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The modern way to enjoy Colombia

The modern way to enjoy Colombia

When it comes to reputations Bogota – the capital of Colombia – used to be right up there with Bagdad, Mogadishu and Pyongyang as a holiday destination.

Bogota was as notorious for kidnappings as Ibiza still is for a night of debauched clubbing. Years of being the cocaine capital of the world had left the city as a no-go area for all but the brave or mad.

But times have changed and in the space of just a few years Bogota has turned itself around and it’s now one of the safer cities in Latin America.

Things must have changed – there’s even a Wallpaper City Guide for the capital.

So why visit Bogota? There’s no beach and when it comes to the climate, the temperature rarely rises above 63 degrees. Much of the time the city is covered with a grey blanket of cloud, which rolls off the surrounding mountains.

But what it lacks for in climate, it makes up for in the warmth of its people.

Brazil, and specifically Rio, seem to be the first points of reference for current and future fans of Latin America. Perhaps it was just me but I felt a cynical weariness from the Cariocas (the native inhabitants of Rio). I got feeling that they had seen one too many pasty-looking ‘Gringos’ (the Spanish word for English-speaking foreigners) looking for a Latin lover.

I found in Colombia, the western European is still a bit of a novelty. You might just be pounced on for all the right reasons!

Theatron is the main gay club in Bogota, and this enormous venue has to be seen to be believed. It must be one of the largest gay clubs in South America.

It’s not really one club, but 10 clubs all housed in one huge building – an old theater that gives the place its name.

From house and oop,  to reggeaton and salsa: Whatever your taste in music, or indeed guys, you can find it all here. The club has an open-air terrace so large it feels like a town square surrounded by faux bars fronts – more theme park than a night club, but all the more fun because of it.

Pay the entrance fee and then it’s an open bar for most of the evening.

So what else is there to do in Bogota?

Top recommendations include a night out at Andrés Carne De Res. Described as an ‘entertainment cocktail that’s equal parts Tim Burton, Disneyland and Willy Wonka,’ the venue goes beyond the call of a restaurant with live musical performances, dancing and more.

Visit the Salt Cathedral of Zipaquira north of the city. It’s one of only three such structures where 250,000 tons of salt has been excavated 590 feet below ground to create an ethereal architectural masterpiece.

When looking for a hotel in Bogota, the Bog Hotel might not have the best name in the world but it’s a comfortable hotel in a great location with a roof top pool.

Like many major cities around the world, one of the best things about traveling to Bogota is leaving for a short break to see what else the beautiful country of Colombia has to offer.

When you want a break from Bogota, an amazing escape is hoping on a plane and taking the 90 minute internal flight to the walled city of Cartagena (pronounced car-tah-HEH-nah).

The moment you step off the plane a sultry warm blanket of tropical air envelops you, as the city is on the Caribbean coast of Colombia.

Your seduction will be complete when you pass through the walls of this UNESCO world heritage site.

Despite being on the coast, Cartagena’s beaches immediately around the city aren’t the nicest (see neighboring coastal cities Santa Marta and Barranquilla for truly impressive beaches).

The true magnificence of the city is grasped through a wander around the cobbled streets and pastel-colored colonial mansions, many of which will now accommodate you as boutique hotels.

Many of the wonderful restaurants, serving everything traditional Colombian cuisine to cutting-edge intercontinental menus, surround the perimeter of squares and plazas that make up this fairy tale of a city, an ideal place for people watching during the day and exploring at night.

An unexpected and fun way to explore Cartagena would be to take a guided tour of the city on a Segway.

You’ll have almost certainly seen these two-wheeled, self-balancing, motorized vehicles before.

You control them by moving your weight forward, backwards, to the left and to the right.

Former US President George W Bush famously fell off one. They are enormously good fun and – despite the impression given by George W Bush – very easy to control.

As you zip along the cobbled alleyways, along the impressive wall enjoying the Caribbean breeze, you can start choosing the restaurant to dine in later that evening.

After exploring and dining in Cartagena, the Santa Clara Sofitel is a top choice to consider: Quite expensive, but beautiful and has a great restaurant.

For a tip on how to get to Cartagena: Iberia flies to Colombia via Madrid. Try to avoid going via the US as their long immigration queues will make your journey a lot more tedious.