COLOMBIA – A BRIEF INTRODUCTION

SEE WHAT MEDELLIN, CARTAGENA AND BOGOTA HAVE TO OFFER

Colombia has such much to offer. Honestly, I do not even know where to start.  I will be semi-brief, in this post, because I could go on forever. I will supplement and update this post, from time to time, as I explore new sights, sounds and attractions in Colombia.

Safety is a primary concern for many tourists contemplating traveling to Colombia and South American in general.  I will address this issue first.  In my humble opinion, which is backed by statics, Colombia is relatively safe. However, like any other tourist destination, you need to exercise caution, and be well aware of your surroundings. 

Do not carry lots of cash or credit cards with you. Leave them in the safe at your hotel or other accommodations.  Also, do not flash your belongings.  Wearing expensive jewelry or watches, fancy clothes, expensive sneakers or carrying expensive purses and handbags will make you an easy target. 

It is the same advice I would give to anyone visiting New York City, Mexico, Brazil, South Africa, Ecuador, Greece and many other travel destinations that I have been fortunate enough to visit. In recent years, the Colombian government has taken affirmative steps and actions in an effort to overhaul Colombia’s image, and to promote tourism and foreign investment.

If you are looking for an affordable travel destination, look no further. I would strongly encourage you to visit Colombia for either an extended vacation or a short holiday. Either approach works.  Thus, making Colombia a perfect travel destination.

Colombia is located in the northern part of South America. The capital of Colombia is Bogota. Colombia borders both the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea.  By land, Colombia borders five countries.  That’s right, I said five — Brazil, Panama, Peru, Ecuador and Venezuela. If you are planning an extended visit to Latin or South America, one for more than 2 weeks, then you should definitely add Colombia to your itinerary.

Colombia’s proximity to the US also makes it an ideal vacation destination for Americans from the US and Canada. There are non-stop flights, which run almost daily, to Colombia’s most popular cities.  Thus, making travel relatively easy.  Bogota, Cartagena and Medellin are only a 3-4-hour flight from Fort Lauderdale or Miami.  Please note, however, that since travel to Colombia has increased dramatically in recent years, you should check multiple airlines.  For example, some airlines do not run flights daily due to the inability of certain airports to handle the increased capacity.  As I understand it, Cartagena is building a new airport exactly for this reason.

I am a newbie, relatively speaking, to Colombia. I feel like I have yet to scratch the surface of all that Colombia has to offer. There are still many things that I want and need to see and explore.

As I mentioned previously, feeding my soul and my inner self is essential to my wellbeing and happiness.  I crave freedom.  For me, freedom means the ability to explore new sights, destinations and to embark on new adventures. Please trust me when I say that there are still so many adventures to be had and destinations to see. 

As an overview, Colombia’s landscape includes bustling metropolitan life, mountains, beaches along Colombia’s coastline, deserts, volcanos, coffee plantations and waterfalls to name only a few. That’s one of the many things I love about Colombia.  Colombia’s diverse terrain and beautiful natural landscape.  

Let me add, however, that being a tourist in Colombia is altogether different from residing here permanently. As a visitor, I had plenty of time on my hands to explore historical sites, museums, bars, cafes and restaurants. I even went scuba diving in Tierra Bomba near Cartagena, and paragliding in Medellin. 

Now that I am living in Colombia, I have had to temporarily put my inquisitive and adventurous side on hold.  My first few months of living in Colombia have been consumed with many mundane activities. My time has been consumed with finding suitable accommodations (remember, my fur babies relocated with me), investing in real estate, finding reliable, responsive, and responsible brokers, lawyers, architects, designers and contractors, and procuring my visa. I even had to put my Spanish classes temporarily on hold. No worries, though. 

Most people here are extremely helpful and some have a strong desire to learn or improve their English-speaking skills. There has been no shortage of kind strangers and new friends that are willing to help me improve my Spanish. Personally, I need a little structure to properly learn the language.  Otherwise, it does not stick.  Private lessons also make me more disciplined. I have a few jokesters as friends who thought it was hysterical to teach me words that are low class and should not be used in public. Thanks, but no thanks.

Until my first trip to Colombia, I had no idea that Colombia was one of 17 megadiverse countries in the world. That’s right, one of only 17! How amazing is that?  

To this day, this fact continues to amaze me.  Megadiverse countries are those that have been identified as having the highest concentration of diverse animals, sea life and plants on the planet. That makes Colombia an optimal place to visit for those looking to explore wildlife (such as birds and sea life), fauna and flora. 

Many elect to travel to Colombia to see sites made famous by Pablo Escobar.  I am not knocking that. The Escobar tour was one of the first tours I took when I first visited Medellin.  I am not going to lie. It was one of the cheaper tour options. That is, in part, why I picked it. Escobar, violence and drug trafficking represent a significant part of Colombia’s history, specifically Medellin.  Pablo Escobar is, arguably, one of Medellin’s most famous natives.

However, there is so much more to Colombia than just Pablo Escobar tours. Medellin, Bogota and Cartagena are home to number of wonderful museums, gardens, restaurants and other tourist attractions.  I would strongly encourage you to take the time to explore a few. 

Believe it or not, Colombia is and has been a major tourist destination for European and other travelers from South America. It seems as if Americans from the US are among the last to catch on. Many backpackers venturing to South America, from Europe, already know to make a pitstop in Colombia.

For this reason, Colombia’s major cities are home to many, many hostels that cater to the backpacker crowd.  I hear that some of the hostels are upscale and nice. I have been told that they are very social and provide great opportunities to interact with other travelers, particularly English-speaking ones. 

Hostels are great options for those traveling on a limited budget. Personally, I think I have aged out of hostels. I like my space, privacy and my own bathroom.  Besides, Naya and Bitz (yes, the cats) would kill me. They would be a hit with other guests, but I would be in tears if they accidentally escaped.  Now, that’s kitty love.

Once in Colombia, travel is easy to other major destinations in Colombia.  Bogota, Cartagena and Medellin are approximately no more than an hour or two away from one another by plane.  Many local airlines offer several, affordable nonstop flights that run daily.

Colombia is also known as “the land of a thousand rhythms”.  You can find music and dancing everywhere.  The music here ranges from traditional salsa and Latin music, afro rhythms, hard rock, hip hop to electronic music (which is currently all the rage).

Since I reside in Medellin, I am going to start with Medellin. After Bogota, it IS Colombia’s second most visited city. Medellin is ideal as a base for your travels within Colombia.  It is famous for its coffee regions located on the outskirts of the city, its many museums and most notably for its tempered climate. 

Cartagena has been popular for years.  It has a vibrant hotel industry which consists of a mixture of boutique hotels and hostels (some of which were formerly residences) located within the Old City, as well as some newer and chain hotels located in Bocagrande and other areas around Cartagena.

La Candelaria is a must if you plan to visit Bogota.  It is the city center and one of the first neighborhoods to emerge in Bogota.  La Candelaria is also quite charming with its cobblestone streets and colonial architecture.