Travel to Colombia: The Unknown Land is written by Anne Marie Boye
Colorful and beautiful Colombia
1980s and 90s TV pictures of young boys and girls in camouflage clothes are still printed on the retina. I remember throughout my childhood having listened to words like cocaine, guerrilla soldiers and the FARC. As a child, I got the feeling that the big unknown country, called Colombia, I would never visit. It was too dangerous. At the time, I got the impression that there were such big problems and so dangerous to stay, that it would never be able to be solved. I copied it on the world map and linked it with no go.
But still, there are changes over time. And a few years ago, I started meeting more and more travelers who had visited Colombia. They spoke with zeal in their voices about a magnificent country, a friendly population, an amazing wildlife and very few tourists. Especially in 2016, when I visited Ecuador, I gained an understanding of how popular Colombia had become.
South America's hot destinations
And there have really been big changes. Colombia has become one of the hottest travel destinations in the last few years South America. After a peace agreement with the FARC and a major "clean-up work" by the police, Colombia has in record time become a place where you as a tourist with ordinary care in your luggage can travel well. Here you can experience fantastic beaches, rainforest and wildlife, world-class street art and lots of beautiful cities. Colombia really has a lot to offer.
When you hear about travelers who have been traveling to Colombia, they have most likely told stories about the beautiful city of Cartagena, the Tayrona National Park, the green city of Medellín and the tall wax palms near the city of Salento. But of course there are many, many more places that are worth visiting in Colombia - and also more than it is possible to mention here.
I have chosen four fantastic places that have in common that they are all far from the main road. This means, of course, that it takes time to get there, but also that they have so far been protected from mass tourism. However, it could well change within a foreseeable number of years, as more and more people open their eyes to these gems.
In addition, I would also like to strike a blow for the Colombian capital Bogotá, which over the years has had a somewhat tarnished reputation, but which is now again interesting and reasonably safe to visit.
Amazon - the world's largest rainforest
Colombia is made up of over 100.000 square kilometers of rainforest. There are no roads through the large and impassable Amazon jungle, so if you want to visit the forest, you will have to fly to the small town of Leticia. It borders Brazil and Peru is just on the other side Amazon River. The town itself is not the most exciting place, but from here you can take the ferry up the river to various jungle towns, which are good starting points for further transport into the rainforest itself.
We were three days in the jungle with two local Ticuna Indians. They showed us how to live and survive in a rainforest. It was an incredibly interesting trip, which offered many experiences along the way. We slept in hammocks under mosquito nets, sailed on the river in search of fish and went for walks in the dense jungle with Don Victor and his machete in front. We were also lucky enough to see monkeys, macaw parrots, a beautiful toucan and the rare pink river dolphins.
From home, I dreaded the three nights in the hammock as I really appreciate a good mattress. But it was going to turn out to be a really interesting experience. From thinking that I should not sleep for three days, it became almost meditative for me to lie there under the mosquito net and listen to all the sounds of the jungle. Due to lots of mosquitoes at dusk, we went to bed very early. Then we dozed off for a few hours, and finally we fell asleep. The next morning we woke up early to macaw parrots flying scurrying over the camp while the Indians lit up the fire and fiddled with breakfast. A new day in the jungle could begin and our journey to Colombia could continue.
When we got back to a shady hotel room in the city, we just missed the nights in the woods and our hammocks.
Los Llanos - Colombia's Wild West
The area of Los Llanos east of Bogotá means the plains and is real cowboy country. There are plenty of ranches where you can spend the night, and the farmers still ride horses and use the lasso when they have to look after their farm. I used to associate cowboys with the Wild West of the United States, but here in Colombia, the coolest cowboys still exist. And it's not for the sake of tourists.
Los Llanos is so new on the tourist radar that it has not even been featured in the latest issue of Lonely Planet Colombia. It used to be a really tough place with armed conflicts. Therefore, neither locals nor foreigners have been able to travel there, and this means that the area's nature and wildlife are incredibly well preserved.
