Let's face it, you've done the Caribbean, you've been through Europe, the states are boring and you need something new. Flying to the far East sounds great but is way too expensive. You're looking for that sense of adventure that you can't find on a cruise ship or another boring mega-resort and you don't want to spend thousands of dollars and fly halfway across the world.
You want a place close by with the culture of Europe, the adventure of Costa Rica, the party atmosphere of Greece, the beauty of Alaska, the beaches of the Caribbean, lots of activities, and the friendliest, happiest, best looking people in South America.
The answer is Colombia. This rediscovered gem is right in our backyard and is quickly becoming one of the fastest growing destinations for young tourists, eco-lovers, and foreign culture enthusiasts.
Here are ten reasons why you need to get down to Colombia now.
1. It's not as dangerous as you think.
It's amazing at how much the negative/dangerous stereotype about colombia exists throughout the world. When I first went to Colombia is 2002, my friends and family couldn't believe it. They thought I was crazy for going into a militarized danger zone and I was definitely going to get kidnapped, shot, robbed, or sold into the drug trade.
Fortunately for me, that wasn't the case. Although, Colombia has had a shaky past, things are different now. Kidnappings are down by half, murder and crime rates have dropped significantly, and there has been a huge decrease in violence. The dramatic change can be credited to former President Alvaro Uribe and very motivated officials who have gone through great measures to fight crime and make Colombia a safe place for tourists.
Now American and foreign tourists can be seen everywhere in Colombia and locals are happy to finally have a blossoming tourism industry.
2. The People & Hospitality
Colombia has a unique mix of ethnic cultures, ranging from indigenous African roots to Spanish settlers. This combination creates some of the nicest and best looking people on the planet. Locals are friendly and usually very accepting of foreign tourists. Just a short time ago, Colombia was shunned by the tourism world for being too dangerous. Nowadays, the people of Colombia compensate for the shaky past by creating a positive, friendly, and safe environment for tourists. Colombians foster their new and growing tourism industry and you can be sure to meet some very interesting and friendly people. The Women will be quick to take you out on the dancefloor for a salsa session and the Men will be quick to quench your thirst with a shot of aguardiente.
3. The Beaches
Virgin Beach in Tayrona National ParkColombia has over 300 beaches along its caribbean and pacific coasts. There are beaches for all types of beach-goers. You have your relaxed resort-style beaches on the caribbean coast in and around Cartagena. You also have untouched, tropical paradise on the island of San Andres and Providencia.
Are you more of the adventure beacher? Try Tayrona National Park. This eco-lovers dream has untouched beaches surrounded by rainforests, hundreds of species of rare animals, and lush tropical landscapes. Be sure to stay in an Eco-Cabana (ecohab), a small cabin high up, with spectacular views of the ocean. Like surfing? Try Nuqui on the Western pacific side.
4. The Scenery
Las Lajas Sanctuary Nestled in the MountainsHaving Pacific and Caribbean coastlines, lush rainforests, and rolling mountains really create a tremendous backdrop for a vacation. If you are into sightseeing, hiking, eco-tourism, rare species of wild animals, and untouched paradises, Colombia has it all. The beaches on the Northern Caribbean coast boast white sandy beaches and island paradises. The beaches on the Western Pacific side are a little more geared towards the adventure traveller with lush green forests descending into the virgin beaches with exciting campgrounds and surf spots.
The Andes mountains bring about some of the highest points in Colombia and some of the nicest scenery as well. Snow capped mountains line the horizons, while active volcano's create some breathtaking views and pictures.
The cities have their own distinct architecture which is not to be missed. The Walled City of Cartagena is some of the most original and colorful architecture on the planet and a walking tour is a must. Each city has it's own unique flair and the country as a whole is a great place of scenery watching, and people watching.
5. The Coffee
Colombian Coffee BeansVisiting a coffee plantation in Colombia is like visiting a winery in Napa Valley, only without the hangover.
