Colombia with your family by Charlotte Roche

Today we take you along on a trip through Colombia with your family. Travelbee Charlotte Roche and her husband Andries have lived and worked all over the world, from China to Colombia to France and back. Charlotte and her family lived in Colombia for the last 5 years and we asked her to introduce Colombia to us.

Colombia with kidsCharlotte and her family

Please tell us about your family and international life (style) journey! Your background, your many travels and adventures abroad with your husband and two small children!

We are a French-Dutch family with two young children (18 months and 4 years), both of whom were born in Colombia. As a couple, we lived and worked abroad for more than 10 years (Ireland, Belgium, Italy, Bangladesh, China, Romania, Colombia and the Netherlands). The last five years we lived in Colombia with our kids. It was our wish to live and work abroad, to experience new cultures and to take advantage of this opportunity to explore even more new countries and remote areas.

Charlotte and her daughter Noor

When planning a new trip, we always try to create a mix of nature, culture and culinary visits and experiences, even with our kids! We always try to stay in small family hotels, B&B or to rent a place. We try to maintain a homely atmosphere and routine as much possible. This means that we always search for kids-friendly places/lodging, with easy access because of the strollers and with a local touch to it.

You have just lived in Bogota, Colombia for a few years. Which locations/areas/properties should be on our wish list? And why?

  • Cartagena/ Parque Tayrona

Cartagena is a must-see for its architecture! Parque Tayrona: if possible, stay in the park- however; this is rather difficult to arrange! We stayed in a place outside once, which was fine but not child-friendly… Someone recommended Villa Yira to me and this looks rather cool as you are really experiencing the ‘back to nature’ vibe. And of course, not to miss and a must read: all TRLVBEES tips on Cartagena in this blog.

Colombia with kidsVilla Yira

  • Eje Cafetero (coffee region)

As a cousin of my husband is married to a Colombian woman, whose family originates from this region, we were fortunate to always be able to stay at their beautiful traditional finca made of guadua.

While we lived in Colombia, a friend and I created and developed a Facebook community of parents (mostly foreigners) in Bogota to exchange tips about our life in Bogota and Colombia. We often exchanged tips about places to go with kids. Some of their recommendations for hotels in this coffee region were:

Colombia with kidsHacienda Bambusa

This place is still very high up on our wish list! A friend of mine went and loved it- especially since there are very few eco-friendly options in the Amazon…

colombia with kidsBoat tour across the amazon

Barichara is a lovely town, more authentic than Cartagena, with a lot of craftsmen. Beautiful nature, walks, horse riding, trekking, canoeing, paragliding: so many things to do! It is also easier to get in contact with the local people. I would definitely advise people to go there!

Colombia with kidsThe streets of Barichara

What are your favorite places in Colombia to unwind and recharge with your family?

We lived in Bogotá which is big busy city (10million inhabitants) surrounded by mountains. Contrary to what most people think, Bogotá doesn’t have a tropical climate at all since it has a high altitude (2600m). As a result, the climate is very mild, a type of eternal spring/autumn climate, with temperatures between 10 and 24 degrees Celsius.

When we wanted to escape from the city, the easiest option was to drive downhill (1h30-2h) to get to warmer areas (‘tierra caliente’) and rent a finca (type of countryside cottage) with friends. You can find any style from traditional to very modern ones, but always with a pool and bbq!

Another option was to stay in the mountains and go to one of the national parks surrounding Bogotá or one of the nice towns (Villa de Leyva) to see the nice architecture and village markets.

If we had more time, we would fly to another region in Colombia. My favorite and in my opinion the most symbolic region is the ‘zona cafetera’. It is called the eternal spring region as it is always green and full of lush flowers. The view of the coffee fields and colorful fincas made of guadua (a type of Colombian bamboo) is beautiful and so peaceful. Definitely a must!

Colombia with kidsZona cafeteria with the beautiful bamboos

Colombia with kidsAn experiential eco boutique hotel

Kids having fun at Hotel El refugio Sasaima

Colombia with kidsHorse riding at Hotel Hacienda Baza

Let’s focus on Bogotá (Colombia) with kids: what would you advise to be the very best (secret!) spots? Do your children agree or do they have their own special place?

