My name is Frank and I run a travel agency based in Bogota, Colombia. If you have any feedback or suggestions, please write them in our comments section. Thank you and have a great trip to Colombia!
Travelers often ask ‘What is Colombia known for’? Here is all you need to know! The South American jewel Colombia draws millions of tourists around the year and boggles each one of them with its raw beauty and ingenuity. Rugged topography, crazy festivals, epic biodiversity and scenic beauty-what more can a traveler ask for? This legendary country has it all! Read on to discover 23 amazing -and not so amazing- things that set Colombia apart.
Colombia is a country with multi-ethnicities and traditions forged in time and history but that is not all. Colombia is proud of being the second most bio-diverse country in the world, to each square foot! From tropical rainforests such as the Amazon, amazing beaches to various ecosystems, mountains and seas Colombia is a stunning display of natural beauty. Planning on doing some bird watching? This country hosts over 200 species of birds with the most stunning types of fine feathers found nowhere else on the planet! Moreover, the diversity of the flora and fauna is also worth appreciating in the region.
The country of year-around festivals
No other place in the world celebrates as hard as Colombia! Over 18 public holidays and 150+ festivals pay an ode to life, heritage, diversity and culture in Colombia with festivals that bring in spectators, artists and tourists from all around the world! From the World Salsa Festival to the second largest festival in the world; the Carnaval de Barranquilla, to the unique and stunning Medellin Flower Festival, every city, and every region is renowned for a celebration of a lifetime only in Colombia.
Find more information about Festivals in Colombia here
World’s best coffee
Prepare to taste the best brew in the world -only in Colombia. This country is known for the production of some of the world’s best coffee. Thanks to the ideal weather conditions and geographical location of the very fertile Coffee Triangle that is nestled between the Andean ranges. The best news? You can book yourself a coffee tour where you can see the action live! Growing coffee in the country is also the source of the largest rural employment here.
Beautiful National Parks
Colombia hosts some of the most picturesque National Parks in the world. Over 58 protected areas and National Parks with an abundance of ecosystems and diverse topography such as the Andes Mountains, the Amazon rainforest, deserts, and ancient ruins await your arrival. A paradise for thrill-seekers, the Tayrona National Park was declared as a National Park in 1964 -visitors flock here to witness over 400 species of birds, mischievous monkeys and stunning beaches featuring plenty of adrenaline-inducing activities. Fan of the tropics? Head to the Amacayacu National Park situated on the Amazon River to witness a stunning display of flora and fauna, a stunning view of pink dolphins, heat, and humidity distinct to the Amazon and luxurious lodges on the Amazon River. Heavenly, is it not?
A notoriously wild yet exciting history
Do you enjoy history and legendary figures who have shaped history; both good and bad? Then you must visit Colombia for its home of the infamous drug lord and narcotics godfather: Pablo Escobar Gaviria who is an unforgettable part of Colombia’s violent history. However, the country had come a long way from its notorious drug-history and has managed to emerge as a very safe and secure country where violence is hardly evident.
Gabriel Garcia Marquez was also born here and lived most of this life in Colombia. A celebrated storyteller and Nobel Prize laureate, Gabriel was a true Colombian to the core. His books and literary words resonate with people from around the globe even today!
A sad but true situation all the Colombians try to avoid when talking about their country. 70% of the purest cocaine is produced in Colombia with more than 200,000 hectares of crops. However, the stereotype that all Colombians get high is not true, it is better not to address this topic because people can get sensitive about it.
Nobody does Salsa the way Colombia does! The Colombian city of Cali is the Salsa capital of the world and for good reason! With over 200 academies and 40 clubs dedicated to this fiery dance, Cali hosts the world’s biggest and best Salsa Festival each year in September/August. Salsa caleña is Cali’s take on Salsa, a glorious fusion of fast steps, unique choreography and vibrant costumes. The festival draws dancers, professionals, musicians, and trainers from around the world and is a true celebration of art and dance even in the contemporary era. This festival is a must-visit and truly makes Colombia the Salsa king!
