After years of war and depredations by narco-traffickers, Colombia is now considered a prime vacation destination. A country with some of the friendliest people in South America – the decades of kidnappings and killings notwithstanding – Colombia’s amazing diversity, astounding scenery, great food; and the fact that it has coasts on both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, and the Caribbean as well; make it a great spring travel destination.
Located on the Equator, Colombia doesn’t have seasons as such. Bogota, which is located at an altitude of 8,530 feet above sea level, has a temperate climate that averages 19 degrees Celsius year round. Southern Colombia has subtropical weather complete with appropriate plants and animals. West of Bogota is the Magdalena River Valley with hot weather; to the east the oriental plains stretch to the horizon with little change in altitude, and in the north you can trek the rugged Andes.
Parts of the country; some of the rural areas and the border area near Venezuela; are still subject to narco-terrorist attacks, or battles between the rebels and the national army, and travel by public bus is not recommended. But Colombia’s national airline, Avianca, provides service from Bogota to all parts of the country.
Things to Do
Deciding what to do in Colombia is mostly a matter of what you prefer. A visit to the Caribbean coast, to cities like Santa Marta, for instance, is almost mandatory. Beautiful sandy beaches, and nearby mountains with a variety of flora and fauna, provide an unending supply of subject matter for photographers.
The architecture of Cartegena, the “Heroic City,” is an amazing combination of colonial and modern. Cali, Colombia’s third largest city is a haven for night owls, with more variety than almost any other city in the region.
If you want to experience nature in all its glory, arrange an expedition to Amacayacu National Park in the Amazon rain forest. It can be explored by boat, and has a large population of monkeys and pink dolphins.
In the jungle near Santa Marta is the pre-Colombian city of Ciudad Perdida, built between the 8th and 14th century A.D. by the Tayrona Indians. Even though the only things remaining of the original city are circular stone terraces covered by jungle growth, it is an impressive place to visit.
Isla Gorgona, formerly a prison island located off the Pacific coast, is now a nature preserve where you can see monkeys, snakes, whales and sea turtles. It is also a great place for diving and snorkeling.
Of course, you will also want to explore Bogota. A cosmopolitan city, except for a few seedy areas that, like any other major metropolitan area anywhere in the world, it’s inadvisable to venture, it’s a great place to sightsee, shop, enjoy the night life, or just kick back and relax. Shopping ranges from small stores carrying local handicrafts to major department stores with goods from all over the world, and at reasonable prices. Colombia is famous for its coffee, and no trip would be complete if you didn’t buy a few bags of beans. Just be aware that when you return to the U.S., Customs is likely to ask you to open your bags when they smell the beans, as this is unfortunately how drug smugglers try to fool the drug sniffing dogs.
Flights to Colombia, on Avianca or major airlines, operate from Miami and Atlanta. Cruise ships also call frequently at the port cities on the Caribbean like Santa Marta. Inside Colombia, Avianca has service to all the major cities.
Where to Stay
Colombia’s cities offer a wide range of options for accommodations, from bed and breakfasts to five-star hotels. Coastal cities have some great beachside resorts. For those who don’t mind roughing it, hostels are also available.
Radisson Royal Bogota Hotel
Calle 113 #7-65
+1 (800) 967-9033 (Toll-free in the U.S. and Canada)
Email: [email protected]
El Miramar Hotel, The Inns at Playa Grande
Calle 10, 59-1C at Avenida 2
+57 5 423 3276