A place we enjoyed going for brunch/lunch is a hidden private house turned into a B&B/restaurant Monte Luna (please note: it is quite hard to find)! It really has a family vibe, with a big garden, pets, blankets to have a picnic and an amazing view of the city. The owner is also lovely. She is the mother of 12 kids so she loves to accommodate families with kids.

Another activity I found very nice and not touristic is to climb one of the mountains in Bogotá (around 45min-1hrs). If you have smaller kids, you would need a baby carrier. You can maybe ask one of the mum groups in Bogotá to lend you one! It is only open during the morning, you pass many eucalyptus trees and you have an amazing view when you arrive at the top! This is such a great family activity! The path is guarded so no worries. It is called Quebrada de la Vieja.

Colombia with kidsCharlotte’s husband Andries and their daughter Noor

Another spot, not secret at all but still very much liked by the Colombians, is to go to Andres Carne del Res in Chia (just outside Bogotá). It is a restaurant with a peculiar style, music and some animation and an “institution “ here! People go there for family events, to party, for brunch, etc. If you go to the one in Chia on weekends, there are activities for kids (cooking, painting, craft, etc.)

A nice café/restaurant/brunch place in Bogotá is Canasto (along the Parque Virrey). Perfect to go on weekends and take a stroll in the park and see Colombian families (well, often very privileged families!) but it is a nice and quiet area.

Has living there made you more aware of the whole ‘responsible travel’ movement?

I have been living abroad and traveling for many years, both in developed and developing countries. Therefore I feel I have been able to see the gap between “responsible tourism” in areas where tourism is more developed already and therefore able to provide this type of responsible/sustainable facilities (for instance China, Mexico, Argentina, etc.), and other countries that are less touristic (Mongolia or Bangladesh) or more recently welcoming tourists (Colombia!). It is very nice though to see how Colombia is developing so quickly to welcome tourists and offer a wider variety of infrastructures and activities. Nature in Colombia is a big part of what they have to offer to tourists so they are definitely trying to include that in their developments. Definitely check the documentary “Colombia Magia Salvaje”!

Colombia with kidsSchool Festival

TRVLBEES focuses on family friendly, boutique and green hideaways- so let’s talk

– Family friendly: when searching for your own family holiday, do you specifically focus on this feature? How and why?

My priority is definitely to find a family-friendly accommodation to maintain a homely atmosphere as much as possible. I also check if there are toys, play areas close by, a garden or park, some quiet spaces and that it is easy to access with strollers. When looking for a place outside a city, I definitely prefer green-hideaways with activities close by.

– Boutique: does this category appeal to you? How would you describe ‘boutique’ in terms of stays?

To me it means a small stylish hotel. We used to only stay in boutique hotels as a couple; now with kids, it very much depends on their facilities and style (safe for kids, kid-friendly, etc)

– Green: is this important for you and your family while booking a hideaway?

Yes, it is very important. When possible, we prefer places which have environmental-friendly practices and who also offer organic products. We practice a green life at home so I like to maintain that during holidays! I also believe it is a way to get to know the local culture, if you can eat locally-grown products, if the place is decorated with local artifacts and offers visits to local sites/craftsmen.

Colombia with kidsEnjoying beautiful nature

What do you want to teach or show your kids both during travels and in life?

That’s a broad question!!! 😉  For me, family trips are to share  an experience together: to discover new landscapes and show my kids the beauty of nature, to meet new people and interact with them (try to speak their language, taste their food, see how differently they live or not, etc.) and enjoy new experiences (boat trips, hiking, etc). It is about taking the time to live and share these discoveries together. It is also about being open to the world, knowing there are different way to live and see the world. My kids are still small but when they are more grown-up, I would consider including some volunteering work in our trips.

Do you still have a (family) bucket list in terms of travel or experiences?

So many! Traveling with a camper, discover Scandinavia and doing volunteer work in a natural park, social center, etc.

What is your absolute favorite part of being a mom? And if you could take your children anywhere in the world, where would that be?

My favorite part is to see how proud they are to share their new achievements, discoveries or new ideas with me. The smile on their face is priceless! At the moment, I would bring them to the panda center in China, it is so cute!

Who do you consider to be a true TRVLBEE?

I definitely relate to the aspiration and values of the TRVLBEES community, especially the exchanges of tips.