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Family travel: follow in the footsteps of Disney's Encanto in Colombia

Enchanted by Disney’s Encanto? Here’s why it’s time your family explored the country that inspired the Oscar-winning animated film.

Published 13 May 2022, 06:04 BST
Parque de los Pies Descalzos (Barefoot Park), in Medellín, Colombia’s buzzy cultural hub.

Parque de los Pies Descalzos (Barefoot Park), in Medellín, Colombia’s buzzy cultural hub.

Photograph by ProColombia

This year’s winner of Academy Award for Best Animated Feature, the enchanting Disney movie Encanto shines a light on the colourful, cultural highlights of Colombia. It might not instantly spring to mind as an obvious destination for a family adventure, but Colombia brims with diverse experiences. Here are seven of the best for families.

1. Explore the Cocora Valley 

The mountainous Cocora Valley is best accessed via the heritage town of Salento — the inspiration for a number of locations in Encanto. Part of the Los Nevados National Natural Park, the valley is threaded with trails and dotted with campsites, and is adrenaline junkie terrain, with mountain-biking and horse-riding popular pursuits. Andean Trails offers a five-day trekking tour of the Valle Cocora from £946 per person, including all entrance fees and an expert guide.

2. Spot wildlife in Tayrona National Park 

Encanto references Colombia’s staggering biodiversity — something very much in evidence in the Tayrona National Park, on the edge of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, one of the world’s highest coastal mountain ranges. Keep your eyes — and ears — open for a colourful cast of jungle creatures, including black howler monkeys, jewel-like hummingbirds, iguanas and even a jaguar. 

3. Go underground in Zipaquirá

Of all Colombia’s eclectic buildings, one of the best ones to explore is the Salt Cathedral of Zipaquirá. Built in the 1930s within a salt mine tunnelled into a mountain in the city of Zipaquirá, the church, which was used by the miners, was part of the inspiration behind Bruno’s room in Encanto and is now part of an activity complex with a family-friendly tour along the former mining route, as well as climbing walls.

Finca El Ocaso Salento, a coffee farm in Salento, the gateway to the Cocora Valley.

Photograph by AWL Images

4. Learn about coffee in Quindío

Encanto is all about family, and one of the best places for some family time is the Parque del Café (‘coffee park’) in Quindío. No ordinary theme park, along with rides and shows for different ages, there’s an interactive coffee museum, an eco-trail through a coffee plantation and food stalls serving up delicious, coffee-based products. 

5. Escape to Múcura Island

Head for Múcura Island, or any of the other islands of the Archipelago of San Bernardo. Part of the Rosario and San Bernardo Corals National Natural Park, this protected marine system has great snorkelling, diving, as well as beaches bright with bioluminescent plankton. 

6. Revel at the Carnival of Barranquilla

Time your trip to coincide with the Carnival of Barranquilla, which takes place over four days in February or March. UNESCO-listed and one of the country’s most important folklore celebrations, the festival has its roots in the 19th century and is a treat for all ages, with live performances, art and flamboyant costumes.

7. Spot flowers along the Caño Cristales river 

Isabela’s ability to conjure flowers in the film is a nod to Colombia’s wealth of plant life. One of the best displays of blooms occurs along the Caño Cristales river (dubbed the ‘River of Five Colours’) in the Serranía de la Macarena National Park: between July and October, an aquatic plant blooms, turning the river into a riot of pinks, reds and blues.

Published in the June 2022 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK)

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