Colombia: The next big tourist destination

When you think of Colombia you think drugs, Pablo Escobar, third world, war, poor, undeveloped and maybe gang problems. Whilst all this is true of Colombia’s past, Colombia has moved on from this in a good way. They are on the verge of signing a peace treaty, the country is becoming more developed and the drug and violence problems have decreased. Even then, throughout Colombia’s past, the country as a whole wasn’t a dangerous place, the gangs were confined to a few major cities, such as Buenaventura. The same could be said for America- parts of Los Angeles and New York are dangerous and have  drug, violence and gang problems but we don’t say the whole of America has these problems because of it so why should we say that Colombia does.

I recently read a quote which said “the most dangerous thing about going to Colombia is that you might actually like it”.  After a recent visit to Colombia, I believe this to be 100% true. Colombia is an unbelievable place that has it all, mountains, Caribbean beaches, Pacific beaches, rainforest, plains, amazing natural landmarks and so much more. Not once on my trip, during which I visited a number of different cities over a six week period, did I feel unsafe- I have felt unsafer in Los Angeles or London.

During my visit I stayed in Bogota where I went to the top of the Monserrate (a cathedral on the top of the mountain), visited downtown, spent an afternoon in the Gold Museum and visited the surrounding countryside of Bogota, such as Guasca, Lake Guatavita, the Salt Cathedral at Zipaquira and Andres in Chia.

I visited a small town called Barichara which is around six hours away from Bogota and is known for its cute, quaint and picturesque town. Barichara is located close to a town called San Gil, the adventure capital of Colombia, where it’s possible to white water raft, climb, boulder, bungee jump, parasail, go on a quad bike adventure, zip wire through the forest and visit some of the biggest and deepest caves in Colombia. The Parque Nacional del Chicamocha is a park at the top of a mountain with an incredible view and a gondola which goes down to the bottom of the canyon and up the the other side of the mountain. The road leading up to the Chicamocha Park are incredible, twisting and turning with the mountains and has breathtaking views around each corner. It’s definitely something I won’t forget anytime soon.

The Caribbean coast of Colombia is beautiful. I visited Santa Marta, an old industrial town on the coast which combines the old town with new hotels and industries. From Santa Marta you can do a number of excursions to the lost city, to national parks, hiking trails or just to the beaches. About an hour from Santa Marta is a small village called Palomino, from the beach in Palomino you can see incredible views of the Sierre Nevada mountain (the highest snow covered mountain to the ocean anywhere in the world). Palomino has miles of coastline with two main rivers joining the ocean at each end.You can hike inland with the river and float down the rivers, with tiny rapids, on inner tubes (a lot of fun). Palomino gives you a sense of Colombia’s history, it holds its heritage very well with native tribes living only an hour or so away and everything is still very traditional.

Around 4 hours away from Santa Marta is another famous city called Cartagena. Cartagena definitely combines the old with the new, the old city still has a wall around it with cannons from when the city needed protecting from invaders. There is a castle still standing, which you can walk around, at the top of a hill looking down over the city. Cartagena also has very modern buildings, hotels, offices and high rise buildings on a spit of land connected to the old city- it’s definitely interesting to see the contrast between places. The most incredible thing about Cartagena is the buildings in the old city, each building is a different colour with its own unique features and you can really see the  Spanish influence. It’s amazing walking down the streets with dancers performing in the plazas, food stalls and live music. It truly is a magical place. Cartagena also has a group of 27 islands called the Isle de el Rosario, these islands have white sandy beaches, clear waters and many are still mostly uninhabited. You can go on a day trip to these islands or stay in one of the few hotels, it’s definitely worth a trip.

The food in Colombia is unreal; everything is fresh! Colombia doesn’t have seasons but has all types of weather so people can grow plants, fruits and others things all year round. This means literally everything is fresh, natural and non processed which gives Colombians such a healthy lifestyle.

I have travelled to many countries and Colombia is by far the best one I have ever been to, there is a reason why Colombian people were voted some of the happiest people in the world. It was the strangest thing, everyone was so content with their lives, no matter how much they had. The people who were less well off owned farms and were self-sustainable, they grew their own crops, kept animals and knew the skills they needed to survive and be happy- this was remarkable to see. On my Chicamocha canyon gondola ride down the canyon and up the other side, I looked out the window and saw houses half way up the mountains with farms and electricity cables but no roads to the properties. It was amazing to see how that people live like that, in such a different world-there are native tribes in Colombia which have never been discovered and have never seen the country outside where they live. These people were just content with the world they have made for themselves which I think is pretty cool. 

I loved Colombia so much that I’m currently looking into a way to go back. I would definitely recommend everyone to forget the stereotypes, take the plunge and visit Colombia.

Colombia: The next big tourist destination