COLOMBIA – You can travel there now!

November 2020, I had the pleasure of participating in Colombia’s Nature Travel Mart. Three days filled with mingling with local travel professionals and learning a lot about what this wonderful country has to offer.

Emerging from a tumultuous past, Colombia has turned over a new leaf and become one of the most sustainable and progressive tourism destinations.

A few incredible facts:

  • Colombia has the most extensive bird diversity worldwide
  • The country shares land borders with five nations: Venezuela, Brazil, Ecuador, Peru, and Panama
  • Colombia offers both Pacific and Caribbean coastlines
  • Much of its territory is challenging to the point that you have to fly even small distances
  • Colombia enjoys 314 different types of ecosystems, making it one of the most diverse countries in the world
  • Colombia boasts 54 protected areas within its 441,200 sqm (about double the size of Texas)

Colombia offers something for everyone, and a trip can be customized according to interests and desired adventure level.

Keep in mind that many destination combinations require a short flight to connect one place with the next. Before going into more detail, have a look at the country’s map. I find it helpful to locate the different areas.

The initial gateways

Cartagena, the City of Romance, is located south along the Caribbean Coast. This romantic colonial city is perfect for couples that love to stroll cobblestone streets and enjoy boutique hotels.

Bogota, the high-altitude capital, sits in the center of Colombia and is marked with a star. Around the city, you will find the best area to see fantastic wildlife, including jaguars.

Medellin, once the most dangerous city and now an example of transformation. Voted the most innovative city in 2014, Medellin is a hub for tech companies and dazzles visitors. It is located between Bogota and Panama.

Cali, also known as the Salsa dancing capital, is a gateway for some birdwatching and located along the western side of Colombia.

Each of these main gateways offers different experiences that can be combined and ultimately define how many days you need to get to know Colombia.

What to do from:


Cartagena makes an excellent gateway to explore Colombia’s Caribbean Coast, including Santa Rosa, Tayrona National Park, and several off-shore islands. A visit to this area can also be combined with Panama and the San Blas islands.


Being Colombia’s capital, Bogota offers worldly comforts and makes for an excellent gateway for bird and wildlife watching. Although a year- round destination, I have it on good authority to avoid a visit in April and October, unless you love gloomy, grey weather. At 8530 feet above sea level, the area is generally colder.

From Bogota, you might also choose to fly to Yopal, from where to access Los llanos area consisting of seasonally flooded plains and grassland, that provide safari-like mammals and other animals. Another unique feature of the flatlands is the local cowboys, which have a long tradition of singing to their cattle. It’s a gorgeous area to escape to a Finca from where to explore the grounds during the day, riding, river floating, animal watching, and then peacefully sip an excellent glass of wine in the evening.


Between Medellin, Cali, and Bogota, you will find Colombia’s Coffee triangle. This fertile triangle is well known for its charming rural towns and, of course, fantastic coffee.

Medellin is also great for a day trip to El Penol and Guatape.


Colombia remains a very authentic destination with tourism just emerging. Cali is even more off the beaten path. The city proclaims itself as the capital of Salsa because of its long history with the dance. If you love rhythm and Latin dancing, you will want to explore the many bars and dance the night away. And if birds are what you are after, the mountains around Cali are home to a fantastic bird watching lodge. Being not far from the coast, Cali is also an excellent gateway for Pacific whale watching.

And if all this wasn’t enough already, there is much more to explore. You can find snowfields and glaciers, colorful rivers, immerse yourself in an off-the-grid experience along the Amazon river, study cave paintings, and hike the Lost City Trek. Colombia will appeal to you, whether you want to learn more about a country or indulge in a passion while doing so. Whether your interest is in hiking, biking, horseback riding, bird watching, frog watching, wildlife viewing, or coffee tasting, there is plenty to do! You can have a reasonably modern experience, but you can also go off the beaten path and get out of your comfort zone.

Keep in mind that there are different climate zones. Rainfall, temperatures vary and might make one region more accessible than another. If you’ve been, I’d love to hear about your experience, and if you would like to visit or learn more, please reach out to me.

The Daydream Series: Portugal – Não éporque uma andorinha morre que acaba a primavera

Portugal (1)

Daydreaming is easy, healthy, and free!
Here at AAV Travel, we would like to give your mind a break and the opportunity to enjoy and learn more about the world from the comfort of your home.


Portugal has long been a well-kept secret among the Europea countries, but with increased tourism awareness campaigns and publicity, it has become a dream destination for many. A relatively small country, the country is similar in size to Pennsylvania, or three times smaller than the UK. Although seemingly small, the nation is mighty with plenty to offer for those who want to explore. #tourismstrong

Jamaican Flavors

Anthony Bourdain said, “Portugal has got a lot of coastlines and a lot of history with the sea. It’s a close relationship, one that’s imprinted deep into the national character — the songs, the poetry, the state of mind.”

Of course, that also plays a role when it comes to food. Although cuisine varies from region to region, fresh fish and shellfish are found on virtually any menu. “Bacalhau,” dried, salted cod is Portugal’s national dish. Its root stems back to the 16th century when Portuguese sailors salted and sun-dried their catch abroad so it would last throughout the long journey home. There are many different ways to prepare Bacalhau, as the Portuguese say, there is a different way for each day of the year.

