When someone says they’re visiting Colombia, reactions tend to be mixed. Drug cartels, gang violence, and other forms of chaos enter many people’s minds, despite the fact that these impressions are now outdated. Pablo Escobar, the drug lord often credited with creating an atmosphere of conflict and violence between his cocaine cartel and a competing one, is largely to blame for this. But Escobar has been dead for more than 20 years, and with him died the violent environment he created. Now, millions of tourists visit Colombia every year without being accosted by delusional drug criminals. In other words, Colombia is as safe to visit as any country in the region.
Colombia is a country worth visiting for dozens of reasons, but well just name a few. For one thing, the incredible terrain forms a playground for fans of adventure sports, or the perfect canvas for artists and photographers. For another, the culture of the people is a unique blend of young and old, of the indigenous and those with European ancestry. It is a vibrant and colorful country that has the tendency to make visitors fall in love – and return again later for second and third visits. That is the real danger of Colombia today: you 11 want to keep coming back for more.
Cartagena, also known as the Queen of the Caribbean Coast, was the first Spanish colony in the Americas. Stemming back to the mid-1500s, this city is well known for its beautiful walled colonial section (a UNESCO World Heritage Site), the grand new area of hotels, beaches, and condos known as the Bocagrande, and the luxurious neighborhood of Castillogrande. It’s a fantastic city where new and old coexist peacefully amongst the palm trees and sandy white beaches of the Caribbean coast.
Largest city in Colombia, fastest growing city in Central and South America, and capital of Colombia are a few of the titles boasted by the city of Bogota. It has the population of nearly 9 million residents, forming a booming metropolis perched amongst the majestic Andes Mountains. Due to its dizzying growth and rich heritage, you can stumble upon centuries-old churches standing beneath brand new sky scrapers. El Centro is the center for historical buildings, but the North is where you’ll find most of the modern day developments. In terms of world cities to visit, Bogota is among the best.
03. Tayrona National Park
At just 150 square kilometers of land and 30 square kilometers of sea, Tayrona National Park is a small park with a big reputation. It is one of the most visited parks in Colombia, with hundreds of thousands of travelers coming from all over the world to see its amazing flora and fauna. With more than 300 species of bird, several types of mammals, dozens of reptiles and amphibians, and hundreds of species of sea life, the park encompasses two unique ecosystems with walking paths suitable for ecotourism.
04. Cano Cristales
It’s a river with a name that is Spanish for “crystal spout,” but it also is called by names such as “River of Five Colors” or “Liquid Rainbow” or even simply the most beautiful river in the world. With bright yellows, greens, blues, blacks, and (in particular) red, Cano Cristales is not your ordinary river. When you visit it you might think you’re looking at some colorful paint that’s been spilt into the river; but this is no paint spill! It’s a natural phenomenon that people travel thousands and thousands of kilometers to witness in person.
05. Coffee Triangle
The Coffee Triangle, also known as the Colombian coffee growing axis, in Spanish known as “Eje Cafetero,” is the region of Colombia where most of its coffee is grown and produced. Many rave that Colombian coffee is better than any other coffee in the world, so a visit here is as close as it gets to a coffee lover’s paradise. Theme parks centered around coffee and coffee-related museums abound in this area, drawing tourists from around the globe. You will not only be able to taste the local coffee – you’ll get to truly experience it.
The second largest city in Colombia, Medellin is a large city- of hills, well-known for its unique types of public transportation that form an expansive metro network. It’s a city with a decades- old reputation of danger, with modern architecture and progressive residents. It is no longer the kingdom of notorious drug lord Pablo Escobar from the ‘80s and ‘90s, and the city’s improvements and development have reflected that. It is now one of the tourist favorites of Colombia, and your visit to this modern metropolis will quickly make you understand why.
07. Medellin Salt Cathedral of Zipaquira
The famous Salt Cathedral, located near the town of Zipaquira, can be found within a Halite mountain and (predictably) inside of a salt mine. There are a few deceptions in play here: it is actually located below the currently active mine, the current is actually the second location of the cathedral, and it is actually, by Catholic definition, not actually a cathedral. But this does nothing to stop droves of tourists from visiting, or to stop it from being a worthwhile attraction.
08. Rosario Islands
An exciting day trip from Cartagena, the Rosario Islands make a fabulous place to visit. The incredible clear water is perfect for a crisp swim, the dramatic landscape is excellent to view and hike around, and the colorful coral will dazzle you and inspire your knowledge of a unique ecosystem. As if that isn’t enough, the islands are renowned for their delicious cuisines (seafood in particular).
09. San Andres & Providencia
If you’re looking for an island paradise with an unusual depth of culture, the archipelago of San Andres and Providencia is your destination. Actually situated closer to Nicaragua than to Colombia, the islands have historical connections to England and Spain, but politically belong to Colombia. Not only will you encounter perfect beaches and dazzling coral reefs that haven’t been damaged, but the people themselves, called the Raizal, offer certain intrigue. It’s certainly a place you wouldn’t forget in a heartbeat.
Popularly visited on a day trip from Medellin, Guatape is a lovely town known for its beautiful decorations and colorful waterfront markets. Pablo Escobar himself had a mansion here – so you can rest assured it’s the kind of town worth a visit. With its dazzling lakes, green rolling hills in the background, its famous Penol Rock and the many pastel paintings on buildings around town, a visit to Guatape will bring a smile to even the grumpiest of people.