Enjoy this week’s addition of Your Best Adventure Yet by Anna from Expert World Travel.
Like all adventures, our recent journey to Colombia probably began with me watching too many episodes of Narcos. Many of you probably know the Netflix hit, but for those that don’t, it chronicles the crazy lives of Colombia’s worst drug criminals – Pablo Escobar and the Cali Cartel.
Sure, there was a lot of death and dismay in those TV shows, but the reality is – the Colombia of today is very safe and a pleasure to travel in. In fact, it has become a bit of a “must see” amongst backpackers of late, so much so, that we decided to visit one of the lesser known spots – Providencia Island.
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Providencia Island – Not Really In Colombia
Actually located far closer to Nicaragua and Panama than Colombia, Providencia Island is quite an adventure to get to. Most people take a plane to its more popular neighbor – San Andres and stop there. Because it’s easier. But, it’s apparently overrun with tourists, and we wanted an adventure. So, we chose the harder path, and boy was it worth it.
Getting to Providencia Island, Columbia
We flew out of Medellin on a 2 hour flight with one of the more reputable carriers in the region – LATAM. We had been using Avianca, a local budget airline, but for this leg we needed a reasonable gap for our connection in San Andres. And LATAM, being a big airline, we figured their planes would be great – wrong!
It was actually one of the oldest and dodgiest looking 737s I have seen in decades, which is when it was last refurbished. 2001! (I am kidding, but it could be accurate) But despite its age, it got us there, albeit uncomfortably and without food. But I kept on reminding myself…we are heading to paradise, and the journey is part of the fun!
An Overlay In San Andres
Entering San Andres airport, there is actually a separate customs check (which seems odd, as you are still in Colombia) who thoroughly check your “island tourist pass”. Both San Andres and Providencia strictly control visitors, and they don’t really want people to overstay. So, these kinds of checks happen a lot on the islands.
Next, we picked up our bags, which seemed to be the last to arrive on the rickety conveyor before lining up for the obligatory luggage x-ray scan. It was an ancient self-loaded scanner guarded by in indifferent local, who enjoyed watching us struggle to heave our gear onto the belt. What this machine actually did in terms of actual security is anyone’s guess.
Once we got through this rigorous scan [insert sarcasm] we headed into the terminal to find our next flight, not quite sure if they would actually allow us on board. You see, like most of you, we had about 20kg (45lb) each on our trip. Pretty standard, I know. But our next leg was not on a “normal” plane. The planes to Providencia are very small, with limited passenger and luggage space. Or so we had read. Information was very hard to come by online, which is why I have now written this comprehensive guide!
We had re-packed our stuff in Medellin so that we could potentially leave it in San Andres, but one look at the broom closet of a luggage storage facility and we decided to pay our way onto the plane with all our luggage. We had read a rumor that it was both cheap and possible. And hopefully we would soon find out.
But alas, there was no one to be seen at the airline check-in desk…for hours. Which gave us time to constantly debate and wonder what we would do if they did not let us on the plane with our 45kg. Broom closet storage for 6 days? We hoped not.
Someone finally showed up at the check-in desk and quickly confirmed that we could bring all our luggage, despite the 10kg (20lb) per person limit. We just had to pay. Luckily it cost about the same it would have to leave our luggage in the storage broom closet! So, we threw some cash at the poor airline employee and headed for our next security check.
Boarding The Very Small Plane
I used to be a nervous flyer on small to mid-sized planes, but thought I was over it. Until I saw our plane to Providencia. A small (bordering on tiny in my eyes) 22 seater with two propellers. The kind you imagine when having a nightmare about plane crashes.
But it was pegged to only be a 15 minute flight, so I tried to keep my panic in check!
We lined up for boarding at the gate, which in itself was a little disorganised, with flights manually called out in person, as the flight attendants weaved amongst the crowd whispering flight numbers.
We then followed the attendant, like a comical row of ducks, down a corridor, past all the gates, down a flight of stairs, until we hit a locked door out to the tarmac. She promptly unlocked it and then we all walked outside, across the runway (look left, right, no planes coming) to the planes parked on the edge of the airport. Then, one by one, we climbed the tiny four stairs and ducked our heads as we were swallowed into the plane, finding a seat where we could. This is what it looked like…
The Bumpy But Spectacular Flight
Zipping down the runway, in what seemed like the longest take-off of my life, we were soon in the air, climbing to meet some very intimidating looking clouds. The kind that could swat a plane like ours right out of the sky. Or so I imagined.
The pilot kept to the right of them, most of the way, but it was still a little choppy and there was not much to see except clouds and dark blue water…until we neared Providencia.
Gradually appearing on the horizon (which we could see between the pilots – not something you normally have the pleasure of seeing), the island eventually filled out windows with its stunning aqua blue reef-filled waters that are surrounding this beach-lined, emerald green gem!
These are the kinds of views we got out of the window. So stunning, I almost wanted to jump in and take a dip! It actually made me briefly forget about crashing too.
Finally, In Paradise
Almost a full day on route, we finally arrived at the very small, but quaint, airport building of Providencia. We grabbed our bags, which arrived in a hand-pulled trolley and went with the first taxi driver we came across. Yes, we were in Colombia, but it was really the Carribean. And the driver’s first words to us where
“Welcome To Paradise!”
And boy he was right.
We spent the next 6 days zooming around the island on a rented scooter, exploring beaches, eating more lobster than is healthy, and snorkelling with turtles white being dragged behind a boat. But that is a story for another day.
So, if you are ever in Colombia, and truly looking for an adventure, it all starts with trying to get to Providencia, and then just keeps going once you arrive.
Adventures in paradise, what more could you want on a vacation!
Anna was born to travel the world having studied languages all her life. Although she has traveled the world, she now calls Switzerland home and spends her time writing about her experiences on her travel blog with her husband. Follow her adventure on Twitter and Pinterest.