Official language: Spanish
Currency: The Colombian peso.
The sprawling, tropical country of Colombia can seem like a daunting travel destination at first. As well as the fierce heat and the immense size of the country, we need to add in the fears that some travellers may have about their safety here. Thankfully, this turns out be a dream destination rather than a nightmare one.The first piece of welcome news is that this is now considered as being a far safer and more welcoming place than its reputation may suggest. The overwhelming majority of Colombians are friendly, fun loving people who take great pride in their country. The tropical climate varies greatly due to the different altitudes of the cities here. For example, while highland Bogotá can be cold and rather grey, the lower cities like Cali are typically hot and vibrant. This diversity is something that can be found in many other ways across the country. The food, the accents and the feel of the cities vary so widely that each new destination is a step into the unknown.In most countries the starting point is fairly obvious but where will you start in Colombia? The capital city of Bogotá certainly offers lot of culture and some interesting colonial architecture. However, the charms of glorious Cartagena have been known to smart travellers for a long time. This is one of the most atmospheric cities in the continent and a great place to get used to the special Colombian way of living. A tour of the coffee growing region is another tempting idea, with a few cups of the real stuff pretty much guaranteed. Add in exciting cities such as Medellín and Barranquilla and you can see that there is more choice in Colombia than you might have originally thought. Let’s not forget the magical once-lost city of Ciudad Perdida as well. It is clear that Colombia is a destination for people who love life and who want to experience as much of it as possible. It is a fresh, vibrant country where every day promises to be unforgettable.
Must see places in Colombia
The historic centre of Bogotá is a wonderful place to spend some time but the colonial charm here isn’t all that the city has to offer. This is a big city with a population of 8 million and has all that you would expect from a large cosmopolitan city. Cerro Monserrate is a fine place to check out the views from and the Gold Museum holds a dazzling collection of pre-Hispanic gold items. As it typical in this part of the world, the main plaza is among the best places to hang out.
Cali lies in the south west of Colombia and is the third biggest city in the country. It is best known to the rest of the world for its thriving salsa scene, water sports and tropical delights. However, there is also a good deal of culture on offer here too, with a number of churches and museums well worth checking out. While the days are often hot and steamy here, the altitude means that the evenings are usually refreshing cool, making them ideal for heading out and enjoying the lovely local restaurants and bars.
The City of Eternal Spring is the 2nd biggest in the country and in 2013 won the Wall Street Journal’s Innovative City of the Year award. If you have heard of this city before then there is a good chance that it was due to the unsavoury reputation that it gained a few decades ago. These days, Medellín has undergone a stunning transformation and is now regarded as a progressive and largely safe tourist destination. The unusual outdoor elevators system is sure to attract your attention if you visit here. The giant Metropolitan Cathedral is worth a visit and the Christmas decorations are among the best you will see anywhere in the world.
Santa Marta has a range of attractions to tempt just about any type of traveller. For a start, there is a lively city beach and a pretty historic centre. For scuba diving trips and adventure sports the Taganga suburb is the place to head to. Meanwhile, the classy El Rodadero suburb attracts many wealthy national tourists to its luxurious hotels and clubs.
One of the top things to do while in Colombia is to visit the coffee growing region .In this case, Manizales is a lovely place to spend some time. It is a pretty place with a big student population. In fact, it is reported that a quarter of the population is made up of students. Interestingly, the city is one of the few in the world to have 8 different micro-climates in it. There is an elegant, European feel to Manizales but heading out to the countryside is rewarding here too. The Los Nevados National Park is probably the top choice but it isn’t the only one. You will also find lovely hot spring resorts around this area, some with incredible waterfalls that are lit up at night.
This was one of the first Spanish settlements in the American mainland and is where most tourists to Colombia end up at some point. Cartagena sits on the country’s north coast and looks out to the Caribbean Sea. The walled city is the colonial part of Cartagena, where the historic treasures come thick and fast on a stroll around the atmospheric streets. It has the reputation of being one of the continent’s prettiest and most romantic cities.
