SANTA MARTA: THE DOOR OF THE SIERRA NEVADA

Santa Marta is located in Magdalena department, on the Caribbean coast in the north of Colombia, between Barranquilla and Riohacha.

The city is a good place to stop off if you are doing a tour of the country and you want to go in the Sierra Nevada or to the Guajira Department.

It is one of the most tourist-focused cities on the coast. Its location between the Sierra Nevada and the Caribbean coast makes this city very attractive, especially considering the variety of fauna and flora to be found there.

 It is important also for the historical and cultural heritage, Santa Marta, was a colonial city, where you can admire the colonial architecture and monuments such as the Basilica of Santa Marta, which is a one of the biggest tourist destinations on the Caribbean coast.

As a Caribbean city, Santa Marta has suffered from repetitive British, French and Dutch attacks. The city is steeped in history and legends. One of them, says that Santa Marta´s Cathedral contains the heart of the famous Simón Bolívar, hidden somewhere. In fact Bolivar spent his last part of the life here.

A walking tour is the perfect way to orient yourself within the city and learn about its history and culture with your guide: follow your guide along the beach, check out top landmarks such as the Quinta de San Pedro Alejandrino, and end your tour with a prime spot for watching the sunset.

I was in Santa Marta as starting point for the “Ciudad perdida” I was by trekking! The Lost City, or Ciudad Perdida, is the archaeological site of an ancient indigenous city in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta. It has been a commercial center around 700 A.D., and its population probably ranged between 1,400 and 3,000 inhabitants. Hidden in the jungle for over a thousand years, the Lost City was found in 1972 when treasure hunters followed a series of stone steps leading up to an abandoned city.

From Santa Marta tour operators offer three- to five-day guided treks to the Lost City which include transportation, lodging, food.

Read more about the city!

 

ARENAL: THE COSTA RICA VOLCANO!

The Arenal Volcano is one of the main touristic destination in Costa Rica. It is in the North of the Country and around this area, you can do, lots of things! From the relaxing massage to the trekking to the top of the volcano…. there are several tours that take place in the area surrounding the volcano, and for good reason! You can have access to the rainforest, waterfalls, the country’s largest lake...

First, explore Arenal Volcano National Park

Arenal, is without a doubt, the most popular and well-recognized of Costa Rica’s volcanoes. When you arrive there…. You will be impressed by the huge symmetrical cone that dominates the fertile landscape at his foot. From San Jose you can simply take a bus that will bring you to Arenal. For the accommodation, no worries! I arrived there and I searched for a place to stay. I found a nice woman that also had an activity to sell Tour, but she was very nice, as I was a girl alone, so she gave me some good discount. At first I didn’t know if I chose well, but the days after spoken with several other backpackers I understood I was right… good compromise between me and her to have both the best we could from the bargain! I slept for 7 euros, and I bought a tour for the afternoon to the Park and waterfalls plus the tour of the day after to the top of the volcano and last, the passage with the jeep to Monteverde to do the most amazing zip line all for 150 Euros….

Coming back to the national Park…until recently, Arenal was the country’s most active volcano with an average of 41 eruptions per day. The Arenal Volcano is currently in a resting phase, you cannot hike up the volcano itself, but I recommend hiking through Arenal Volcano National Park with a bilingual naturalist guide in search of old lava flow and wildlife.

Slight changes in altitude create unique micro-climates and ecosystems through this region, making it home to a variety of exotic species.

Rest yourself in Arenal Volcano All-Natural Hot Springs

Another amazing thing to do here is to soak your muscles in thermal pools of water! Arenal is also home to several hot springs. Formed when water is heated underground and bubbles to the surface, Costa Rica’s mineral waters have been used as therapeutic baths for more than two hundred years to treat rheumatism and other ailments. These natural wonders tempt even the most experienced traveler – for a good reason! What could be better than a relaxing warm bath, surrounded by jungle and shadowed by the beauty of the volcano after a day of adventure?

Neighborhood:

Hike to La Fortuna Waterfall

Close to Arenal, there is a little farming town of La Fortuna that is named for its beautiful neighbor, the La Fortuna Waterfall. As one of the most beautiful waterfalls in the country and luckily enough, it can only be arrived at by foot (a 15-minute hike) or horseback, if you don’t like to walk. From the lush rainforest greenery, La Fortuna plummets 200 feet to fall into a pool of crystal clear water. Remember: the pool is delightfully cool on hot summer days!

