Colombia: An Undiscovered Jewel

A tropical country of incredible diversity and charm, Colombia is full of varied geography, a history loaded with intrigue and mystery, and people and cultures that have fascinated the world for centuries.

As such, Colombia offers a wide choice of regions and interests for any traveller who’s interested in nature, culture, sun and beach, luxury, adventure, gastronomy, and trekking – just to name a few.

Sharing its shores with both the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean, as well as having the Andean mountain range dominate the country, Colombia feels somewhat divided into smaller versions of itself – one of vast savannas, one of Amazon jungles, and one of tropical coastal regions. Although its excellent coffee and the purity of its emeralds have made the country famous, Colombia is also the homeland of the El Dorado legend and the magical universe of author Garcia Marquez’s Macondo.

Cartagena's blend of Colonial and modern architecture
Cartagena’s blend of Colonial and modern architecture

The coastal city of Cartagena is full of both colonial history and modern day amenities. Designated a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site, the city offers cultural festivals, excellent cuisine, varied colonial, republican, and modern architecture, lush scenery, magnificent beaches, and even an unparalleled nightlife. Located along the country’s north coast, there’s no doubt that Cartagena is the jewel of the Colombian Caribbean.

There are several sites that bear testimony to its fascinating pre-Colombian history. In San Agustin, in the southern part of the Colombian Andes, monoliths of volcanic stone representing gods and warriors sit well preserved, and nearby in the area of Tierradentro, visitors can enter a complex of underground burial chambers.

Primatial Cathedral of Bogota
Primatial Cathedral of Bogota

Bogota, the capital of Colombia and one of the most important cities of South America, was designated World Book Capital in 2007 by UNESCO, as well as the Ibero-American Capital of Culture by the UCCI (Union of Ibero-American Capital Cities) in both 1991 and 2007 – the only city to have been awarded twice. Bogota has a permanent cultural agenda that is reflected in its numerous museums and art galleries.

Relics in the Gold Museum, Bogota
Relics in the Gold Museum, Bogota

The Gold Museum, right in the heart of downtown Bogota, is considered by many to be the best gold museum in the world. The collection has some of the most in-tact pieces found in the new world. In one gallery, visitors step into a dark room where soft music begins to play, as lights highlight different artifacts around the room, including the most cherished pieces in the collection – that of a small boat with figurines from the Muisca culture.

A popular day trip, or preferably overnight visit, is Villa de Leyva. The quaint town was founded in 1572 and looks very much now as it did then. Cobblestone streets, red-tiled roofs, balconies, and private courtyards retain the heritage, and is a popular location for artists from around the world.

To the north of Bogota is the famous Zipaquira Salt Cathedral. Built in an underground rock salt mine, there appear to be miles of tunnels from where the salt has been extracted. The grayish hue of the salt is accented by soft blue lights and stunning carvings.

Zipaquira Salt Cathedral
Zipaquira Salt Cathedral

To top any visit to Colombia, a visit to the “Coffee Triangle” is a must, not only to experience the seductive aroma from the coffee plantations, but also to explore the picturesque scenery, golf courses, landscapes dotted with wax-palms, and ecological trails.

Viewpoint over the coffee-growing region of Colombia
Viewpoint over the coffee-growing region of Colombia

Colombia is an undiscovered jewel waiting to be explored. Its relative seclusion from tourism over the past few decades makes this a special and alluring destination for globetrotters looking for something new, something old, and something very few travellers have yet to experience.

Suggested Itineraries:
8-Day Essential Colombia (incl. Airfare)
8-Day Best of Colombia
12-Day Coast Coffee Culture Colombia

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Don Forster
Don Forster

Trade Training Manager — Born in Australia and raised in Canada and Papua New Guinea, Don took his first solo trip to Bali – aged just 13. Since then, Don’s travels have taken him to every continent. He’s been a backpacker in Asia, Europe and Egypt, an overland adventurer in East and Southern Africa, and an overland driver in South and Central America. He is especially fond of Peru, Patagonia and Namibia, though his longest adventure to date has been a London to Kathmandu run via the Middle East.

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