Bathing in a mud volcano (Volcan de Lodo) in Colombia, just north of Cartagena sounded like a great idea. This “mud spa” was created by natural gases emitted by decaying organic matter underground. The mounting pressure of these gases pushes the mud upwards where it hardens above ground, creating a miniature mud-filled crater. The volcano’s cool mud runs down into the earth about 2000m.

Enjoying the mud at Volcan el Lodo del Totumo. I got in first, then had to convince the not-so-sure Miro to join me. But in the end he did, opting for not getting his face muddy as the only stipulation.

The mud was thick and buoyant. We were pushed and pulled, floated across the top, as our bodies glided straight across the surface of the mud.


Taganga is the neighboring fishing village, adjacent to Santa Marta. Lainie & Miro stayed there for 3 days enjoying the company of their host family. Taganga is popular among the backpacking crowd,  known for it’s diving schools and the crystal waters in the surrounding bay. The waterfront boardwalk is buzzing with bikini clad travelers and locals alike. More on Taganga can be found here, at Podcast Episode #18 – Being Happiness(es)

Farther north was the beach city of Taganga, a popular spot on the backpacker trail. This shot was taken at sunset of with the foreground lined with sun worshiping tourists.

There was no shortage of hostels in Taganga. As we were checking out potential places to rest our heads, I took this photo of Miro. Just after I took this photo of him, he said “Mom, Escher called, he wants his stairs back.” I nearly fell up, down or sideways on the stairs I was laughing so hard!

Nispero which kind of looks like a potato, but it tastes like a cross between a pair and a date. They make amazing liquados, fresh fruit blended with milk. Tastes like a milkshake. Tastes like heaven.

Miro playing with the local kids in Taganga, Colombia.

Lainie with her new friends in Taganga, Colombia.


Medellin, located in the heart of the Aburrá Valley, one of the more northerly locations of the Andes, in South America. The Medellín Metropolitan Area produces 67% of the Department of Antioquia’s GDP and 11% of the economy of Colombia. Medellín plays an important role in the regions economy because of  the universities, academies, commerce, industry, science, health services, flower-growing, festivals and nightlife. The city is unique in many ways, including the friendly people, the eternal spring-like weather and the infamous history. Medellin is also the birthplace of artist Botero and as we’ve become more immersed in the city, we are noticing just how much culture exudes from Medellin. This is also the city where Miro had his first hostile hostel experience.

Miro and I were interviewed for the local magazine Gente in Medellin, Colombia. The magazine features stories of extraordinary people in the local area. We were so honored to have been chosen for the interview and even more excited when we saw we were featured on the entire back page! To access the pdf version of the article in Spanish, please click here

Medellin provided a beautiful backdrop of some colorful & creative street art.

March for Stronger Laws to Protect Animals & Prosecute Abusers – Miro petting a beautiful dog at an animal rights rally we were invited to attend in Medellin, Colombia. Sunday, February 6, 2011, an animal rights protest was held in Medellin. Miro and I were send an email from an amazing woman who read about us in Gente and knew we have a deep love for animals and thought we’d like to go. She was right.

Miro loved Botero’s voluminous images at the Botero Museum in Medellin.When we look at the work of Fernando Botero, be it a painting, drawing or sculpture, we are amazed at the enormous size of the figures, as much animals as people and things. Botero explored the possibilities of art to create and recreate reality constituting a personal artistic language, characterized by the exaltation of forms and volume.

Mom & son contemplating the art, at the Botero Museum in Medellin.

Mom & son contemplating the modern art, at the Botero Museum in Medellin


Miro and I spent almost six weeks in Manizales, a beautiful mountain side city, where Miro & I volunteered. Manizales is the capital of Caldas district, better known as “My Manizales of my Heart”,  located in Mid-western Colombia, on the Andean cordillera. Manizales is tucked into the heart of ‘coffee country’ and drinking coffee here, is equal to breathing air. It’s just second nature.

Manizales is located  close to major cities, just  one hour from Pereira,  two hours from Armenia and five hours south of Medellin.

In my opinion, the social and physical atmosphere in Manizales very much resembles a small San Francisco with it’s hillside communities and steep streets spanning a variety of barrios. Manizales is a university rich town,  the home to 8 higher education institutions, lowering the city’s median age to around 20.

