Colombia is a lovely and vibrant country. Go there and see for yourself (Photo: Thinkstock)
The air is still and the sky a brilliant blue. There’s a woman sweeping her front veranda while her husband sips on his tinto. A motorbike taxi zooms past beeping madly at me; I shake my head and carry on walking, passing huge mango trees that shade the pavement. Up ahead, I can see the usual men on donkey carts selling avocados, tomatoes, papaya, or green bananas. I stop at the corner and order a fresh fruit juice from a vendor who is open 24/7, take a seat on the plastic chairs, and watch the city slowly come alive. Santa Marta, Colombia, has been my home for the past two and a half years, and I wouldn’t change a thing. I arrived on a whim looking for new adventures and ended up staying, having fallen deeply in love with Colombia(ns) and its (their) magical charm.
Santa Marta has a way of drawing you in (Photo: Thinkstock)
Why should you drop everything and book the next flight to Colombia? Below are 10 reasons Colombia should be your next travel destination.
1. The people are passionate and genuinely awesome.
It’s the people who make Colombia the fun place it is (Photo: Jacqui de Klerk)
Colombians are beautiful people, and not just in terms of looks. They possess an inner beauty that explodes with a passion that is evident in everything they do. Whether it’s a friendly “Buenos días!” on a bus or an excited crowd outside a tienda watching a football match, the people of Colombia inspire me daily with their acts of charity, kindness, and extreme hospitality.
2. It’s not as dangerous as you think.
Don’t believe the hype. If you use some common sense, you’ll be fine on the streets of Colombia (Photo: Jacqui de Klerk)
Don’t trust what the media tells you about Colombia. Over the past 10 years, the crime rate has decreased, kidnappings are at an all-time low, and most regions are perfectly safe for traveling (Check for travel warnings on government websites to be sure). With a street-smart attitude, you will have no problems.
3. There is a great chance to see the unknown.
Due to the general misconception that Colombia is “dangerous,” it’s not so popular with travelers. Thus, Colombia is a paradise waiting to be explored, devoid (for now) of huge tourist crowds, backpackers, and monotonous gringo trails. It’s relatively cheap to travel in Colombia, and there’s almost always a room available in hotels and hostels.
4. It’s the perfect place to practice Spanish.
Forget Rosetta Stone. Spend some time with the chatty locals and your Spanish will improve immeasurably (Photo: Jacqui de Klerk)
Colombians, in general, tend to speak slowly with clear pronunciation, making them easy to understand. Also, most Colombians can’t speak English, so you will have plenty of opportunities to practice your Spanish. I recommend that you study a bit before your trip so that you can take advantage of Colombians’ favorite pastime: talking. This way, you’ll be able to understand more about their remarkable culture and make your trip that much more enjoyable.
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5. Authentic culture exists.
It’s still possible to experience the true Colombian way of life: real cowboys and their skills as horsemen; the African descendants who have kept their homeland traditions and beliefs; the indigenous peoples still living in protected mountains and jungles; and of course, the Spanish-influenced culture.
6. It is a paradise for adventure seekers and nature lovers.
Whatever your taste in outdoor adventure, you can find it in Colombia (Photo: Jacqui de Klerk)
Perfectly wedged in the tropics and along two seas, Colombia offers travelers the chance to experience a range of climates in just one holiday. Choose from exquisite beaches for the idle and lazy, the untouched mountains for the fit and brave, the rainforests and jungles for the explorers, and extreme sports for the adrenaline-seeking junkies. Home to about 10% of the planet’s biodiversity, with more than 314 different ecosystems, Colombia is a magnificent country bursting with life and rich natural resources.
7. There is incredible, preserved architecture.
Colombia’s astounding cathedrals are endless sources of wonder. Here’s the Primary Cathedral of Bogotá (Photo: Jacqui de Klerk)
Visiting many of Colombia’s towns and cities will take you back to Spanish colonial 17th century, from cobbled narrow streets and huge squares to Baroque-style architecture and restored, walled-in cities. The cathedrals are especially astounding. I recommend the underground Salt Cathedral of Zipaquirá and the Las Lajas Sanctuary, which is built into the side of a canyon.
8. The rhythm of dance and music will captivate you.
You’re never far from dancing in Colombia (Photo: AP)
Colombians are born with a love for dancing. The country offers you infinite chances to learn to dance and enjoy salsa, vallenato, reggaeton, cumbia, champeta and a new style called choque. Be Colombian, and just let go of your troubles and embrace the soul of the music.
9. You’re able to enjoy many exotic fruits.
A fruit stand on every corner (Photo: Jacqui de Klerk)
Lulo, guanábana, zapote, níspero — sounds like gibberish right? These are just a few of the delicious exotic fruits found uniquely in Colombia, and trying every kind is a must for fruit lovers looking for a new taste bud experience (I recommend guanábana or zapote with milk). Fresh fruit juices are available (and typically inexpensive) on every street corner, and it would be a crime to miss out on this colorful Colombian habit.
10. You will want to stay.
Colombia: Dive in! (Photo: Diego Avila)
Colombia’s motto, “The only risk is wanting to stay,” is 100% true. Once you have tasted the fresh fruit, drunk the organic coffee, danced all night, climbed mountains, dived deep in the blue sea, and slept in a hammock, you won’t want to leave. You’ll end up like the rest of us expats, addicted to this wonderful country and its amazing, happy people. I think it’s a good enough reason to come, right?