Colombia's rich wildlife
Our goal with the trip was to experience "the wild west" and see lots of animals and birds. We came to that in abundance. We flew to the city of Yopal and from there took the local bus out to a ranch where we had booked three nights. Soon we came for a walk around the area and saw lots of exciting birds, caimans, capybara, howler monkeys, iguanas and turtles. We also saw an anaconda, which had crawled into a depression in the ground. If you are also interested in horses, then there is plenty of opportunity to go horseback riding.
Here is a good deal on hotels in Yopal
The next stop on your trip to Colombia is the Jardín - perhaps the most beautiful place on earth
Imagine the most beautiful little town in the happiest colors in the middle of the Andes. Here old men sit and drink coffee in the beautiful square, while local farmers in cowboy hats ride past on horses. And something very special about this square is that it is customary to tilt the chairs while looking at the life that passes by.
You will meet the finest, colorful cafes on your trip to Colombia
These chairs are painted in the most beautiful colors and are filled every day with coffee drinkers. The Jardín is also the starting point for lots of hiking or horseback riding in the area to caves, waterfalls or coffee plantations, just to name a few options. At the same time, some special birds also live, such as the yellow parrot and rock rooster (cock-of-the-rock), if you should be interested in birds.
We took the local bus from Medellín to Jardín and immediately fell in love with the place. The mountain air and the tranquility of the city give a very special atmosphere, and you feel like just stopping by the time and enjoying the moment.
Providencia - The Caribbean meets Colombia
If a green tropical island in the Caribbean surrounded by turquoise waters sounds enticing, then Providencia is the answer. A visit to the island probably requires a flight of about 800 km from Colombia itself to the island of San Andrés. Then you have to sail for another 4 hours with a catamaran or hop on another plane. On the other hand, you are rewarded for the transport difficulty with a fantastic experience in the unspoiled Caribbean - something that can be difficult to find nowadays.
At Providencia, there are no resorts or large all-inclusive hotel chains. And it is illegal to build taller than two storeys. In return, you will find small cozy hotels along the coast, as the middle of the island is a large mountain range. Here is a mix of rugged shores and beautiful beaches where you can take a dip.
The snorkeling opportunities are many on your trip to Colombia
We booked a boat trip out to the coral reef and some of the small uninhabited islands where there are good snorkeling opportunities. Here we saw both colorful fish, sea turtles and a shark. The other days we rented a scooter and drove around the island with stops at some of the beaches. If you need beautiful views and pure relaxation, then Providencia is the answer.
On your trip to Colombia you must because the capital Bogotá
Bogotá has been a no-go for tourists for many years. But fortunately that has also changed. The city is, of course, a city of millions, but there are several different ways to make the city greener. For example, there is the world's largest vertical garden, which hangs outside a high-rise building, and in several places plants grow on top of the bus shelters. All of this is something that should help to improve the air in the big city.
Bogotá is in these years one of the most hip places for street art in South America. Many foreign artists settle here to become part of the community and to paint on the city house walls. There is a really interesting, free graffiti tour that one can take on. This tour also takes you through the oldest part of Bogotá, which consists of cozy streets and old, colorful houses.
Green, greener, Bogotá.
In addition, the city also offers paintings by the world-famous artist Fernando Botero as well as one of South America's largest collections of gold at the lavish gold museum. You will also find plenty of restaurants in all price ranges and from all world cuisines.
Although Bogotá is a city of millions, it is surrounded by mountains and nature parks, which are also worth spending a day exploring. Climb Mount Montserrate in the old town at dawn and stand on top when Bogotá wakes up.
Colombia has so much variety to offer, so there is a basis for countless trips if you want to experience it all. Whatever you choose, there are definitely a lot of great travel experiences waiting for you in one of the most underrated travel countries in South America.
Very nice trip!
This post contains links to some of our partners. If you want to see how it goes with collaborations, then you can tap here.