Mr. Harper's Travel Guide
Just 15 years ago, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) controlled a swath of jungle the size of Switzerland, and the group’s brazen criminal activities were notorious around the world. But since then, Colombia has come to enjoy a measure of safety unseen ...
Just 15 years ago, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) controlled a swath of jungle the size of Switzerland, and the group’s brazen criminal activities were notorious around the world. But since then, Colombia has come to enjoy a measure of safety unseen in decades. Its mountain-backed capital city, Bogotá, is well worth visiting for its excellent museums and historic neighborhoods such as La Candelaria and Usaquén. But the centerpiece of any first visit to Colombia should be the exquisite colonial city of Cartagena, still surrounded by the extensive walls and fortifications that were originally constructed to repel Caribbean pirates. Both cities have sophisticated accommodation choices and an array of excellent restaurants serving Colombian and international cuisines, as well as lively nightlife.
Although Bogotá is close to the equator, its high altitude results in pleasantly cool weather throughout the year. Cartagena has a tropical climate, with a dry season between mid-November and early April.
Recommended Luxury Hotels in Colombia
Best Restaurants in Colombia
This fashionable restaurant in the Anandá boutique hotel, with its open kitchen, exposed stone wall and tall ceilings, served perhaps the best meal of the trip. I started with a fresh and complex tiradito (akin to ceviche) of corvina infused with sambal, mango and coconut. My main course of “Pork Two Ways” ranks among the tastiest dishes I’ve ordered in recent memory. The juicy lacquered pork loin was accompanied by a savory 12-hour chicharrón, buttery green beans and creamy sweet-potato purée.Calle del Cuartel # 36-77 Carrera 5 Cartagena http://www.carmenrestaurante.com.co/
Tall shelves of wine run the entire length of this cheerful Cartagena classic, an airy white storefront restaurant frequented by locals and tourists alike. The menu includes Peruvian, Spanish and Italian dishes. We focused on the local seafood options such as an appetizer of sweet crab claws in a white wine and butter sauce, and red snapper served in a sauce of shrimp, coconut milk and diced tomatoes. The menu also has several meat-based dishes for those in a more carnivorous mood.Calle del Colegio 34-60 Local 1 Cartagena http://www.donjuancartagena.com/
Chef Rafael Osterling serves Peruvian/ Mediterranean cuisine — his original restaurant is in Lima — in a masculine, contemporary setting of steel and glass. I started with meaty grilled octopus accompanied by hummus, goat cheese, local potatoes and a well-balanced salad. And I couldn’t resist the 48-hour beef pot roast with a confit of carrots and wild mushrooms.Calle 70 N° 4-63 Los Rosales Bogotá http://www.rafaelosterling.pe/es/bogota.html
One of Cartagena’s newest restaurants, Bohemia serves contemporary Peruvian and Colombian cuisine. My innovative corvina tartare came with crunchy rice tinted with squid ink, and an aioli-based sauce. Huge and tender shrimp were served atop a hot “rock” made from coarse-grained salt. We enjoyed lunch in the leafy courtyard, but if the weather is inclement, diners can descend into the restaurant’s wine cellar.Calle Nuestra Señora del Carmen 33- 41 Hotel El Marqués Cartagena http://www.elmarqueshotelboutique.com/bohemia-restaurant/
Of the seven restaurants founded by brothers Jorge and Mark Rausch, Criterión is the most famous and formal. Colombian interpretations of French and Spanish recipes included scallop with creamy corn velouté, chorizo and fresh corn studded with Serrano ham, and shrimp in a foie gras sauce with asparagus and smoked mashed potatoes.Calle 69A # 5-75 Zona G Bogotá http://www.criterion.com.co/home.html
This is perhaps Bogotá’s best Colombian restaurant. We ordered chef Leonor Espinosa’s nine-course “clasico” tasting menu. Courses ranged from a creamy, spicy and aromatic ceviche of tilapia to a delectable carimañola (Colombian-style empanada) stuffed with smoked rabbit to “black beef” with hominy, almonds and coconut rice.Calle 27 # 27-75 Bogotá