When I first came to Colombia I had no idea what to expect. I knew that it would be my gateway to traveling South America, and I had a few sights on my “Amazing Places” list that resided in this country, but after a month and a half of traveling this spectacular country all I have to say is: Pack your bags and make Colombia your next destination! It is amazing.
Colombia is a country that should not be missed, and after reading this list of 10 reasons to come to Colombia, you will understand why…
1. The scenery
Colombian scenery is breathtaking, no matter if you’re walking around a colorful old colonial town, hiking in the jungle, relaxing at the beach, or simply driving from one city to another through the layers of mountains.
2. The people
Colombians are some of the happiest, friendliest and most attractive people I have met in all my travels! Try speaking a little Spanish with them and it will get you a long way…Otherwise, just smile, and they will smile back at you. English is still developing here as tourism starts to kick off, so you will benefit greatly if you brush up on the basics of Spanish before you visit. Try using an app like DuoLingo, or read this article for more tips on learning a language.
3.There is always something to celebrate
In one month I witnessed at least three “holidays”, which always fall on a Monday to give people a long weekend. I absolutely love that concept! The funny thing is, a lot of the time people don’t even know what the holiday is- they just know that they have the day off work, so why not live it up and celebrate? I like that concept too… Happy EVERY Day in Colombia!
4. The fresh fruits are phenomenal
I thought that I had been exposed to plentiful exotic fruits after two years of living in Costa Rica, but Colombia raised the bar to my standards once again. You can indulge in delicious fruits morning, noon, and night, whether they’re fresh from a tree, fresh from the market, or freshly squeezed. Just make sure you don’t go “giving papaya”, aka making yourself or your objects an easy target.
5. The dancing culture
Even if you don’t think you like to dance, you should still take a lesson while traveling in Colombia. Whether it be a professional lesson, or some tips from the man at the corner bar, you will be surprised at how much fun you have as you sway your hips and spin around to the Latin tunes that pump through the air.
6. The nature
As mentioned above, Colombia has it all, from beaches to mountains, from oceans to rivers to waterfalls and even some hot desert land. If you like to get lost in the nature, there are plentiful opportunities to get out there and explore. A few of my personal favorites have been Minca, a cloud forest with rivers and waterfalls, Tayrona National Park, tucked in to the jungle and located along the aquamarine beaches of the Caribbean and Valle de Cocora, a mountainous meadow speckled with sky-high Palm trees that make you feel as though you just stepped into the world of Dr. Seuss.
7. The flowers
Colombia is covered with flower farms, from roses to hydrangeas to carnations and beyond, and if you’re a flower enthusiast, or you simply want to experience life in the country, then take a trip to one of these spectacular farms and let yourself be wowed.
8. The prices
Colombia is just getting started with tourism, so it is the perfect time to take a visit. Many places are familiarizing themselves with the needs and desires of tourists, but the place hasn’t been completely exploited yet, and the prices are half what you would pay in other countries. Think $2-8 for a really lush local restaurant meal, and $1-10 for many excursions.
9. The coffee
It is seriously the best I have ever tasted. You can drink it “tinto” which is black, or “pintada” which is with milk. Oftentimes they will add natural panela sugar cane to the mix without consulting you first, but it adds a delicious twist to the flavor of the coffee. You can also tour coffee plantations, which are typically located in the beautiful mountainous regions. The oldest operating coffee plantation in Colombia, La Victoria, can be visited on a trip to Minca. It is still running with the hydropower of the nearby river, and German owner Mickey has quite a story about regaining control of the plantation from the guerrilla back in the 80s, if you’re lucky enough to meet and speak with him over a cup of complimentary coffee.
10. The colorful cities
Colombia is a country with dozens of quaint cities bursting with color. You can spend hours walking the streets “oooh”ing and “ahhh”ing over the spectacular colors of the doors, window frames, and the beautiful combinations of one house next to another. A few of my favorite places to wander the streets were Guatape, Salento and Cartagena.
There you have it. 10 reasons to come to Colombia. Now it’s up to you to come see for yourself.
Before I came to Colombia, I didn’t know too much about this incredible country. In the nearly two months I spent traveling around, I was constantly exposed to something new, whether it be an interesting phrase, a fact about a new place, or simply something I considered odd, but was really common place in the day-to-day life of Colombians. I wanted to share some surprising things about Colombia which I learned along the way, to give you a heads up for when you visit this amazing place!
1. “Don’t Give Papaya” is an expression Colombians use to say don’t make yourself an easy target. “Close your purse! Don’t give papaya!”
2. “Monas” and “Monos” are people with lighter colored hair.
3. Toilet paper is usually found outside the bathroom stalls, and typically there are no toilet seats.
5. In the 90s, Medellin was known as the “Murder Capital of the World”, and in 2012 it was voted “Most Innovative City in the World”. It is inspirational to see how far the people and the city have come.
6. “A la orden” is a saying you will hear over and over as you walk past or enter shops. It essentially means that they are there to serve you.
7. Yogurt is so liquidy that it’s always drinkable, and there is something similar to yogurt called “kumi” which is worth a try.
9. “Cuántos cuotas?” is something you will be asked if you pay with credit card. They are asking over what period of time you would like to pay off the bill.
10. Hot dogs are very popular, and often they are eaten sliced and out of a pop-top tin can.
12. Hot chocolate is a popular morning drink, and is served in a bowl which you drink out of.
13. A special treat is to have hot chocolate, or “agua panela” with a piece of queso (cheese) in it, which you eat with your spoon as it starts to melt.
14. Arepas, round cornflower tortilla-but-thicker things, are a staple part of the meals. They are typically eaten with eggs (huevos pericos = eggs with diced up tomato and onion) or cheese for breakfast, and sometimes come with soup.
15. Soup is included as part of your meal with a typical lunch or dinner, and comes before the main plate.
18. Colombia is known as a “world in one country” because they have access to both the Caribbean and Pacific Oceans, and you can find nearly any type of weather and landscape here, from mountains, to deserts, to beaches and rivers and waterfalls. It is phenomenal!
After walking the property, you could grab a bite and a beer and recharge at the La Victoria restaurant, or you could even take it with you to eat later as you make your way back to the road to continue on down the hill. You will actually run in to Poza Azul before getting to Minca, so if you didn’t walk up the river, as previously suggested, you have another chance to indulge in a spectacular nature hike. Whatever you do, if you’re a nature lover and a river lover, don’t miss the chance to hike Pozo Azul!
When the time comes that you must leave the paradise of Minca, there are always jeeps and rickety cars waiting to bring you back to Santa Marta or wherever you must go. If you’re in a rush, you can pay the whole taxi fare, ~28000 pesos, or wait until the car is full, at ~7000 pesos a person.
In my time in Minca, I stayed at Casa Loma, which was a steep 15-20 minute hike up the hill and to the right behind the Church, and I had the pleasure of visiting Casa Elemento while I hiked up to the Mirador Los Pinos lookout point.
There are quite a few hostels and guesthouses all throughout Minca, especially en route to Casa Loma, and most have either the option of either private or shared rooms, or a hammock. Casa Loma is close to the village, serves food, and had a stream of tourists pumping through when I was there. Casa Elemento was much more removed from Minca, being a whole motorcycle ride up the hill, but it had an epic view, a massive hammock, a swimming pool, and on-site food, plus tons of fruit trees all around.
As you can see, Minca is absolutely amazing. A trip here, whether it’s a day, a week, or a month will leave you feeling naturally refreshed by re-establishing a connection with the great outdoors. Take a break from the city and take a trip to the paradise that awaits you in Minca, Colombia, a must see for nature lovers.