Having grown up spending summers in South America, I can speak first hand to the rhythm and beat that flows through the continent. Like the human heart in the body, Colombia is pumped full of life, happiness, colors, and music by a culture so rich you can’t help but fall in love. Colombia isn’t the first place most people want to visit, but that is changing as is lands a spot in Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2017. I took Tim to Colombia for the first time a year ago (almost to the day that I am writing this) when we celebrated my grandfather’s 80th birthday and for the first time I was able to witness someone see that visiting Colombia is love at first sight.
Why You Should Go To Colombia
1. Metropolitan Cities
Colombia is home to some of South America’s most beautiful cities with charm and personality. From museums to culinary gourmet districts, Medellin is major metropolitan city with just as much to offer as Paris, London, and New York. And so is Bogota!
2. Pacific and Caribbean Coastlines
Colombia has both Pacific and Caribbean coasts, so if you are looking for a tropical getaway where the currency is in your favor this is the place for you! Barranquilla, Cartagena, and Santa Marta have been vacation destinations for families in South America and each year it seems like more and more Americans are making this their vacation destination.
3. Eje Cafetero
Colombia is synonymous with coffee and it has 3 departments that are known as the coffee axis. We’ve have travel guides to Caldas, Risaralda, and Quindio. A trip to this region is a must for any coffee lover and it will completely change how you enjoy your cup of Joe in the the morning. With picturesque views as coffee blossoms on the side of the Andes, numerous farms offer tours and in inside look to the whole process from soil to sip!
4. Snow Peaked Volcanos
With amazing mountains that kiss the sky, Colombia is truly a natural wonder. As part of the Ring of Fire, Colombia has quite a few volcanos. The true sight to be seen though are the snow peaked volcanos- Nevado del Ruiz, Nevado del Tolima, Nevado del Huila.
5. Amazon River and Rainforest
When it comes to natural wonders that need to be seen, the Amazon River and the Rainforest are at the top of so many Bucket Lists. While the region may not boast beautifully Instagramable clear blue waters, there is something magical about seeing 3 countries (Colombia, Brazil, and Peru) from the world’s largest river. The region is rich in colorful flora and fauna seen best on an island inhabited by monkeys and the fresh fruit markets.
6. Caño Cristales
Often referred to as the “river of five colors” and the “river that ran away from paradise”, Caño Cristales has become a bucket list item for many travelers. This truly unique and special biological wonder is for most of the year an ordinary river. For a brief period of time, though, between the wet and dry seasons of Colombia the river becomes a rainbow. Macarenia clavigera, is a unique species of plant that lines the river’s floor. When the plants turn bright red, they mix with blue waters and yellow sand that gives the river it’s iconic look.
7. A Year of Festivals
Colombians know how to have a party and they love their culture so it comes as no surprise that there are festivals and carnivals through out the year. From the Baranquilla Carnival to the world’s largest theater festival, Ibero-American Theatre Festival in Bogota, there is never a shortage of culture, heritage, rhythm, and dance! They take place all over the country and are a guaranteed good time! This alone should be a top reason why you should go to Colombia!
Colombia’s national drink is a token at every party, celebration, and gathering! Loosely translated to “Fire Water” this anise-flavored liqueur comes from sugar cane and is generally drank neat. It isn’t a Colombian party without the aguardiente!
9. Fresh Fruit Markets
I am a huge fan of markets around the world! Colombia’s climate makes it a perfect place for agriculture and fresh fruits and vegetables, many of which can only be found there! If you want to experience amazing and delicious flavors you can’t find anywhere else, head over to a mercado!
10. Music and Dance
Rhythm is in Colombia’s blood. The sounds of salsa and merengue fill the streets and cities come to life with music all across Colombia. Whether you are out for a late night drink with friends or walking along a city square, chances are music and dance aren’t too far away! In Cartagena you can get your dance on as dance parties start in the streets of the Old City and in Bogota there is never a shortage of corner cafe stereos spilling into the street.
I’m sure you’ve heard this about every place you’ve wanted to visit. But the truth is that nothing really compares to the food you find in Colombia! Fresh fruits fill markets with bright colors and flavors that can’t be found anywhere in the world are waiting for you to discover them. Bandeja paisa, arepas, platanos, pan de yucas… oh man the list could go on and on!
Even though Colombia is home to metropolitan cities filled with world class museums and culture, it is in the pueblitos (small towns) that you will truly fall in love with the country. All over Colombia, you will find pueblitos sprinkled with picturesque landscapes, traditional architecture, and a personality all of their own. From Raquira’s colorful balcony to Salento’s Wax Palm valleys, Colombia’s small towns pack big personality! A great option for those who want to pair adventure with a bit of history is Charalá.
All across Colombia, on Sundays and public holidays, the streets of the city transform into cycleways. Certain streets are closed to cars as cyclists and pedestrians take the streets for a weekend stroll. Cities like Bogota, Cali, and Medellin embrace their urban spaces. In the capital city, 30 percent of the population takes part in the weekly ciclovias and the 120 kilometers of car-free streets!
14. La Guajira Desert
On the northernmost tip of South Ameirca, you will find Colombia’s breathtaking desert! The area is home to the indigenous Wayuu and Cabo de la Vela, a small fishing village. The region is home to numerous endemic species of fauna and flora so those looking to bird watch or experience nature will love the Flamingos Fauna and Flora Sanctuary. La Guajira is a very popular ecotourism destination for both Colombians and foreign visitors alike.
15. Leather Goods
When it comes to leather goods, Colombia is king! When it comes to quality and craftsmanship, artisans in Colombia are giving Italians a run for their money. Brands like Las Malo are taking the rich and vibrant culture of Colombia to create gorgeous statement pieces known for the quality and talent of the artisans making them.
So if you are thinking of heading to Colombia, wait no longer! There are flavors, rhythms, and landscapes waiting to be discovered. Grab your passport, pack a suitcase, practice your Spanish… it is time to experience the magical realism that is Colombia.
As you plan your trip, keep in mind when the best time to visit is! If wes have sparked your wanderlust, start booking your flights! Even though researching ahead of time is the way to go, we recommend bringing a guidebook along with you. Here are some of our favorites to help you travel Colombia.