Perhaps the high altitude, the population of young excited students and lots of caffeine is why the this city’s public art is whimsical, wacky and playful!

Miro smiles as we travel in the metro cable in Manazales, located in the coffee region. The metro cable was located just outside the hostel we were volunteering at, and some days we rode the cable car up and down the mountain, just for fun.

This image has to be one of my favorite photos from our trip. I love the image of the two nuns walking up the hill, with the older gentleman in the background looking down at the valley below. Manizales was quaint, peaceful and picturesque.

One of the best things about Manizales, was it’s location, deep in the coffee growing valley. Manizales’ main street was lined with sweet shops to accompany the best coffee I’ve had in my life. My kind of town!!! (and yes, I was in heaven)

Los Nevados (Near Manizales)

Miro and I are not mountain trekkers but we do love hiking in the nature. We knew we too, would  take advantage of the beautiful mountains, not far from the city and started our research. We learned that the Los Nevados National Park is located in the central area of Colombian Andes. In this park are located many places of interest, like the snow mountains Ruiz, Tolima, St. Isabel, Swann andQuindio.  Also, Otún Lake and Green Lake, are popular attractions and there were multiple natural thermals (or hot springs) running through the region.

Miro at the beginning of our hike into the Los Navados mountains. The altitude was 4200 meters high (approximately 14,000 feet) and we literally started in a cloud.

Lainie enjoying the prize for our high altitude hike. A dip into the natural thermals was some great reward.


A three and a half hour bus ride from Manizales is the beautiful colonial style village Salento with it’s picturesque setting and mild weather.The town is quint and Miro and I immediately said it reminded us of Granada, Nicaragua despite it’s vastly different climate. But the things we thought were familiar we soon we discovered were very different as Salento was clearly an artisan’s town, as we were eager to learn more out it’s history.

Lainie and Miro always carry around a bag of dog food with them where ever they go. This is a beautiful dog in Salento, Colombia who found out this secret.

Lainie and Miro enjoying wonderful coffee drinks in Salento, deep in the heart of coffee country.

Valle de Cocora

Salento is the nearest town to Valle de Corcora , where the majority of tourists stay. Most of the tourists we encountered planned to- or already had  hiked the famous valley. But that early Saturday morning, we seemed to be the only tourists setting out on the trail.

Miro and I set out on our hike. Scores of wax palms dominated the landscape scenery  – huge palm trees that grow mainly in this area and which tower over the coffee bushes. We had been told how beautiful the valley was, but nothing compared to actually seeing them for ourselves.


Mom & son smiling just as we embark on our hike through the valley of the giant wax palms. Of course, this is us at the beginning of our hike.

Miro doing a little mud dance in the Valle de Corcora.

Miro crossing over a flowing river in the valley of the giant wax palms.

Seeing how Miro measures up against the giant wax palms.

Video taken just after our 7 ½ hike through the valley of the giant wax palms, or Valle de Cocora.

San Cipriano

San Cipriano is a small village located at 200 metres above sea level on the Pacific nearby the port of Buenaventura. San Cipriano is well known for its unique transportation system; to get there from Cordoba, you must travel using small train carts called ‘brujitas’, which use the abandoned railway and are usually made of wood. They are powered either by a hand pump or a motorbike that puls it. The town is really two dirt tracks with wooden houses built along the river. Very green and the river is perfectly clear. There are some nice walks and you can swim in the river or go down the very small rapids on innertubes, which is exactly what we did… (see below).

In order to get to our next destination, we needed to take the only transportation into San Cipriano, located on the Pacific coast of Colombia. The transportation consisted of a motorcycle hooked up to a wooden bench for passengers, which ran along the active train tracks. This was the most terrifying 20 minute ride, since if a train came towards or behind us, we needed to quickly jump off the vehicle for safety.

Miro and I enter San Cipriano, located in the jungle near the pacific coast, which is the poorest region of Colombia.

Miro crossing a river in the San Cipriano nature reserve.

Miro and I hiked to a beautiful waterfall with the guidance of a beautiful dog named Violetta.

We made friends with Violetta, and the next day she accompanied us as we tubed down the river.

