Travel to Colombia: Latin America in miniature

Colombia offers a kaleidoscopic tour of Latin America. Bordered by the Pacific on the west and the Caribbean Sea on the North, the coastline is interspersed with ideal beaches whilst further inland, incredible landscapes unravel between the Andes Cordillera and the Amazon Forest.
  • Colombia, / Andresr
  • Colombia / Gary Tognoni
Amy Adejokun
Amy Adejokun Expert destination Colombia

Tayrona National Park

If you're looking for a quiet haven in Colombia, Tayrona Park, resting on the Caribbean coast, provides the perfect spot. The beaches are beautiful and can be enjoyed whilst listening to the rolling waves of the ocean. If you want to spend the evening at Tayrona, accommodation options include: renting a tent, hammock or eco-hab. Hiking up to 'Pueblito' at the top of the mountain is recommended, along with snorkelling along the Cabo San Juan. However, snorkelling and swimming on Arrecifes beach are not advised as the currents are very strong, even for accomplished swimmers.

Uber-cool capital

Bogota is the capital where old meets new; on the one hand colonial architecture fills the streets of La Candelaria and on the other modern shopping malls and futuristic towers meet the eye. Although a well developed city, the divide between the rich and poor is striking; in the South and South West drug trafficking and street violence are still prevalent. However, Bogota seems to be the one town in Colombia where problems are improving rather than deteriorating. If you're a shopaholic at heart, Bogota offers shops and markets galore stocking all different types of leather and woollen goods.

La Zona Cafetera

If you're a big coffee drinker it's imperative that you stop by the Zona Cafetera where they live, breath and worship coffee. There's the opportunity to visit the fincas (coffee) farms and have a stroll around the plantations to learn more about the coffee growing procedure. The best time to visit these farms is during high season (April to May, October to December). During these time periods you'll be able to see production in full swing. Whilst you're in the area, the Cocora valley is also definitely worth visiting for jaw dropping views.

Enchanting splendour of Cartagena

Cartagena is both a colonial jewel and a vision of 'Andalusian' beauty. This old city of pirates and smugglers offers colonial buildings still intact, beautiful ramparts and the picturesque Bocagrande beach. Although a town rich in history and full of olde-worlde streets the south also offers a trendier and more exclusive feel. Cartagenas Miami Beach is renowned for its glam restaurants and mega luxurious condos.

Adventure land

If you're keen to keep active on holiday, San Gil is bound to offer everything you could want in terms of sporting activities. The range of sports available is vast, for example white-water rafting, paragliding, caving and trekking just to name a few. If you are dedicating a couple of days to the San Gil area, its worth visiting the Cascadas de Juan Curi where there is a 180m high waterfall. If youre feeling brave, there's the opportunity to abseil the face of the waterfall.

Colombia: the key figures

Surface area : 1139000.0 km2

Population : 44000000 inhabitants

  • Caribbean beaches, trekking at the foot of the Andes, an expedition to Amazonia... Colombia offers incredible diversity.
  • Windsurfers will love the coast of Cartagena.
  • The charming population.
  • The drug traffickers and guerrilla forces can make this a dangerous destination in places.
  • Arrival in Bogota is often taxing due to the altitude.

Colombia: what to visit?

Colombia: what to buy?

In Bogota, you can find gold jewellery, Indian pottery, and embroidered cloth. The ruana (Colombian poncho) is ideal for the cold nights. Most shops are open from 8.00 AM to 12.00 AM and from 2.00 PM to 5.00 PM.

Colombia: what to eat?

The most traditional meal is made up of rice or potato, sometimes kidney beans accompanied by beef, fish or chicken. There's always the opportunity to try sea food and fish, especially on the restaurants along the coast. If you are a fish lover, gamitana, a fish fresh from the Amazon, is highly recommended.

Colombians are very big on their soups which are normally served with avocado, white rice and aji picante (hot sauce) on the side. Ajaco soup proves to be the most popular, made up of chicken, three different types of potato, corn and an herb called guascas. In Cartagena, rice is often seasoned with coconut. Coconut is also a widely used ingredient in Colombian desserts; arroz con leche is a delicious, creamy Colombian style rice pudding.

In terms of beverages, Refajo is a big hit in Colombia. It is a cocktail that is made with beer and 'Colombiana', a soda that can only be bought in Colombia.

Colombia: what are the cultural particularities?

Theres always a party going on in Colombia that you can easily get involved with. The range varies from processions during Easter to carnivals in summer but the fun never ends. Every occasion is perfect for singing and getting drunk whilst sharing a bottle of brandy and dancing to the sound of salsa, merenge or even cumbia if youre in the mountains.

A typically Colombian sport you will see whilst you are in Boyaca is, le Tejo, which can be compared to petanque. Colombia is also very culturally diverse, whether that be in literature, music, dance, painting, sculpture, one finds various influences that have come from Spain, Africa and India.

Colombia: travel tips

Although Colombia is often referred to as one of the more dangerous countries in South America, the situation has considerably improved in the last 10 years. However, it is still necessary to take caution in the big towns for example Bogota, Medellin and Cali. The French minister of foreign affairs discourages entering into a 100 km zone around Valle del Cauca, Cauca, Tolima and Huila due to military operations being carried out between the guerrilla and the Colombian army.

Don't forget to print a photocopy of your passport and your return flight ticket and keep your passport in your possession at all times. Always be wary of pickpockets; never leave your possessions unattended. It is advised not to move from place to place at night and to hire a car so that you can get from place to place by your own means.

Colombia is equipped with one of the best airports in South America, flights are a bit expensive but really quick which means not much hanging around if you want to travel around. If you go for the bus, it's useful to know that there are 3 different types of buses. Air conditioned buses, (the most comfortable on long distance journeys), 1st class buses (most modern) and ordinary buses (old, jam packed and often make several stops on route.) There are public taxis always roaming up and down the roads, never hail a taxi, it's much better to call ahead and pre book one from a recognised cab company.

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