A decade or two ago, it would have been hard to imagine a story about Colombia travel that focused on bird watching and leisurely evening promenades on cobble-stoned Caribbean streets. Well, times have changed and so has Colombia! As the world is finding out, this multi-faceted country is a super-rich trove of culture and nature. At this big inflection point in Colombian history, you have a special chance to be in the lead in the rediscovery of this spectacular land. Here’s what you need to know about planning your trip
Is it true that Colombia is now safe for travel?
Yes. The current State Department assessment of Colombia travel is Level 2 – that’s the same advisory level that’s currently in place for France and the United Kingdom. At Classic Journeys, it’s standard operating procedure to be cautious and safe in every country we visit. “Believe me, the people you meet in my country are so friendly and welcoming,” assures expert local guide Ana.
Why are travel experts calling Colombia the next “It” destination?
There are plenty of reasons that Colombia is worth your consideration. First, you can’t beat it for geographic convenience. Colombia is the South American country closest to the U.S., and the climate makes it an ideal destination in most seasons. But this land’s diversity is what’s really winning the hearts and minds of travelers. Even though the Classic Journeys itinerary only covers a relatively small and peaceful part of the country, you still get tropical rainforest teeming with birds and remote beaches, bustling cities and tiny villages. As you meet the people and get an immersive look at their lives, you see the vivid contrasts between indigenous, colonial and modern history.
What kind of experiences can I count on?
Almost too many to count! The fun of Colombia is that many of its best places are ones you’ve never heard of. Consider Guatapé, a rural pueblo where almost every square inch of every home is covered with decorative tiles. At Tayrona National Park, a boat drops you on a golden Caribbean beach for a jungle walk with a naturalist. (Watch for cotton-top tamarin monkeys and blue-headed parrots.) This being one of the most famous coffee-growing countries in the world, you will spend time on one of the oldest plantations and taste the freshest roast ever. Bracketing those heart-of-Colombia experiences, you’ll also go exploring in arty, trend-setting Medellín and then switch to the lazy, bougainvillea-draped tempo of Cartagena, a 500-year-old UNESCO World Heritage Site. Every day is full of distinctive experiences that fill in the blanks to give you a complete and unforgettable picture of Colombia.
Will I get to meet the real people of Colombia?
Because the resurgence of travel to Colombia travel has only just started, you can count on the people to be very, very happy to see you. “Hospitality is the Colombian way,” local guide Ana promises, and she proves it again and again as she introduces you to her friends. In Cartagena, you’ll stroll local markets and neighborhoods with a chef, then go into the kitchen for cooking instruction. On that coffee plantation, you'll meet the family who owns and operates it and get a very personal look at how every step in the life of a coffee bean works. In Medellín, their Metrocable system is a “subway in the sky,” and you’ll ride in the gondolas with the locals who take a sky-high commute for granted. One of the best moments is when you meet and talk to students in their classroom at the school founded by the world-famous singer Shakira. And that doesn’t begin to count the simple, everyday interactions you’ll have thanks to the fact that you’re part of a small group that makes it easy to mix and mingle wherever you are.
What can I expect in the way of creature comforts?
With the return of peace, Colombia is well into a major upgrade of its travel infrastructure. In true Classic Journeys fashion, the accommodations are among the very best in the country. For instance, in Cartagena, you’ll be at the Casa San Agustín, a luxurious boutique hotel where contemporary design is paired with the centuries-old beams in the ceiling of your room. It also just happens to have its own private Caribbean beach. You’ll have some truly exceptional dining experiences too. Your guide gets you into fine, typical restaurants that capture what’s happening in Colombian cuisine. You’ll also have the pleasure of events like a picnic on a Caribbean beach, the dinner you cook with the chef, and easy-going stops at sidewalk cafés.
What’s the bottom line?
Easy-going, happy, proud of their long heritage and looking forward to their future, the Colombian people have really found their groove. The word is getting out. So if you want to be ahead of the travel curve, now is the time to get yourself to Colombia!