Cucuta, the hot sticky capital of Norte de Santander rarely provides more than a stopover on the way to the Venezuela border. If you can stand the heat, though, you might be surprised at how developed parts of the city are, particularly the centre.
There is probably just about enough in and around the city to keep you busy for a day before continuing on into Venezuela or into the interior of Colombia.
The centre of Cúcuta is well organised and contains the usual array of shops, banks and restaurants. Parque Santander forms the central point of the city on the eastern side of which lies Catedral de San Jose (see photo above).
Two blocks south-east of Parque Santander is Parque Colon, a smaller plaza which backs onto a library and a chapel.
The centre of the city is a relatively safe place to stroll around during the day. Many of the streets are lined with trees which provide some welcome shade from the sun.
If you want to escape the city, however there are a couple of short trips you can do to places within an hour of Cucuta...
Close to the Venezuelan border is the historically important town of Villa del Rosario. It was in Villa del Rosario that Simon Bolivar and the early Colombian congress agreed on the constitution of Gran Colombia (which was comprised of Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador and Panama).
This historical site has been converted into a park called the Parque de la Gran Colombia. Within the park the main sights of interest are the Templo del Congreso, the church where the congress carried out its first meetings, and the Casa de Santander where General Santander was born and spent the first 13 years of his life.
About an hour from Cucuta off the main road to Pamplona lies the small town if Chinacota. The town lies at an altitude of 1300m and so is quite a bit cooler than Cucuta which can make it a pleasant place to spend a few hours.
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Most of Cucuta's stores are located in the city centre within a few blocks of Parque Santander.
The city's biggest shopping mall in the impressive Ventura Plaza Centro Comercial (photo, right), opened in 2007, that contains the usual array of national and internation chain stores as well as a large food court and cinema.
Cúcuta Deportivo play at the General Santander Stadium near the centre of the city.
After a long spell in Division B Cúcuta were promoted back to the top flight in 2005. Remarkably, one year later they were crowned Division A champions under the guidance of manager Jorge Luis Pinto who would go on to spend an unsuccessful spell as the Colombian national team's coach the following year. As champions they qualified for the Copa Libertadores for the first time in their history.
Cúcuta (by now managed by Jorge Luis Bernal) began their Libertadores campaign in a group comprised of fellow colombian club Tolima, Gremio of Brasil and Cerro Porteño of Paraguay.
After qualifying from their group Cúcuta faced Mexican side Toluca. No Colombian team had ever eliminated a Mexican club from the competition, but a 5-3 aggregate score sent them into the quarter finals against Nacional of Uruguay.
A 2-0 home victory followed by a 2-2 draw in Montevideo set up a mouth-watering semi-final tie against Argentinian giants Boca Juniors.
In the first leg a tremendous performance gave Cúcuta a 3-1 victory over Boca Juniors courtesy of a brace from Blas Perez and a Ruben Dario Bustos free kick.
The return leg would be played on a cold evening in La Bombonera with thick fog covering the pitch. Visibility was so low that much of the game was televised from the pitchside. Cucuta goalkeeper Robinson Zapata had to dodge a barage of missiles being hurled from the terrace behind his goal.
In the intense atmosphere Cúcuta lost 3-0 and so narrowly missed out on a Libertadores final.
Despite a disappointing exit it was a terrific run, especially considering that they were playing Division B football just two years previously.
The Colombian side again classified for the Copa Libertadores of 2008, this time reaching the second round only to be comprehensively beaten 4-0 on aggregate by Brazilian club Santos.
The border with Venezuela is close to Cúcuta. The border is slightly more organised than the border further north near Maicao.
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