The image of Colombia that many Americans have was formed during the height of the drug cartels during the 1980’s and 90’s. Images of shoot outs and “cocaine cowboys” roaming the streets along with fears of guerrilla fighters in the rural parts of the country combined to turn Colombia into something of a tourism black hole. However, these ideas are very much out of date with the Colombia of today which is a warm and inviting place and very welcoming to foreign tourists. Of course, like anyplace, Colombia has its less desirable areas and so vigilance and common sense are required as they would be in any foreign country. It is generally a good idea to not stray too far off the beaten path into remote areas, and also be cautious of any new “friends” who might offer you a drink. Naturally, drug tourism is never a good idea and should be avoided.
Nevertheless, many major Colombian cities have a lively street life and cadence all their own and are as safe or safer than comparable big cities in the United States. The biggest risk is that after visiting Colombia you may not want to go home! The major cities include the capital, Bogota, and other major cities such as Cartagena and Medellin. The Museo del Oro is the most famous museum in Colombia and one of the most fascinating in the world. It includes more than 55,000 pieces of gold and other art objects from the major indigenous cultures of Colombia, all neatly laid out and described in both Spanish and English!
Just west of the town of San Agustin you will find the famous Parque Arquelogico which includes more than 130 statues either found on the site or collected and brought there from other areas of the country. These include elaborate carvings in a rocky stream bed which form a complex network of ducts and small pools decorated with images of serpents, lizards, and human figures. Archaeologists speculate that this area may have been used for ritual bathing and the worship of water-based deities but no one really knows for sure.
Bogota is also famous for its eateries, including the renowned Andres Carne de Res, a legendary steakhouse with a 75 page menu! Colombia has many beautiful white sand beaches such as the Cabo de la Vela, Cabo San Juan, and San Andres Island to name just a few. The City of Cartagena is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, founded by the Spanish in 1533 and located on the northern coast of Colombia. It is famous for its colonial architecture and city walls. Once characterized by crime, the neighborhood of Getsemani just south of the ancient fortress has become Cartagena’s hippest area and one of Latin America’s newest hotspots. Many of the buildings are being turned into boutique hotels and restaurants!
Another great Colombian city is Medellin. Medellin is the second largest city in Colombia and is located in the Aburra Valley in the foothills of the Andes. The city is promoted globally as a tourist mecca and has seen great growth and prosperity since the start of the 21st century. Medellin has also been recognized for its smart approach to growth, careful urban planning, and commitment to sustainability. Medellin includes many parks, plazas, festivals and events and is characterized by a lively and colorful street life. Some of the major events held in Medellin include the Festival of Flowers in late July, Christmas lighting, an international poetry festival, and the International Tango Festival, among many others.
Of course no trip to Colombia would be complete without a visit to the coffee growing regions in the Colombian highlands. Colombia’s mild climate and rich volcanic soil have made it famous around the world for the production of high quality coffee beans. Many tourists travel to the city of Armenia in the center of the coffee growing region. From the city one can enter the famed Los Nevados National Park where the highest peaks in Colombia rise to more than 16,000 feet. You will definitely want to visit the Colombian National Coffee Park, a theme park dedicated to the process of growing coffee and bringing it to market. The park includes a coffee garden, coffee themed food stalls, animatronic shows and much more. Be sure to get a bag of Colombia’s finest coffee beans to take home with you at the end of your trip!
Colombia is a vast country with much to see and do. There are also eco-tours of the vast Amazonian rainforest and tropical savannahs as well as many other places to explore. So why wait? Contact the experts at Condor Tours & Travel and let us get you on the road to your new Colombian adventure!