You’ve waved goodbye to 2013 and welcomed in 2014 with the usual merriment, drunkenness and optimism. This year you’re going to work harder, spend more time with your family, read more, do more exercise and quit smoking. Yes, we believe you. But how about some more modest, achievable goals like, for example, travelling in Colombia more?
You could visit the main tourist destinations, such as Cartagena, Tayrona or the Coffee Region, or you could make a bee-line towards some of the lesser-known regions of Colombia in order to get a taste for the real flavour of Colombia. Here’s our list of some of the best places for you to visit in Colombia in 2014.
1. Caño Cristales
This stunning rainbow river will seriously blow your mind. What makes it even better is that it is fairly difficult to get to (you have to fly to La Macarena either from Villavicencio or Bogota) and the best time to visit is between July and December, so mass tourism has not yet taken hold.
2. La Guajira
We have spoken about visiting La Guajira previously on this blog, but we thought it deserved another mention here. Breathtakingly surreal landscapes, stunningly bold colours and eerie levels of serenity mix together to create a totally unique travel destination.
Although Barranquilla is a destination in itself, we are referring more specifically to Barranquilla’s Carnival, the second largest in Latin America, beaten only by Rio. Music, floats, dancing, bright colours and, well, everything you might expect from a massive Colombian party, fill the streets with joy and merriment. A must-visit for any party-goer or culture-vulture.
Only about 45 minutes from Santa Marta, this small mountain town is quickly gaining the recognition it deserves, which is why you should get there before it becomes heaving with tourists. With the mountain air providing a welcome respite from the stifling heat of Santa Marta, this is the ideal place to unwind, walk amongst nature, swim in waterfalls or simply gaze in wonderment at the fantastic sunsets.
So, perhaps you’ve all heard about Cali, the Salsa capital of the world, but how many people actually visit? Sadly, not as many as those who visit Medellin or Cartagena. Yet, as far as Colombia’s cities go, Cali is right up there. Warm, open people, a friendly culture and all the salsa clubs you can shake a stick at are just some of the reasons to visit. Add to that some great museums, a fantastic zoo and nearby attractions such as Buga and Lake Calima and you’re onto a winner.
San Andres’s little sister, Providencia, is your stereotypical Colombian Caribbean paradise. You’ll find golden sands, crystal-clear water and barely a soul in sight. Spend a few days whiling away your time on a perfect beach, sipping some rum and admiring the views but be careful – you might find it hard to leave.
Another destination that we have touched on before, Cocuy is perhaps not what most people would expect to find in tropical Colombia. Not for the faint-hearted, this snow-capped mountain destination is perfect for anyone into hiking, fresh air and unique and beautiful landscapes. With most of the park at over 5,000 metres, Cocuy will literally take your breath away.
8. Las Lajas Sanctuary
Even if you’re not particularly religious, you’ll find it hard not to be impressed by the Las Lajas Sanctuary, near the border with Ecuador in southern Colombia. Precariously balanced in a gorge, this church has been attributed with numerous miracles. Even if you don’t get your miracle, you’ll be hard pushed to find a more awe-inspiring church in Colombia.
9. Isla Gorgona
This small Pacific island, about 35 km from the Colombian coast, is interesting for a number of reasons. From August to October, visitors can enjoy the yearly passage of humpback whales, a good enough reason to visit all by itself. However, the island was also used as a maximum-security prison from 1959 to 1984, with venomous snakes on the interior of the island and patrol sharks ensuring that only one prisoner ever escaped. The prison is now covered in dense jungle, but small portions of it can still be seen.
This under-visited and misunderstood region of Colombia is slowly improving its reputation and beginning to attract more visitors. Impressive thick rainforest dominates the landscape, while raw, savage coastline completes the picture. The Afro-Colombians that live here are extremely friendly and eager to shake off the negative reputation. Here you will find a totally different culture, with unique food, music and traditions.
So where will you be heading in 2014?