Colombia is a journey to a sensory world… The colors of Cartagena’s colonial quarter, pastel reds and yellows blending magically with the blues of the Caribbean. The aroma of coffee freshly-ground amid the rolling hills of the ‘Coffee Triangle’. The urban buzz of its culturally-rich, dynamic cities, Bogotá and Medellín. The sensual slinkiness of its dancers, trumpets flaring in the birthplace of salsa, Cali. The tropical greens of the Amazon, brown rivers snaking as a shaman chants. The whites of the snow-capped Andes, backdrop to the romantic melodies of Vallenato folk songs. The taste of its rich, varied and delicious cuisine. Every sense is stimulated as it discovers something new, something exotic, something memorable.
Colombians live in this sensory world day-to-day, a world of colors and sensibility. Travelers will meet a people passionate about life, about their country, passionate about showing it to visitors, dispelling the myths and showing the truths. They are among the friendliest and most open people in the world. Courteous, welcoming, warm and happy.
Colombia is Latin America’s ‘discovery destination’, the gateway to South America. Between its Pacific and Caribbean coasts and its borders to the east and south, it combines dazzling natural wealth with captivating culture, both ancient and contemporary. One would be hard pressed to find a country which offers such staggering and stimulating variety. Explore Colombia with us, a nation awakening, a nation of today and of tomorrow, where passion will accompany you wherever you go.
Vibrant Capital City
Colombia’s capital is an economic and cultural powerhouse in South America. The city of 8 million occupies a high plateau at 2,640 meters (8,600 feet) above sea level, cupped by the mountains of the Andes’ eastern range. It’s a blend of the old and the new, skyscrapers rising alongside colonial mansions, intensely aware of its history and looking to the future with fervor. Wander the streets of its historic neighborhood, visit the Gold and Botero museums, take a ride on the cable car, head out to the nearby sights of the Zipaquirá Salt Cathedral, Villa de Leyva, Neumocón and the Laguna de Guatavita, all the while sampling the dishes at its gourmet restaurants, and you will be left with little doubt that Bogotá’s time has come.
Colonial UNESCO World Heritage Site
One of the most important ports of all the Spanish Empire, Cartagena’s riches have long been coveted by foreigners, whether English pirates or French buccaneers. The same is true today, as international travelers fall under the spell of its singular, bewitching character. Its walled historic neighborhood was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1984 and now boasts a wonderful range of stylish boutique hotels, perfect bases for exploring its cobbled streets, fun nightlife, international cultural festivals, lush scenery, magnificent beaches on the nearby islands of Rosario and mouth-watering cuisine.
THE COFFEE TRIANGLE
Awaken to Colombia’s Greatest Export
Over the years, Colombia has become synonymous with coffee, the African bean the country adopted and made its own. The country’s central Andean mountain range provides the perfect soil and climate for growing the crop, a land of undulating hills, small agrarian towns and warm welcomes. Many of the owners of the region’s coffee fincas (farms) have combined their traditional businesses with hostelry, converting their country houses into delightful, characterful inns, where travelers can spend peaceful days learning about coffee production and local lore and, of course, enjoying the delicious coffee and natural setting.
THE PACIFIC COAST
Lush, Unspoilt and Beautiful
Colombia’s Pacific Coast, accessible by plane from Bogotá, Medellín or Cali, rolls southwards from the border with Panama 1,350 kilometers to Ecuador. It remains far from the beaten tourist track, despite the natural riches it harbors. Travelers will find a luxuriant and lush coastline where the forest-clad mountains of the western side of the Andes (known as the Chocó) tumble right down to secluded beaches and coves, home to indigenous Indian groups and Afro-Colombian descendants of runaway slaves. Several lodges have opened up recently to offer excellent bases, while the coast is famous for the chance to observe turtles nesting as well as humpback whales courting and mating off the coast.
Wondrous Caribbean Beaches
The oldest settlement in South America, Santa Marta is today one of the most popular coastlines for visitors in the Americas, famed for its stunning, white-sand Caribbean beaches in the Tayrona National Park and the beautiful backdrop of the Sierra de Santa Marta mountains to the south. This combination of beach and mountains makes for a fascinating region, where visitors can relax but also explore the exuberant tropical flora and fauna beyond, learning more about the profound cosmovisions of the region’s indigenous peoples, the Kogi and Arhuaco.
