PETER Langer, executive producer of The Ultimate Traveller series, has just returned from an extensive trek through Colombia and Ecuador. He travelled 4,200 kilometres by car overland through Colombia from north to south continuing on into Ecuador and the Galapagos islands.
Most trips to this part of the world start in Bogotá, Colombia's capital. The absolute highlight of the city is the Gold Museum that contains more than 34,000 pre-Hispanic gold pieces, the largest collection of its kind in the world. Near the capital are Zipaquirá and Nemocón, ancient underground salt mines that have been exploited by humans over thousands of years.
Langer explored several of Colombia's pre-Columbian UNESCO World Heritage Sites including the National Archeological Park of Tierradentro with several monumental statues and many hypogea dating from the 6th to the 10th centuries. The huge underground tombs (some burial chambers are up to 12 metres wide) are decorated with motifs that reproduce the internal decor of homes of the period. San Agustín Archaeological Park is the largest group of religious monuments and megalithic sculptures in South America and stands in a wild, spectacular landscape.
The Coffee Cultural Landscape of Colombia, designated a World Heritage Site in 2011, consists of a series of six sites harbouring eighteen urban settlements in the Eje Cafetero, or coffee-growing axis. The region reflects a long tradition of coffee growing in small plots in the high forest with farmers adapting cultivation methods to difficult mountain conditions.
Langer's favourite location in Colombia, Medellín, nicknamed the 'City of Eternal Spring,' features mild temperatures year-round. The city has a lively cultural scene and there are art exhibits everywhere you look. The narrow streets of downtown are full of fine sculptures and supercharged with pedestrian life.
Travellers crossing over the Magdalena River will discover the Historic Centre of Santa Cruz de Mompox, a UNESCO World Heritage Site founded in 1540.
From the 16th to the 19th centuries the city developed parallel to the river, with the main street acting as a dyke. Most of the buildings are still used for their original purposes making it feel as if time has stood still.
Situated by the Caribbean Sea, Cartagena has the most extensive fortifications in South America. Due to the cruise ship traffic, the city has vastly improved its cleanliness and service over the past two decades.
Langer will share his adventures in a series of four multi-image presentations and lectures over the next month at West Vancouver's Ferry Building: Impressions of Colombia (Wednesday, Jan. 16), Impressions of Ecuador and the Galápagos Islands (Wednesday, Jan. 23), Impressions of Sri Lanka (Wednesday, Jan. 30) and Impressions of Madagascar (Wednesday, Feb. 6). All shows start at 7 p.m. For more information visit theultimatetraveller.com.
? Galapagos yoga The Travel Yogi (thetravelyogi. com), specialist in international yoga retreats and yoga adventures, is hosting a series of yoga retreats in the Galapagos Islands.
The retreats are conducted on a 12-acre estate in the highlands of Santa Cruz Island. The location hosts a six-room lodge, a coffee plantation (Arabica coffee), tortoise pond, walking paths and a fully stocked yoga studio. From guest room patios are views of Galapagos National Park, Galapagos Marine Reserve and outlying islands.
Two of the multiple retreats scheduled here in 2013 still have availability: Ocean of Love with Ashley Turner July 27-Aug 3, 2013 and Great Galapagos Getaway with Jenniferlyn Chiemingo Oct. 19-26, 2013. Visit thetravelyogi.com/ adventures/galapagos-islands/
? Belize solo trips B.C. adventure travel company Island Expeditions is offering Solo Traveler Trip Specials, with savings of up to $220 on select Belize adventure vacations in January and February. Call 1-800667-1630 or email info@ islandexpeditions.com to take advantage of special sale rates.