Do you have a hankering to visit Colombia but don’t know where to start? Perhaps you have always wanted to get under the skin of this feisty country but have been unsure where to begin? Have no fear! We have compiled some top tips that will help if you’re planning an adventure to one of the most exciting countries in South America.
Learn some Spanish
Colombia is still a relatively new country in terms of tourism. Unlike some other destinations, you will find it hard to hold conversations just in English. If you’re travelling to Latin America, and especially Colombia, you will benefit from learning even a few of the most basic phrases. Not only will it make your life easier, but it is part of the charm and fun of travelling! Joining a group tour through Colombia will ease any language barriers but it is often handy to pack a phrase book just in case.
Sample the local delicacies
Each region in Colombia has its own dishes, influenced from a number of different cultures. Avocado lovers can rejoice here as “aguacate” is sold in huge quantities, ripe as can be and often served alongside hearty soups. For your avocado fix you can sample “ahiaco”, a soup usually made with chicken, potatoes, corn, rice, avocado and a small arepa. The latter is made from corn and can be filled with a variety of delicious treats such as cheese, meat or fish.
For those with slightly braver stomach head to Bogotá and try morcilla– blood sausage, often served in a dish known as Bandeja Paisa. If you have an even braver appetite, or you just want to show off to your friend who tried scorpion in Thailand that one time, then you should sample a giant ant in Villa de Leyva. A speciality in the Santander region, Hormigas Culonas, literally translates to “big ass ants” and originates from pre-Colombian tribes. Crunchy and salty, they are often an acquired taste!! To wash everything down, you should definitely try one of the fresh fruit juices easily bought from one of the many street vendors. From guava to orange and coconut to lulo, there are so many flavours to sample! For something slightly stronger, raise your glass, say “salut!” and enjoy the local spirit of aguardiente!
Pack multiple memory cards
Colombia is home to fantastic art, stunning architecture and delightful cobbled streets. Discover the street art of La Candelaria in Bogotá. From doe-eyed pugs to fearsome Mexican warriors, each corner pops out in an array of colour and design. You can even take free walking tours around the area to really get an insight into the huge amount of detailed and artistic graffiti.
For colonial charm and picture-perfect architecture, Salento and Villa de Leyva will fill your photo albums. Meanwhile, Cartagena has a distinct Afro-Caribbean culture set amongst the romantic, vibrant buildings that line the old walled city. Meander through the narrow alleys and admire the pastel painted houses and balconies dripping in flowers.
Remember mosquito spray
With steamy tropical jungles and paradise beach locations, Colombia is an ideal place to soak up the sun and discover a world of wildlife. Just don’t let the wildlife discover you too much! Pack mosquito spray especially if you are hiking through Cocora Valley or Tayrona National Park. You should also make sure you take plenty of sunscreen as the proximity to the equator means Colombia gets hot hot hot!
Keep an open mind
Colombia has had a tumultuous past. This has resulted in it suffering from an undeserved reputation. However it is a country that has opened its doors to tourism, and with it, some of the friendliest locals you will ever meet as well as some of the most diverse and exciting regions in South America. Accept that things may run slower at times, or there may be a language barrier and just soak up the beauty and history of Colombia. Colombian author Gabriel Garcia Marquez developed the concept of magical realism in his country. This theory, where magic meets reality is displayed when you travel throughout the region. From indigenous handicrafts sold on street corners, to ancient traditions displayed through artwork, Colombia is a melting pot of culture and colour. It is quite simply a country that aims to enchant.