So, it’s 2016, and there has never been a better time to visit Colombia and explore it’s myriad destinations, remarkable diversity, and varied culture. Of course there are the classics: no self-respecting Colombia traveler ends up missing many of Cartagena, Tayrona, Medellin, Cali or Bogota. However, there are so many incredible destinations to visit throughout the country, that it seems a shame to limit your visit to just the classic Colombia travel destinations. So check out our Top 10 Colombian travel destinations for 2016 for some ideas on a few exciting new places to visit this year…
We might as well start with the last new place I visited in 2015, my Christmas day destination: Nabusimake in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta. The capital of the Arhuaco indigenous people, and where they believe the earth was born, Nabusimake is reachable in a morning from Valledupar (albeit on perhaps the worst road in Colombia!). It is the perfect place to escape the world and unwind: I have never visited a more peaceful place in my entire life: animals calmly roaming freely along the valley floor, giant mountains staring impassively down on you, and surrounded by nothing but the sounds of a babbling stream and birdsong. If you’re looking for that tropical/pastoral vibe in 2016, and want to learn more about one of the oldest enduring cultures in Colombia, then Nabusimake is a must-visit.
2. El Valle, Choco
The Choco has been creeping onto people’s radars for a while now, and a steady stream of the more adventurous backpacking types have been taking the flight over the Western range of the Colombian Andes into the steamy jungles of the Colombian Pacific. However, now is the time to visit the town of El Valle in particular: with the growing tourism to the area, 2016 may be the perfect chance to experience the balance between good infrastructure and a truly off-the-beaten-track place. Bonus: there’s now an excellent and reasonably priced hostel (with a cracking bar and surfboards) right on the beach, in the form of the Humpback Turtle. Plus, who can resist the chance to marvel at the majestic Humpback Whales that pass through the waters of the area between July and October every year?!
3. Los Cerros de Mavecure, Guainía
Guainía is a department that is still off the radar of most people planning to travel Colombia, which is a shame because it has massive tourist potential now that it’s capital, Inirida, and the surrounding attractions are safe to visit: the main one of these attractions is the magnificent Cerros de Mavecure, 3 giant monoliths in the jungle, remnants of the Guyana shelf, and practically unique in Colombia. Most recently seen playing a key role in the recent Colombian film El Abrazo del Serpiente, the Cerros offer spectacular views over the surrounding jungles and rivers, and are still very much an off-the-beaten-track destination – one to brag to your friends about!
4. Alternative Coffee Trail
Colombia’s world class coffee is becoming one of the (many) reasons that people are flocking here: the Coffee Triangle of Quindio, Risaralda and Caldas is the home to rolling green hills, tiny, independent coffee farms, mountains, diverse wildlife, and beautiful eco- and boutique hotels. However, there is more to Colombian coffee than just a visit to a coffee farm in Salento – new companies are offering tours to coffee farms in nearby Quindio towns such as Pijao and Buenavista, which offer all of Salento’s colonial architecture, sleepy Andean charm, and top-notch coffee, at a lower price and with far fewer tourists to share it with. Make 2016 the year you explore the ins-and-outs of Colombia’s most famous and delicious export…
5. Colombia’s Páramos
The Colombian Andes are the home of the largest number of páramo ecosystems on earth (páramo is an alpine tundra ecosystem), along with the largest páramo in the world, Sumapaz, which is an easy day-trip from Bogota. There has been much focus recently on the páramo ecosystems in Colombia in the wake of the crippling droughts that have hit the Andean regions, and the popular documentary Magia Selvaje – these ecosystems are like the natural reservoirs of the nation, soaking rainfall into their spongy vegetation, and providing homes to myriad wildlife species, including the elusive Spectacled Bear. Chingaza and Sumapaz can be reached from Bogota, whilst the Ocetá páramo near the lovely colonial town of Mongui, is said to be the most beautiful on earth. The environment of the páramo might seem bleak and featureless from a distance, but the depth of life, color and beauty contained within them never ceases to amaze. 2016 could be the perfect time to set out to discover a truly unique, beautiful and slightly alien ecosystem, one which is an essential part of Colombia’s vast biodiversity.