A decade or two ago, who could have imagined a story about Colombia that focused on bird watching and leisurely evening promenades on cobble-stoned Caribbean streets? Well, in case you haven’t heard, 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 is a roundup of the top four reasons you should visit Colombia now:
#1 - Colombia is Easy to Get To
Colombia is the South American country closest to the United States, and the moderate climate gives you the option of visiting in most seasons. It’s a diverse destination too with vibrant cities, coffee plantations, a coastal Caribbean jungle and, best of all, local people who couldn’t be happier to welcome you. You’ll also be pleased to know that there are 5-star hotels and luxury boutique properties that make for very comfortable nights at the end of active days.
#2 - It's Off the Beaten Tourist Track
The fun of Colombia is that many of the best places to visit are ones you’ve never heard of. Consider Guatapé, a rural pueblo that’s often called the most colorful town in the world. Almost every square inch is covered with decorative tiles and vivid paint. At the edge of town, La Piedra de Peñon is a giant, sky-high thumb of granite at the top of which the views are flat-out amazing.
#3 - The Coffee is Some of the Best in the World
In most books, Colombia equals coffee. One of the country’s oldest plantations is a 500-acre family farm set in a nature preserve full of waterfalls and birds near Santa Marta. It’s a real revelation to meet and talk to the farmers about how they grow, harvest and process their crop. (Did you know that the beans are the seeds of bright red coffee cherries?) The artisans who craft the plantation’s blends make sure you get to taste the freshest roasts you’ve ever had.
#4 - Enjoy Both Stunning Nature and Lively Cities
A visit to Tayrona National Park is a natural high like no other. Mountains slow down the access from the park’s mainland side, so the best bet is to approach on a short boat ride and pull ashore on a golden Caribbean beach. The forest hugs the coast, so it’s easy to plunge right into a jungle walk with one of my naturalist friends. Cotton-top tamarin monkeys are plentiful, as are birds from Blueheaded parrots to Red-legged honeycreepers. With a whole day at Tayrona, there’s time for lots of exploring, a picnic and maybe even some lolling on the beach.
The ideal tactic to bracket these heart-of-Colombia experiences is with time in two of the country’s best cities. These days, Medellín is trend-setting for its lively arts scene. Its civic claim to fame is Metrocable, the system of high-flying gondolas that 30,000 locals use to commute every day. Cartagena is a fantastic finale to your visit. The Old Town is a UNESCO World Heritage site with cobbled streets, bougainvillea-draped balconies, and 500-year-old San Felipe Castle. It’s also home to one of the schools founded by the world-famous singer, Shakira. She’s paying her success forward in our homeland with these schools for underprivileged kids. A visit with a chance to talk to the students and teachers is sincerely inspirational.
Easy-going, happy, proud of their long heritage and looking forward to their future, Colombians have found their groove. And the word is getting out. If you like to jet ahead of the travel curve, now is the time to experience it all.