19 November 2010

San Agustin Archaelogical Park featured in today's Bing frontpage!

Hi All! This is  a short last minute post... I was reviewing my Colombia Travel Blog's  traffic charts  and I realized that the most sought after keyword today  is "San Agustin Archaeological Park"  and the  Top Hidden Colombia Destinations  entry the most popular one, which is strange, because what I usually get is tons of hits on the topics of "safety in Colombia", Cartagena, Medellin, "Travel to Colombia", etc...

Intrigued by that fact,  I researched a little more and discovered that today's Microsoft's search engine ( Bing)  frontpage featured a beautiful picture of one of  San Agustin Archaeological Park's statues!  This is so amazing! One of the most well keeped secrets of Colombia in an extremely high traffic page!!!! , as I have said before the San Agustin Archaeological park is an amazing  collection of  hundreds of  impressive precolumbian head stones in a huge natural area  of southern Colombia , bigger than  - for instance - the  Machu Picchu national park in Peru.

So I thought I'd take the opportunitty to give you some more details on San Agustin archaeological park:

How to get to San Agustin Archaeological Park

The closest mayor town is Neiva south of Colombia. From Bogota you can fly with Aires for about US$40 and get there in about 1 hour or, take a bus from Bogota’s bus terminal and enjoy the 326 ks and 6 hours of beautiful scenery.  Once there, you need to take another bus, but this time going to Pitalito (212 ks) and once there take a local bus (US$0,5) or a taxi (US$3) to San Agustin. The bus from Bogota to Neiva costs about US$15 and from Pitalito to San Agustin another US$10.
Entrance fees are: free for kids under, from 7 to 17 years old is COL$5.000 (US$3) and COL$10.000 (US$6) for adults.

What to bring 

It takes about 3 hours to complete the park circuit, so I recommend to take with you:

- A day pack
- Plenty of water
- Sun screen and a hat
- Walking shoes and light clothes, the average temperature there is 18 centigrades.

What’s there

Apart from the main park – San Agustin – there are two more archaeological sites closed by called Alto Lavapatas y el Bosque de las Estatuas which you can also visit paying a little bit extra; and a second one called Tierradentro located very closed to a town called La Plata 126 ks from Neiva.

But that's  not all… from Neiva you can also visit the amazing Tatacoa desert too!



How do you get married in Colombia? : A summary of all paperwork you need for your wedding with a Colombian.

Hello All,

Lately, I’ve been doing some research  on a certain topic I’ll tell you about in a future post =) ...  and  coincidentially (is there such thing as coincidence?) I have also found that its  a topic that has been asked about quite a lot in Tripadvisor recently. What I’m talking about is  how to marry a Colombian or how to get married in Colombia.  It seems that Colombia is not just opening to the world of tourism but also to loooove and therefore to international marriages.

So, if you or someone you know is planning to get married in Colombia these are the legal requirements to do it:

Civil wedding in Colombia - even if you are getting married in church you need the following:

Under Colombian law, a foreigner doesn’t require a special visa to get married in Colombia. The couple would have to identify themselves with a current passport and a valid visa (foreigners) and the natioanl ID - cedula de ciudadania - (locals) and the following documents:

1. Authenticated passport/ cedula de ciudadania photocopy.
2. Authenticated birth cerificate with a validity no longer than 30 days for Colombian naionals and 90 days for foreigners. If the certificated was issued in a language different from Spanish, it should be translated by an official translator and legalised before the local Foregin Ministery (apostillar)
3. Certificate of no impediment (AU) or Unmarried state certificate if any or both are foreigners.

Special documents for exceptional sircumstances.

1. Cerified copy of marriage annulment when applicable
2. If widow/ widower, certified marriaged certificate and spouse’s death certificate
3. If divorced, certified copy of previous marriage certificate with divorce clause

Catholic wedding in Colombia

If you decide to get married with a Colombian under the Catholic church  you will need - on top of all of the above - the following documents:

1. Certified baptism certificate issued no more than 90 days before the marriage date
2. Certified confirmation certificate. If it is issued in a language different from Spanish, it should be translated by an official  translator and legalised before the local Foregin Ministery (apostillar)

If any of the two is a non catholic,

1.certificate from her/his own church. Again, if the document was issued in a language different from Spanish, it should be translated by an official  translator and legalised before the local Foregin Ministery (apostillar)
2. Certificate of no impediment writen by two members of the family before a priest and certified by a member of the church specifying:
a) How long the couple have known each other
b) That non of them have been married before or if any has been married before, the reason why they got divorced

If any of the two is Catholic and has a previous marriage should  also include

1. Annulment certificate
2. Divorce certificate
3. And /or death certificate of previous spouse

If any of the two was previously married under the catholic church and then divorced, but the expartner is still alive, will not be able to get married again unless the previous marriage was invalidated by the catholic church.

Remember that ALL documents should be translated by an official  translator and legalised before the local Foregin Ministery (apostillar).

I wish I could say this is the end.... but is not the case just yet... we still are unmarried at this point ... so what to do next? Here we go.

