Photo Essay: The Mystery & History of the Doors & Windows of Cartagena, Colombia

This post is part 7 of 7 in the series Cartagena Travel Guide

The restored Colonial architecture in the center of Cartagena, Colombia, a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1984, is so gorgeous that the overall effect can be overwhelming. So much stone! So much color! So many balconies! When we traveled to Cartagena we particularly loved the mystery and history of the doors and windows of Cartagena, as you can see in this photo essay. Often shut to keep the Caribbean sun at bay, we couldn’t help but wonder what we’d see if we could just peek inside.

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Photo Essay: Grand Tour of Oscar Niemeyer Modernist Architecture in Brasilia, Brazil

In 1956 the newly elected president of Brazil, Juscelino Kubitschek, spoke with the Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer:  “I am going to build a new capital for this country and I want you to help me,” he said. With that, Oscar Niemeyer became the planner and chief architect of Brazil’s new capital. In April of 1960, Brasilia, the purpose-built modernist city in the middle of the highland jungles of Brazil, became the country’s capital. More than 25 of the monumental and government buildings in Brasilia were ultimately designed by Oscar Niemeyer. UNESCO made Brasilia a World Heritage Site in 1987 due to its modernist architecture and premeditated urban planning. Here’s our grand tour of Oscar Niemeyer modernist architecture in Brasilia.

Modernist Architecture of Oscar Niemeyer in Brasilia, Brazil

Oscar Niemeyer National Congress Brasilia, Brazil

The National Congress (Supremo Tribunal Federal) of Brazil, pictured above, is home to the national legislature and is the centerpiece of Brasilia’s “Monumental Axis” which is the grand avenue that the city of Brasilia was built around. This avenue is where most of the government buildings and monuments (including all but the last two buildings mentioned in this post) were built.


Monumental Axis Brasilia

In the middle of the Monumental Axis (Eixo Monumental), pictured above, stands the TV Tower (Torre de TV). From its observation deck you get a great overview of the Monumental Axis and Brasilia’s modernist design (pictured above).


Oscar Niemeyer Planalto Palace

Oscar Niemeyer Planalto Presidential Palace

The Planalto Palace (Palácio do Planalto) is the official office of the President. It stands on Three Powers Plaza (Praça dos Três Poderes) because the plaza represents the meeting of the three governmental branches of powers: the executive branch represented by the Planalto Palace, the legislative branch represented by the National Congress (pictured above), and the judiciary branch represented by the Supreme Federal Court (pictured below).


Oscar Niemeyer Supreme Federal Court Brasilia

The Supreme Federal Court (Supremo Tribunal Federal) is the highest court in Brazil.


Oscar Niemeyer Cathedral of Brasilia

Oscar Niemeyer National cathedral Brasilia

The Cathedral of Brasilia, more formally known as the Metropolitan Cathedral of Our Lady of Aparecida (Catedral Metropolitana Nossa Senhora Aparecida) is one of Brasilia’s signature buildings and an iconic Niemeyer design both inside (pictured above) and out (pictured above that).


Oscar Niemeyer Tancredo Neves Pantheon

Tancredo Neves Pantheon of the Fatherland and Freedom (Panteão da Pátria e da Liberdade Tancredo Neves) also sits on the Three Powers Plaza. Following the 1984 death of Tancredo Neves, the first civilian president elected to office after twenty years of military rule in Brazil, the Tancredo Neves Pantheon of the Fatherland and Freedom was built to honor national heroes.


Oscar Niemeyer Ministry of Foreign Affairs

The Ministry of External relations is based out of the Itamaraty Palace (Palácio Itamaraty). The building is also known as the Palace of the Arches and is seen above with the National Congress towers in the background.


Oscar Niemeyer Ministry of Justice

The Palace of Justice (Palácio da Justiça) is home to the Ministry of Justice.


Oscar Niemeyer National museum

Part of the Cultural Complex of the Republic. along with the National Library, the National Museum of the Republic (Museu Nacional Honestino Guimarães), pictured above, hosts temporary art exhibits.


