[:en]As our last hurrah before I went back to the states for a month, we went to the famously romantic town of Barichara. Nestled in the mountains, and perched precariously on a peak, it was everything that the guides had promised and more. Lonely planet hadn’t exaggerated it’s beauty.

Most scenic towns have a colonial downtown area, but stray a few blocks away from the town square and the romanticism is shattered; you’re back to shitty streets with trash strew between the ugly buildings like some sort of ironic confetti.

Barichara was different. The entire town was a beautiful facade of Spanish-style buildings, bordered by original cobblestones (refurbished so you wouldn’t break an ankle. Too many of our dates have already ended in a visit to the whitewashed halls of a hospital). You could stick your hands out to either side of you, taking in the scenery, and turn in a 360-degree circle, spinning to take in the breathtaking mountain vistas visible from all directions.

The only downfall to our gorgeous mountain refuge was the lack of affordable accommodation. There was only a small handful of hostels and they were a 50% markup from what we normally paid (or even more). For example, we were used to paying 80,000 COP (about $32 USD) for a private room for the two of us, and normally spent closer to 60,000 COP ($24 USD). The rooms there ranged between 125,000 and 300,000 per night.

After going from door to door we ran into a couple who owned La Loma Hotel & Spa 5 mins up the road from the town (and by hotel I don’t mean some hospedaje, I mean a proper fancy hotel with starched duvets and too many pillows on the bed to sleep comfortably). They were having some sort of deal so we got a normally $120 USD room for about $50, a little out of our price range but the cheapest we found, and it was only for one night. And hell, when else are you going to be in a town out of a romance novel with your boyfriend. Some things just have to be done right.

After roughing it the last few months, the hotel was absolute luxury. We walked in through a high wrought iron gate swathed in flowers into a courtyard with yet another breathtaking view. As I walked into the room I let my bags fall to the floor and sunk on the bed, legs and arms outspread, breathing in the lavender scent of the many, many more thread count sheets than the scratchy ones we were used to.

After properly enjoying our luxurious crib for a bit, we went on a walk to the center of town, suitably hand in hand to match the atmosphere.

We took a tuk-tuk tour around the pueblo, getting a good view of the place from the local cabby whose beautiful little 3-year-old blond and blue-eyed granddaughter perched on the seat next to him. When we asked where their light skin and eye color came from, he responded that there used to be a lot of germans in the area working, “they left a lot of kin behind, just not a lot of last names,” he replied with a chuckle and a knowing wink.

The first place he took us to was the highest point in town: a well-cared garden with statues representing the history of the area and their beliefs. The edge of the garden was boarded by palm trees, and just beyond their trunks, a dramatic drop hundreds of feet below to the valley floor. The contrast of the crisp air and mountain vista against the tropical leaves of the palms was one of those pinch-me moments, and I’m really here?

On the way down we stopped at a beautiful several hundred-year-old chapel set in rustic stone. Near the main square, we popped into a paper making factory, where they show you the process of taking the fique plant and turning it into a hand-made fibrous paper. We even got to get our hand dirty and press a few sheets ourselves.

As the day faded into the night, we wandered into an adorable restaurant called Don Juan, off of the main square where we had a balcony all to ourselves. Add a bottle of malbec (my favorite wine) and some glorious bacon wrapped steak, backed against those jagged mountain peaks, and you have yourself an epic date of proper “I’ll see you in a month” proportions. And the whole bill was around $20 USD per person. Not bad, not bad at all.

We spent the rest of the next day wandering the town together, being proper tourists and searching for some small gifts I could take home. I’m not really a fan of the cheesy mass produced items with the obvious location names, “Colombia” or Barichara” scrawled across it in obnoxious letters. They look so cheap and who uses them, anyway. So, I thought I would find some small local delicacies my family could sample. We bought guava candies, a local almost hard jam sort of substance (very tasty, locally known as bocadillo), a homemade pineapple spread, and Ants. Yes, a small jar of ants, locally known as Hormingas Culonas, nearly an inch long. They are salted and fried – a local snack similar to salted nuts or popcorn, but higher in protein.

We also purchased “Alpargatas”, a traditional unisex flat made out of natural materials and comfier than anything else I’ve ever owned. Also very durable, a great little washable travel shoe, costing 30,000 COP or about $12 USD.

Outfitted in our new zapatos, we grabbed our bags, and said adios to our fairytale suite walking through the charmed streets of barichara one last time before hopping on a bus to head back to bucaramanga where I would fly out the next morning.

I know I’ve said it already, but there are no other words to describe it as the prettiest, most breathtaking, most romantic town I have ever been. A must see whether you are with someone or solo, it is a charming special place that will stick out in my memory for a very long time.

 

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