We've only just discovered the Netflix series "Narcos" and have flown through Season 1 in short time. If you haven't seen it and enjoy gritty, true-story drama of the highest quality, then this is our semi-annual TV show recommendation. It's truly incredible that one man, Pablo Escobar, could hold an entire country to ransom.
Thankfully, Colombia looks and feels a whole lot different these days, and is perfectly safe for tourism, whilst it's neighbor Venezuela has gone in the opposite direction and is not a destination to be considered currently.
Colombia is one of the most biodiverse countries in the world, bordered by the Caribbean and Atlantic on one side and the Pacific on another which means great beaches are a given. The Andes are here too, so if you prefer mountainous landscapes, then you are also good. Plus, the whole south-eastern corner of the country is Amazon jungle. I think you can begin to imagine the opportunities that exist for real adventure and that's before we consider the beautiful colonial charm of some cities.
Colombia TOP 5
Trust the words of Nobel Prize-winning author Gabriel García Márquez - "It was enough for me to take a step inside the wall to see (Cartagena) in all its grandeur in the mauve light of six in the evening, and I could not repress the feeling of having been born again."
Adorned with flower-accented balconies, colonial churches in pastel hues, and a sixteenth-century Old City still encircled by towering walls built to ward off pirates, Cartagena is both mythical and magical. Just a couple of highlights - the Clock Tower (above), once the main gateway to the walled city, and the Portal de los Dulces, an arched passage, where locals sell their homemade sweets and candies (below).
2. Zipaquirá Salt Cathedral
Considered the first marvel of Colombia and just 20 miles or so north of Bogota this is one of the most popular tourist and pilgrimage sites in Colombia, where as many as 3,000 Catholic faithful gather each Sunday for religious services in a former salt mine. Hollowed out of the middle of a mountain and 600 feet below ground level, it is a mile long walk to fully experience the magnificent Salt Cathedral of Zipaquira (below). Consecrated in 1954 as a shrine to the patron saint of local miners, the Virgin of the Rosary of Guasa, the cathedral shared space with a working salt mine, and it was forced to close in 1992 before the whole thing came crashing down. Local authorities made the bold decision to dig deeper and further and in 1995 this amazing complex reopened, to become more and more popular ever since.
No longer the home of the most powerful drug cartel in the world, Medellin (below) is set in the Aburrá Valley and surrounded by green mountains. It's known today for its friendly people that are incredibly proud of their transforming, progressive city. Located at an elevation roughly 3,000 feet lower than Bogota, the warmer temperatures and green landscape means Medellin has the nickname of the city of "eternal spring." Come in early August for the city's most important and stunning event, the Festival of the Flowers.
4. Tayrona National Park (below)
Located on the Colombian Atlantic Coast, here you can enjoy an absolute abundance of nature such as hidden bays, secluded beaches, mangrove swamps, and coral reefs. The Park is home to more than 100 species of mammals, 300 species of birds, 50 species of reptiles, 50 species of fire and moose horn coral, over 100 species of algae, and abundant and colorful invertebrate species. The more characteristic animals are the black howler, the oncilla (below), deer and more than 70 species of bats. The park also allows visitors to see the archaeological ruins of the Tairona civilization, one of the most interesting pre-Hispanic cultures in Colombia.
5. 100% Arabica
The coffee region of Colombia has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the volcanic earth on the green, verdant mountains is as fertile as soil can be. Many coffee fincas (country homes) have rooms for rent and to experience real relaxation and one of the best coffees in the world try a short break at Finca Villa Nora (below), right in the center of the triangle between Medellin, Bogota and Cali. The National Coffee Park is nearby, along with Botanical Gardens and rafting on the Rio la Vieja.
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