Seasoned travelers agree, while often misunderstood, Colombia is South America’s best kept secret – beautiful, affordable and mostly undiscovered by foreign tourists. The country is easy to travel with plenty of low cost internal flights, comfortable cross-country buses and inexpensive taxis literally everywhere.
The country is beautiful, the people friendly and the climate is perfect ranging from hot to cool. Everything is very affordable and with a good service structure already in place, tourism is overdue.
Colombia received 1 million foreign visitors in 2020, down from 4.5 million in 2019 according to the country’s trade ministry. The President of Colombia was optimistic Colombia would see 6 million foreign visitors in 2020 but then covid hit. They are hoping tourism will help kick start the country’s economy in the post-covid era.
The contribution of tourism to Colombia’s GDP is nearly $6 billion or 2% of the country’s GDP in 2016. Tourism then generated 600,000 jobs or 2.5% of the country’s total employment.
The cities of Bogota, Cartagena and Medellin are the most visited sites. But foreign tourist hear the call. Many return again and again. Colombia is a complex, fascinating country meriting further investigation.
With passenger ships in Cartagena’s harbor discharging a flood of tourists into into the town every morning, it would seem the world has yet to discover the more remote areas of Colombia. Corporate tourism barely exists here and tour buses are a rarity. Colombia has remained relatively unchanged for the last 40 years.
With a land mass as large as France and Spain combined, Colombia is the fourth largest nation in Latin America (440,800 square miles), the third most populous in South America. And with an unequaled habitat, Colombia is the second most bio-diverse country in the world with more than 2,000 different bird species.
Even though it is one of the larger countries of South America, travelers can easily visit more than 2-3 destinations in a week. And there are dozens of destinations for travelers with the luxury of time to spare. An inexpensive country, money for extended travel is usually not a major concern. Cheap eats abound as do inexpensive buses, hotels and hostels. Colombia, never boring, never gets old.
Prior reputation as a violent and unsafe country is for the most part unfounded today. Once the most notoriously violent epicenter of drugs and kidnappings, Colombia has been considered safe for travel since 2015. Unfortunately, it has become known for cartels and cocaine instead of coffee and eco-tourism.
Peace is at hand after five decades of conflict involving two rebel movements, the Colombian army and right-wing paramilitary groups. The dark days of violence resulted in more than 260,000 deaths, the disappearance of tens of thousands of people and the displacement of 6 million people.
Peace accords have been struck with the FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia), a revolutionary group which financed itself through involvement in Colombia’s drug trade. The FARC has turned over its weapons and is in the process of reorganizing a political movement. The government of the USA has removed the group for its list of terrorists organizations. A cease-fire was also signed with the ELN (the National Liberation Army).
Colombians tell me they feel safe walking the streets and country roads once again. Rather than look back, they choose to look ahead to a hopefully promising future. Just don’t talk to them about Pablo Escobar or drugs as the country is trying to forget the dark era of the 1980s and 1990s.
Todays travelers are finding there’s not the right information out there about Colombia. What is essential to see? How do I get there? What will I find? How long does it take? How much does it cost? Is it safe?
While there’s decent coverage on the history, geography and politics of the country, there’s not enough on the nuts and bolts of traveling in Colombia. For the most part, travel in Colombia is still a leap into adventure.
Travelers in Colombia want and need more information on these places before and during their trips. Even with the internet, updated information is often hard to find.
This is a non-profit blog whose purpose is to supply more information to people contemplating a trip to Colombia. There are a number of updated articles with photos in this blog. Just tap on “Destinations Colombia – Articles and Photos” a button on the top of the page for a full list of easily accessible articles.