Motolombia: Supporting Local Businesses in Colombia

Motolombia began when the Colombian tourism industry was still in its infancy – opening a business relying heavily on overseas tourist dollars was a big gamble. 

We never expected the boom that was to follow years later. It’s wonderful to see the positive change in perception so many foreigners have towards Colombia. Businesses like us really have the natural beauty of the country, the warmth and hospitality of its people and the entrepreneurial spirit of local tourism operators to thank for the fact that we’re still here, over 10 years later. 

Part of Motolombia’s mission is to support local businesses who are going above and beyond to make Colombia a truly world-class destination, whether they’re in the business of luxury boutique hotels, quality digs for the budget traveller, or spicing up the tourist experience with innovative tours, activities and adventure sports that just a few years ago, didn’t even exist in the country.  

On our guided Colombia motorcycle tours, we hand pick the best boutique hotels, resorts and guesthouses in each of our stopover destinations, so our guests can wind down in comfort at the end of a long day of riding. Our chosen accommodation is determined by four main features: safety, cleanliness, a good location and great service. 

While we’re starting to see more international chain hotels popping up in places like Cartagena, we wholeheartedly believe that choosing locally owned accommodation benefits both the local economy, and the guest seeking a more authentically Colombian experience. 

We also have close partnerships with activity providers and adventure sports operators, to ensure our guests make the most out of any included or optional side excursions, like coffee plantation visits, horseback riding in beautiful El Cocuy National Park or dune buggy blasts across the coastal desert sands of La Guajira. 

Travelling by motorcycle gives us the unique opportunity to take tour groups to some remote and still rarely visited locations, bringing much-needed business and awareness to tourism operators all over Colombia. Our small group tours see up to 10 riders (plus any pillion and support vehicle passengers) overnighting with local accommodation providers, who we also recommend to independent riders, whether they’ve rented a bike through us are journeying through Colombia on their own bikes. 

In short, we’re pretty passionate about promoting local businesses that we think are doing something special. 

This year, we’ve developed an “Excellent Service” certification that recognises the accommodation and activity providers we use on our tours and the quality service they provide. 

For 2019, we’ve selected the following hotels to receive our Motolombia Excellent Service award, located in some of the most beautiful, fun and fascinating corners of the country. 

 

HOTEL DIEZ CATEGORIA COLOMBIA

A concept hotel inspired by the various cultures of Colombia, Hotel Diez Categoria showcases world-class service and a stylish designer ambience, perfectly suited to its setting in the heart of Medellin’s upscale El Poblado district. 

 

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MEDELLIN

TERRAZAS DE SAN AGUSTÍN

One of the finest accommodation offerings in this historic rural village, featuring a spa, fitness facilities and fantastic views from the rooftop terrace, Terrazas de San Agustin is located in the centre of town, minutes from the UNESCO World Heritage listed San Agustin Archaeological Park.

 

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SAN AGUSTIN

POSADA LAS TRAMPAS

Set in a beautiful colonial-style house (built c1870) with an outdoor pool, this luxury guesthouse promises personalised service and restful accommodation, with 14 individually decorated rooms capturing picturesque balcony views over the Magdalena River. 

 

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HONDA

HOTEL VILLA PARAISO VIEJA

A welcoming oasis at the edge of the Tatacoa Desert, this boutique hotel features a refreshing outdoor pool and comfortable air-conditioned rooms, situated in the centre of the charming colonial town of Villa Vieja on the banks of the Magdalena River. 

 

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VILLA VIEJA

HOTEL BRISAS LA GAVIOTA

On a sprawling property complete with six fish-stocked lakes, tranquil gardens, a swimming pool and sportsgrounds, this relaxing tourist complex, hotel and restaurant is located amid the beautiful rural landscapes just outside of Mariquita, a historic Spanish silver settlement with an authentic Colombian village feel.

 

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MARIQUITA

HOTEL MARRIOTT

This 5-star hotel in Granada, Cali’s upmarket dining and entertainment district, features luxuriously appointed rooms and on-site facilities including a pool, spa, Finnish sauna and several on-site restaurants. Market Restaurant has a show kitchen and serves build-your-own salads, burgers, carpaccio and pizzas. The poolside Tanoshii Lounge offers open-air drinks, sushi and live music.