Unlike in the US or Great Britain, breakfast traditionally consists of coffee and a bread roll. Lunch, on the other hand, is a real sit down and enjoy affair, often lasting up to two hours. The same goes for dinner. Although you will be able to find an early meal, the Portuguese dine late, after 8 o’clock.

Check out what to expect on a virtual food tour of Lisbon with James and Alice from Devour Tours, a food tour operator in Portugal and Spain.

If you would like to make a Portugese dish at home, why not try a Bifana?

Copy of taste!

Portugal is famous for Fado, soulful, heavily expressive and profoundly melancholic singing, usually accompanied by a guitarist. It is often heard in pubs, cafes, and restaurants. If you find yourself wandering the cobblestone streets of Lisbon’s Bairro Alto area one evening, you are sure to hear some Fado wafting through the air.

Portugal is also home to many other genres and different artists. They are as versatile as the country’s regions and fun to listen to!

Click the picture for our Portugal playlist on Spotify. 



There is a good selection of movies set in and around Portugal. Some are harder to get your hands on than others, but they are all worth it if you are interested in the storyline.

Based on a book, Nigth Train to Lisbon is the story of a Swiss Professor, who abandons his lectures and buttoned-down life to embark on a thrilling adventure that will take him on a journey to the very heart of himself.

It’s a very tasteful and intriguing movie about finding oneself, showing great shots of both Lisbon and my hometown, the city of Bern, Switzerland.

Capitaes de Abril explores the days leading up to Lisbon’s Carnation Revolution, a historical moment in the 1970s when a military coup led by Captain Fernando José Salgueiro Maia, ended the dictatorship.

Lisbon Story tells the tale of a sound engineer who obtains a mysterious postcard from a friend who is currently shooting a film in Lisbon, saying that he should visit. He sets out across Europe to find him and help him. This movie is a treat with many great shots from Lisbon, Fado, and a romance.

Voyage to the Beginning of the World, or Viagem ao Princípio do Mundo is the story of an aging film director, who takes a road trip across Portugal with his actors.

Christopher Columbus – The Enigma is a Portuguese movie,  in which a doctor and his wife embark on a journey to prove that explorer Christopher Columbus was Portuguese, not Italian.

Amalia allows you a glimpse into the life of Amalia Rodriguez, who was a pioneer in Fado music. Dubbed Portugal’s “Queen of Fado,” she sold over 30 million records during her life.


If you are ready to go deeper and learn more about the country as well as its history, culture, and behind the scenes, there are some excellent reads for you!

The Portugese: The Land and its People by Marion Kaplan

The history of Portugal is long and colorful, with nations such as the Romans and the Moors invading. The Portuguese explorers who brought back many influences to the country and the many rulers whose sagas are rich in intrigue. This book introduces the reader to local crafts and festivals of Portugal; trade, industry, and finance; the family, whose links bind tightly and so influence the country; the geographical land with its beauty – the rivers running from the hills in the east to the sea in the west; the character of the people, attitudes, education; the culture, architecture, paintings and poets and novelists. For more info…

The High Mountains of Portugal by Yann Martel

An allegorical novel in three parts is set in the fictional High Mountains of 17th-century Portugal and beyond, where characters explore questions of loss and faith while on a quest while tackling ghosts and in the contemporary world. By the award-winning author of Life of Pi. For more info…

The Book of Disquiet by Fernando Pessoa

From The Book of Disquiet is a journal by Portuguese author Fernando Pessoa. Published by his friends in 1961, it contains Pessoa’s reflections beginning in 1912 at the age of twenty-four as he anticipated World War I. Pessoa wrote the book mainly for himself under the pseudonym Bernardo Soares, and it was not published until nearly half a century after he died in 1935. Though the format of the book is difficult to pin down, it reads like a diary or journal, dealing with the internal life of the seemingly banal “Soares” as he works as a simple assistant to a bookkeeper in Lisbon. The book became known as a great work in the genre of world literature for its simplistic yet poignant characterization of the ordinary life of a lower-class Portuguese person. For more info…

The Year of the Death of Ricard Reis by Jose Saramago

The year: 1936. Europe dances while an invidious dictator establishes himself in Portugal. The city: Lisbon-gray, colorless, chimerical. Ricardo Reis, a doctor and poet, has just come home after sixteen years in Brazil. Translated by Giovanni Pontiero. For more info…



Port wine is exclusively produced in Portugal’s north, the Douro valley. The Douro valley is also famous for its wine and makes for a great place to explore if you love culinary vacations.

Port wine is sweet and usually served as a dessert wine or digestif. There are many different versions, including red and white. They all require several years of aging.

If you are interested in trying port and want to learn more, check out Port Wine for Beginners.

This list is compiled in response to the COVID-19 crisis, but also as a resource for anyone considering to travel to Portugal, or wanting to get a feel for the country before their trip.

Please stay safe and healthy, wash your hands, and practice social distancing as long as it is necessary.

Being able to travel is an incredible gift. The experience can open our eyes to the unique cultures and spellbinding beauty of the natural world. But with this gift comes a responsibility – to protect the world as we know it. Please behave responsibly and show respect!

Stefanie Pichonnat is the owner of AAV Travel, a boutique travel firm specialized in creating customized travel itineraries. Originally from Switzerland, she started exploring the world at a young age and continues to expand her knowledge every year.

To plan a trip contact her at