Colombia’s people, culture and landscapes are some of the most diverse in all of Latin America. A great way to fully experience this magical country is to combine its cities and beaches – enjoy wild Pacific Ocean beaches to the west and tropical Caribbean Coast up north, and explore formerly infamous and now iconic cities from Bogotá to Medellín in between. Colombia’s Coffee Region (or Triangle) is west of Bogotá, home to the modern city of Pereira and authentic Salento, both known for their exquisite coffee plantations and rolling green scenery.
Where is Colombia?
Colombia is a well-connected country, at the north-western tip of South America. It borders Panama and Central America to the north and Venezuela and Brazil to the east, as well as Ecuador and Peru to the south. It has untamed Pacific Coast to the west and typically Caribbean Coast to the north, with sweeping golden-sand beaches and seriously tropical vibes.
Taxis are a cheap and convenient way to get around. You should find that cabs in major cities and towns run on a meter, while prices are often fixed along the Caribbean Coast depending on the destination. If the prices aren’t listed on display around the passenger seats, then always try to agree on a price before getting in – and be prepared to haggle. While it’s not usual to come across, don’t use a car with a driver and someone else inside; this is a typical robbery tactic used by people masquerading as taxi drivers. Taxi apps such as Easy Taxi and Tappsi are a safe and secure option in the main cities.
When it comes to longer distance travel, we can provide internal flights and transfers to make your journeys between the cities and beaches as smooth as possible.
Colombia has a range of eclectic, unique and historic cities for you to explore. The capital, Bogotá, is bang in the middle; La Candelaria, its historic centre, is teeming with vibrant plazas, museums and stately colonial architecture. Tours are a popular way of exploring the capital, with cycling and walking two great options. Visit Simón Bolívar Park, spread over nearly 1000 acres and known as the ‘lung of the city’, and climb the mighty Monserrate Mountain, standing tall at 3000 metres above sea level. Medellín may have had a gritty past but it’s now a positively thriving and hipster place to be – hop on one of the city’s many cable cars to enjoy bird’s-eye views over the hectic and high-rise city landscape, surrounded by rolling green mountains. And Cartagena is a fascinating and colourful insight into Colombia’s past, with its 16th-Century churches and colourful colonial buildings, as well as the allure of the Caribbean Coast.
Some of Latin America’s most underrated beaches can be found in Colombia. Head up to Cartagena on the Caribbean Coast for some wonderful golden beaches, and explore Tayrona National Park; this former indigenous site is known for its amazing biodiversity and wild stretches of sand. Make yourself at home among the rocky cliffs, leafy islets, huge palm trees and sweeping bays, fringed with turquoise waters.
Food & drink
In addition to its world-famous coffee, Colombia also has a great range of cuisine. The food is full of Spanish influence, with hearty flavours and plenty of fresh fruit thanks to its tropical coastal climate. If you’re in Bogotá then you’ll almost certainly come across Ajiaco, an Andean soup which is particularly popular in Colombia’s capital. Bogotá is deep in a mountain basin of the Andes and has a much cooler climate compared to Medellin and the Caribbean Coast, so substantial soups like this are very popular here. Commonly-used ingredients include potato, chicken and herbs.
Arepas are a popular street food in both Venezuela and Colombia – they’re a type of corn bread, deep fried and different depending on where you go. In Medellin arepas are usually small white and round, served as a side dish instead of bread. In coastal cities like Cartagena, they’re stuffed with other ingredients such as egg, making a delicious snack for any time of day.
Bandeja paisa is a signature dish of Medellín and the surrounding Antioquia region (locals are known as paisas, and bandeja is ‘tray’ in Spanish). Known as the ‘Colombian heart attack’, this dish has a suitably absurd number of calories but delicious ingredients – think ground beef, red beans, rice, pork rinds, chorizo, morcilla (blood sausage), fried egg, arepas, avocado and plantains. This meal dates back to olden days when peasant field workers would eat it to provide them with a full day’s worth of energy, and it certainly does the trick.
Another favourite in Colombia is Chicharron, fried pork belly snacks which are popular in the Andean regions and either served on their own or as a side to dishes like Bandeja paisa. Rum is the staple beverage, and when it comes to soft drinks, fresh lime juice smoothies are popular throughout Colombia. A popular twist on the smoothie is the limonada de coco – made with coconut milk and a speciality around the coast.