 

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CALI

HOTEL SALENTO REAL

An eco-friendly, colonial-style hotel in the heart of coffee country, the centrally located Salento Real welcomes guests with traditional Colombian hospitality, well-furnished rooms and a daily breakfast served on the rooftop terrace with gorgeous views over Salento and the forests and mountains beyond. 

 

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SALENTO

MOVICH CASA ALFEREZ REAL

Blending timeless colonial-inspired charm with contemporary elegance, this Movich Hotel (a Colombian owned boutique hotel brand) is one of the most beautiful accommodation offerings in Cali’s upscale Granada district. The excellent restaurant outdoor terrace bar and hotel rooms and suites showcase high-end modern décor, complemented by exceptional service. 

 

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CALI

HOTEL CAMPESTRE CAFE CAFÉ

Set on acres of stunningly landscaped gardens, with a massive outdoor swimming pool, vibrant Colonial-style architecture and brightly furnished rooms, this calming, colourful retreat is surrounded by enchanting coffee plantations, 3.9km from Quindío’s National Coffee Park.

 

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MONTENEGRO

HOTEL B3

In the exclusive Chico area of Bogota, this smart modern hotel features a stylish selection rooms and a relaxing terrace and cocktail bar with a tapas menu, chilled-out evening DJs and international service standards. 

 

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BOGOTA

HOTEL BOUTIQUE VILLA ROMA

A gorgeous colonial-inspired hotel, walking distance to the central plaza, Villa Roma features whitewashed walls and contrasting wooden furniture, a garden courtyard, an outdoor pool and spacious, elegantly furnished rooms and suites.

 

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VILLA DE LEYVA

HOLIDAY INN BUCARAMANGA

Consistently one of the most highly rated hotels in Bucaramanga, the Holiday Inn is a chic, contemporary hotel and restaurant in a fantastic location, promising superb comfort, high quality international cuisine and breathtaking views over the tropical mountain city from the rooftop pool and Skybar.

 

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BUCARAMANGA

LA CASA AMARILLA 

Nestled beside the Magdalena River and Santander Forest Park, just a short stroll from the magnificent colonial centre of Mompox, La Casa Amarilla is a homely and inviting family-run retreat with quiet, comfortable rooms and delicious breakfasts served every morning at an airy communal dining table overlooking lush floral gardens.

 

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MOMPOX

HOTEL FRUTAS DEL LAGO

In a quiet yet convenient location just outside the urban centre of Caucasia, Frutas del Lago offers some of the best boutique accommodation in the area, with simple yet spacious and comfortably furnished rooms, an excellent on-site restaurant and a reputation for true Paisa hospitality. 

 

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CAUCASIA

HOTEL FERNANDO PLAZA

Providing cosy and elegant accommodation in the heart of Pasto’s business district, a short walk from the central Plaza Nariño, this hotel features ultra-spacious, lushly furnished rooms, a restaurant serving regional Andean cuisine and a bar with a variety of wines and cocktails on offer.

 

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PASTO

HOTEL DANN MONASTERIO

In a renovated Franciscan convent built in 1570, Hotel Dann Monasterio showcases some of the finest traditional architecture in the ‘White City’ of Popayan, one of Colombia’s most beautifully preserved colonial cities. Forty-seven rooms are arranged around a majestic central courtyard. The hotel boasts an outdoor pool and the Campanario Restaurant which services regional and international cuisine with overlooking the manicured gardens.  

 

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POPAYAN

HOTEL ECOSTAR 

A stylish hotel in the Milla de Oro shopping and dining district of Ibague, the Ecostar is a smart, business-style hotel with friendly service, air conditioned rooms with smart modern décor, a daily breakfast buffet and a lobby bar.

 

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IBAGUE

HOTEL VARUNA MANIZALES

Located in the lively Zona Rosa district in vibrant Manizales, gateway city to the Zona Cafetera, this sophisticated hotel features huge, heated rooms with luxurious modern décor and an indoor spa and wellness centre (perfect for those cool Andean nights).  The on-site Tabil Restaurant enjoys fabulous city and mountain panoramas, especially at sunset. 

