It’s safe, it’s affordable, and it’s attracting travellers like never before. Colombia, the closest South American getaway to the United States, has seemingly appeared on just about every “hip new travel destination” list over the last few years, including the New York Times list of 31 Places to Go in 2010. So why is everyone raving about it?
Travelers often agree that its slogan of “The only risk is not wanting to leave” is a true reflection of their holiday and if you speak to Colombians many hope that you leave the country with a new understanding that you will share with others. It is not surprising to see it top travel lists with popular publications as more people see it as the next hot destination.
Here are eleven reasons why:
1. The people
Colombians could possibly be the most friendly in South America, rivalling the hospitality of Brazil. A very outgoing and boisterous culture, it is common for new friends to invite you to dinner, a party or some other celebration. While it is important to be safe on your holidays and take necessary precautions, many travellers have stories of Colombian hospitality.
2. The Food
Colombia has some rare and delicious cuisine that you can't find anywehere else in the world. The arepas, corn patties filled with meats and chesses are a must everywhere you go and are as common as french fries.
Colombians take pride in their food and you will find that dishes are always fresh with limited preservatives or over-the-top dressings or seasonings typically found in American foods. Rare, exotic fruits are in abundance all over the country and typically complement well-cooked meals and desserts. You will find that meals do not bloat you or make you tired, and always leave you wanting more.
3. The Festivals
Attending a festival in Colombia is an absolute necessity if you want to experience the people and the culture. The Carnaval de Barranquilla leads the pack as the best one in the country and is only rivaled by the festival in Rio de Janeiro as the best festival in the world. Also experience the Carnaval de Bogota and the Carnival of Blacks and Whites in Cali.
During these festivals, the entire city shuts down for a few days and you see all races, colors, classes, and ages come together in an extravagant celebration with drinking, dancing, flamboyant and colorful parades, music, energy, and great times. If you are lucky enough to be in Colombia during one of these festivals, I highly recommend being a part of one of these cultural events.
4. Incredible architecture
The country has done a fantastic job of preserving its Spanish colonial architectural heritage. Those in the North are treated to the jewel of South America – Cartagena, which is known as one of the most beautiful cities in South America. This walled in city is a delight for travelers who want to spend the day wandering its cobblestone streets admiring the colourful buildings and balconies.
5. San Gil
Far and away the adventure sports capital of Colombia, San Gil attracts travelers seeking cheap thrills, whether it’s white-water rafting, paragliding, horseback riding, caving, or rappelling down a waterfall. The town itself, though admittedly short on culinary delights, is home to a pleasant tree-lined square which lies an easy walk from Parque El Gallineral, a beautiful ten-acre park perfect for an afternoon stroll.
6. The Beaches
Colombia is the only country in South America to have beaches on both the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea. Most Americans don’t consider it a Caribbean destination for pina coladas and sunning, but it’s as fine as any island you might hop to, and the port in Cartagena is already a popular cruise boat stop.
Colombia has over 300 beaches along its caribbean and pacific coasts. There are beaches for all types of beach-goers. You have your relaxed resort-style beaches on the caribbean coast in and around Cartagena. You also have untouched, tropical paradise on the island of San Andres and Providencia.
7. Tayrona National Park
Are you more of the adventure beacher? Try Tayrona National Park. This eco-lovers dream has untouched beaches surrounded by rainforests, hundreds of species of rare animals, and lush tropical landscapes.
Spend lazy days bronzing on the beach and swimming in the warm Caribbean waters, or take advantage of extensive trails to see some of the park’s 300 species of birds and 770 species of plants. Swing yourself to sleep in a hammock at one of the many campgrounds in the park– just don’t forget the bug spray!
8. Ciudad Perdida
Accessible by a challenging five-day trek through the jungle, Ciudad Perdida (“Lost City”) is one of Colombia’s top attractions. Dating from the 9th Century, Ciudad Perdida’s ruins were hidden for centuries beneath thick vegetation until grave-robbers discovered the site in 1973. But Ciudad Perdida is not only special because of the ruins, but also because of the spectacular five-day hike required to get there.
9. The Coffee
If you just want to get away somewhere quiet with lots of great walking trails and beautiful scenery you cannot miss out on the coffee region of Colombia.
Visiting a coffee plantation in Colombia is like visiting a winery in Napa Valley, only without the hangover.
Colombia has perfect weather conditions that allow it to grow the best coffee in the world. The coffee region or "Eje Cafetero" is south of medellin, has a pleasant climate and here you will experience lush green landscapes, and rolling mountains and the best coffee in the world. Take a few days and experience life as a coffee farmer in Colombia. Learn how this very popular product is produced, take tours of the facilities, and mingle with some local farmers.
Coffee tourism has become a very popular attraction in Colombia. Don't miss the Parque Nacional del Cafe, which is an amusement park based on coffee. The kids will love it. Just don't give them too much coffee.
10. The Nightlife
Colombia is known for its extravagant nightlife, bars, clubs, and restaurants. The entertainment is top-notch, the people are friendly, and the Women are amazingly beautiful. The Colombian people have a natural flair for dancing and partying, and they do it well. Cali is known as the Nightlife capital of Colombia and it is easy to see why. Beautiful people are accompanied by a wide range of reataurants, live music, drinking, dancing, and good vibes overall.
11. To learn to dance
No doubt Colombia is the home to many fantastic dancers. If you are a beginner and want to learn to salsa dance it is a great and economical place to learn. Medellin, a city that becomes a favorite to many travelers has many salsa bars where beginners are welcome.
