After years of being overlooked as a tourist destination, holidays to Colombia are enjoying a revival. It’s a vibrant and exciting place to go on holiday, with wonderful coastlines, Spanish colonial cities, pre-Columbian ruins, spectacular national parks and coffee farms. Colombian's have a zest for life, and the rhythms of salsa and merengue are never far away. Third in Wanderlust Magazine's Travel Awards for 'Top Country 2014', Colombia holidays are proving ever more popular.
Colombia’s capital Bogota, nestled high in the Andes, is the third largest city in South America. With its many universities and libraries the city has been dubbed the ‘Athens of South America’ and there is plenty for visitors to do here with museums, restaurants and the Salt Cathedral to visit.
Historic Cartagena on the Caribbean coast is without doubt the jewel in Colombia’s crown and every Colombia holiday itinerary should include some time here. In its old quarter many colonial mansions have been carefully restored and turned into attractive boutique hotels, sophisticated restaurants and wine bars. The city has a relaxed, cosmopolitan atmosphere, and in the balmy evenings Colombians and visitors alike stroll along the narrow streets, or take a ride in a horse-drawn carriage along the seafront.
Politically part of Colombia and located about 750km away in the Caribbean Sea, San Andrés Island is picture perfect with corals and beaches, coconut palms and mangrove forests. Reached by air from Cartagena, this hidden gem is beginning to catch attention and can be integrated into most tailor-made holidays to Colombia.
Also off the beaten track the pre-Columbian ruins at the San Agustin UNESCO World Heritage Site can be reached on horse back, and nearby in the highlands there are opportunities to stay on a working coffee farm. After decades of producing world-famous coffee beans, visitors to the Coffee Region can both learn about coffee production and relax in magnificent coffee houses and haciendas that now double up as beautiful hotels.
Another of the country’s major highlights is Tayrona National Park, near Santa Marta on the Caribbean coast, where the spectacular forest-clad Sierra Nevada Mountains provide the backdrop to pristine white, sand beaches. Many visitors choose to end their Colombia holidays with some time relaxing here, often in the comfortable Eco-Hab cabins that are located in the national park itself.
Sue and Pete Morley travelled to Colombia with Rainbow Tours, and visited the country’s classic highlights on a two-week trip.
“We loved our Colombia holiday. It’s one of those places that really stays with you. We thought Cartagena was going to be a highlight and it was. It’s such a pretty city and just magical to walk around, with a delightful courtyard or colonial facade at every turn. But other places along the way were a very pleasant surprise, like the Coffee Region. We hadn’t realised that the highlands were so scenic. Likewise Bogota was easy to navigate and was a dramatic mix of old churches and towering skyscrapers.
We ended our trip at Tayrona National Park staying in the Eco-habs. This was heaven even though we had the cabin that was the highest one up the hillside. There were 159 steps (I counted!) but the views out to the ocean and over the rainforest more than made up for the effort.”