 

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MANIZALES

HOTEL HOLIDAY INN YOPAL 

Yopal lies at the doorstep of the magnificent Los Llanos, the sprawling plains of north-eastern Colombia and a nature lover’s paradise. This centrally positioned hotel is highly regarded for its large, superbly appointed rooms, on-site restaurant and gym. The top-floor pool terrace is captures sweeping views of the city and the wilderness of the plains beyond.  

 

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YOPAL

HOTEL ALMIRANTE CARTAGENA

The 5-star Hotel Almirante boasts an unbeatable location, right opposite the beachfront in the always-lively Bocagrande neighbourhood. The hotel has a vibrant tropical vibe and spectacular beach and Caribbean Sea panoramas from its deluxe Ocean View rooms. You’ll find a pool and fitness centre on-site as well as countless seaside restaurants and nightlife options only a short walk away. 

 

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CARTAGENA

HOTEL EMERAWA 

Not far the the centre of the coastal Caribbean city of Riohacha, the gateway to the desert dunes and unspoiled beaches of La Guajira, Hotel Emerawa provides guests with a relaxed country atmosphere. It features a sparkling pool surrounded by tropical gardens, a thatched-roof cabana lounge and spotless, simply furnished rooms as well as more luxurious spa suites.

 

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RIOHACHA 

 

This list should give you a taste of the type of accommodation you can expect on a Motolombia tour. We can wholeheartedly recommend these hotels to anyone visiting Colombia seeking genuine Colombian hospitality and a true local flavour. 

 

Cartagena – Colombia’s Most Romantic City

Lay eyes on Cartagena and prepare to be lovestruck.
A major trading port in the days of the Empire, Cartagena is Colombia’s most picturesque,
well-preserved colonial city.
Its historic centre is enclosed by 11km of fortified stone walls, built to guard against
marauding pirates. Beyond the walls is an enchanting city of cobblestone streets, brightly
coloured mansions and elaborate cathedrals overlooking parks and plazas.
Literature buffs will know the setting for Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s romantic epic Love in the
Time of Cholera was almost certainly based on Cartagena, inspired by its state of decaying
charm in the late 19 th century.
Today, Old Cartagena is no longer the crumbling sailor’s outpost of Garcia Marquez’s
imagination. As Colombia’s premier tourist destination, the city has undergone an extensive
makeover. Grand homes and historic landmarks have been authentically restored. Cafes,
museums and artisan craft stores have proliferated. Even the old horse-drawn carriages
have returned, if only for the entertainment of sightseeing tourists.
Sure, Cartagena is touristy and the Old City somewhat sanitised, but romance is part of the
city’s DNA. There’s fiery passion in the Caribbean style salsa danced in the clubs and on the
streets. Couples sit hand in hand atop the city walls watching the evening sun glow red over
the Caribbean Sea. This is a city whose beauty has inspired countless poets, painters,
musicians and lovers.
So, visit Cartagena and follow your heart – and our guide on what to do in Colombia’s most
romantic city!

WANDER IN THE WALLED CITY

A contender for the most photogenic city in South America, Old Cartagena’s narrow streets are a living architectural museum. Around every corner is a piece of history – a humble stone church, a lavish cathedral, or a gothic-style bell tower. Buildings sport vibrant Colonial pastel façades and baroque wooden doors. Consider a walking tour with a guide who can fill you in on the fascinating events and personalities that shaped Cartagena’s identity.

 

CHILL OUT IN GETSEMANI

Just outside the city walls, Getsemani was a fairly notorious neighbourhood that’s experienced a recent renaissance. The scruffy backpacker hostels and shady bars are still there, but the barrio has embraced a hip, artistic vibe in contrast to Old Cartagena’s meticulous aesthetics. Neglected buildings have been revamped, street art is ubiquitous and boutique hotels and funky bars are popping up everywhere.

Getsemani is changing fast, but for now, it still manages to balance ramshackle quirkiness and cosmopolitan cool. Check it out before the rest of the world gets wind of it!