Tenorio Volcano National Park

Tenorio has everything you could want in a tropical forest natural area.  Hiking to the sky blue Celeste waterfall is a highlight, but the hanging bridges in the rainforest and trail to Lago Danta through the cloud forest from the Heliconias entrance are equally amazing.

Celeste Waterfall: At a glance these are what puts the region around Bijagua on the list of the best places in Costa Rica.  From ranger station at the west entrance of Tenorio National Park (El Pilón) to the azure tinted cataract a couple of kilometers to the south.

Many hypotheses, conjectures and beliefs have been brought up about the rier color in a sunny day, intense blue, including that the color was due to the presence of a metal such as copper, the river’s proximity to the Tenorio Volcano or because of minerals such as calcium carbonate and sulfur. But all of those explanations are now known to be false,read more about this....

"To understand the enigma of this matter, one should know that two completely transparent rivers, Sour Creek (Quebrada Agria) and the Good View River (Río Buena Vista), converge to form the Río Celeste. It is precisely from the point of union of the two where the waters cease to be transparent and become light blue for the following 14 kilometers of river. For that reason, this point is known as The Dyer (El Teñidero)."

Hanging Bridges Hike

If you like to hike, another possibility is to hike through a private nature preserve along well-maintained trails and across a series of fixed and hanging bridges with views of Arenal Volcano. It is relaxing and it doesn’t take a long time if you don’t like long trails. A naturalist guide will point out the flora and fauna of the area like monkeys, sloths, tree frogs, and more. Don’t miss the waterfall extension trail at the end of the hike!

The Lake Arenal: the passage to Monteverde

The Arenal Volcano is also the base of Costa Rica’s largest lake, Lake Arenal. With the mighty volcano as its backdrop and the surrounding rolling hills and forests, Lake Arenal is truly a vision of peacefulness. Several activities are here possible: fishing, kayaking, and stand up paddle boarding are some of the most popular activities enjoyed from the lake. I pass from here with a cruise to reach my next stop… Monteverde. You can most certainly enjoy its added beauty to the scenery.

VOSS: AT THE CROSS OF THE 2 MOST LONGEST NORVEGIAN FJIORDS

As one of my closest friend lived in Voss for 6 months and I promised her to reach her there this summer I decided to go in Norway. After several stops I arrived in Voss, a little town that is a strategic place due to the fact it is in the cross of 2 fjords: the sognefjiord and the Hardangerfjiord, the 2 biggest ones.

I just described some of the attraction you can find there the easiest if you are on foot!

ATTRACTION

Voss Folk Museum

At Voss Folk Museum you can visit Molstertunet, a farmstead composed by 16 houses. This was in use still 1927 and think that the oldest building comes from 16th century!

The nice aspect is this is an outstanding example of the traditional buildings customs of the area. You can also just go up to the Museum and have a nice view on the city from the top drinking a coffee there chilling on a bench.

To arrie from the station is 30 minutes walking, if you go by car just 10 minutes. Remember that it is daily open just in summer (from June to August) while in the rest of the year it opens just for groups for a new exhibition that they are realizing for 2019.

Voss Church

The church was built in 1271 but it is not in woods as the remained oldest and most famous 29 churches of Norway (the ones with the Vikings Mythology symbols and originally in woods).  The interesting thing is that this is made in stones due to a nobility aspect…. As Voss was a rich town in the past the woods church was replaced by the existing one because the woods was for poor people and stones for rich ones! The church also hosts some concerts during the summer.

Hiking

Voss has a wide range of walks and hiking trails with different levels of difficulty. The hiking season starts in June and ends in October, as said it depends from the weather conditions and altitude. You need to be prepared anyway, so just take your raincoat with you and wear good footwear. If you like to do picnic bring also food and drink with you!

For more info there is a touristic center in the main road of Voss where you can ask info on the suggested hikes and let’s go on your path!

More than this you can also rent a bike and go on quiet and rural roads to attractions such as Tvindefossen and Skjervsfossen waterfalls or for shorter excursion.

