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Best of Colombia
Colombia has had a sometimes chequered past and is often overlooked by backpackers because of this, but it really has so much to offer if you’re willing to look beneath the surface.
South American countries have topped the list for backpackers for many years due to the low cost of living to be enjoyed in them and Colombia is no exception in this regard. With cheap accommodation and meals costing surprisingly little, you’ll find that even the tightest of budgets stretches that little bit further.
Colombia has much more than just cheap food and accommodation to offer though, you’ll soon fall in love with the varied scenery which ranges from Caribbean beaches through to busy metropolitan cities, with the amazing Amazon rainforest also waiting for you to get lost in it.
If you’ve decided to give this amazing country a go then don’t miss out on my “best of” list below:
Every trip to Colombia should start in South America’s most beautiful city; Medellin, the city where it’s always green due to a year round warm tropical climate (not usually dropping below 15°C) thanks to it’s proximity to the equator. Some refer to Medellin as the city of eternal spring and you’ll soon see why if you visit.
The city rose to prominence when international media reported on the exploits of infamous drug baron Pablo Escobar, but this turbulent period in Medellin’s history has been largely forgotten these days and you’ll find it to be a much safer place (I’d still recommend going out in pairs at night though as with any large city).
After spending some time in Medellin I’d recommend heading to Mompós, the town that time literally forgot. It’s about a day’s journey by road but will take longer as you’ll need to cross the Magdalena River to get to the island where the town is located (there’s currently no bridge).
You’ll need to be pretty determined to get to Mompós, but it really is worth the effort if you want to see fine examples of Colombia’s rich colonial history and architecture. It’s a weird sight seeing the once grand buildings now showing the ravages of time and the effects of a diminished economy, but you’ll find that the locals are usually very friendly and often willing to share whatever they have with you, even offering to be your guide for the day if you’re lucky.
It was strangely the river that once made Mompós such a prosperous town that also put an end to its good fortune when it shifted its course in the early 20th century, rendering the busy port useless.
From Mompós it’s about 500km to the Caribbean beach resort city of Cartagena on Colombia’s north coast. You’ll find that there really is something for everyone at this popular destination; whether you want to spend a few days relaxing on a white sandy beach, have a night out on the town or see the charming old walled city (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) lit up beautifully at night, Cartagena will not disappoint.
Cartagena basks in year round warm temperatures, but you might want to avoid the rainy season in late March thru May and during October and November when the average monthly rainfall is around 5 inches.
Ciudad Pérdida (The Lost City)
About 300km roughly east of Cartagena, around the North coast of Colombia, you can take a 6 day return trek to visit the awe-inspiring Lost City, Ciudad Pérdida. Located in the middle of the jungle near to Santa Marta, you’ll be amazed by the spectacular scenery and view from this site which brings to mind Peru’s Machu Picchu, with its stone terraces in an elevated position surrounded by verdant forest scenery below and to the sides; words just don’t do it justice.
You’ll have around 20km of rainforest scenery to cross (including a couple of rivers) and you’ll probably meet one of the indigenous tribes that still live in the area on your way (it’s ok, they’re friendly), but you won’t regret it when you finally get your first view of this ancient and magical place.
Once you’ve finished getting lost on your way to Ciudad Pérdida, it’s time to travel down to Leticia, the capital of Colombia’s Amazonas region. It’ll take you a few days to get there from the north coast, but it would be an absolute crime to visit the country without taking a trip into the Amazon Rainforest, and Leticia makes an excellent base for doing just that.
If you want the ultimate experience, why not spend a night in one of the jungle lodges. You’ll get some amazing photo’s and the memories will last you a lifetime (just make sure you take a map as the Rainforest covers 1 billion acres in total).
You should find it pretty easy to book a tour from Leticia, whether you want to explore on foot or take to a 4×4, but do avoid the rainy season and aim to visit between July and August (it is a rainforest after all!).
Have you been to Colombia? Do you have any tips to add?