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Providencia is one of Colombia’s lesser-known paradises. Most of the tourism in the area centres around the nearby island of San Andrés, which counts on direct flights from Bogotá and Cartagena; this means that the island has become much more developed, leaving Providencia to retain its Caribbean charm and authenticity. Far fewer tourists make the trip from San Andrés to Providencia, but those who do normally end up declaring it one of the most beautiful places they have ever visited. Reaching the island is easily done from San Andrés, and there are two different ways to do it.
The most popular – albeit more expensive – way of reaching Providencia is to take a flight. There are absolutely no connections to the small island from the Colombian mainland – or Nicaragua, which is closer than Colombia – so all flights must be taken from San Andrés’ Gustavo Rojas Pinilla International Airport, flying to Providencia’s El Embrujo Airport.
The airlines that operate this short route are Searca and Satena (whose flights to Providencia are, in fact, operated by Searca). Visitors can arrange Searca flights by charter on their website – simply fill in the contact form with the flight dates and wait for a response. For Satena flights, tourists can reserve them on their website. The average cost for a round-trip flight – which you’ll obviously need – is around 500,000 Colombian pesos, approximately US$165 or £130. The flights aren’t cheap, but this extra barrier has allowed Providencia to remain more authentic and less crowded.
The trip only takes around 20 minutes on a small plane, which usually seats eight to 10 passengers, and offers some spectacular views of the surrounding azure waters and pristine coral reefs (check out the video above to see for yourself). El Embrujo Airport is a tiny, one landing-strip affair clinging to the edge of the mountainous island. The landing is a very precise one and can be a bit intimidating for nervous flyers, but it’s an exhilarating experience. However, if flying – or the cost of taking a flight – isn’t for you, then there’s only one other choice to get to Providencia.
Your other option to get from San Andrés to Providencia is to take the catamaran ferry service, which makes the 90-kilometre (56-mile) sea voyage up to six days every week. The only ferry service currently operating the route is Conocemos Navegando, and visitors can reserve tickets directly on their website. The frequency of ferries between San Andrés and Providencia can vary from season to season and can fill up quickly during high season, so it’s worth making your reservation in good time.
The trip takes roughly 3.5 hours and is famous for being a pretty choppy ride; those who are prone to seasickness may struggle on the boat crossing, so perhaps flying is the way to go. The reward for suffering the waves is usually a much cheaper trip, with return ferry trips going for around 300,000 Colombian pesos – US$100 or £75. However, in the more popular tourist seasons of January, February and July, this price can often double.
Travelling to Providencia isn’t necessarily cheap or easy, but it is worth the extra time and effort to visit an island that is as close to paradise as any in the Caribbean, and far less touristic than most. Whether you choose to fly or take the boat, your trip is sure to be a memorable one.