5 Reasons to Visit Colombia in 2018
Topping must-visit lists all over the internet, Colombia is officially the travel world’s rising star. Its towering mountain peaks, lush rain forest, enchanting cities and fascinating melting pot of cultures make it as welcoming as a destination can be — though until recently, this was an unlikely prospect. Decades of civil war finally came to an end in 2016, breathing new life into Colombia’s infrastructure and tourism industry. Since then, major strides have been made in revitalization, and travelers are taking notice. Here are five reasons that 2018 is the perfect year to experience it all for yourself.
Surrounded by mountains and dating back to the 17th century, the beauty of Colombia’s second-largest city, Medellín, has long been overshadowed by its unsavory reputation. Once the stomping grounds of drug lord Pablo Escobar, Medellín was one of the world’s most dangerous cities — that is, until now. Massive efforts to turn the tide have been successful, transforming Medellín into an incredibly safe and spectacular metropolis, complete with a new metro system and stunning modern architecture. Take a walking tour of downtown’s Zona Centro, head to Estadio Atanasio Girardot for a live football match or enjoy the views from the city’s iconic aerial tram. Then, toast to Medellín’s comeback at one of the many chic bars in the bohemian El Poblabo neighborhood.
2.Newly Accessible Natural Wonders
Colombia is known for its staggering biodiversity and legendary national parks, many of which were only recently opened up to tourism. During the years of civil unrest, these hard-to-reach places were restricted to visitors or completely inaccessible due to FARC activity. But now, the wonders of Colombia’s unique wilderness are ready for you. One of the most interesting is Parque Nacional Natural Sierra de La Macarena, where for a few months each year the Caño Cristales River runs in a bold rainbow of colors. You can now visit without a guide, so head there between July and November to catch this technicolor phenomenon. Also worth the trek are the otherworldly sandstone formations in Los Estoraques Unique Natural Area and the remote Mocoa region, where you can hike to waterfalls through the Amazonian rain forest.
3.Unique Lodging and Sustainable Stays
Not surprisingly, the renewed interest in Colombia’s natural areas sparked an ecotourism boom, and sustainable hotels are popping up throughout the country. Located in a breathtaking spot near Nuquí on the Pacific Coast, El Cantil is an ecolodge committed to responsible practices and community service. You can book a cabin, take a surfing class or join a bird-watching tour — not to mention dining on the hyperlocally caught seafood. Or, spend a night at one of the many sprawling coffee fincas (farms) that dot the famed Zona Cafetera. Check out the guesthouse at Hacienda Venecia, a vast plantation near Manizales open to anyone interested in coffee production, roasting and (of course) tasting. For green-minded travelers who prefer the city, try Biohotel Organic Suites in Bogotá. Harnessing solar energy, recycled materials, and organic food and drink, this chic hotel provides a luxurious yet truly sustainable experience.
4.Urban Arts Renaissance
Beyond its modern ecolodges and multihued rivers, Colombia also earns major bragging rights with a newly thriving arts scene. Public parks filled with fanciful sculptures are a beloved part of Medellín’s new groove. Check out Plaza Botero, where you’ll wander among 23 oversize bronze figures by the plaza’s namesake sculptor before visiting nearby Museo de Antioquia. Street art is another concept newly embraced by urban areas. In Bogotá, grafiteros (graffiti artists) are regularly hired by businesses or commissioned by the government to create jaw-dropping murals and Instagram-worthy illustrations on the sides of buildings. From tongue-in-cheek social statements to whimsical depictions of everyday life, the city’s walls are now so well decorated that street art tours are available, often led by the artists themselves.
5.It’s Off the Beaten Path … for Now
Although its name seems to be on the tip of every traveler’s tongue lately, Colombia maintains a feeling of newness as it evolves. The country’s tourist trail is still lightly trafficked compared to many of the world’s most popular destinations, and it doesn’t take much to escape the few crowds you do find. But don’t expect this sweet spot to last: Each year, the number of visitors increases exponentially as more and more foreigners warm up to the virtues of a country once considered a serious no-go zone. Head to Colombia in 2018 and get to know this charming, resilient nation — it won’t be considered a hidden gem much longer.