Colombia is fast becoming a backpacker paradise, as word spreads about the country’s diversity, friendliness and increasing openness. And where there are backpackers, there are hostels. Colombia has hundreds of hostels, so it’s a tough call to narrow it down to a list of 5, but we love a challenge here at See Colombia, so here are my top 5 Colombian hostels (in no particular order)…
1) La Casa de Francois, San Agustin (walk to the end of Cra 13, then up the hill)
Francois is an affable Frenchman who came to Colombia once upon a time, and never left. He certainly made himself useful though, by setting up this hostel in San Agustin, which I once boldly called my favourite in South America. The setting is stunning, a little finca on the hill overlooking town, with spectacular sunset views and plenty of hammocks. The hostel grows its own produce which you can enjoy in their fantastic restaurant (the 500 peso coffee is a highlight), and there are plenty of dogs, cats and horses to keep everyone happy. It has a great kitchen for backpacker’s use, and the circular dormitory is architecturally impressive to boot. A wonderful, relaxing option in the southern highlands of Colombia.
2) The Gypsy Residence, Aracataca (Calle 9 # 1-74)
Speaking of affable, Mr. Tim Buendia would surely take that title were we to ever get around to hosting the See Colombia Travel Awards(™). Tim is an eccentric Dutch poet, who set up this hostel in Garcia Marquez’s home town, and works tirelessly to improve the town, it’s tourism, and the memory of the Great Gabo. His Marquez tours around Aracataca are a delightful introduction to even a Gabo novice, and his hostel is well-located, comfortable, and has a range of options so that even the more luxury-inclined backpackers can enjoy their stay. The free water in the fridge is a nice touch as well.
3) La Casa Amarilla, Mompos (Cra 1 # 13-59)
I could technically call this place a hotel too, such is it’s range of comforts, but it’s high-ceilinged, affordable dorm rooms put it firmly in the Top 5. La Casa Amarilla is not just a hostel, but an experience in itself: it is located in a gorgeous old colonial house right next to the river in Mompos, itself one of my favourite Colombian destinations. The open courtyard in the centre, filled to bursting with a spectacular array of flowers and plants, is the perfect place to relax with a good book, and the roof terrace boasts unparalleled views over the old town. It’s owner is a fountain of knowledge about the local area, and La Casa Amarilla can arrange boat tours out onto the Magdalena River’s wetlands, a real wildlife haven.
4) La Pinta, Bogota (Calle 65 # 5 – 67)
This hostel makes the list for some personal reasons as well as practical ones – I stayed here on my arrival in Bogota whilst searching for a place to live. Don’t let that bias fool you though, La Pinta is the perfect hostel from which to enjoy the capital. It’s location, in central Chapinero, provides convenient access to both the historical centre and the upmarket northern neighbourhoods. The dorms are clean and well-appointed, there’s a huge kitchen and well-stocked bar (I know what you travellers like!), and the two friendliest hostel dogs you’re likely to meet. A great place to experience the liveliness and cultural diversity of Bogota. The Friday BBQ ain’t bad either.
5) Anywhere, Punta Gallinas, La Guajira
I say ‘anywhere’ because there are only about three options for staying at Punta Gallinas, and they don’t really have official names and websites and all that jazz. They just sort of exist. Which is part of the magic. Your boat from Cabo de la Vela will drop you at one (it doesn’t really matter which), and you can rent a little room, a hammock or a chinchorro (a massive, Wayuu double hammock). From then on, it’s just rolling down huge sand-dunes into the sea, eating fresh lobsters the size of your head, and swinging in your hammock breathing in the desert air. There aren’t many better places to stay in the world, let alone Colombia.
Obviously this list is very personal, and my preferences may differ from yours (and I might have cheated a little with that Punta Gallinas one: sue me!). Colombia has party hostels, chill-out hostels, eco-hostels, and boutique hostels, and every other type you can probably imagine. There are even some (whisper it) bad ones. Not too many though. This simply provides a very broad overview of some of the best hostel experiences Colombia has to offer. I could have made this list a Top 20 without even breaking a sweat, there are that many wonderful places to stay in Colombia. Honourable mentions must therefore go to the following excellent hostels:
- La Brisa Loca, Santa Marta (Calle de la Carcel # 14)
- The Plantation House, Salento (Calle 7 # 1-04)
- El Viajero, Cartagena (Calle 7, Infantes)
- Buddha Hostel, Medellin (Circular 73 A 38-55, Laureles)