Bound by both the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean, the equatorial South American country of Colombia has had a turbulent recent history with its natural beauty and archaeological sites overshadowed by the prevalence of violence stemming from cocaine trafficking and civil conflict. The diverse landscape offers a variety of climates and experiences ranging from Amazon jungles to sun-soaked beaches and modern cities to ancient ruins.
While some areas of Colombia are still considered too dangerous for tourists to venture to, if you stick to the urban cities such as Bogota and Medellin and provincial capitals, while taking precautions and adhering to common sense, the country is relatively safe. If in doubt, be sure to check the current government warnings for any developments.
Warnings aside, there's much to enjoy in the country that brought salsa, cumbia, Shakira and Gabriel Garcia Marquez to the world. The terrain itself traverses coastal beaches, the alpine Andes, central highlands and flat plains. The Spanish-speaking country became independent from Spain in the 1800s and this colonial legacy can be seen in the well-preserved architecture of Cartagena and Villa de Leyva. Visiting pre-Columbian ruins in Ciudad Perdida (Lost City) brings to mind swashbuckling scenes from an Indiana Jones movie – machete optional!
Colombia is also blessed with abundant natural attributes from the snow-capped peaks and glacial lakes of Parque Nacional de Cocuy to the sandy stretches of beach and deep bays of Parque Nacional Tayrona on the Caribbean coast. Adrenalin junkies not sated by the three-day hike to Ciudad Perdida can enjoy heart-pumping action in San Gil – the adventure capital of Colombia - with rafting, abseiling and rock climbing among the activities on offer.
To savour the true essence of Colombia, sample the local cuisine and abundance of tropical fruits. Empanadas are a popular dish of meat and potatoes wrapped in a pastry pouch. With coffee and sugar plantations a major part of the country's primary industries, Colombians are unsurprisingly renowned for having a sweet tooth. Locals like to indulge in desserts such as the milk-based arequipe, and drink their coffee black.
Each South American country has its own regional music and dance style and for Colombia that's salsa and cumbia. For a taste of Columbia's renowned nightlife, head to Bogota or Cali, known as the salsa capital of South America. Don‘t be intimidated by the tricky step changes, locals are more than happy to teach you. For a Latin American destination with a difference, Colombia has all the moves.