Wednesday, 4 April 2012




For the past several years the Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Tourism of Colombia has been running a promotional campaign with a catchy slogan: “The only risk is wanting to stay”. Anyone who has ever visited this country has probably experienced the “danger” at first hand. For many years, the Colombian armed conflict kept tourists from visiting the country and the official travel warnings about travelling to Colombia discouraged even the most adventurous travellers. The only news coming from Colombia have usually been related to drug trafficking, paramilitary organizations and occasional kidnappings of tourists. Meanwhile, in the last few years the security situation in Colombia has changed significantly. Hacienda Nápoles, once occupied by the most famous drug lord in history - Pablo Escobar, is open to visitors, and the previously inaccessible trails of the Andes are being rediscovered by hikers and climbers. At the same time the port of Cartagena de Indias has become a must on the maps of cruise ships sailing the Caribbean, and the 5-day trek to the discovered in 1972 Ciudad Perdida (Spanish for Lost City) is now known to nearly every explorer of South American continent.

Kitesurfing in Cabo de la Vela, Guajira
Museo del Oro in Bogota
Hot climate of the Caribbean with Carnival de Barraquilla and Tayrona National Park in the background, glacier-covered peaks of Sierra Nevada del Cocuy and smoking craters of the snow-capped volcanoes of Los Nevados, coffee plantations in the “Coffee Triangle” region, and the vast lowlands of the Orinoco and Amazon - all this is open and waiting for tourists once again. There are 56 national parks in Colombia that include ecosystems from coral reefs and tropical forests to deserts and páramo. However, geographical diversity is not the only magnet that attracts more and more visitors here. Colombians are extremely friendly, open and always smiling, and their country is a true melting pot of races and traditions. Climatic diversity goes hand in hand here with the ethnic and cultural mélange. In addition to the mestizo (the main ethnic group of Colombia), the country is inhabited by 86 different indigenous groups including Wayuu in Guajira Peninsula, the descendants of the ancient Tayronas - Kogi in Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta and at least 26 tribes living in the Colombian Amazon. Accents, music and cuisine also change here with latitude. In the north of the country dominate rhythms of cumbia and vallenato, in the Andes - bambuco, and in the plains of los llanos - decorated with sounds of bandola and maracas joropo. Residents of the Caribbean coast (often called costeños) talk a lot and quickly, while the paisas living in the “Coffee Triangle” region  use (common in Argentina and Uruguay) form voseo. Although the cuisine varies from region to region, the traditional Colombian dishes include sancocho (a soup with large pieces of meat and vegetables) and empanadas (stuffed pastry usually fried in oil). An important part of the diet is also arepa (a type of corn flour patty), and from dawn to dusk the whole country sips tinto - small, usually sweet, black coffee. It is worth trying exotic fruits while in Colombia - their variety can make your head spin. Guanábana, carambola, zapote, lulo and pitaya - these are just a few examples of what can be found in the grocery store here. Almost everywhere you’ll also find a stall serving fresh fruit juices (usually mixed with water or milk).

Read more: The Andes


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