Casa del Presidente: Discovering Barichara from the comfort of a luxury private villa.
Hidden away in the northern reaches of Colombia, Casa del Presidente, Barichara, is our latest love affair. The former home of president Belisario Betancourt, this 5-bedroom private villa has recently opened its doors to welcome guests seeking offbeat, old-school Colombia.
Interiors are clean, bright and refined. The white walls are mostly unadorned, transforming the bespoke wood and wicker furniture – produce of local craftsman and artists – into focal works of art. The effect is of unostentatious luxury that is effortlessly cool.
Take a dip in the climatised pool or wander the property’s gardens, bright with bougainvillea and trees heavy with fruit. Large shaded terraces dotting the grounds provide tranquil corners to escape the heat of the day. Sip a sundowner whilst gazing out across a sea of terracotta red roofs, vivid against the backdrop lofty Yariguies mountains, as scents of the properties herb garden carry on the cool evening air.
Staff are attentive but not overbearing, overseen by an English-speaking host. Dining here is a major part of the experience. On-site private chefs Natalia Velásquez and Rafael Buitrago have more than 12 years’ experience in restaurants such as El Chato – ranking #21 in Latin America. Each menu is personalised to the guest’s preferences with an invariable focus on representing the regions finest produce. This is the sort of place you wake daily to freshly baked bread and homemade jams.
A maze of flagstone cobble streets and white-washed walls brightened with painted wooden shutters and doors, it is no surprise Barichara is considered Colombia’s prettiest town. As a renowned artist’s retreat, the town offers visitors a rare insight into the peripheral Colombian art world. Guests of Casa del Presidente get exclusive access to the artist’s studios and artisan ateliers that scatter the town.
Situated a few kilometres from the Chichamocha Canyon, there is plenty to do for those prone to restlessness. Biking or trekking along the canyon’s edge to little know colonial towns is a must, and for the more adventurous white-water rafting, paragliding, ziplining and rappelling. Helicopter rides can be arranged to transfer guests to the remotest corners of the canyon.
A 1-hour flight from Bogota, Medellin and Cartagena, followed by a 3hr drive (or 20-minute Heli-ride), Casa del Presidente should make the top of the bucket list for anyone in search of culture, adventure and authentic Colombia.