Colombia is undiscovered territory, rapidly emerging to become a hidden gem in Latin America’s crown. From fragrant coffee plantations to secluded beaches, this fascinating country has an array of rich, contrasting landscapes – from Andean summits to a beautiful Caribbean coast – just waiting to be explored.
UNESCO World Heritage-listed and known as the ‘Best Fortified City of the Americas’, the Caribbean jewel of Cartagena lies on Colombia’s northern coast. Steeped in Spanish colonial heritage, its pretty plazas, cobbled streets, colourful buildings and ancient forts sit alongside modern shops, buzzing open-air cafés and fusion restaurants. If you wish to take home your own piece of Colombia then head to the vibrant Las Bovedas, where you will find handicrafts and folk art shops. Take a fun-filled open-air chiva bus ride or indulge in Rumba lessons – this is a city full of character and rhythm.
At the foot of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta lies a true lost paradise, where thick rainforest gives way to deserted palm-fringed beaches. One of the Caribbean Sea’s most picturesque stretches of coastline, Tayrona National Park was once the territory of the Tayrona Indians, and many archaeological sites lie hidden within its realms. The region is biologically diverse, with over 300 species of birdlife, iguanas, black howler and titi monkeys, and the elusive and rarely-seen jaguar. For those who like to keep active there is a three and a half hour uphill hike to the ancient ruins at El Pueblito.
Situated in the Colombian Andes, at an altitude of 2640 metres, is Colombia’s historic capital and one of the largest cities in South America – Bogotá. The city’s historic centre, La Candelaria, boasts bustling plazas – such as the striking Plaza Bolivia – museums, fine colonial buildings and stately homes where charming courtyards and beautiful gardens hide behind heavy doors. Discover important religious artefacts at the 19th Century cathedral and visit the Museo Botero (closed Tuesdays), a colonial house bursting with famous art works.
Colombia’s coffee plantations blanket an endless panorama of emerald hills dotted with red heliconia flowers. Immerse yourself in the intoxicating smells at Pereira in the heart of the region, where the mineralrich volcanic soil is ideal for plantation farming. Stop at a coffee hacienda to learn about the coffee-making process, from harvesting to toasting; visit a coffee museum; and even zip line over the coffee fields at El Bosque de Saman.