In my humble opinion, Colombia is among the most underrated destinations in the world. Rich with culture, history, and unique educational opportunities, it is a land of extraordinary beauty and an exceptional learning experience for your child’s homeschool education.
So, when flights went on sale from our home airport to the capital city of Bogota, my husband and I decided to pack up our worldschoolers and go on an international field trip to this must-see country of wonder and magic.
Worldschooling in Colombia: Safety
Our family and friends were, frankly, ridiculously worried that we planned to take our two small children to Colombia. Isn’t that, after all, the country with all the violent cartels warring over cocaine?
Unfortunately, most Americans haven’t updated their views about Colombia in decades. Many people still think of it as the domain of Pablo Escobar (even though he’s been dead for 30 years).
I’m here to assure you that I felt as safe in Colombia as anywhere in the United States.
Yes, just like New York or LA, there are neighborhoods in Bogota you should avoid after dark.
But in order to find trouble, you almost have to go looking for it.
My advice, for what it is worth, is to ask and listen to the locals about what neighborhoods are frequented by international travelers, and which ones are best avoided.
It really is that simple.
Spanish Language Immersion
When we selected Colombia for our summer worldschooling destination, we were looking for a full-immersion experience to work on our Spanish.
In the major city centers, it’s quite easy to find English speakers. But if your kids are learning Spanish and you want a language immersion experience, go out into the smaller towns and you’ll find yourself thrown in the deep end quickly!
Personally, I really liked this opportunity and was surprised at how rapidly our Spanish improved. Towards the end of our 3 weeks in Colombia, my kids were chatting up locals with simple conversational Spanish, and I felt myself getting much more comfortable getting around in Spanish—-to the point that I sometimes went days without needing assistance from an English speaker.
We flew into Bogota from our home airport. It was a relatively short journey for an international trip—about 8 hours in total with a connection in Fort Lauderdale.
It was an easy cab ride into the city from the airport. The total cost was about $12 USD.
We opted to stay in the Candelaria neighborhood of Bogota and I am so glad we did.
It’s a historical, artsy place with lots of gorgeous cobblestone streets, art, and restaurants.
Museo De Oro
The Museo De Oro was hands down my favorite part of Bogota.
It’s way, way more than just a bunch of gold.
The size of this museum is modest, but its selectivity and simplicity are what make it special.
The exhibits are fascinating, and the English descriptions offer beautiful insights into the cultures of the indigenous peoples of Colombia.
Kids love shiny things. Use them as teaching tools!
Don’t get me wrong.
Mount Monserrate is beautiful and you can’t really go to Bogota without seeing it.
But bear in mind that the lines to get on the tram that goes up the mountain are long, and the climb up after you get there is steep.
If you happen to be towing an 18-month-old (as we were), you’re in for a short, but rough hike.
Guatape was far and away the highlight of our trip.
We took the short, 35-minute flight from Bogota to Medellin and then hopped in a cab for a 2-hour drive through the countryside to this inexplicably gorgeous town.
I have no idea how it is possible that so few people outside of Colombia know about it. But I really mean it when I say, it is one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen in all of my travels.
Sometimes called “The Most Colorful Town In Colombia,” I think it just might be one of the most colorful towns in the world.
Guatape is a small town of about 6,500 that triples in population on the weekend. Most visitors are from nearby Medellin and relatively few international tourists come here, making it an ideal place to work on your Spanish.
Its tiny size makes its key features hard to miss, but don’t leave without checking out the following.
The Umbrella Street
Everyone wants a picture on this charming, beautiful street in Guatape. So, if you want a family pic without a bunch of other visitors in the background, be sure to get up early and snap one before breakfast!
Iglesia de Nuestra Señora del Carmen
Regardless of your religious affiliation, Iglesia de Nuestra Señora del Carmen in Guatape is worth a visit.
The craftsmanship and artistry of this beautiful church is an experience apart from any other.
With gorgeous stained glass windows, statuaries, and carved wood, take a moment in silence to contemplate the majesty of this historical church.
Get some freshly squeezed fruit juice, have a seat, and just people watch in the main square of Guatape.
This funky, artistic community attracts some fascinating characters. Best of all, it’s a friendly community, and most people are flattered to pose for pictures with you or help you with directions.
After our adventure in Guatape, we headed back to Medellin.
This gritty, colorful city is nothing short of a living art project.
It seems like every flat surface is covered with a mural or painting. The streets explode with Latin music and the smell of food from all over Latin America.
Santa Elena & The Flower Farms
Medellin is sometimes known as “The City of Eternal Spring” because its weather is basically perfect for cultivating flowers all year long.
The source of this river of flowers is largely in the farming communities just outside town.
So, don’t miss a chance to visit a flower farm.
We went to Silletera Finca Los Girasoles and it was amazing. It’s a privately own farm that’s been in the same family for generations.
The tour guide was so good with the kids and we learned about the traditional Columbian methods of cultivating and harvesting flowers.
Don’t forget to try the food.
Colombia is not known for its cuisine.
This is a shame, because this country offers some delicious treats.
Although it can be challenging to get kids to try new foods abroad, Colombia made it easier than usual.
In particular, my kids loved the fruit and fruit juices, which are shipped daily to the cities fresh from the source, all year around.