Beat the crowds: Colombia
From its towering mountains to its golden Caribbean beaches, from its skyscraper-packed cities to its jungle-engulfed ruins, Colombia offers something to suit every traveller.
South America in microcosm, Colombia is a fantastic introduction to the vast continent. Yet compared to some of its neighbours, Colombia is often overlooked. According to the Latin American Travel Association, the country attracted just eight per cent of all UK visitors to South America, behind Mexico, Brazil and Cuba.
But this won’t be the case for long. While it’s largely off the regular tourist trail at the moment, here’s another statistic: the country has seen an astonishing 300 per cent increase in international visitors since 2006 – and that’s surely set to continue.
Keen to explore this fascinating country before it gets any busier? Read the Citybond team's guide to find out why you should go and what to do when you're there.
Planning your trip
Most people visit Colombia between December and March, when the whole country – particularly the mountainous Andean region – sees its lowest rainfall. Temperatures are pretty constant all year round. When it comes to accommodation expect to pay at least £50 per night for a mid-range hotel in coastal Cartagena, though prices are considerably cheaper in the capital of Bogota. As a British national you can visit Colombia for up to 90 days without a visa and the currency is the Colombian peso; at time of writing, the pound buys around 4,200 pesos. There’s currently only one direct flight between the UK and Colombia, with Colombian airline Avianca offering daily departures from London Heathrow to Bogota.
What to do
Your activities will vary based on which part of the country you’re visiting. Heading for the Caribbean coast? Be sure to spend at least a day exploring the historic city of Cartagena. Surrounded by eight miles of stone defensive walls, its maze of cobbled streets and shady plazas are a delight to explore. Bogota is often used as a gateway to the coast but it’s worth visiting in its own right. Start in La Candelaria - its historic streets are home to Bogota’s best attractions and nightlife. Colombia is also a fantastic location for outdoorsy types. Its most popular hiking route takes you through the Cocora Valley, stretching from the picturesque coffee town of Salento through acres of farmland and cloud forest.
What to see
One of Colombia’s most popular attractions is the San Agustín Archaeological Park, located in the country’s south-west. A UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1995, it’s home to Latin America’s largest collection of megalithic structures and religious monuments. Another spectacular but remote site is Ciudad Perdida, or Lost City. Containing the ruins of a large settlement thought to date back to 800AD, it’s only reachable via a trek lasting four to six days. That might sound a lot, but it’s worth it for the spectacular jungle scenery and the chance to explore this fascinating abandoned spot. Fancy something a little less strenuous? Don’t miss Bogota’s Museo del Oro, or Gold Museum. Appropriately it displays more than 55,000 pieces of gold, plus other objects from the country’s pre-Hispanic past.
Where to stay
Planning to spend a few nights in the capital? Make a beeline for the Hotel Casa de la Vega. It’s a boutique hotel set in an elegant 19th-century building at the heart of Bogota’s historic Candelaria neighbourhood. Many of the rooms also include balconies – perfect for a spot of people-watching. If you’re heading for the Caribbean coast Cartagena’s Hotel Summer Frente Al Mar is hard to beat. This beautiful resort is right on the beach and has a rooftop pool. Stay in one of the suites and you’ll even get your own hot tub and jacuzzi. If you’re travelling on a budget but still want to be near the sea, Hostal Casa de Barajas in Cartagena is simple, comfortable and less than a mile from the beautiful Marbella Beach.
What to eat
Colombia’s climate is perfect for growing fruit and vegetables all year round and this influences the country’s cuisine. But Colombians like meat and fish too. A specialty of the Antioquia region is bandeja paisa: a packed plate of ground beef, fried plantain, chorizo, red beans, black pudding, avocado, lemon and a fried egg. It’s basically the Colombian equivalent of a Full English and it’s every bit as delicious. If you’re in Bogota try a bowl of ajiaco, a white soup made from chicken, herbs and potatoes. You’ll often see it served with white rice, corn and a slice of avocado. While at the Caribbean coast treat yourself to a plate of rondón, an Afro-Caribbean dish containing fish, cassava, sweet potato, yams, coconut rice and, unexpectedly, snails. Trust us; it’s much tastier than it sounds.
Wherever you plan to head on your travels it’s good to know that Citybond Suretravel is committed to providing you with the highest level of protection to ensure you are safe and secure 24 hours a day when away.
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