Our Lack of Travel Planning…
Mike and I have never been good at planning our travels too far in advance, but Alaska made us worse. His job in the three years prior to living in Bogota was insane – no weekend was predictable (well, except when he was simply gone for loooong periods of time). We learned to leave most travel planning (especially for weekends) till the last minute because we didn’t know if he would have the weekend free and didn’t want to loose a lot of money or deal with the dissapointment. Here in Colombia he has to get permission to spend a night anywhere other than our home, so we’ve started to have to plan at least a week out for local trips, more for international trips. We always seem to get as close to that line as possible though – aka booking a Galapagos trip only three weeks prior (I haven’t written about that yet but I will!)
We flew back from the USA last month with no plans for the July 4th weekend. Originally we had wanted to travel to Cartegena, a beautiful city on the coast of Colombia, but flight costs were 4 times normal pricing. Searching for local travel was difficult because it was also a local holiday and many places (surprisingly) were booked. We, fortunately, stumbled across Bogotivo, a local blog with some great recommendations, and found availability at a hotel with great reviews in the middle of a coffee farm – La Palma y El Tucan.
La Palma y El Tucan
My thoughts: If you have time you MUST go to this place. Here are a few reasons why.
1. The Environment
The property is surrounded by mountains, with breathtaking views of the Andes in its’ own little eco-zone. It was a perfect complement to the classes I’m taking this quarter for my environmental management and policy masters program; environmental systems and sustainable policy. The hotel’s name is grounded on ecological principles. La Palma y El Tucan = The palm and the toucan. The toucans play an essential role as seed dispersers of the palm tree. When that relationship is out-of-balance, both species suffer.
The hotel is on the grounds of a coffee plantation. I’m not sure what they were before they were a coffee plantation, but when we asked our guide about why the land was initially cleared, we were told it was because the trees were used as the source of Bogota’s growth years ago. Now, as individuals become aware of how naturally rich the landscape is, many are trying to protect the biodiversity. La Palma y El Tucan is an excellent example of proving that biodiversity can help sustainable agriculture.
La Palma y El Tucan also runs a social program called Neighbors & Crops, where they purchase and process coffee cherries from nearby farmers. They are trying to make coffee farming more sustainable by enabling the small farmers to concentrate on what they do best, farming while helping them be profitable. They also give the farmers as much weight in organic compost as the farmers provide them in cherries. If you want to read more about this in detail, I came across this informative blog.
2. The Included Tours
When you book a hotel stay, two tours are included; a tour of the coffee plantation and a coffee tasting experience. Fortunately, one of their tour guides spoke English, so we were able to have both experiences in English.
Last month we took a coffee tour in Salento, a well-known area in Colombia for coffee. We loved our tour in Salento and weren’t sure how the tour here would compare, but it was completely different, and we loved it as well. Our guide, David, a sustainable tourist guide and also a biologist, had so much passion for the environment. He was so energetic, explaining the different species, how things grow in harmony, and what the plantation does to keep that balance in check. And, he also talked about coffee, of course.
The coffee tasting experiencing is essential a “coffee cupping,” but I’m not that fancy with coffee, so it was a term I had not heard before. David went into detail on what goes into the taste of coffee, and it was so much more than I knew prior (temperature of the water, length of time water interacts with grinds/size of grinds, other flavors that are around, etc.). Oh, and the coffee is AMAZING. La Palma y El Tucan is known for growing premium coffee, so if that’s your thing, you’re in the right place. We put Jackson’s iPad on for this so we could get the full experience, and I’m glad we did.
3. The Food
OMG….I looked at pictures of the food before booked and I was drooling… Typical food in Colombia is well, um, comforting? There are SO many fresh ingredients here, but I’ve found that outside the cities not much of them are used in the traditional food. So when I saw pictures of fresh veggies – I knew we were going to like the food. And we did. The first night there was a fresh pizza night where we got to choose the ingredients and they made the pizza. I also had artichoke…yum. Unfortunately, I usually am way too hungry by the time we’re served our meals, so I’m horrible at taking pictures. Aaaand yeah, I only found two images from the weekend. Whoops. You’ll just have to try it for yourself.
4. The Facilites / Grounds
Mike kept commenting that it appeared as though a professional architect designed all the buildings on the property. There was definitely thought put into the design of the hotel.
The hotel includes 9 cabins (single, double, and family), and a huge common area. The common area has a large outdoor dining area, multiple hot tubs (but only one main one in use when we were there), a net “thingy” (I don’t know the best way to describe it), a stepping “thingy” (again, I don’t know how to describe it) bathrooms, a bar, an indoor area, and more. There’s also an outdoor cooking and fireplace area (ugh, a kid who gets tired at 7 PM made it too hard to use). More buildings were found when wandering the grounds, such as a large pond filled with geese surrounding an outdoor pavilion.
The grounds were also gorgeous. Besides coffee trees, there were tons of palms, insects, gorgeous views, and lots and lots of steps. The cabins aren’t necessarily close to the common area, so you’ll have to do some walking.
We thought it would be less than a two hour drive from Bogota. Nope. Not when we drove – it took us close to four hours from the time we left our apartment to the time we arrived. Thank you Bogota traffic. I think it was only around two to drive home though.
After you book the hotel, they will message you with details how to get there. As usually with the nice places in Colombia, you have to drive a considerable distance on a dirt/icky road. We were glad to have our 4wd. We saw a few sedans that had made the drive, but they parked at the entrance to the property.
Aaaand more pictures (of course!)
And of course, I have to add the other silly pictures from the weekend 🙂
Overall, it was a great weekend away from Bogota!