While exploring charming Cartagena, Colombia, a colonial gem of a city fronting the Caribbean, I bumped into a group of New Yorkers who had just flown in on a nonstop 4.5-hour JetBlue flight from NYC. Exciting news! The airline recently launched the only nonstop service between New York’s JFK and Cartagena this fall, making it easier (and cheaper!) than ever before for Northeast-area travelers to make their way to this sexy South American hotspot.But JetBlue didn't stop there. When the beloved budget carrier first debuted service to Bogotá from Orlando back in 2009, it turns out that it was only a harbinger of good things to come. In the last year they’ve increased service to Bogotá (adding a new route from Fort Lauderdale last May), added new Colombian destinations in Medellin and Cartagena, and have just announced upcoming service to Lima, Peru – the airline's southernmost venture to date.
Long a major player in the Caribbean, Mexican, and Central American markets, its expanding presence in South America is already translating to incredibly competitive pricing and increased accessibility. Not to mention a comfortable way to get there, offering assigned seating, one free checked bag, complimentary snacks and drinks, seat-back TVs, and comfy leather seats with plenty of legroom, all as part of their low fares. Read on for more details on the trio of JetBlue's newest South American destinations.
Cartagena, Colombia, from New York City
Why Go: Colombia’s uncontested capital of tourism, this fashionable and romantic coastal city bubbles over with colonial charm, high-end hotels and eateries, and plenty of sun, surf, and sand along its Caribbean-fronted beaches. A UNESCO-designated inner walled city turns over cobblestone streets flanked by towering churches, open-air cafes, flower-trimmed balconies, and leafy plazas.
Getting There: Launched with relatively little fanfare back in early November (given that the routes debuted in the wake of Hurricane Sandy), the airline’s second destination in Colombia marks the only nonstop service between NYC and Cartagena. Service operates three times weekly; promo rates from $174 one-way must be booked by May 3 for travel between May 7 and June 19 (a 21-day advanced purchase is required).
Medellin, Colombia, from Fort Lauderdale
Why Go: Pleasant Medellin’s rough-and-tumble days of cocaine cartels and high-profile criminals are largely behind it, with the city fast emerging as one of South America’s safest and most cultured big cities. Surrounded by mountain peaks, and blessed with mild year-round temperatures, this “City of Eternal Spring” offers visitors a chance to sample Colombian culture at its finest, brimming with fine architecture, friendly locals, and a high-energy nightlife.
Getting There: JetBlue’s third Colombian destination, daily flights to Medellin will launch from Fort Lauderdale on June 13. Promotional rates start at $175 one-way for weekday travel (Mondays through Thursdays) between September 3 and October 9 (deal ends May 3).
Lima, Peru, from Fort Lauderdale
Why Go: Long overlooked as a mere transit hub en route to Machu Picchu and other Peruvian tourism hotspots, a stopover in sprawling Lima is well warranted to sample its mouthwatering gastronomy, and to take in its old colonial center that's brimming with architectural and cultural highlights and pleasant plazas. Modern Miraflores, meanwhile, offers high-end hotels, shopping, and nightspots, all on a cliff top perched above the ocean. Major museums, nearby Incan ruins, and music clubs call for further exploration.
Getting There: JetBlue just announced new daily service from Fort Lauderdale to Lima, which will begin in November. Flights kick off on November 21, pending regulatory approval. Nab intro fares for travel between November 21 and December 19 from $139 one-way – hurry, though, the deal ends May 3.
Editor's Note, February 2015: While much of Colombia is safe and many Americans travel to the country safely, keep in mind that there is a travel warning in effect. Be careful and aware of your surroundings. For current fares -- the intro fares from 2013 have expired -- visit JetBlue's website.
Incurable travel addict, longtime travel scribe, and mindful money-saver Elissa Richard is currently indulging her insatiable wanderlust on an epic 14-month journey around the globe – intent on making it every step of the way without busting her modest budget. Follow her along the way as she reports back with budget-savvy travel tips from the mountains of Transylvania to the wilds of Tasmania, and from the little-trodden temples of Burma to the bustling bars and clubs of Buenos Aires. A vagabond in search of value, just for ShermansTravel!