SINK COCKTAILS AT SUNSET

The western ramparts of Old Town face the Carribean Sea, creating a great sunset vantage point. A string of bars along the promenade (including the famous, and perpetually packed Café del Mar) provide the perfect opportunity to sip tropical fruit cocktails as the sun sinks below the ocean.

And what nightlife loving city would be complete without a rooftop bar or six? A newer addition is the slick Townhouse Rooftop, which provides a unique sunset perspective overlooking Cartagena’s rooftops and cathedral domes.

 

LOSE YOURSELF IN MUSIC

Yes, Cartagena has plenty of nightclubs, from traditional salsa joints to techno pumping party palaces. But there’s more to Cartagena’s nightlife than clubbing – it’s a paradise for music lovers of all persuasions.

The region has its own distinct musical stylings, blending Latin and Afro-Caribbean influences, and these can be heard in the city’s wealth of live music venues. Most play local genres like champeta and cumbia, while others cater to rock and jazz devotees. For live salsa, Café Havana is a well-loved classic, but often the best live music you’ll encounter is performed on the streets. Wherever you go in this soulful city, music is in the air.

 

ESCAPE TO A SECLUDED ISLAND

Cartagena doesn’t have mainland Colombia’s best beaches – you’ll have to go to Tayrona or the Pacific Coast for that. But Cartagena is still inextricably linked to the coast, and an island hopping cruise is high on most visitor’s agendas.

The Rosario Islands are 27 pretty coral islets scattered off Cartagena’s coast. Most day trips follow a standard itinerary, anchoring at the islands’ most famous (ie. crowded) beaches, combined with some rather unimpressive snorkelling. To get a better feel of Colombian island life, consider staying overnight. Isla Grande has several accommodation options along its idyllic white sand beaches. One of the few inhabited settlements in the Rosarios, a local indigenous population live in rustic villages, carved out of the island’s jungle interior. For a more luxurious (if less authentic) stay, the exclusive Hotel Coralina sits atop tiny, coral reef-fringed Isla Coralina, where guests relax in thatched roof bungalows and feast on top-notch food made with local Caribbean produce.  

 

OVERLOAD YOUR SENSES AT MERCADO BAZURTO

Cartagena isn’t all beauty and romance. Most tourists experience a completely different Cartagena to the one thousands of Costeños (Cartagena locals) live, work and raise their families in. Yet both fancy restaurants and working class Costeños come to the same place to buy fresh ingredients.

Mercado Bazurto is a gigantic, 24 hour indoor/outdoor market 15 minutes outside the walled city. It’s a raw slice of real life in Cartagena’s not-so-glamorous side. This is no tourist attraction. Bazurto is a gritty, grimy assault on the senses, pungent with the smells of recently slaughtered animals, their body parts dangling from iron hooks. Produce vendors sell a mind-boggling variety of fruits and flowers, while counterfeit dealers ply knock-off watches and underwear. It’s a confusing, chaotic warren of narrow passageways, prowling pickpockets, stifling heat and sweaty bodies.

It may look intimidating, but Bazurto is a cheerful place, a sort of social hub for locals. People take their families, snack on fresh food, drink cheap beer, and in true Costeño fashion, break out into the occasional impromptu jam session. What the rest of Cartagena lacks in romance, it makes up for in passion.   

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Six Reasons to Fall in Love with Medellin, Colombia

Six Reasons to Fall in Love with Medellin, Colombia

 
 

Hailed as one of Latin America’s most progressive cities, Medellin’s inspiring approach to planning and urban renewal projects have transformed this city of almost 2.5 million from a notorious hotbed of crime and constant danger to a safe, vibrant and fast-developing metropolis.

Medellin has become a favourite destination for many a traveller. Don’t be surprised to bump into tourists who’d planned to stay in Medellin for just a few days and ended up extending their stay for weeks.

Interestingly, Medellin isn’t a city overflowing with ‘attractions’ in the traditional sense. We see it more of a place to soak up and experience rather than race around from one ‘must-see’ sight to the next.

For many, this unconventionally tourist-friendly atmosphere is part of Medellin’s charm.

Here are the top six reasons we think you too will fall in love with Medellin!