Dynamic & Fun Metropolis
Medellín, Colombia’s second-most important city, enjoys a Spring-like climate year-round, nestled into an Andean valley in the central western part of the county. It’s a dynamic city, enjoying a renaissance under enlightened municipal initiatives that have seen it grow as a capital of art, design and fashion over the last years. Its local people, known as paisas, are famous for their quick wit, frugality, hospitality, good humour and fondness of delicious cooking. The surrounding department of Antioquia with its rolling mountains, flower-growing farms and rural villages makes for perfect day-trips.
Archaeology & Adventure
This region occupies a strategic point where the three mountain ranges of the Colombian Andes branch off in different directions, and where the River Magdalena – Colombia’s greatest river that flows to the Caribbean – is born. The civilization that carved the enigmatic statues and built the funerary mounds of San Agustín controlled a wide territory, benefitting from the country’s amazingly mountainous geography and stunning biodiversity. As one winds up to the small town at 1,700 meters (5,200 feet), one passes through a fertile land of tobacco, grapevines, rice and cacao plantations, crossing rivers and valleys and canyons. San Agustín is not just about its archaeology, it’s about the journey itself.
Every country has its ‘adventure capital’, where the topography and local people’s enterprise combine to create a spot where all those seeking thrills and adrenaline gravitate. Santander is such a place. Here, rafters and kayakers rave about the rapids of the Chicamocha river and canyon, horseback riders and trekkers blaze trails across the extraordinary landscapes, and lovers of the great outdoors head for the Parque El Gallineral. The base for all this fun is Barichara, a charming village replete with fine dining and excellent small hotels.
Country Name: Republic of Colombia
Area: 442.537 Square Miles (1.141.748 Square Km.)
Population: 45.000.000 (growth rate: 1.6% aprox)
Capital City: Bogota
Capital Population: 7.500.000 (aprox).
Colombia Country Code: (57) Bogota (1)
Language: Spanish predominates throughout Colombia with most of the population speaking the language. There are over 60 native languages and dialects, spoken by the diverse, yet not very numerous in population, ethnic groups in several parts of the country. English is widely spoken in major hotels and the main tourist centers and facilities throughout the country.
Religion: Widely predominant Roman Catholic, followed by Evangelical
Currency: The official currency is the Colombian Peso
Time Zones: All of Colombia: GMT – 5 (No Daylight Saving Time anytime)
Measures System: Decimal Metric System. 1 meter equals to 3.3 feet. 1.6 kilometers equals to 1 mile; 1 Kilo equals to 2.2 pounds and 1 liter equals to 0.26 gallons. Temperatures are measured in Celsius Degrees: 0 Celsius equals to 32 Farenheit and 100 C equals to 212 F.
Passports and Documentation: A valid Passport is necessary for travelling as tourists to Colombia. The validity must extend to six months after travel is completed. Nationals of the United States, Canada and most European and Latin American countries do NOT need visas for tourism activities in Colombia. For other nationalities, please ask us or contact the nearest Colombian Embassy or Consulate.
Electricity: 110V AC, square plugs.
Water: Tap water in Bogota is considered safe to drink: However, it is recommended, especially for sensitive stomachs, to drink bottled water. Elsewhere, it is better to drink bottled water only, available throughout the country.
Transportation: Colombia is easily accessible by its main International Airport, located in the country’s capital city of Bogota. Other international, regional and local airports serve all of the country’s geographical regions. Cartagena, Barranquilla and other sea ports on the Caribbean seaboard are a popular way of access for visitors arriving on cruise ships. An ample network of roads provides the facilities for land travel in Colombia. The modern Trans Millenio Rapid Bus System, plus a wide system of taxis and public bus services in Bogota as well as between cities and in the other major cities complement the transportation facilities available throughout most of Colombia.
Communications: Telephone communications for local, national and international calls are available at public cabins and booths, as well as hotels (some surcharges may apply) and other tourist venues. Prepaid phone cards are also available, it is recommended to make sure to use reliable and compatible carriers. Cell or mobile phones are also available and can be rented by tourists. Internet services are also widely offered at hotels (usually free for guests); Wi-Fi zones at most tourist venues and on cyber cafes.
