Colombian vendor women © *L*u*z*a*
Colombia is rapidly changing its negative image as a hotbed of criminal 'bounty' kidnappers, drug overlords and gangsters, and travellers are returning to this rewarding country crowning the continent of South America. While both the US State Department and British Foreign and Commonwealth Office still advise against travel to Colombia, the country is statistically safer than most countries in the region. Those intrepid and curious travellers and tourists who do venture here are rewarded with the most diverse destination in South America: an exhilarating fusion of shabby, colourful towns, Caribbean and Pacific coasts, Andean valleys, Amazonian jungle, and wide plains.
Most visitors see the capital, Bogota, the legendary resort town of Cartagena, and the duty-free offshore island province of San Andres. In recent years Cali and Medellin are also popular stopovers. Wherever one chooses to explore, a fascinating, exciting and trouble-free experience is likely to be had.
The fortunes of modern Colombia had their foundations laid in the coffee plantations, but the onset of political violence and civil war in the 1950s effectively cauterised the industry. The exception to this can be found in the pretty hilly Quindio province, where many former farmers have turned their traditional red-tile roofed homesteads into good quality bed and breakfast establishments, set among exotic gardens and rows of leafy coffee bushes.
Urban Colombia centres on Bogota, home to about 20 percent of the country's inhabitants. This ancient city was the pre-Columbian capital of the Chibcha Indians and remains a blend of old and new, teeming with Spanish colonial buildings and plazas alongside modern skyscrapers. Beggars rub shoulders in the streets with smartly dressed business people, while mule trains wind their way through the traffic jams.
A major drawcard for tourists is the Spanish colonial port of Cartagena with its spectacular walled old town, a medieval wonderland of palaces, monasteries, plazas and overhanging balconies. To the south of the town are Colombia's major seaside holiday resorts with excellent beaches and scuba diving opportunities.
The country's equatorial rainforests clothe the river valleys, riddled with magnificent airplants, vines, creepers and brilliant flowers and birds. The Los Katios National Park in Choco contains hundreds of species of plant and animal life that have yet to be listed. The country's jungles also shelter wondrous archaeological treasures, like the ancient city of La Cuida Perdida and the monuments, tombs and burial mounds at San Augustin and Tierrodentro.
Colombia is a gem of a destination slowly starting to shed its unpalatable reputation to reveal its unique beauty.
Become our Colombia Travel Expert
We are looking for contributors for our Colombia travel guide. If you are a local, a regular traveller to Colombia or a travel professional with time to contribute and answer occasional forum questions, please contact us.
Tour operator G.A.P Adventures has for the past 14 years specialised in unique, small group, grassroots adventure travel experiences to the world's most wild places, going off the beaten track into the heart of the destination. G.A.P Adventures offers several expeditions to Colombia and her surrounds.
iExplore designs made-to-order, privately-guided adventure tours to Colombia and over 200 other world wonders. Come Back Different!