Colombia has perfect weather conditions that allow it to grow the best coffee in the world. The coffee region or "Eje Cafetero" is south of medellin, has a pleasant climate and here you will experience lush green landscapes, and rolling mountains and the best coffee in the world. Take a few days and experience life as a coffee farmer in Colombia. Learn how this very popular product is produced, take tours of the facilities, and mingle with some local farmers.
Coffee tourism has become a very popular attraction in Colombia. Don't miss the Parque Nacional del Cafe, which is an amusement park based on coffee. The kids will love it. Just don't give them too much coffee.
6. The Festivals
Carnaval in BarranquillaAttending a festival in Colombia is an absolute necessity if you want to experience the people and the culture. The Carnaval de Barranquilla leads the pack as the best one in the country and is only rivaled by the festival in Rio de Janeiro as the best festival in the world. Also experience the Carnaval de Bogota and the Carnival of Blacks and Whites in Cali.
During these festivals, the entire city shuts down for a few days and you see all races, colors, classes, and ages come together in an extravagant celebration with drinking, dancing, flamboyant and colorful parades, music, energy, and great times. If you are lucky enough to be in Colombia during one of these festivals, I highly recommend being a part of one of these cultural events.
7. The Food
Bandeja Paisa - DeliciousColombia has some rare and delicious cuisine that you can't find anywehere else in the world. The arepas, corn patties filled with meats and chesses are a must everywhere you go and are as common as french fries.
Ajiaco and sancocho are traditional soup dishes made from meats and vegetables which change depending on the region you are in. Being a meat lover, my personal favorite is the Bandeja Paisa. This hearty dish is not for vegatarians as it contains different meats such as beef, chicken, pork, sausage, fried eggs, rice, beans, and plantains. This dish varies depending on where you are in Colombia depending on the local specialty. If you are adventurous and find yourself in the Santander region, try a plate of Hormigas Culonas, "Large-Bottomed Ants" which are salty and crunchy just like a peanut.
Colombians take pride in their food and you will find that dishes are always fresh with limited preservatives or over-the-top dressings or seasonings typically found in American foods. Rare, exotic fruits are in abundance all over the country and typically complement well-cooked meals and desserts. You will find that meals do not bloat you or make you tired, and always leave you wanting more.
8. The Nightlife
Colombia is known for its extravagant nightlife, bars, clubs, and restaurants. The entertainment is top-notch, the people are friendly, and the Women are amazingly beautiful. The Colombian people have a natural flair for dancing and partying, and they do it well. Cali is known as the Nightlife capital of Colombia and it is easy to see why. Beautiful people are accompanied by a wide range of reataurants, live music, drinking, dancing, and good vibes overall.
If you find yourself in Bogotá, be sure to check out Andrés Carne de Res. One of my personal favorite restaurants/nightclubs.
9. The Women
A Group of Pretty Colombian GirlsIf you are looking to experience true exotic beauty, derived from the eccentric mix of African and Spanish cultures, the Colombian people are the ones. On the other hand, If you are a single guy, looking to mingle with some of the most beautiful women in the world, Colombia is definitely where you want to be.
Colombian people, Women especially take great pride in their appearance. Women are very well kept and are never shy when flaunting their beauty. They learn early on how to dance and mingle and what it takes to be stunningly gorgeous. It is no coincidence that there are beautiful women all over the place.
Colombian women tend to be very polite and approachable. They enjoy drinking, dancing, talking, meeting new people, and are typically great companions on a night out. A Colombian woman, although always polite, will let you know if she is not interested in your advances, so be polite yourself, and make every effort to be genuine and friendly. Oh, and learn some Spanish Gringo!
People fly all over the world to see and experience new things. You can get history and culture in Italy, beaches and resorts in Hawaii, Eco tourism and outdoor activities in Costa Rica, and friendly outgoing cultures in Greece.
Why not go to a place that has it all, AND is right in your backyard. Colombia is very close to the United States and Canada and is a new and exciting opportunity for any traveler. Flights to Colombia are generally inexpensive and are only a couple hours from most North American International airports. Prices and accommodations are usually cheaper than their foreign counterparts, and there are always friendly people to show you around.