The amazing Bogota
A true tribute to the old and the new, Bogota is the perfect city for those who have their hearts and minds in two epochs of time. The capital city of Colombia sits perched on a high plain in the Andes Mountains and is home to over 8 million people. It is a rather nostalgic and beautiful amalgam of the old and the new; the modern chic areas, towering skyscrapers are a stark contrast to old churches and buildings dating to the colonial eras. The original inhabitants of the area are still present here, dedicated to farming land and tending after their cows and cattle in various city-sectors.
Find more information about what to do in Bogota in our Bogota Travel Guide
The charming and historic Cartagena
Declared as the UNESCO World Heritage site, this city has a charm that is unlike any other city in the country. The walled city-center and old buildings drenched in their own old-school rustic charm are worth exploring on foot. History will speak to you in the forms of cobble-stoned pathways, dainty cafes, and architecture dating back to the colonial era. The old town features a huge fortress, Castillo San Felipe de Barajas that is worth visiting if you ever step foot into this city that will warm your heart immediately. Feast your eyes with the beautiful and vibrantly painted historical buildings sprawled across the city.
Find more information about what to do in this beautiful city in our Cartagena Travel Guide
The modern metropolis: Medellin
The ‘City of Eternal Spring’ and contemporary beauty, Medellin is the modern Metropolis of the country surrounded by mountains. Medellin is a city of moderate temperature, incredible nightlife, towering buildings, all amenities that you could ask for and impressive industry and commerce. Let this city transport you to another world with its infamous discos! Party and relax in this gorgeous city with ragged peaks as its backdrop.
Find more information about what to do in the city of eternal spring in our Medellin Travel Guide
Colombian craftsmen are out of this world! Impeccable craftsmanship, unmatched quality and hard work are what sets the Colombian artisans apart -the Italians better watch out! Colombia is home to many local brands such as Las Malo, which takes inspiration from the beautiful country itself to curate timeless statement pieces and accessories that are appreciated around the world.
Exotic fruits and good food
Colombia is a dream come true for those who crave exotic fruits and are farmer’s market enthusiasts. This country is known for a myriad of fruits that are distinct to the region. Fruits like custard apples (Cherimoya) or the country’s most sought-after passion fruit the ‘Maracuyá’, the Gulupa are just some of the many infamously exotic fruits that can only be found in this region.
Lots of meat, fresh ingredients and a touch of various cuisines sums up the gastronomic affair in Colombia! Thanks to the multiversity and range of climates for different reasons, the Colombian cuisine is diverse and delicious in its own unique way. From the scrumptious platter of grilled steak, fried pork rind, fried egg, a dash of avocado and a bed of beans and rice with sausages and more, the national dish of Colombia ‘Bandeja Paisa’ is a symphony of flavors and a must-try dish for food lovers!
The rainbow river- Caño Cristales
The most spectacular natural wonder is hidden away in the mountain range of Serranía de la Macarena; the river of 5 colors! A natural phenomenon, the ‘Macarenia clavigera’ is the red plant responsible for this stunning display of colors. Bright yellow, lush green, brilliant blue with traces of black and red burst into a cacophony of colors that paint this liquid wonder. You will be left awed for sure! Why not travel to Colombia solely to witness this rainbow river?
Tejo –the unique national sport of gunpowder and beer!
Let it be known that the Colombians do it differently! Tejo is the national sport of the country and it originated over 500 years ago from the indigenous community. The sport comprises steel projectiles, gun powder and yes -beer! Named after the Turmequé town which is now located in the Boyacá department. Best played drunk in noisy bars or buildings outside, this sport lets players take turns in throwing heavy steel disks or pucks weighing up to half a kilogram aimed at board 18 meters away. Crazy? We agree!
Amazon wonders – rainforest and the river
Colombia is home to both the Amazonian wonders; the Amazon rainforest and the Amazon River. The river offers views of three countries, Peru, Colombia and Brazil and is rich in flora and fauna. The rainforest boasts the most diverse ecosystems in the world and is easy on the top of everyone’s bucket list! Fan of trying new food? Try rare dishes originated in indigenous cultures such as the ‘mojojoy’ larva served grilled, fried or even filled with meat or the ‘iyuco’, a broth made with fish, ants, seeds and wild leaves. Wildlife, culture, and adventure await your arrival in the Colombian Amazon!
