There’s more to Colombia than white lines, coffee and Shakira. For decades, the South American country has been tainted by bad reputations of peril and corruption but it is about time that dated perception be dragged (kicking and wailing in the catlike tones of Colombia’s hip- shaking money- maker if necessary) into the present day.
A backpacker’s dream, Colombia offers everything from jungle treks to lost cities and stunning National Parks to white water rafting and paragliding down canyons. For the less adventurous, Colombia boasts blissful beaches to die for and a happening nightlife.
Bonkers Bogotá will take your breath away- but that’s thanks to the 2600m altitude of the capital and the white knuckle bus rides of lunatic drivers speeding through the automobile carnage on a daily basis. Somewhat too proud of connections with their capitalist ‘cousin’ of the North, Bogotá is bombarded with American-style shopping Malls that dominate Colombians’ social lives but the characteristic colonial architecture in the historic centre of La Candelaria makes for a more interesting day out. Ajiaco, a hearty chicken and potato broth served with rice and avocado, followed by a sip of chicha– an indigenous drink made of fermented maize and fruit-will help you face the chilly temperatures and guaranteed rain.
Colombians are some of the friendliest Latinos around, and their welcoming approach is most notable in the lush and mountainous city of Medellín- although it was once the world’s most murderous city! Colombian service puts us Brits to shame; expect to be treated like royalty at restaurants, you won’t even have to pour your own beer!
The most beautiful city of Colombia, however, is the romantic Cartagena de Indias that sits relaxed on the Caribbean coast. Polar opposite to Bogotá’s European vibe, suddenly you’ll feel like you have been transported to the Congo; enchanted by Afro-colombians and fascinated by their zest for life manifested through dance and joyful characters. So it’s no surprise that this is the place to relax. Catch a boat to Playa Blanca and while away the afternoon on white sands surrounded by crystal waters where you can snorkel, savour the Caribbean flavours of grilled fish and coconut rice or relax into a massage.
So forget everything you’ve been told about Colombia before, especially by those who have never been, and spread the love for this safe, affordable and inspiring country.