'The river that escaped from paradise', 'the most beautiful river in the world', these are only some references to this beautiful river in la Serrania de Macarena. If it really is the most beautiful river in the world is debatable but that Caño Cristales will score high in a competetion we know for sure.
This is another fantastic base from which to explore the coffee producing region of Colombia. The Matecaña Zoo is a big attraction, as is the naked Bolivar statue. It is a pretty and friendly city for exploring on foot and also offers easy possibilities for getting out into the surrounding countryside and Los Nevados National Park.
This small, beautiful city is one of the prettiest in South America. Popoyán is known as the White City because of its white washed colonial buildings. An exciting time to visit here is in the run up to Easter. Only Seville in Spain has a bigger Easter festival that this city. The Puracé National Park is near here and it is also a good place from which to strike out towards the nearby archaeological sites.
This is a small town but there is a spectacular reason for visiting. Zipaquira is famous for its salt mines and for the amazing salt cathedral that was built underground in an old salt mine. It is an incredible sight, with stunning sculptures and a wonderful Stations of the Cross path around it.
Things to do in Colombia
The big and varied country of Colombia offers the kind of thrilling experiences and life-affirming moments that turn any trip into a very special occasion.
Relax and Have fun!
If there is anywhere in the world where you can relax and have fun it is Colombia. The people here are well known for enjoying the simple pleasures of life and visitors shouldn’t take too long to enter into the spirit of things. Loud music, cool drinks and good food are among the things that make every day Colombia a special one.
Take a Coffee Tour
The coffee growing region of Colombia is a fine place to explore. It is easy to get on a tour from a laid back city such as Manizales or Pereira. If you already love this drink then the tour will be a blast and you will enjoy lots of cups of arguably the best coffee in the world. If you aren’t yet a fan then this might be the tour that makes you change your mind.
Embrase the History
This is an incredibly historic country that has many treasures from past centuries waiting to be explored. The colonial period is well represented in fantastic places like Cartagena and Popoyán. Older attractions include the fabulous Ciudad Perdida, whose ruins can be discovered on a jungle trek. Museums and churches throughout the country show off some of the best elements of Colombia’s long and rich past.
Explore the Cities
The cities in Colombia offer an astonishing variety of experiences. Bogotá, Barranquilla, Medellín and Cali are among the most interesting cities in the continent and each gives a different insight in this country. The different geographical and social factors at play can mean that you will feel as though you are entering a different world even when you make a relatively short trip from one city to another.
Get Out and About
Whether you like hiking, water sports or soaking in pools of thermal water, Colombia’s great outdoors has a huge amount to offer. The diversity of Colombia can be seen in this way and the friendliness of the locals will also shine through the more you travel around the country. National parks, beaches, carnivals and Easter week parades give you many different ways of seeing the best of Colombia in many different ways.
Best time to visit Colombia
Tourists visit Colombia during the dry season
Most tourists choose the dry season to visit Colombia. This means between December and February or from June to August. Unlike in some other places, the dry season in Colombia doesn’t mean no rain will fall whatsoever. However, it is likely to be lighter and less frequent than at other times of year. This is also when you are likely to run into big crowds of other travelers, though. For a quieter break, the wetter periods of the year can be more rewarding, with March to May and September to November usually the best bet. Altitude is the main factor that determines the different climatic zones in Colombia. The low lying areas on the coast can get very hot and humid while the higher regions are noticeably cooler, especially at night. The different climatic zones tend to have more or less steady temperatures throughout the year, although the amount of rainfall varies significantly in the different seasons.
The different climates and geographical zones in the country mean that packing for a varied trip needs a bit of effort. You don’t want to be shivering in Bogotá or sweltering in Cali through choosing the wrong clothes.
Colombia has suffered from a bad reputation in the past due to security issues. Things are better these days but you will still want to check the current situation before travelling.
Internet access is easy to find in Colombia. Good hotels and restaurants offer Wi-Fi capability while internet cafes are widespread.