Opening Hours: Offices are mostly open 09:00 to 18:00, Monday to Friday. Banks open from 09:00 to 15:00, Monday to Friday.
Currency Exchange, Credit Cards & Banking Facilities: Foreign exchange transactions can be made at banks, exchange houses or authorized hotels, restaurants and clubs. Visitors are not recommended to be tempted by the premiums offered by street black marketers.
Credit and debit cards are widely accepted at most tourist locations and facilities. Do check with your credit or debit card companies for details about acceptability and possible restrictions.
Shopping and Souvenirs: Most shops open Monday to Friday from 09:30 am until up to 19:00 pm. The Colombian textile industry is well recognized, particularly in South America and Europe. Clothing, including lingerie, is considered as high quality and very affordable. Leather garments, shoes and accessories are also interesting for travelers. The best place to buy is, reputedly, Medellin, known as the fashion capital of Colombia, where you can buy high quality goods at great prices. Colombian emeralds and 18k gold jewelry are also traditional and good buys, most of them bearing attractive pre-Columbian designs. Handicrafts and jewelry are commonly found in markets and street corners, in addition to stores.
Tipping: Tipping, even though customary, is a personal matter, related to your impressions of how you were served. To express your satisfaction, the following international guidelines, per person, can be followed:
$ 10, per day, for guide
$ 5, per day, for driver
In restaurants, bars and beauty parlors it is customary to give 10% of the total charge, if not already included in the bill.
Restaurants and bars add 16% to the bill and a 10% for hotels. However, waiters will usually expect a 10% cash tip, in addition.
Security, Valuables: Just like anywhere in the world, normal precautions to be taken are not to venture alone or even in couples into solitary, marginal or poorly illuminated areas; not to accept offers, gifts or unrequested assistance from strangers and not to carry flashy objects such as jewelry, electronic gadgets and others that might tempt thieves. In wild or nature areas, the main hazard is getting lost if walking or hiking alone. The company of a certified and reliable guide, ranger or similar is recommended and, otherwise, to advice the nearest authorities or your lodging place what your exploration plans are. Your valuables are best kept at the hotels and lodgings’ safety boxes. A photocopy of your passport or other photo ID is useful to carry handy with you.
Health and Medical Facilities: Bogota, the capital, as well as other major cities, do have high-level hospitals and medical facilities. The major hotels offer on-call medical assistance on the main cities and in the most developed tourist centers. Travelers are suggested to seek the advice of their physicians prior to travelling for dietary restrictions; altitude precautions; vaccines, etc. The local tour operator should be informed in advance of dietary restrictions and medical conditions which might require special care.
Climate and weather conditions vary widely according to seasonal factors; regional and ecological characteristics; altitude and other elements. Thus, it is recommended to look for specific advice regarding climate, weather and appropriate clothing, depending on the places you are planning to visit and the time of the year your trip is being planned for. Please ask us for details.
Colombia’s cuisine is, like in many of the neighboring South American countries, heavily influenced by the Spanish and indigenous populations. The diversity of habitats, from the coast to the high Andes and the Amazon region, provide a large supply of vegetables, fruits, cereals, grains and meats, from fish to pork, poultry or beef and thus delightful combinations and regional specialties. The Caribbean and Pacific areas focus highly on fish and sea food, with other local produce; whilst the Andes and Amazonia rely more on meats and grains and vegetable combinations. Colombia’s cuisine is not as widely known as that of other South American countries, but for the adventurous travelers there are plenty of delectable dishes to try.
A world-renowned country symbol of Colombia is its famous coffee; as well as the popular aguardientes and rums.
By Andrés Hurtado García
Cafés de Colombia
By Liliana Villegas
Culture and Customs of Colombia
By Raymond Leslie Williams
The Colombian Caribbean: A Regional History
By Eduardo Posada
TRIP PLANNER COLOMBIA
Take to Colombia’s high roads and low roads with us, weaving stimulating, diverse and fun itineraries to all of Colombia’s highlights – from the lush Caribbean coast of Cartagena, Santa Marta and Tayrona, through rural villages, coffee-growing hills, buzzing cities, Pacific coastline, archaeological sites and even Amazon jungle. Colombia has something for everyone.