If you are having just a civil wedding is not necessary for both to be present when handing the documents in. The foreigner should send a power of attorney (again translated and certified) giving power to present his/her documents and to fill and sign the required form  on his/her behalf.

The “Colombian”, should take all these documents to a Notaria  (here is a list of notarias in Bogota ), fill in a form pay the fee - aprox COL$140.000 - US$80 and wait for a confirmation that all documents are in order.

If everything is going according to plan, they will publish an “edicto”. What this means is that the Notaria will let the community know your intention to get marry so, if someone has anything against this union, they have five days to do something about it. Don’t worry, they normally publish the edictos in a very local news paper with the smallest print ever! jejejejeje

Anyway, 15 days later they will contact you to set a date for the long awaited day.... your wedding day!!! That is it, if you want to get married at  the Notary’s offices  but if you want the notary to go somewhere else, you’ll have specify that when fill in the form and will also have to pay extra. This fee will be agreed (negotiated) with the notary him/herself.

I’m sure some of you will find this information useful ( If all this paperwork hasn't made you change your mind, that is :) )  As always,  feel free to add you comments and help us all in case I’m forgetting something!



15 November 2010

Promoting Ecotourism in Colombia: Santiago Salazar and Ecoturismo Colombia.

Here’s another entry about people that go the extra online mile to promote Colombia as a Travel Destination, this time focusing on the bio diversity of Colombia. Some months ago while looking for Colombia pictures online I ran into www.ecoturismo-colombia.com  and got very curious about it, it seemed like a Colombia Travel Agency page but there were not tours to be sold, there was a lot of detailed information about Colombia Destinations (in Spanish) but it didn’t quite seem like an online Colombia Travel Guide, there was a online shop , but not really big enough to sustain a business model and it had tons and tons of pictures (specially about bird watching in Colombia) but wasn’t presented as a Colombia pictures database. Intrigued by all these, I decided to contact them.

Eco Turismo Colombia is a one man project; his name is Santiago Salazar, a Colombian entrepreneur and owner of the online company  www.imagine.com.co . Salazar started Eco Turismo Colombia two years ago with the main objective of spreading the word about Colombia’s eco diversity online and to create awareness about how global warming is affecting our fauna and flora. He defines it not as a “touristic project”, but as an independent environmental initiative that tries to reach as much people as possible within his means. Being an expert in online marketing he chose two relevant words to name his site (ecoturismo & Colombia) in order to attract visitors.

Santiago laments not to be a professional photographer, “That’s unfortunate” he says, “I’d love to be able to publish magazine-quality pictures…. my methodology is really simple and loads of fun too, what I basically do is to plan short trips, ride my motorbike and take photos of anything that catches my attention regarding nature and rural landscapes, then I publish them with a description of the area and some travel notes”

Ecoturismo Colombia’s very useful information (available in Spanish only for now)  is divided into geographical regions  and includes tips, distances between destinations,  a list  of hotels in each area and some very good pictures, their newsletter reaches around 5000 subscribers who are periodically informed about Eco news in Colombia.

Since he started the website, Ecoturismo Colombia has been steadily increasing its traffic which gives Santiago a pretty good idea of how the interest in Colombia is growing worldwide, “I’m sure that Colombia can turn into a Eco Tourism leading country , we have nothing to envy to any other country in the world, and there are so many unexplored places yet to be discovered around our country”.

You can find Ecoturismo here and  thanks so much Santiago for taking the time to answer my questions.



5 November 2010

My top five things to do in Bogota

As you know, Bogota – the capital city of Colombia - is my hometown and the place where I spent most of my childhood and teens, but it was only after I returned from my 10 years living in England that I rediscovered it and learnt to enjoy this cosmopolitan yet traditional city. Here are Marcela’s Colombia Travel Blog top 5 things to do in Bogota by day, a mixture of very well know places and some little secrets from a native Bogotan with a traveler’s view:

5. Gold museum
This is a must, even if you don’t like museums. The Gold Museum of Bogota is not just “another” museum. I don’t know if it is just me but I truly enjoy it because is not just exhibition after exhibition and artifacts after more artifacts, it explains in a very enjoyable and interactive way the importance of the metal for pre-Hispanic societies. The museum shows you how the pre-Hispanic societies extracted the metal, transformed it, used it, made it an astronomic and religious symbol and finally returned it to mother earth as an offering.  The Offerings exhibit is my favorite one, a really well done multimedia room that you have to experience yourserlf… a place where earth meets the sky!

How to get there.
You’ll find the museum at the Santander Park on Carrera 5 and Calle 16 close to La Candelaria area.  You can get there by taxi or public transport using Transmilenio
You need to take the bus going to Las Aguas and get off at Museo de Oro station, located on Avenida Jimenez and Carrera 7 just a few steps away from the museum

It’s open Tuesday to Saturday from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Sunday and Bank holidays from 10:00 a.m. to 04:00 p.m. The entrance is COL$3.000 (U$1.50) and free on Sunday … can get any better than that!