a pristine Caribbean coastline, obscure and less visited Amazon jungles, pre-Columbian architecture and a plethora of multi-cultural communities, Colombia flaunts the greatest hits all in one country.
Over 30 nations and territories lie on the Caribbean Sea. The undisputed crown jewel of the region is Cartagena. Expansionistic remnants showcase a step back to Spanish-colonial times. Leisurely stroll and get lost in the city’s Unesco
World Heritage Site fortified inner walled citadel, savoring its historical past. Take a romantic horse and buggy ride, walk past magnificent churches, stately monasteries, and opulent mansions with potted flowers on overhanging balconies.
Juxtaposed to the walled city is the bustling barrio of gritty Getsemani, the polar opposite of the lavish Old Town. Meander its vivacious streets lined with umbrellas in alleys and painted murals on walls.
After 7 pm, the animated Plaza de la Trinidad is the central gathering turf. On the weekend raucous nightlife transpires well into the wee hours. Listen to local muscians perform at Plazuela del Pozo.
TAKE A DAY TOUR
Visitors to Colombia can visit its nearly 30 protected Caribbean Islands. Escape the swarming city for crystal clear green-blue waters and white sandy beaches. The Islas del Rosario’s most famous beach is Playa Blanca.
The day trip also includes a stopover on Baru Island which was part of the mainland by the Canal del Dique. Have lunch on the island, take a swim and search for souvenirs at local shops.
SAFER THAN EVER
Think back to 1988 when Time Magazine asserted that Colombia’s second-largest city, after its capital of Bogota, Medellin, was “the most dangerous city in the world.” Today, you’ll find a city brimming with life. Hometown icon, sculptor, and painter Fernando Botero donated over 22 of his gargantuan statues to his native city, which occupies the aptly named Plaza Botero. In the plaza, you’ll also find the Museum of Antioquia housing pre-Colombian artifacts.
Comuna 13, once considered one of the most dangerous neighborhoods in the world, is now one of the “can’t miss” tourist attractions. Tourists climb the graffiti-lined enclave for a glimpse into local life. Street artists paint colorful murals and pictures of everyday life. With tourism comes a sense of pride in the once run-down neighborhood.
Beneath the green-hills backdrop of Antioquia is the city’s most trendy and buzziest hub of El Podlado. Many visitors choose to stay in the fashionable and most affluent barrio known for its growing art scene, excellent dining options, boutique shopping, and pulsating nightlife. In El Poblado, coffee aficionados flock to Cafe Velvet, Urbania Cafe, and the family owned Peramino.
Visit the multi-hued murals in the country’s most charming hamlet of Guatape, located two hours from the city center to climb the 700 steps to the top of towering El Penol rock along with a boat tour of the surrounding turquoise reservoir and finger lake.
WHERE TO STAY
Casa San Agustin is a small boutique hotel located within the confines of the old town. A chic property with a colorful style and sensibility evokes its 17th-century Caribbean past. Its 20 ornate guestrooms and 10 suites display wood-beamed ceilings along with the amenities of a contemporary modern abode.
The trendsetting, innovative, technology-driven Click-Clack Hotel in El Poblado with its efficient design and leafy-green vertical gardens is a definite stand-out, a reflection of Medellin’s modern future.