Best of Colombia
Colombia is a country located in South America, bordered by Venezuela, Brazil, Peru, Ecuador, and Panama. Its capital city is Bogotá. Colombia has a diverse geography, including the Andes mountain range, Amazon rainforest, Pacific and Caribbean coastlines, and the vast grasslands of Los Llanos.
The population of Colombia is approximately 50 million people, and the official language is Spanish. Colombia has a rich cultural heritage, which includes the music and dance of cumbia and salsa, as well as the popular coffee culture.
Colombia has faced challenges in the past, including drug trafficking, political violence, and armed conflicts, but in recent years the country has made significant progress in addressing these issues. The country has a developing economy and is known for industries such as mining, agriculture, and manufacturing.
Tourism is also a growing industry in Colombia, with visitors drawn to the country’s beautiful landscapes, rich history and culture, and warm and welcoming people. Some popular destinations for tourists include the colonial city of Cartagena, the coffee region, and the beautiful beaches of Santa Marta and Tayrona National Park.
If you’ve decided to give this amazing country a go then don’t miss out on my “best of” list below:
Every trip to Colombia should start in South America’s most beautiful city; Medellin, the city where it’s always green due to a year-round warm tropical climate (not usually dropping below 15°C) thanks to it’s proximity to the equator. Some refer to Medellin as the city of eternal spring and you’ll soon see why if you visit.
The city rose to prominence when international media reported on the exploits of infamous drug baron Pablo Escobar, but this turbulent period in Medellin’s history has been largely forgotten these days and you’ll find it to be a much safer place (I’d still recommend going out in pairs at night though as with any large city).
After spending some time in Medellin I’d recommend heading to Mompós, the town that time literally forgot. It’s about a day’s journey by road but will take longer as you’ll need to cross the Magdalena River to get to the island where the town is located (there’s currently no bridge).
You’ll need to be pretty determined to get to Mompós, but it really is worth the effort if you want to see fine examples of Colombia’s rich colonial history and architecture. It’s weird sightseeing the once-grand buildings now showing the ravages of time and the effects of a diminished economy, but you’ll find that the locals are usually very friendly and often willing to share whatever they have with you, even offering to be your guide for the day if you’re lucky.
It was strangely the river that once made Mompós such a prosperous town that also put an end to its good fortune when it shifted its course in the early 20th century, rendering the busy port useless.
From Mompós it’s about 500km to the Caribbean beach resort city of Cartagena on Colombia’s north coast. You’ll find that there really is something for everyone at this popular destination; whether you want to spend a few days relaxing on a white sandy beach, have a night out on the town or see the charming old walled city (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) lit up beautifully at night, Cartagena will not disappoint.
Cartagena basks in year-round warm temperatures, but you might want to avoid the rainy season in late March thru May and during October and November when the average monthly rainfall is around 5 inches.
Ciudad Pérdida (The Lost City)
About 300km roughly east of Cartagena, around the North coast of Colombia, you can take a 6-day return trek to visit the awe-inspiring Lost City, Ciudad Pérdida. Located in the middle of the jungle near to Santa Marta, you’ll be amazed by the spectacular scenery and view from this site which brings to mind Peru’s Machu Picchu, with its stone terraces in an elevated position surrounded by verdant forest scenery below and to the sides; words just don’t do it justice.
You’ll have around 20km of rainforest scenery to cross (including a couple of rivers) and you’ll probably meet one of the indigenous tribes that still live in the area on your way (it’s ok, they’re friendly), but you won’t regret it when you finally get your first view of this ancient and magical place.
Once you’ve finished getting lost on your way to Ciudad Pérdida, it’s time to travel down to Leticia, the capital of Colombia’s Amazonas region. It’ll take you a few days to get there from the north coast, but it would be an absolute crime to visit the country without taking a trip into the Amazon Rainforest, and Leticia makes an excellent base for doing just that.
If you want the ultimate experience, why not spend a night in one of the jungle lodges. You’ll get some amazing photo’s and the memories will last you a lifetime (just make sure you take a map as the Rainforest covers 1 billion acres in total).
Best Time to Visit
You should find it pretty easy to book a tour from Leticia, whether you want to explore on foot or take to a 4×4, but do avoid the rainy season and aim to visit between July and August (it is a rainforest after all!).
Colombia has a rich and diverse culinary culture, with many delicious dishes that are popular both within the country and around the world. Here are a few of the most famous foods from Colombia:
- Arepas: These are thick cornmeal patties that are grilled or fried and typically served with cheese or other toppings.
- Bandeja Paisa: This is a traditional dish from the Paisa region of Colombia and is a hearty meal that typically includes rice, beans, avocado, chicharron (fried pork belly), sausage, and a fried egg.
- Empanadas: These are fried or baked pastries that are usually filled with meat, cheese, or vegetables.
- Ajiaco: This is a soup made with chicken, corn, potatoes, and herbs and is often served with avocado and capers.
- Sancocho: This is a stew that is made with meat or fish, plantains, yuca, and other vegetables.
- Lechona: This is a whole roasted pig that is stuffed with rice, peas, and spices.
- Churrasco: This is a grilled steak that is typically served with chimichurri sauce.
- Buñuelos: These are deep-fried dough balls that are often served with a sweet syrup.
- Obleas: These are thin wafers that are filled with sweet fillings such as arequipe (dulce de leche) or cheese.
- Coffee: Colombia is famous for producing some of the best coffee in the world, and it is an important part of the country’s culture and economy.
Festivals and events
Colombia is known for its vibrant festivals and events, which celebrate the country’s rich cultural heritage and traditions. Here are some of the most famous festivals and events in Colombia:
- Carnaval de Barranquilla: This is one of the largest carnivals in the world and is a four-day celebration that takes place in Barranquilla, usually in February or March. The festival features colorful parades, music, dance, and traditional costumes.
- Feria de las Flores: This is a flower festival that takes place in Medellin in August and features a variety of events, including flower shows, concerts, and a parade of classic cars decorated with flowers.
- Festival de la Leyenda Vallenata: This is a music festival that takes place in Valledupar in April and celebrates the traditional music of the Vallenato region. The festival includes concerts, dance performances, and a competition for the best Vallenato musician.
- Festival Iberoamericano de Teatro: This is a theater festival that takes place in Bogotá every two years and features performances by theater groups from across Latin America and Spain.
- Medellin Christmas Lights: Every year in December, the city of Medellin is decorated with millions of colorful lights, creating a spectacular display that attracts visitors from all over the world.
- Dia de los Muertos: This is a traditional holiday that takes place on November 1st and 2nd and is celebrated throughout the country. The holiday honors the memory of deceased loved ones and typically involves the creation of colorful altars, offering of food, and other traditions.
- Festival de Cine de Cartagena: This is a film festival that takes place in Cartagena in March and features screenings of films from Latin America and Spain.
These are just a few of the many festivals and events that take place in Colombia throughout the year, highlighting the country’s rich culture and traditions.