Already thinking forward to next summer and proposing travelling to Latin America? Then make sure to visit Colombia; it’s the perfect place to start exploring the continent and a place to begin practicing your Spanish.
If you’re not sure where to start, Bogotá, Cartagena and Medellin should be top of the list. Bogotá is the capital and is located inland. It has plenty of things on offer; you can wander around the historical district of La Candelaria, experience the salt cathedral of Zipaquirá, or even ride the funicular to the Montserrat Sanctuary from which you can see the whole city.
Looking for sun and a beach? Then head to the colonial city of Cartagena, notorious for its small cute streets and its magical realist feel, something which Colombian author Gabriel Garcia Márquez is famous for. Gaze out from the city walls towards the sea, or visit the old castle. Make sure to sample ‘ceviche’ when you’re in this part of the world, especially if you visit the close town of Santa Marta.
Now on to my favourite city in Colombia; Medellin, in Antioquia. It’s located in a rich green valley, which you may have seen in Netflix series ‘Narcos’, and has a warm tropical climate. A modern Colombian city, reflected in its buildings as well as its people, it has numerous festivals around the year, such as the flower festival, and plenty of museums, nightlife and activities to attract visitors. It also boasts a metro system, one of the only cities in the country to do so and which its inhabitants are proud of. If you ask any Colombian about Medellin they will tell you that they have the most beautiful girls in Colombia. Make sure you try hot chocolate and cheese, a strange combination but one that works.
So how do you get around? There aren’t many trains because of the mountainous landscape, so the best ways to travel are by intercity buses or flying. It’s a vast country so getting from Bogota to Cartagena is probably best by air since it’s a long journey by bus. Buses are reasonably priced and sometimes you can haggle to get the price lowered, but only if your Spanish is good enough – wearing a Colombian Football shirt usually helps.
Be prepared to try fruits you have never heard of, such as Lulo or Guanabana, and make sure to try Colombian empanadas which are typically served with a range of sauces. One of the most delicious dishes is called ‘Bandeja Paisa’; it’s a mountain of a meal but you won’t regret trying it.
As for the nightlife, many Colombian clubs mix a range of salsa, bachata, merengue, and reggaeton with popular Western music. This means that they switch from dancing one style to the next, so be prepared to learn some new moves, something which Colombians are more than happy to show you. El teatrón is popular in Bogotá and there are plenty of places to choose from in the other cities.
Colombia is far too big to explore in one trip. There are places I haven’t mentioned like the coffee zone or the Amazon in the south, but hopefully this has given you a small taste of what to expect. The people are extremely nice and are keen to show foreigners the real Colombia and how different it is from its violent past. Maybe it’s time to start brushing up on your Spanish?
Featured image from Wikipedia.