Oscar Niemeyer Memorial JK

Niemeyer’s JK Memorial, pictured above, is a museum and memorial dedicated to Juscelino Kubitschek who was President of Brazil between 1956 and 1961. Kubitscheck is viewed as the father of modern Brazil and he was responsible for the creation of Brasilia.


Oscar Niemeyer Brasilia Palace Hotel

The Brasilia Palace Hotel, pictured above, was one of the first buildings to be built in Brasilia. It was nearly destroyed by fire in 1978 and was abandoned for nearly a decade after that before Niemeyer was brought in to oversee a gorgeous restoration of his original design.


Oscar Niemeyer Brasilia Alvorada PalaceThe Palace of Dawn (Palácio da Alvorada), pictured above, is the official residence of the President of Brazil. Though recent reports in Brazilian newspapers say the current president no longer lives there because of ghosts in the building.


Below is a little dash-cam time-lapse video shot while driving around the Monumental Axis in Brasilia.

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Photo Essay: The Best Wax Palms in Colombia Aren’t in the Cocora Valley

The Cocora Valley near Salento is famous for its wax palms which are the tallest palms on the planet and the national tree of Colombia. However, the best wax palms in Colombia exist one valley over and you can see them during a bouncy, dusty jeep ride from Salento along the road to Finca La Carbonera. We visited the area twice and here are our favorite photos of these amazing stands of wax palms. Don’t miss our drone footage at the end of the post for a birds-eye-view of these awesome palms.

Finding the best wax palms in Colombia

To get to these wax palms, hire a Jeep taxi in the square in Salento for the three hour round trip drive up above Salento along a dirt road toward La Carbonera and back down again (150,000 COP or about US$50 round trip for the whole jeep which will seat five people in addition to the driver, allow four to five hours for the full excursion). Here you’ll find much larger, denser groups of palms than you’ll ever see in the more famous Cocora Valley. Enjoy!

Willy's Jeep Yipao from Salento, Colombia to La Carbonera Wax Palms Salento La Carbonera

Wax Palms La carbonera Salento Cocora Valley Colombia

Wax Palms La carbonera, Colombia

Palma de cera Cocora valley La Carbonera Colombia

Wax Palms Palma de Cera Colombia

Salento La Carbonera, Colombia Colombia Wax Palms Salento La Carbonera, Colombia

La Carbonera, Colombia Hillside of wax palms

Finca La Carbonera, Colombia Palma de cera, Colombia

Wax Palms Colombia Wax Palms La carbonera Cocora Valley Colombia

Armadillo Colombia

If you’re lucky your Jeep taxi driver may find and capture a wild armadillo along the way too.

Get a birds-eye-view of these amazing trees in our drone travel footage, below, taken over the wax palms near La Carbonera.

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Photo Essay: How to Make Panela, Colombia’s Sweet Obsession

Travel in Colombia for more than 15 minutes and you will encounter panela, the country’s beloved brick of raw, unrefined sugar that’s used in all sorts of food including the ubiquitous aguapanela and guarapo beverages. One scary study estimated that Colombians consume more than 75 pounds (34.2 kg) of panela every year.  Residents of plenty of other countries love it too, though they call it by different names like chancaca in Chile, Peru, Argentina and Bolivia and gur or jaggery in India.

Colombia produces 1.4 million tons of panela a year. It’s a major part of the economy and the country even holds an annual National Panela Pageant. Much of the panela is made in big factories, but some is still made in small, semi-automated workshops called trapiches. We came across one on the side of the road and stopped to watch the process of making panela–from sugar cane to finished brick.

Here’s how to make panela

Sugar Cane press extracts sugar cane juice

Step 1: Fresh cut sugar cane is put through a press to extract as much  juice as possible.

Sugar Cane Juice boiled and evaporated

Step 2: The extracted sugar cane juice runs from the press  into deep bins over a big fire fueled by the dried husks of pressed cane.

Sugar cane juice boiled and evaporated until it becomes a semi-sold

Step 3: Workers stir and transfer the boiling cane juice as it thickens.

