29th May 2018
Colombia is quickly becoming a preferred destination for many types of travellers to South America. Many people are choosing to take tours and holidays to Colombia because there's such a wide variety of interesting things to do and beautiful things to see. If you're wondering 'what is Colombia famous for?' we've put together and A to Z guide of this fascinating and vibrant country.
Andes – although Colombia is not the most prominent Andean country, the snow-capped peaks of Los Nevados National Park make for a spectacular hiking backdrop.
Bogota – the capital may be a hectic metropolis but ‘La Candelaria’ (below) offers respite, with its colourfully painted colonial buildings, lively bars and old village feel. Also worth a visit is Monserrate Hill, which offers breath-taking views of the city.
Coffee – The best coffee (Arabica coffee) needs to be grown at altitude and between the two tropics, ideally with one or two wet seasons and volcanic soil. Colombia fits these criteria perfectly and its coffee is considered amongst the best in the world, a source of national pride. Coffee growing is also the largest source of rural employment in the country.
Dancing (salsa) – Colombian salsa is unique and uncomplicated; concentrating on basic footwork and keeping the upper body still.
Escobar – this surname is synonymous with Pablo, Medellin’s former drug lord and Andrés, the footballer who was assassinated following his own goal at the 1994 World Cup. You can take guided tours of Escobar’s Medellin, including one where you meet the drug baron’s brother – slightly dark perhaps, but fascinating.
Fiestas – Colombians love fiestas, the most famous of the many annual parties being Barranquilla's Carnaval, consisting of dressing up, colourful flower displays, Caribbean music and enormous quantities of rum.
Guatape – this area near Medellin is a beautiful series of lakes surrounded by El Penon – a huge climbable rock that serves as a great vantage point.
Hormigas culonas – these fried ants (below) are a traditional delicacy inherited from pre-Columbian cultures which the locals believe to be an aphrodisiac.
Islands – Colombia is blessed with some of the finest white sand beaches in South America – namely the Rosario Islands off Cartagena and San Andres (below) & Providencia which are a short flight away.
Joropo – traditionally a word meaning ‘party’ or ‘dance,’ this is the name of Colombia’s most famous waltz which is often performed in the open air.
Kingdom of Gran Colombia - Liberator Simon Bolivar had a vision of a united South America, and once he had helped free the northern part of the continent from Spanish colonial rule, the Kingdom of Gran Colombia was founded, encompassing present day Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Panama, northern Peru, Western Guyana and northwest Brazil. This republic proved to be short-lived however, and soon split into the disparate countries we know today, although the legacy of Gran Colombia can be seen in the similarities between the flags of Ecuador, Colombia and Venezuela (below).
Leticia – this town is Colombia’s gateway to the Amazon – historically just a port town but having undergone something of a boom recently, is now home to several eco-lodges and prospering from tourism
Magic realism – the Nobel Prize winner Gabriel Garcia Marquez used this literary device, where fantasy elements are a natural part of an otherwise mundane and realistic environment – to great effect in his seminal novel 100 Years of Solitude. Magic Realism is now the slogan used by the Colombian Tourist Board in their new campaign to attraction visitors to Colombia
Neiva – this city is the gateway to the Tatacoa Desert – a vast arid area of stunning scenery which is home to numerous fossils and a good base for star gazing.
Oro (gold museum) – Bogota’s most famous museum which exhibits the world’s largest collection of pre-Hispanic gold, providing an incredible insight into the craftsmanship of indigenous cultures.
Pre-Columbian ruins – the monoliths of San Agustin and the surrounding archaeological artefacts led to this area being declared a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Qué onda – an informal greeting to ask a Colombian how they’re doing – although be prepared for a similarly colloquial response!
Riohacha – this town is a good base to explore the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta (the world’s highest coastal mountain range) and the Guajira Peninsula (one of the remotest parts of the country which is largely uninhabited).
Shakira – Colombia’s hottest pop export and pride of her hometown Barranquilla.
Tayrona National Park – a protected area of Caribbean coast which is teeming with flora and fauna – plus there are stunning beaches and plenty of hiking trails.
Unrivalled bird watching – Colombia is the second most biologically diverse country on Earth and home to over 2,000 species of bird thanks to its varied topography, including the Andean Cock of the Rock (below).
Valle del Cocora – one of the best day walks in the Coffee Zone, this valley is peppered with towering Quindio wax palms – Colombia’s national tree.
Weather – Colombia is one of the most temperate countries in South America with weather is determined more by altitude than latitude – there is a rainy season in the Caribbean with the months of September and October best avoided
Xtreme sports – San Gil is the adventure sports capital where you can enjoy rafting, biking, rappelling and paragliding to name but a few adrenaline rush activities
Yuca – this potato like plant is a staple food for many indigenous communities and in used in several Colombian recipes
Zipaquira – a spectacular underground salt cathedral which is one of Colombia’s cultural highlights – this pilgrimage site houses marble sculptures and is a true feat of engineering.