Colombia is a country with much to offer the adventurous tourist. Whether you want to enjoy the sophisticated city atmosphere of Bogotá or swim in the clear Caribbean waters of San Andrés or Providencia,, Colombia has what you're looking for.
Situated at more than 2,630m (8,600 ft.), and bordered by the Andes to the east, Bogotá is the third-highest capital in the world. Its nearly eight million residents make it Colombia's largest city by far, and one that has some of South America's best museums, universities, and restaurants. Bogotá is quickly taking on an international character as more and more multinationals invest in and set up headquarters there.
Antioquia & the Eje Cafetero
Colombia's main coffee-growing region is blessed with magnificent mountain scenery, coffee-terraced slopes, and old-world small towns. But Antioquia and the Eje Cafetero aren't all country: Armenia, Manizales, and Pereira are thriving cities with a coffee-based economy and Medellín, Colombia's second-largest metropolis, is one of Latin America's most progressive and innovative cities.
San Andres, Providencia & the Atlantic Coast
Some of the safest and most accessible travel experiences in the country are found here. San Andrés, long popular with Colombian tourists, has beautiful white-sand beaches and sprawling, all-inclusive resorts, while less developed Providencia is famous for its Caribbean-English architecture, dense jungle, and scuba diving. Cartagena, the pride and joy of Colombia, has the most impressive old city in the Americas, dating all the way back to the 16th century. Its many plazas and restaurants come alive at night and its colonial architecture is unmatched anywhere on the Western Hemisphere. North of Cartagena, check out the modern city of Santa Marta, a good base for exploring the Sierra Nevada Mountains and pristine jungles and beaches of Parque Tayrona.
The Southwest & Pacific Coast
Though still considered dangerous, this region has some accessible areas. Cali, the salsa-music capital of Colombia, claims to have the most beautiful women in Colombia, and its nightlife is unrivaled anywhere in the country. However, I recommend sticking to high-end areas and checking safety conditions before heading here. Popayán, second only to Cartagena in terms of colonial architecture, is a beautiful white-washed city with an active student and cafe life. The Pacific coast and El Chocó, inhabited almost exclusively by African descendants, is one of the wettest regions in the world, known for its dense jungles and unnavigable rivers. Unfortunately, much of this region is controlled by leftist guerillas or right-wing paramilitaries, but some intrepid travelers have visited the coast's pristine, virgin beaches. Nariño and its capital, Pasto, in many ways are culturally closer to Ecuador and Peru, and offer some of the highest peaks and best markets in the country. Warning: The Southwest and the Pacific Coast remain dangerous. If you're intent on going, fly to your destination and be sure to check security conditions first. Resources include the U.S. Department of State website (www.travel.state.gov), Colombian newspapers such as El Tiempo (www.eltiempo.com), and Colombians themselves.
The Eastern Plains & Amazon Jungle
Most of Colombia is composed of sparsely inhabited plains and jungle. Los Llanos, as they are known in Colombia, are physically similar to the American plains, and inhabitants have a definitively independent, relentless spirit. Los Llanos, Colombia's agricultural heartland, is known for its magnificent sunsets and beautiful fincas (farms), which fill up with tourists from Bogotá during holiday weekends. The eastern plains have recently become safer, but there is still a strong guerilla presence here, and this is one of Colombia's main cocaine-producing regions.
The Amazon covers 33% of Colombia, but only 1% of the country's population, consisting mostly of traditional indigenous tribes. Except for Leticia and its surroundings, this area is inaccessible. Warning: The dense jungle make this region perfect for coca production as well as paramilitary and guerilla activity; do not venture here unless you're taking a direct flight to Leticia, which is considered very safe.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.