Colombia has suffered from a bad reputation for the past few decades as a dangerous place to travel. As the base of operations for one of the world’s most notorious drug kingpins, Pablo Escobar, Colombia was once a center of violent and dangerous crime, especially for non-locals. However, in the past decade, Colombia has pulled a complete 180, and now the country has a lower crime rate than many cities in the United States. Colombia has plenty to offer travelers of any stripe; whether you prefer adventure travel or relaxing on the beach, there’s a Colombian city that’s calling your name. Here’s why you should give Colombia a chance when you’re planning your next holiday.
Those who love budget traveling would do well to set their sights on South America, and Colombia in particular. Traveling to Colombia is budget-friendly; if you’re watching your spending, you can expect to spend between $15 and $45 per day, but even the most lavish all-inclusive packages will only set you back about $75 per person. Most municipal bus transit cost less than a dollar per ride, and even transport between cities is cheap, averaging about $20 per ticket.
It can be difficult to decide what kind of vacation you want — but if you go to Colombia, you don’t have to choose. Touching both the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean, with a center filled with both mountains and lush rainforest, Colombia offers any terrain you could want out of South American travel.
If relaxing on the beach is more your style, the Caribbean coastal city of Cartagena has plenty to offer. With a delicious Caribbean twist on traditional Colombian cuisine, plus pristine beaches and warm, tropical weather,(Image by Harshil Shah)
If you prefer urban adventures, the mountain region cities of Bogota and Medellin are ideal. Bustling with activity and culture, these cities are always working toward progress. Visit world-class museums, see cultural landmarks, and experience world-famous South American nightlife.
Finally, if you’re looking for an adventure in the Amazon, explore the town of Leticia. Smack dab in the middle of the rainforest and butting up to the Amazon River (for economical shipping purposes) Leticia is thriving with its own unique Colombian culture and attractions you won’t find anywhere else in the country.
The drug cartels of the ‘80s effectively made Colombia synonymous with “danger,” but since Escobar’s death in 1993, Colombians have been working hard to make the country a desirable place to live and travel — and they’ve succeeded with flying colors. Gone are the days of extensive drug trafficking, kidnapping, and violence; Colombia now boasts governmental control over a majority of the country. Medellin, once the most dangerous city in the world with almost 400 murders per 1,000 people, now has been voted the most Innovative City in the World for its fantastic public transit and library systems. While travelers would be wise to be aware of their whereabouts during certain times of day (as is wise even in American cities) most Colombian cities are as safe as you could hope.
The closest most travelers come to real Latin food (let alone Colombian food) is their local Taco Bell; however, Colombian food isn’t anything like its Mexican cousin. Admittedly, much of Colombian food is traditionally under-seasoned for our overactive taste buds, but that doesn’t mean Colombian cuisine isn’t worth tasting. In fact, the flavor is unique and interesting, if subtle, and the food creations are unfamiliar. The most iconic dish in Colombian cuisine is the arepa, a corn tortilla filled with anything from cheese blends to pulled pork, which can be found fresh grilled on the street or expertly crafted in the most decadent of restaurants. Additionally, you can sample patacones, fried squashed plantains, and exotic fruits.(Image by Matt)
Colombians also know how to imbibe, with plenty of exotic and refined alcoholic beverages available to adventurous travelers (and drinkers). Aguardiente — meaning “fiery water” in Spanish — is Colombia’s national drink, meaning it’s widely available and widely drunk. However, be careful not to go overboard with this 120-proof alcoholic drink; the hangovers from aguardiente are as legendary as the beverage itself.
Colombia is a beautiful and interesting country, and too often it’s dismissed for its dangerous past. Colombia has cleaned up its act, and travelers are starting to rediscover the wonders within Colombian borders; why not join them before word gets out and all the good beaches are taken?
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Feature image by Daniel Piraino