My First Impressions of Colombia (by Ryan Wallace, Content Manager)

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My First Impressions of Colombia (by Ryan Wallace, Content Manager)

When I announced to my parents that I was moving to Colombia their reaction was mixed. They were happy as they knew I’d always wanted to move to a Spanish-speaking country to improve my language skills and to experience a different culture, but the same question kept arising: “does it have to be Colombia?”

For me, a mention of Colombia conjured images of beaches, coffee and Carlos Valderrama’s inimitable hair, but for my parent’s and, I expect, most their generation, Colombia was a county full of dangers. We did the research together, looking for both stories about safety in Colombia and dangers in Colombia. As well as articles like this one expounding the safety of tourism in Colombia, we found plenty of material that supported the image of Colombia as a dangerous destination. A distinct pattern emerged, however. More and more we realised that all these articles that suggested Colombia was a no-go destination were all at least 8 years old, and all those emploing you to visit the country were written within the past two years.

This was enough for me, my mind was made up and I was going to Colombia. I believed Colombia was a safe destination and, best of all for me, it was a new destination that was off the beaten track. My parents were still worried, but our research had eased them a little about safety in Colombia. I was confident that once I was in Colombia and could tell them first-hand about the country, their worries would be almost completely laid to rest.

So I arrived in Colombia roughly a year ago, with plans to settle in Bogota. I still live in Colombia’s capital. It’s a city full of culture, museums, bookfairs, and an incredible nightlife. Bogota may not have the perfect

Tayrona National Park

weather of Medellin or Cartagena, but for me it’s a city that I’m pleased to call home.

In my first few weeks in the country I did a tour, organised by See Colombia Travel. My first destination was Armenia, where we were situated in order to enjoy the Coffee Triangle, home of Colombia’s most important and delicious export. Here I got to see how coffee was made and where it was grown, as well as seeing the unforgettable views in Cocora Valley. It being my first experience of the sheer variety of landscapes in Colombia, I was swept away. I immediately texted my parents telling them that Colombia was a beautiful country and, of course, that I was safe.

Next I went to the modern metropolis of Medellin. Medellin is a city full of surprises. Once synonymous with Colombia’s struggle with a violent civil war, it’s now a symbol of the country’s incredible progress. A strikingly modern city with a great nightlife, from the looks of the city you could be forgiven for thinking you’d somehow stumbled across the ocean into Europe. Of course, Medellin has retained its Colombian heart, and you can experience the full extent of this by visiting the comunas in the city’s mountains. Once the most dangerous part of the city, thanks the installment of the MetroCable it’s now an area safe for locals and tourists alike.

Following Medellin I was taken to Cartagena. I knew this was the most popular tourist destination in Colombia and so my expectations were high and, yet, somehow Cartagena still exceeded them. Colombia’s coastal capital easily takes its place as one of the most beautiful and enchanting cities I’ve been to. Its cobblestone streets are a pleasure to lose yourself in, admiring the immaculately kept colonial buildings. Cartagena has a relaxed atmosphere that makes you feel absolutely welcome, and boasts a great nightlife that people from all around the world come to experience.

My final destination was Tayrona National Park. I was already struggling to pick a favourite destination in Colombia, and Tayrona just made that impossible. Whether it’s jungles, mountains or beaches you’e after, Tayrona has it all and in abundance. The beaches are the kind of pristine, idyllic beaches that I’d dreamed of finding since I started traveling. The jungles were dense and beautiful, but uncomplicated and easy to hike through. The same can be said of the mountains, which I hiked in order to visit an ancient Tayrona settlement. All in all my two days in Tayrona were unforgettable. I almost filled my camera’s memory with photos, knowing full well that once I showed pictures of the park to my parents they’d understand exactly why I wanted to come here so much.

It worked. Not only had I gone around Colombia and come back completely safe, but I’d come back completely in love and thrilled at the prospect of living in this fascinating country for a while. I spoke to my parents at length, not meaning to sell Colombia to them but, such is the draw of the country, my excited spiels about my travels managed to pique their interest. They’re now planning to come visit me and, best of all, they’re not even worried about safety in Colombia.