- Bogota with its colonial architecture, botanical gardens and old neighborhoods- Cartagena and the Caribbean Coast with its beautiful architecture, amazing coral reef and marine life- The amazing rainforests and mountain regions in the northwest
Colombia is bordered in the northwest by Panama, ithe east by Venezuela and Brazil, and in the southwest by Peru and Ecuador. Through the western half of the country, three Andean ranges run north and south. The eastern half is a low, jungle-covered plain, drained by spurs of the Amazon and Orinoco Rivers, inhabited mostly by isolated tropical-forest Indian tribes. The fertile plateau and valley of the eastern range are the most densely populated parts of the country.
The official language of Colombia is Spanish and spoken by around 43 million people. In addition there are approximately 500,000 speakers of American Indian languages.
The official currency in Colombia is the Colombian peso (Col$). 1 US dollar is worth 2,314.50 Colombian pesos (February 2015)
The climate of Colombia is characterized as being tropical and isothermal as a result of its geographical location near the Equator, presenting variations within five natural regions and depending on the altitude, temperature, humidity, winds and rainfall. Each region maintains an average temperature throughout the year only presenting variables determined by precipitations during a rainy season caused by the Intertropical Convergence Zone.
Food in Colombia is largely influenced by the Peruvian and Brazilian traditions and includes a variety of dishes such as bandeja paisa, sancocho de gallina, coconut rice, ajiaco, barbecued meat, etc. It resembles a rich blend of the different cultures. The food in Colombia presents a mixture of the American and the European cuisines. The prevalence of many soups is a result of the European influence. Besides the European and the American cuisines, the food of Colombia also shows the distinct flavours of the Arabic and the Japanese cuisine.Furthermore, bread, desserts and sweets seems to be an integral part of the food in Colombia. In Colombia, the people are fond of meat and sea food. Therefore, food in Colombia presents a wide variety of non-vegetarian delicacies such as Cabano, Chicharron, Sobrebarriga al horno, Bofe, Hogao, Aborrajado, etc. Thus, as it is evident, food in Colombia presents a wide variety ranging from American to European food, from Japanese to Arabic delicacies.
During the pre-Columbian period, the area now known as Colombia was inhabited by indigenous people who were primitive hunters or nomadic farmers. The Chibchas, who lived in the Bogota region, dominated the various Indian groups. Spaniards first sailed along the north coast of Colombia as early as 1500, but their first permanent settlement, at Santa Marta, was not established until 1525. In 1549, the area was established as a Spanish colony with the capital at Santa Fe de Bogota. In 1717, Bogota became the capital of the Viceroyalty of New Granada, which included what is now Venezuela, Ecuador, and Panama. The city became one of the principal administrative centers of the Spanish possessions in the New World, along with Lima and Mexico City. On July 20, 1810, the citizens of Bogota created the first representative council to defy Spanish authority. Total independence was proclaimed in 1813, and in 1819 the Republic of Greater Colombia was formed.
Approximately 80 to 90% of all Colombians are Roman Catholic.
The culture of Colombia lies at the crossroads of Latin America. Thanks partly to geography, Colombian culture has been heavily fragmented into five major cultural regions. Rural to urban migration and globalization have changed how many Colombians live and express themselves as large cities become melting pots of people (many of whom are refugees from the various provinces that have hit Colombia through out its violent history). More recently has the displacement been caused by the Colombian armed conflicts. According to a study in late 2004 by the Erasmus University in Rotterdam, Colombians are one of the happiest people in the world; despite its four-decade long armed conflict involving the government, paramilitaries, druglords, corruption and guerrillas like the FARC and ELN. Colombians are sometimes called "locombians" for this paradox and for their joie de vivre.
The traditional music in Colombia is an oral tradition. Primarily, it is not mediated by books, recorded or transmitted media. Singers may extend their repertoire using broadsheets, song books or CDs, but these secondary enhancements are of the same character as the primary songs experienced in the flesh. This music derives from, or is related to, a commemorative character. On certain days of the year, particular songs celebrate the yearly cycle. Weddings, birthdays and funerals may also be noted with songs, dances and special costumes.In a globalised world, many musicians are fusing traditional music with other styles (usually styles from the popular music genres). While this is no bad thing, it is also not traditional music; it's no longer related to their particular culture, but is related to both it and to the culture of the music that their music is being fused with. The points above mean that traditional music tended to arise in a pre-commercial setting.Traditional music continues to evolve today, but generally as a continuation of the music from a pre-globalised culture.Styles like bambuco, vallenato and porro were especially influential. When the waltz became popular in the 19th century, a Colombian version called pasillo was invented.
More than 45,000 species of plants have been identified in Colombia, but it is predicted that when the region has been thoroughly explored that number may be doubled. At the highest (3,000–4,600 m/10,000–15,000 ft) and coldest level of mountain meadows, called páramos, the soil supports grasses, small herbaceous plants, and dense masses of low bushes. In the intermontane basins some vegetables, European-introduced grains, and corn are found, along with the bushes, trees, and meadow grasses indigenous to the region. The temperate areas support extensive and luxuriant forests, ferns, mosses, trees of the laurel family, Spanish cedars, vegetables, and grain crops. The tropical zone may be divided into four main groups according to the amount of rainfall received: desertlike areas supporting arid plants, deciduous forests, rain forests, and grass plains. Palm trees of various species abound in the tropics and there are many edible fruits and vegetables.Animal life is abundant, especially in the tropical area. Among carnivorous species are puma, a variety of smaller cats, raccoons, and mustelids. Herbivores include the tapir, peccary, deer, and large tropical rodents. Sloths, anteaters, opossums, and several types of monkeys are also found, as well as some 1,665 species and subspecies of South American and migratory birds.