Miro playing the river just before we took the 1 hour journey down the river, back into town.

Violetta the dog and Lainie relaxing in the tube just before our journey.


Popayán is the capital of the Colombian department of Cauca. It is located in southwestern Colombia between Colombia’s Western Mountain Range and Central Mountain Range.  This town is well-known because of its beautiful colonial architecture and its contributions to Colombian cultural and political life. It is also known as the “white city” due to the color of the most of colonial houses and places in the city downtown, where several churches are located, such as San Francisco, San José, Belén, Santo Domingo, San Agustín, and the Catedral Basílica Nuestra Señora de la Asunción, known locally as “La Catedral”. Also, as we discovered, Popayán is the home to another collection of wonderful street art.

Miro chasing pidgins in Popayán, Colombia just after rainfall.

Bleh! It tasted like wet chalk and Miro and I both thought they were  disgusting, much to the dismay of our Colombian hosts. We tasted the chontadora, toasted on the street, and seem to be a favorite among the locals. We didn’t get it.


Cali, is a city in western Colombia and the capital of the Valle del Cauca Department. With a population of 2.5 million, Cali is the third largest city in the country. It has one of the fastest growing economies and infrastructure in the country because of its geographical location. The city was founded on July 25, 1536 by the Spanish conquistador Sebastián de Belalcázar.

Hanging out with two friends in Cali, the beautiful Claudia & Carolina and me.

Miro and I visited the zoo in Cali, had a wonderful day in the sun with all of the animals. Miro found this display at the monkey cages particularly interesting. He learned monkey facial expressions and surprisingly enough, they held no challenge for this talented child.

Our last night in Colombia, before we got onto a night bus headed for Ecuador was Miro’s birthday. We had a fabulous sushi dinner in Cali with Paul, one of Miro’s father’s second cousin, who happend to be living in Colombia at the time! It was wonderful celebrating Miro’s 12th birthday with family so far away from home.


Our last stop in Colombia was a small border town called Ipiales,  a city in Nariño Department, Colombia, near the border with Ecuador. Ipiales is located on the high plateau called ‘Tuquerres e Ipiales’, which we were so glad we visited before leaving the country. The city’s main attraction is the impressive architecture of the Las Lajas Cathedral. Ipiales is known as “la ciudad de las nubes verdes” (the city of the green clouds) because some times, especially in the afternoon, green clouds appear over the city. One of the biggest festivals is called the “Black and White Carnival”. Through this event people from Ipiales celebrate racial diversity. People paint each other with make-up and a white soap, called “careoca”. Next time, that’s a must for us.

Miro standing outside the beautiful Cathedral of Ipialis on a rainy morning.

To get a sense of the size of this cathedral which spans the length of a river, you truly need to be standing there. In all fairness, this is a photo of a photo. My little point and shoot camera did not have a lens capable of capturing the entire structure. This cathedral was magnificent!

Oh the Places You’ll Go!


Today is your day.
You’re off to Great Places!
You’re off and away!

And with that, we were off to our next destination, Ecuador! Check back soon for stories from the middle of the world. And yes, that was a Dr. Seuss reference.


  1. Bdavis2012 13 years ago

    Amazing fotos !! Amazing Journey’s!!! Love ^ Light

  2. Tracy Burns 13 years ago

    Yep I’m officially jealous! Thanks!nnI really enjoyed the photo story of your time in Columbia, particularly the mix amazing sight seeing and every day things like going to a coffee shop or chasing pigeons in the rain – what a great way to give a sense of what you’ve been doing over the past few months rather than just showing the country.u00a0

  3. Kirsten Alana 13 years ago

    You are one kick arse cool mom. God I wish mine had been more like you. Your son is a blessed kid.nnnAll that aside, I WANT TO GO DO EVERYTHING YOU SHOWED HERE!!!!!!! Now, please 🙂 Le sigh.

  4. Jamie 11 years ago

    HAHA!!! I love the picture with Miro and you (and several others) in the mud!!! Miro being the only one without mud on the face… So cute, his individuality is just gleaming! This photo journal really made me miss the absolute splendor of south america nature. I must return soon for a long stay!! I’m sure you hear this ALL the time, but I absolutely admire what you are doing. Kudos!!

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