For those who love nature and culture, this country is simply a must see. Colombia has all the ecosystems; from the Pacific coast up to the coral islands of the Caribbean, the Andean glaciers, the Guajira desert, and the jungles of Amazonia, nature certainly shows its diversity. Sand beaches, crystal clear waters, lush green valleys, endless plateaus, snowy peaks, large plains, jungles, cities full of history and unique archaeological sites are all awaiting you in Colombia. Such treasures were not very accessible during the recent decades of civil war and drug cartels, but better times now prevail and tourism has begun to flourish again.
The Caribbean Coast: Santa Marta, Barranquilla, Cartagena
These three charming cities lie along the coast, with their white sand beaches, parks, clubs, restaurants and cafes:
- Santa Marta, at the foot of Sierra Nevada, offers a colonial heritage which attracts international backpackers.
- Baranquilla, at the mouth of Rio Magdalena, is mostly known for its Carnaval highlighted by African drumming and salsa, cumbia, and vallenato.
- Cartagena, surrounded by heavy fortifications, is definitely the most attractive. All of the gold from the Andes travelled to Europe through its port. Its rich history is sprinkled with slaves, pirates, rich empires, paradisiac beaches, warm and amicable people, and colourful dancers and musicians. UNESCO has repeatedly qualified Cartagena as one of the most beautiful cities in the world. Do not miss the panoramic views from the Fort San Felipe and La Popa monastery.
In the Mountains: Bogota, Medellin, Cali and Popayan
Bogota is well worth a visit with the Plaza Bolivar, The Casa del Mariño home of the President, the Museo Botero, and the Museo de Oro. A day excursion outside Bogota will take you to the grandiose underground Salt Cathedral of Zipaquira.
Medellin, world capital of orchids, is the second largest city in Colombia. Nicknamed the “City of Eternal Spring”, it enjoys a very pleasant climate with year around temperatures in the seventies. Jazz, classical music, opera, Caribbean music, and tango can be heard all around the city. The cultural focus of the city reflects the desire of the people of Antioquia to be great artists. You will find art galleries, museums, and parks with sculptures. Antioquia artists such as Pedro Nel Gomez and Rodrigo Arenas Betancourt are well known locally. Their paintings complement the collection of their fellow citizen, painter and sculptor, Fernando Botero, who was born in Medellin. The days of the cocaine trade and Pablo Escobar has become a legend, and their are various local Escobar Tours for the curious.
Cali, the third largest city owed its prosperity first to the sugar plantations and then to its modernization and industrialization, before it became the rival of Medellin in the drug trafficking heydays of the 90s. Nearby Popayan was also known as the “White City”. It was a jewel of Colonial times which unfortunately was partially destroyed by a disastrous earthquake in 1983.
San Andres: A paradise island for an unusual vacation !
San Andres, a Caribbean island off the Colombian coast, is a little paradise with beautiful white sand beaches and the “seven colors ” sea where fish and corals live. Through the centuries, San Andres has hosted African slaves, European settlers, English pirates, and Spanish colonists. Each have left traces of their culture. Jamaican culture is also present due to the comings and goings of the pirate Morgan between San Andrés and Jamaica.
Such diversity has contributed to the tradition “raizal”, a very special way of seeing life. Music happily combines reggae, reggaeton, soca, calypso, merengue, salsa and vallenato. All types of music for all types of people.
This province covers one third of the country and for most part is not accessible since there are essentially no roads. You can get there only by air or by river. For those who want a real taste of the jungle forest and an unprecedented adventure with limited comfort, Leticia is the place to go. You can study the rainforest, learn from the local shamans, discover the rich wildlife, and visit indigenous groups living deep in the forest. Leticia’s unique location will allow the visitor to walk over three different countries by moving quickly from Columbia to Brazil to Peru and then back to Columbia!