"THERE IS A REASON MAGICAL REALISM WAS BORN IN COLOMBIA."
NARCOS, TV SERIES
Cocaine, coffee, cartels and civil war.
That is all a lot of foreigners used to know of Colombia. Today however, travellers are raving about the beaches, the transforming cities, the boom of creativity and the warm welcome received from people proud to show off what was hidden away for so long.
From a country that was in headlines for all the wrong reasons only a decade or so ago, Colombia has quickly surpassed being the secret, word-of-mouth destination of those visiting South America, to becoming one of its star attractions.
In fact, it's probably our favourite country in South America.
Lazing away on picture postcard Caribbean beaches, hanging out the back of a 4x4 driving through rugged and wild desert, discovering the story of one of the most innovative cities in the world, sipping coffee which you've just picked and brewed by hand, reading Gabriel Garcia Marquez in the streets in which he roamed, and kicking back in a sun-kissed plaza with cowboys sharing tales over a bottle of liquor.
In Colombia, every traveller will be able to enter into another world. Colour, music and chatter will follow you everywhere and the country will reach deep into your soul and paint it red, yellow and blue.
so, you're thinking of going to colombia?
Excellent decision! In the north, Cartagena is the spiritual home of Gabriel Garcia Marquez and the port city just oozes old-school charisma and wonder. Head along to the unremarkable Santa Marta, which will be your jump-off point for bird-watching and hiking in Minca or the gorgeous beaches in Tayrona National Park. A bit tame for you? Then get truly off the beaten path by heading across the desert to Cabo de la Vela, home to some of the few indigenous groups left in Colombia and scenery which is unforgettable.
Medellin is a city with many stories to tell and it will be easy to lose yourself in its history. However, it is also one of the most innovative cities in the world and encapsulates just how quickly Colombia is changing. We spent five weeks there and you're sure to have some great nights out sipping (ok, downing) local tipple aguardiente. From Medellin, you can also make the short trip to Guatapé, the most colourful town in Latin America or further afield to hangout with the cowboys in Jardin, where it feels like you've just stepped back about 100 years (just keep it a secret ok?)
You're in Colombia, so you can't miss out on some great coffee right? Salento is the most popular option in the area known as the 'Coffee Triangle', where you can visit small-scale fincas and follow the process from bean to cup. From here, you can jump in the back of a truck and hike the spectacular Valle de Cocora, home to some bloody tall trees.
We weren't huge fans of Bogotá but, if you're there, definitely check out the incredible street-art scene (weirdly helped along by Justin Bieber) before moving further south to Cali which has great nightlife and is your best option to learn salsa. Interested in a bit of archaeological wonder? Then make the trek to San Agustin to try and solve the mystery of the ancient statues and maybe enjoy a bit of horse-riding through the hills.
But, if you're looking for somewhere in particular, type it here and see if we went - we were there for three months so there is a pretty good chance!
"HALLUCINATORY - THAT'S JUST THE WAY EVERYDAY LIFE IS IN COLOMBIA. ALL THE TIME YOU SAY TO YOURSELF, DID I JUST SEE THAT?"
our hidden gem
Every country has them; those secret little towns, beaches or hidden cafés that no-one seems to have found yet - or at least written much about.
For us, it was this place. So, go ahead and take a look, but just try and keep it between us, at least for a little while....