I say Colombia you immediately think of … coffee! Ahh yes – the fabulous smell of 100% Colombian coffee brewing – nothing like it! But did you know that Colombia has a heck of a lot more to offer than just their world-famous coffee beans?
They do and I recently chatted with Alejandra Guzman from TripMedia – Travel Colombia to have her spill the beans – get it? – on the other secrets of Colombia – and that she did. This South American country is full of culture and nature and gastronomy and history and oh gosh – just so much more than most people are aware of.
That being said let’s get this party started! Grab a cup of java – Colombian of course – and breath in that comforting aroma while we take off for Colombia!
Company Background: Alejandra started our conversation relaying to us just what her travel company’s goal is – which just so happens to be the same as one of my four pillars – she is all about connecting travelers to local people while she helps them discover all of the very the best that her country has to offer. That being said she enlists the locals as tour guides to help with this connection and says the people of her country are what makes it so special – specifically their warmth and the way they welcome visitors with open arms. Thus, she wants to provide you with an unconventional way to enjoy Colombia – to share it directly with the locals and see and experience the way they do things on a daily basis – noting that they may not have all the comforts we have but that they are so happy and so friendly and have so much love to give us. Life changing is what I would call her experiences – no?
And yes – she agreed that coffee is a big deal here – but that there are so many other things she loves to educate people on. One thing she said that really stood out was that every city in Colombia is like going to a different country because of each regions culture and diversity. And she and I – when we sit down to curate your Colombian adventure – will ask you what you want to see or perhaps find out more about there – and together we can help accomplish the goals of your trip. As she said – it’s important to ask the client what they like to do so we can show them how we do it in Colombia and they can enjoy it in the Colombian way!
Country Overview: So when Alejandra and I started discussing itinerary and tour ideas – I chimed in that I think ten to fourteen days minimum would allow you the amount of time needed for a great there to take in of all of the different experiences Colombia has to offer. However, Alejandra actually recommends fifteen to twenty days as being a more appropriate length to make your way around the country and get a complete cultural immersion.
One neat thing in particular that she pointed out was that there are actually different weather conditions in each city, even though there are no seasons in Colombia. Meaning – you can travel from the autumn to the spring to the summer just by city hopping!
Just to give you an idea these are some of Colombia’s most popular destinations and as you can see there are so many different, unique areas to be seen in this marvelous country. You have cosmopolitan cities such as Bogotá, Medellin, Cali, Cartagena and Bucaramanga. Then you have rural areas such as Armenia, Filandia, Pijao, and Montes de Maria. There are areas filled with naturel like Parque, Tayrona, Minca, San Gill, Choco, Guaviare and Amazonas and charming town’s like Mompox, Salento, Villa de Leyva and Barichara. And yes – they have beach areas too where you can take in the turquoise sea including the Archipelago de San Bernardo, the Rosario Islands, San Andres and Providencia.
Destinations, Sightseeing and Activities
- Bogotá: Bogotá – as Alejandra relayed – is the only city in Colombia that brings together everything you can find everything all over the country – into one place. It is not only considered the main city in Colombia – but it is also its capital city. Here you will find nightlife, gastronomy and graffiti art tours and more. And the nightlife is awesome – you can find everything from bars and nightclubs to theaters and shows and lots of music! And the art – in the neighborhoods and streets in Colombia – and especially in Bogotá – you’ll see a lot of graffiti. Then in Bogotá you also have museums and art galleries. So, between all three of these experiences you can see there is plenty of arts in this city to explore.
- Cali – In Cali you can take dancing lessons, music lessons or go on a cultural tour. Now besides coffee – Colombia is known for dancing and Cali is the Salsa Capital of the World! What a fabulous way to learn how to salsa – from the pros themselves! In addition, you will find many cultural tours offered in Cali – many of them music and/or dancing oriented due to the fact that in Cali they like to connect the music and dancing with their tours because it’s such an important part of the city’s culture.
- Cartagena: Cartagena offers so much history! The historic walled city itself has a very colonial kind of feel to it and is dotted with brightly colored houses. Cartagena is rich with history of wars and conquerors and the fighting and you can learn all about that history while visiting. It is also a port city and popular beach destination. It also offers arts and crafts tours that will have you making handicrafts with the locals while you hear all about the history of Cartagena – which was the main port of entry of slaves into South America. The nightlife in Cartagena is fabulous too and there are many great restaurants in the historical center for you to get your food fix. There is also a lot of opportunities for shopping here as well. Cartagena is a great spot for couples or even groups of friends.
