Colombia is hot property. Not just in the financial markets, where development opportunities and a proactive attitude have seen the levels of FDI reach record levels of $17 billion this year (move over Brazil!), but also in the travel stakes. As lingering fears from past problems continue to dissipate, innovate new openings and artistic projects are raising the bar to take Colombia to the next level.
First on the list is the capital Bogota, a must-stop or a few days of exploring baroque churches, marvelling at the Gold Museum and a spot of late night dancing at the legendary restaurant Andres Carnes de Res (think prime steak, mad Colombians and lashings of Chivas well into the early hours). But where to sleep? Up until now, finding a stylish pied a terre to rest one’s head has proved a consistent challenge, with boutique hotels lacking the extra edge that the city so deserved. Now, recently opened B.O.G Hotel has provided the perfect solution. While the name may have less than elegant connotations in English, B.O.G is the first hotel in the city to gain the accolade of Design Hotel and it is easy to see why. The 55 rooms are kitted out in neutral tones of beige and grey, with hints of gold brought to life by clever lighting that illuminates sumptuous king sized beds complete with 500 count cotton sheets. Portuguese Designer Nini Andrade Silva cites inspiration from 2 of Colombia’s most alluring raw materials, Gold and Emeralds. And while the hotel may not be the lost El Dorado, Leonor Espinosa’s gourmet kitchen La Leo has been drawing hipster locals and international travellers in droves, where the fuss about fusion dishes with a local soul seems to be well deserved. Top it off with a terrace bar and rooftop outdoor pool, heated for braving those misty late night swims, and you have the coolest spot in town.
Skip to Medellin, Colombia’s second city, and you will notice that the gradual transformation from cartel hotbed to forward thinking city is almost complete. Once renowned as Pablo Escobar’s hangout, Medellin is now winning praise across the globe for its use of art and architecture to promote social development, a change that begun when the city planners decided that integrating art into any new central building was imperative to drawing a community out of their homes. Born in Medellin, the famed sculptor Fernando Botero has played a crucial part in investing artwork, both for the local museum, and more recently, in the form of 20 bronze sculptors that line Plaza Botero, a square once home to prostitutes and drugs dealers that is now a favorite among families. Public transport has also played an instrumental part: While each stop of the metro has been personalized by a different artist, the real draw is the cable car that leads up to Santo Domingo Savio, once a breeding ground for hired cartel killers, and now home to the impressive Parque Biblioteca Espana, from which you can take the cable car to the end of the line and lose yourself in the eco park of Arvi.
Finally- watch out for the opening of Aldo’s, the chic Vinoteca and Restoran in Buenos Aires, that will open in Cartagena before the end of the year. Combining the best of Latin America’s boutique producers sold at wholesale prices with an elegantly simple menu to ensure the wine remains the key protagonist, chances are that the Colombian wine culture is set for a revolution.