Colombia, situated in the northwest of the region, is the only South American country to have both Pacific and Caribbean coastlines. Boasting a fascinating history, Colombia offers a wide range of natural attractions including dense rainforests, golden beaches and towering mountains and beaches, but hasn’t managed to shed it reputation for guerrilla warfare and drug smuggling.
Bogotá, the capital, is centrally situated at an elevation of nearly 2,600m and draws the most tourists. The la Candelaria and Zona Rosa districts are where most people stay during their visit as their colonial buildings make for more pleasant surrounds than the CBD’s high rises. The del Oro archaeology museum is a must-visit while old churches such as San Ignacio and Santa Clara and the colourful botanic gardens of José Celestino Mutis are also worthwhile visiting.
The Caribbean facing Cartagena is considered a safe destination. The city is perhaps best known for its Spanish colonial architecture including impressive cathedrals, while its sandy beaches also draw crowds. If you prefer sightseeing to beach lounging, stop off at the palace of Inquisición or tour the old port on foot.
Islas del Rosario sit to the southwest of Cartagena and offer fantastic diving thanks to their colourful coral reefs. About 750kms northwest of the mainland is San Andres, another hub for scuba divers and snorkellers with its natural beauty and coral reefs that harbour a variety of fish.
When in the Choco Department, head northwest to witness thick rainforest and Los Katiós National Park. Or travel northwest of Medellín to the centuries-old Santa Fe de Antioquia, an ancient colonial town with well-preserved architecture. There are many resorts west of here on the Pacific coast of Choco.
Archaeology buffs can visit San Agustín and Tierradentro in the southwest of Colombia with their artworks and ancient treasures and graves. Close by is Popayán, a colonial city with brilliant museums and churches.
Bogota International Airport has many daily connections to Europe and the Americas. Road connections with Venezuela and Ecuador make arrival by bus possible for those on a budget. Accommodation in Colombia spans the spectrum but expect hotels outside the main cities to be quite cheap and basic.