- Medellin: This urban city is known for football – aka – soccer and shopping tours. It’s got a great climate and in addition to the city life you can find mountains and nature too. It is a popular spot for both bachelor and bachelorette parties. For the guys there are cultural tours, craft beer tours, rum tasting and football. For the gals there are shopping tours, spas and other activities related to beauty. And of course, for everyone there is delicious gastronomy and amazing nightlife – making for a lot of experiences in one big city.
Outer Region Towns
- Santa Marta: This small town is considered an outer region per Alejandra. But from Bogata and it is only a one-hour flight to Santa Marta and by car it is only a four- or five-hour ride from Cartagena. Santa Marta is full of biodiversity, water activities, sun and beach. Here you can also trek to The Lost City which is a sacred place of Colombia’s indigenous people located in the mountains where you will find lots of history and archaeology. If a trek to the mountain isn’t your cup of coffee – um – tea – you can surf or partake in many other water activities. Or you can just relax on the beach and soak in the sun. One of the cool things about Santa Marta is you are close to the sand and the ocean but if you look up to the mountains you can see snow and ice!
- Bucaramanga: Another region considered an outer area – Bucaramanga has mountains, landscapes and plenty of wellness experiences in nature. In fact -it is a great place for wellness in nature thanks to the awe-inspiring Chicamocha Canyon – which – according to Alejandra – isn’t as big as the Grand Canyon but is spectacular none the less. Other wellness experiences include thermal baths and a number of spas. This little town also features lovely architecture and restaurants. It is also not far from Barichara which is home to San Gil where you can do a lot of extreme sports like canyoning, kayaking and rafting.
- Villa de Leyva and Barichara: Both offer local life interaction in a charming town setting. You really get a cultural immersion in these old-time villages. You get to work with locals on arts and crafts and they’ll tell you all about the local history while doing so. It has a very romantic atmosphere – or air – to it and is a great destination wedding spot – or vow renewals! It is home to some really nice churches and a lot of food options. How great would it be to have a wedding here and we can set your guests up with different types of experiences with the locals!
- Coffee Axis and Salento: How’s this for two extremes? Here you will find hot springs in which to take a relaxing soak in OR you can visit a farm and help pick the coffee beans alongside the locals who will teach you the process of coffeemaking from the seed to the cup! And some of those coffee plants are in the mountains so watching the farmers pick beans from a slope is quite an experience. As Alejandra noted it definitely makes you value that cup of coffee you drink even more when you know the process behind it!
- Off the Beaten Path Towns: The next two areas are great options if you’re into genealogy or want to experience what it was like in the “old county” as these villages give you both those opportunities. These are not well-known destinations in Colombia, and they are great because you can interact with the indigenous people – who Alejandra advised are very happy to see the tourists and love to interact with them. Bonus – no over tourism here because they are not well-known areas.
- Guaviare: Guaviare is in the southern part of Colombia and lies between the Amazon and the flatlands. Because of this you will find great biodiversity. It is also filled with local community adventures. Here you can view indigenous mural paintings from ancient times, participate in hand crafts with the locals and even participate in their rituals. You will have a guide that will translate everything for you as the whole experience is with the local people.
- Choco: Choco has a lot of great traditional and cultural tours because of its roots and ancestral traditions. One of the most popular one is with the women of the area who are fabulous cooks. On this experience you will wake up early in the morning and accompany the men while they fish. You then bring back the catch of the day and the woman will prepare it for lunch – teaching you traditional cooking and showing you other traditions that they have as well. And it is a two-way cultural exchange as you are encouraged to teach them how to say English words like hello or other words to greet tourists with. This is a fabulous way that tourism is helping to improve the development of the communities – sustainable travel at is best as it gives them the opportunity to be independent as well!
Updated COVID-19 Information: As of this writing the CDC recommends travelers avoid all nonessential international travel to Colombia.
And that brings our amazing journey through Colombia to an end. As Alejandra said – after visiting Colombia you will not come back to your country the same person. And you know I 100% agree and it’s why I am so deeply passionate about travel. That’s what travel does – it really opens up a lot of personal doors so as you get to know other cultures and you get to know yourself as well.
For more details on things to see and do in Colombia, where to stay, it’s price points and more – contact your Travel Guru! Oh, and if you need a payment plan to fund your travel adventure – we got those too!