Colombia is a beautiful combination of the old and the new and where history comes to life. From the walled city of Cartagena to the protected forests in the heart of the coffee region, you can experience a Colombia you may never knew existed. Plan your stay in a 17th-century colonial mansion on in a small, adobe hotel near ancient tombs.
Are you an art and music fan? Perhaps you’d prefer a room in a hotel where John Lennon was known to enjoy an extravagant party or two. Also, find out which Colombia hotel is next to the house of Gabriel García Márquez, author of “Love in the Time of Cholera.”
Read on to choose your Colombian adventure by exploring the history behind the most storied hotels in Colombia:
Located in the center of Cartagena’s UNESCO World Heritage walled city, Alfiz Hotel Boutique gives you a peek back into the 17th century. It’s located in the Santa Catalina quarter of town that’s close to the port and many important early structures like the Cathedral of Cartagena, governor’s house (Cabildo), and the Inquisition Palace. This small, historic Colombia hotel was originally a “casa alta” (high house). It likely consisted of a shop or warehouse on the first floor with living quarters on the second. The hotel was recently restored with the help of Colombian heritage architect Pedro Ibarra. During the restoration, “numerous artifacts were found including cannonballs, hidden features, and even human remains.”
Alfiz is the former home to the reputable and not-so-reputable. In the 1820s, it became one of the British Consul Edward Watts’ houses and remained in the Watts family for three generations. The unsavory types who lived in the “high house” include wealthy French merchant Jean D’Anglage––who also was a slave trader and smuggler. It’s also been rumored that English pirate/explorer Frances Drake may have lived on the property at one time. Guests can go a step further into the past by staying in one of the hotel’s thematic rooms, The Colony, The Conquest, The Indigenous, The Pirates, The Independence, St. Peter Claver, The Viceroyalty, or The Republic. Plus, the old cistern “or tank used to keep rainwater to drink during the dry season” has been repurposed as the dining area.
Built in 1621, Sofitel Legend Santa Clara was once a convent known as the Clarisse Cloister. Beautifully and painstakingly restored, you can still see “the confessionals, the water wells [and] the original wooden balusters from colonial times.” There are also crypts on the premises. In 1984, the stunning Colombia hotel was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The staff gives tours of the hotel and shares its rich history. You never know what you’ll find at Santa Clara, so keep looking during your entire stay. You might see signs from a pirate attack (such as 17th-century cannon balls) or hidden doors and windows. For lovers of literature, make sure you go next door (next to the hotel’s restaurant 1621) to see the house of Nobel Prize-winning author Gabriel García Márquez.
If you’re a John Lennon and Beatles fan, you must stay at El Marqués Hotel Boutique. Once a colonial mansion, it was owned by Sam Green (a filmmaker and art collector) in the 1970s. He was known for throwing extravagant parties, which were attended by John Lennon and Yoko Ono were once his guests. Other famous people who have been guests at the El Marqués include Robert De Niro and members of the Kennedy family.
The 17th-century colonial mansion is located in the center of Cartagena de India and only a few kilometers from the airport. Staying there, you’ll either feel like you’re in a museum or someone’s elegant and impressive home. There are only eight guest rooms to the property, so book ahead if you want to make sure you can stroll the same halls John and Yoko did years before at this Colombia hotel.
People come from the around the world to Tierradentro (“the land within”) to see some of the ancient ruins within Colombia. The entire region is Tierradentro, but most people equate it to the location of where the “mysterious pre-Colombian tombs are found.” Thrill your inner Indiana Jones with an adventure to the National Archeological Park of Tierradentro. Literally, immerse yourself in history when you explore the amazing underground tombs that date back to the 6th through 10th centuries.
Stay at La Portada Hospedaje to be close to your exciting destination. It’s small and family-run, so you can get an insider’s view of the area and the best ways to get to and experience your destination. Plus, the Colombia hotel is made in the traditional way, with a giant bamboo framework, walls of adobe or mud and covered with “split bamboo or skimmed with a layer of concrete,” making the structure safe from tumbling during the occasional earthquake. But don’t worry! The rooms are modern and have hot running water and comfy mattresses. You can also eat at the restaurant across the street.
Eje Cafetero … if coffee aficionados geek out, this is where they’d do it. Also known as the Coffee Axis, this region is the origin of Colombian coffee. Here you’ll learn about the coffee beans you are so addicted to are produced. Visit coffee farms and plantations in a land “where life has changed little over the past century.
Within this beautiful destination is the Hacienda Spa La Colina, which is located in a protected forest. While you stay in the luxurious eco- and community-focused paradise, you’ll also look out into the natural paradise this area has been for centuries.