When I first landed in Bogota, Colombia, I wasn’t sure what to expect.
Growing up, I’d developed preconceptions about Colombia, most of which centered around the drug wars and Pablo Escobar.
Maybe that’s unfair, but it’s what made the headlines.
After learning the country was no longer as dangerous (in large part due to the work of two devoted presidents), I decided to take the plunge, travel to Colombia and see if the nation had truly moved from terrorism to tourism.
What I found was a hidden gem.
The adventure sports are unreal. San Gil, in the northeast part of the country, has pretty much everything you could think of.
Bungee jumping, white water rafting, zip lining, paragliding – they’ve got it all. Of course I couldn’t do everything, so I opted for rappelling down a 26 story waterfall – yeah. Price tag – $30,000.
Don’t worry, I’m no Warren Buffett, that’s about $17 US (did I mention this country is super affordable). After a few beers the falls looked more like 30 feet and I was set. This undoubtedly was the coolest part of my trip. Anyone with a heartbeat should give this a go.
After leaving the adventure capital of Colombia I was on my way to the coffee region in Pereira. I stayed in a Hacienda located right on a plantation where you can see the whole coffee process from plant to cup. This is a region full of nature, animals, and the weirdest/tallest palm trees I’ve ever seen.
The place looked like something out of a Dr. Seuss book. No trip to Colombia would be complete without at least a few days in the coffee triangle and enough caffeine to last a year.
The only thing scarier than paragliding in the Andes for a city boy with lead feet awaited me at my next stop, Villa de Leyva. Let me say one thing – the people here, and in all of Colombia, were amazing. I met some locals who took me out four nights in a row, they were determined I learn the salsa before I left. Disclaimer: the only salsa I know is with chips.
After way too much of the national drink, Aguardiente (accurate translation: fire water) and two ridiculous nights of dance lessons, we all agreed that maybe salsa isn’t for
everyone. I have to say though my merengue is pretty stellar. The people and feel you can find in Villa de Leyva is really emblematic of Colombia as a whole, and I guarantee you’ll have a blast when the sun goes down.
Finally, the last place I’ll mention on the coast of the Caribbean is Cartagena and the islands just off the coast. Cartagena is culturally loaded, with churches and plazas dating back to the 1600’s on every street corner.
The Rosario Islands off the coast are only an hour away by speedboat, and the beaches alone are definitely worth the trip. Cartagena is only a few hours from the US with (cheap) direct flights from Miami and New York leaving daily. Something to consider before booking your 4th consecutive trip to Mexico for holidays. It’s something unique, and it’s a party – just ask Obama’s Secret Service.
Colombia has something for everyone – nature, adventure, culture, nightlife – give it a try, the only risk is wanting to stay.
Written by: Justin Kerby