1. THE PEOPLE

By far, it’s the people who make Medellin such a welcoming destination for outsiders. It’s impossible not to admire the ‘Paisas’ (people from Medellin and the surrounding Andean region) for their extraordinary resilience. Despite (and perhaps, partially because of) harbouring still-fresh memories of the horrific violence of the past decades, Medellin locals are among the most positive, energetic and warm-hearted folk you’re likely to meet in Colombia – and given just how ridiculously friendly Colombians are in general, that’s saying something.

Take the time to get to know a Paisa, whether it’s through friends, a cultural exchange program like Couchsurfing, or even or a guide on one of your tours, and they are sure to have a story to share – one that’s frequently filled with sadness, but most of all with hope and inspiration.

 

2. THE LANDSCAPE

You may have seen photos of Medellin, a sprawling metropolis surrounded on all sides by mountains, with its dozens of distinct barrios crawling their way up impossibly steep hillsides – but seeing it in person is another thing altogether. It is a bizarre, beautiful and almost impossible city, built seemingly against the laws of nature and physics.

Nestled in the fertile Aburrá Valley, Medellin’s surroundings are eternally lush and evergreen.

The best way to check out Medellin’s visually striking cityscape? From above, riding one of the gondolas on the Medellin Metrocable, perhaps the world’s most spectacular urban transit system. Make sure to take the staggeringly steep Line L to the vast natural preserve of Arvi Park to appreciate the Andean landscape in all its glory.  

 

3. THE NIGHTLIFE

Colombians are party people, and Medellin is arguably Colombia’s nightlife capital. With a scene that grows more sophisticated and cosmopolitan by the second, Medellin after dark offers something for everyone.

You can dine on a different cuisine and party with a different flavour every night of the week in the El Poblado district. Poblado’s Parque Lleras, although undeniably tacky and almost exclusively catering to gringos these days, is still worth checking out for its unrelenting, party-hardy atmosphere alone. Poblado locals tend to relax in the quieter bars and upscale eateries around the barrios of Manila and La Florida.

This is Colombia, so naturally, going out for a night of dancing is a must! In Poblado head to Kukaramakara for full-on clubbing action and live music, or El Establon for more a more intimate salsa experience. The slightly more serious Son Havana in Laureles is considered Medellin’s premier salsa spot. For something completely different, check out Dulce Jesus Mio, apparently designed to resemble a traditional Colombian pueblo, only seemingly seen through an acid-tinted lens inhabited by warped visions of American pop culture.

 

4. THE WEATHER

Known as the ‘city of eternal spring’, Medellin’s climate is almost always pleasant, with plenty of sunshine and temperatures in the mid ‘20s basically all year round. The temperature is so stable that Medellin almost never gets too hot, or too cold.  March through to May, as well as September through to November are Medellin’s official rainy seasons, and while this time of year brings cloudy periods and the occasional heavy downpour, it’s still usually warm and dry during the day, and rarely rains for hours on end.

5. ART AND CULTURE

Art and culture thrive in Medellin. It’s home to arguably Colombia’s best museum, the Museo de Antioquia, dedicated not only to pre-colonial culture and religious art, but a huge exhibit of the country’s most famous sculptor, Fernando Botero. Botero’s instantly recognisable statues, known for their disproportionately chubby features, are also scattered all though the Plaza Botero in Medellin’s Centro.

Public art has been essential to Medellin’s urban renewal, starting at the grassroots level with graffiti and murals in some of the city’s poorest neighbourhoods, such as Santo Domingo and San Javier (Comuna 13). Giving a voice and a united spirit to once feared and ignored communities, these public art projects allow local youths to tell their story, while bringing colour, life and creativity to the streets.    

 

6. THE VIBE

There’s no shortage of activities to enjoy in and around Medellin, from urban paragliding (!) to day trips the multi-coloured, Legoland-brought-to-life village of Guatape. But the biggest reason so many travellers fall in love with Medellin is harder to describe. Hanging out in Medellin just feels good.

Medellin is a city with a tragic past and a promising future. It still has its prickly edges to be sure, but overall, Medellin is a place of positivity and hope. Whether you’re sitting in the Metrocable, gawping and the scenery while locals simply go about their business, or dancing the night away with newfound friends in a uniquely Paisa-style club, Medellin has a vibe like no other place on earth.

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