Gold and Emeralds!
Stare in wonder at the world’s largest collection of pre-Hispanic gold at Bogota’s most famous museum to truly appreciate the laudable talent and craftsmanship of indigenous workers or head to the emerald mines in the Andes Mountains. Colombia is the godfather of emeralds because almost 70-90% of these gemstones come from here! These highly-priced and highly coveted stones make stunning jewelry and are totally worth the dent in your wallets!
Colombia’s internal armed conflict involving the government, leftist guerrillas such as FARC and ELN and right-wing paramilitary groups, drug cartels and criminal bands started in the 1960s and became world-famous. For this reason, the country has a reputation of an unsafe place to visit. However, a peace treaty with FARC signed in 2016 was a huge step towards the end of the conflict and tourism rates increase each time more.
It is common to hear that Colombia’s capital Bogota has the best-spoken Spanish; this is something we can’t assure. There are several different accents and variations of the language throughout the country. What we can tell you is that Colombia has around 68 native languages spoken by nearly 850.000 people! Thanks to the amalgamation of ethnicities and cultures, you can encounter several languages quite different from the Spanish. From indigenous tongues, Creole in San Andres and Providencia islands and the Atlantic coast and the Romani spoke by gypsies, you will want to learn them all!
Great art and famous artists
Like biological mega diversity, Colombian art is so varied that every time you come to the country you will discover more and more. With Spanish, African and indigenous dashes, every piece of art is unique. Ancient pottery, pre-Columbian goldwork, stonecutting, modern sculptures, colorful knitting, amazing paintings and more! Colombia is the home country of world-famous artists such as Fernando Botero, Doris Salcedo, Débora Arango and Alejandro Obregón. Music, literature and film artists have better success. Have you heard of Shakira, Juanes, Carlos Vives, Toto la Momposina or reggaeton singers J Balvin and Maluma, TV star Sofia Vergara, film producer Ciro Guerra or Nobel winner Gabriel Garcia Marquez?
Surely one thing Colombia is known for is the top performance of its athletes. Cycling is one of the highlights, with Nairo Quintana, Rigoberto Uran and Egan Bernal winning classic world competitions such as the Giro d’Italia, the Tour de France or the Vuelta a España. Car racing has its Colombian representative: Juan Pablo Montoya, winner of several prizes but most known for his triumph in Formula 1 and NASCAR. The female quota is represented by Mariana Pajon and Caterine Ibarguen, world leaders in BMX and athletics, respectively. And how could we forget about football? James Rodriguez and Falcao Garcia are perhaps the most famous Colombian players of this time (without mentioning Pibe Valderrama), but there are tons of youngsters trying to make their life better in this country through football, the sport that Colombians are passionate about!
A common stereotype about Colombia is that women are breathtaking. What can we say? There’s no accounting for taste. However, for one reason Colombia has succeeded in international beauty pageants, winning Miss Universe 2 times and having 4 vice-queens. Since most festivals include a beauty contest in their schedule, beauty is celebrated everywhere in the country!
Everyone loves the beach, right? Well, Colombia not only has one ocean but two! The Atlantic and the Pacific. With 1,760 kilometers of coastline on the Caribbean Sea and 1,300 kilometers on the Pacific, Colombia makes part of the selected category of 21 countries with two oceans. Each one hosts diverse wildlife and accompanies different cultural traditions, so you should visit both regions to know better what this country has to offer.
No matter which city you are in, if you arrange a meeting with a Colombian, you will probably have to wait some minutes for them to come. Traditionally, Colombians take 5 to 15 minutes to get to an appointment, of course, it depends on what kind of appointment it is and the person in question. It is not worth getting mad about it! This is just an aspect to consider when you visit.
All this and a myriad of other scenic wonders, friendly people and architectural beauty make Colombia one of the most visited getaways today! If you feel like going to Colombia in the meantime, you can find the most interesting destinations in the country in my Colombia travel guide.
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