Semi-sold sugar cane juice poured into molds

Step 4: Thickened sugar cane juice is poured into wooden molds and left to set.

Semi-sold sugar cane juice cools and solidifies

Step 5: The molds are left to set and cool.

Solid panela is removed from wooden molds

Step 6: Once the molds have set the panela discs are carefully removed from the wooden molds.

Solid panela is removed from wooden molds

Step 7: Cool and solid panela discs are stacked in preparation for packing.

Panela is packaged for sale

Step 8: Carefully packed, the finished panela is ready to be taken to market.

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Photo Essay: Carrera 13 Graffiti Street in Bogotá, Colombia

This post is part 4 of 5 in the series Street Art in the Americas

When shop owners in the Chapinero neighborhood of Bogotá, Colombia got sick and tired of cleaning tags and graffiti off their businesses, they mobilized. Instead of trying to ban street art (street art in Bogotá is legal within reasonable bounds), the shop keepers on Carrera 13 and the local mayor decided to run a contest to find talented street artists who would agree to create work on the closed shutters of the businesses, replacing the ugly defacement with art. The project began in 2014 and has turned Carrera 13 into an art gallery instead of an eyesore.

Carrera 13 street art in Bogotá, Colombia

Nearly 200 street artists entered the contest and 55 were ultimately chosen and given the go-ahead to work on the shutters, ultimately covering many, many blocks of Carrera 13. Here are some of our favorite pieces of street art on Carrera 13.

Toxicomano Gabriel Garcia Marquez Bogota Street Art

Artist: Toxicomano

Ciudad Alegre calle 13 Bogota Street Art

Artist unknown to us

calle 13 Bogota Street Art

Artist: Ledania

Crisp Calle 13 Bogota Street Art

Artist: Crisp

Calle 13 Bogota Street Art

Artist unknown to us

calle 13 Bogota Street Art

Artist: Surbeat

calle 13 Bogota Street Art

Artist unknown to us

Carsal Corrosivo Bogota Street Art

Artist: Carsal Corrosivo (just the bear)

Atomiko Calle 13 Bogota Street Art

Artist (left): Atomico

ARK Animal Pura Calle Bogota Street Art

Artist: ARK

Calle 13 Bogota Street Art

Artist unknown to us

Calle 13 Bogota Street Art

Artists unknown to us

Fonso/Mal Bogota Street Art

Artists: Fonso/MAL crew

Calle 13 Bogota Street Art

Artist unknown to us

Calle 13 Bogota Street Art

Artist unknown to us

Calle 13 Bogota Street Art

Artist unknown to us

Calle 13 Bogota Street Art

Artist unknown to us

calle 13 Bogota Street Art

Artist unknown to us

Calle 13 Bogota Street Art

Artists unknown to us

Bogotá street art travel tip

Because this street art is only visible when the businesses are closed, the best time to wander down Carrera 13 is early on a Sunday morning.

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Photo Essay: Highlights of the Gold Museum in Bogotá, Colombia

We found many things to love about Bogotá, Colombia but a real stunner was the city’s Museo de Oro (Gold Museum), which was one of the best museums we’ve ever visited (3,000 COP/about US$1.25, free for all on Sunday, tours available in English). The exhibits are fantastic with descriptions in Spanish and English, the collection is breathtaking and the guides are passionate and knowledgeable. There are thousands of gold items created by the different pre-Hispanic cultures in Colombia on display in the Gold Museum in Bogotá. Here are just a few highlights.

Bogota-Gold-Museum-mask Museo-de-Oro-Bogota Bogota-Gold-Museum-animal Muisca-raft--Bogota-Gold-Museum Bogota-Gold-Museum-figure Zenu-Bogota-Gold-Museum Bogota-Gold-Museum-priest best-museum-in-bogota-gold-museum Bogota-Museo-de-Oro Bogota-Gold-Museum-bird Bogota-Gold-Museum-sun Bogota-Gold-Museum-breastplate Bogota-Gold-Museum-lime-container Bogota-Gold-Museum-condor Bogota-Gold-Museum-piece


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