Bordalsgjelet gorge

Bordalsgjelet gorge is a natural attraction within very short distance from Voss, 30 minutes to arrive there and other 30 to reach the gorges. It is an easy path as the deep and imposing gorge has been adapted for the visiting public, there are also viewpoint and benches for resting the legs! If there is no snow you can arrive to the gorge. Here you can experience an impressive view of the potholes that have been shaped by the ice and river over the time (thousand of years!).

DISCOVERING MANUEL ANTONIO PARK

Nature, Nature and still Nature. Manuel Antonio Park is an explosion of animal, beautiful view and huge plants.  You will lost yourself among the intense Green, tropical plants and the sea.

Little Monkey in the park of Manuel Antonio

Relax, this is the rule in the Manuel Antonio Park, a magic place that includes in a few hectares the richness and beauty of a country such as Costa Rica.

I’m writing this article and in the meanwhile I’m realizing It is difficult to describe with words the feeling of beauty and peace that you breathe while walking in this park. The green of nature, the blue of the sea, the sounds of animals make up a scenography that hardly you will forget.

The park is located in the province of Puntarenas, few km from Quepos, 192 km from San Jose, on the Pacific coast and is internationally recognized as one of the Parks most rich in biodiversity on the planet. With the establishment of Manuel Antonio National Park in 1972, the people of Costa Rica decided to preserve, for future generations, one of the most beautiful and bio-diverse areas in the world. Although it is the country’s smallest national park, the stunning beauty and diversity of wildlife in its 683 hectares is unequaled.

Luxury tropical forests, lagoons, mangrove swamps and white sand beaches mixed in one of the most various ecosystems you can imagine. You will find suspended bridges and lush vegetation, numerous species of animals ever seen: in the park live more than 100 different species of mammals and 184 species of birds.

It is not so simple to see the animals but if you will take your time, observe the vegetation you will discover such beautiful creatures all around the park... but remember be silent, or the animals will stay far from you!

DISCOVERING THE PARK

You will walk easily in Manuel Antonio Park because it is crossed by a great system of well-marked hiking trails to allow all different visitors to explore the park in full autonomy.

If you would like to see better the animals at the entrance, you can also pay a guide and He will help you in finding animals with the right stuff.

The park is open from Tuesday to Sunday (Monday closure) from 7 A.M. to 4 P.M. The best thing to do is to go there early in the morning and enjoy a full day of sun walking and chilling on the beach. Remember to bring with you food, but there are many rules on this point, so before going inside be sure of that! For example, you cannot introduce nuts because it is bad for the animals inside if they will eat this type of food. For the rubbish, it is necessary to take it with you outside the park.

Manuel Antonio Entrance

Another important point is that to maintain the natural equilibrium of this amazing place it is forbidden the entrance of more 600 people for day. The cost for one day is 16€.

The Parque is not just nature. It hosts four beautiful beaches, among the most beautiful that I could see during my trip in Costa Rica: Espadilla Sur, Manuel Antonio, Playa Escondido and Playita, the beaches are practically deserted and allow you to relax yourself after a day exploring the unspoiled nature.

Little Monkey in the park of Manuel Antonio

STAYING IN MANUEL ANTONIO

I stayed in the small town of Manuel Antonio during my days there. You will find several hideaway hotels and hostels and luxury vacation rentals. In this small town, you can enjoy the fresh fruits and veggies from the “feria” (weekly market), or have a five star meal at many of the restaurants, hire a private chef to cook for you or mix in with the locals and join them eating a “casado”( typical Costa Rican meal) at any of the “sodas”(little local restaurants).

The hostel I stayed, was at the top of a hill and during the sunset, it was so nice pass the time drinking a beer in front of the sea, that you cannot touch, it is far, but I could heard the wave’s movement from there watching the sun going down.

View from the hostel

View from the hostel

View from the hostel


Whether you are a wildlife lover, adventure seeker or you just want to be a beach bum, the array of activities are endless to  help you enjoy your tropical paradise vacation in Manuel Antonio, a perfect place to escape from the normal life!

And always remember: Pura Vida!!!

Little Monkey in the park of Manuel Antonio