10 Reasons to visit Colombia
Okay I know this sounds a bit crazy, but never have I been offered corn in such variety. I’m a vegetarian, so I am always a bit nervous when travelling because you never know how great the vegie options are, but if you like corn, baby you are set for life. But it’s not like just boring corn on the cob, it’s corn in all varieties. There is corn covered in cheese and butter (mazorka) there is corn ground up and fried, (arepas) steamed fresh corn rolls and torta de chocolo, colombian style corn cake and so much more. Top them off with plantains, the massive banana maduro, and beautiful strange fruits of every description and of course delightful drinks fruity drinks, ranging from alcoholic to aromatica, Be you vegan/gluten free/ do not need to worry about being completely satiated.
This is a typical colombian breakfast of empanada, arepa, and scrambled eggs.
Okay, I probably shouldn’t have led with corn but admit it, you’re intrigued! Here we are with the next thing on the list which is actually probably the best thing on the list and that is the incredible generosity of people. In my experience the people you meet immediately change your perception of the idea of Colombians being kidnapping cocaine traffickers. Colombia is not like this. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be careful or safe. (I met a lovely woman who told me the secret was having pockets inside your coat so your stuff is always hidden and close to your body) but most Colombians you meet, want to look after you and have you return again and again. From the taxi driver who locks the door while you wait on the street for your brother to come back to the car, to a lovely woman dressed in a pink pantsuit whom you ride a bus with and who invites you into her lovely little home to show you photos of her family, Colombians are so kind. Even if they don’t speak English, the people of this country are passionate about their home and culture and they want you to savor every last bite. Just “don’t give papaya” as they say.
Meeting Colombians is the best way to experience Colombia.
Speaking of people, there are a pair of people in particular that deserve a space on this list, and that is Alejandro and Karina The two own several different organic farms outside of Bogota and they will feed you heaps of delicious fresh fruit that I mentioned earlier, they will give you fresh organic honey from their bees, and you can drive out of the city and into the countryside, over canyons and valleys, through quiet, beautiful, wild Andes mountains and get to their shade grown coffee farm where Alejandro will show exactly how he grows coffee sustainably, looking after both the land and Colombian people.
And if you’re not into wild andes mountains and altitudes, there are so many adorable colorful towns where you can relax and enjoy at a price point you wouldn’t believe (In general Colombia is insanely cheap compared to the rest of the world.) And, the further away you get from the cities the more interesting they become. You find stunning colonial architecture, vibrant South American colors, flowers, colors, and more. Visit Bucaramanga to experience a big, safe beautiful town and then leave and head for the country to explore intriguing tiny towns.
The colonial mountain town of Zapatoca
The nights out I experienced in Bogota were fun, and what specifically stands out to me is the Aguardiernte (translated literally it means “fire water”), the clear liquor which people will buy in clubs, (by the liter!) and then pour rounds with their friends in shot form, while still at said club. Let that sink into your liver! The regulations are less, the booze is cheaper, you can drink them in public, and most coffee shops let you get Baileys in your coffee for breakfast. BAM!
Also worth noting is the completely original and unusual Colombian tradition of renting a chiva. A chiva is an old bus that has been accommodated to fit up to 30 people, loud music and beverages.
This is a chiva
The typical tourist activities are not to be missed. From the Botanical Gardens in the middle of the cities to the Salt Cathedral of Zipaquirá an epic cave made of salt mines to the Bogota Graffiti tours, there is so much to see and learn! Many of these options come with English speaking guides. It’s helpful to brush up on a few phrases before you go to Colombia, but the country does its best to accommodate in a variety of ways. For example, Adventure Better offers bilingual tours and translation! Don’t miss the museums and art galleries as well, and another absolute must is Monseratte, the ride to the top of the highest mountain in Bogota where you look down at the busy beautiful chaos all around you! Monserrate is also famous for its’ farmers market and quaint chapel, making it a hub for nature and culture.
This is Monserrate
Another opportunity not to be missed are the incredible markets of every kind and description throughout the country. You can find massive markets full of people in the middle of the city full of orchids, eggs, clothes everything, and you can find tiny little markets in the middle of a one horse town with little Colombian ladies making you hot coffee and eggs and arepas. The way you enjoy things feels so differently in Colombia, so always have your eyes peeled for an opportunity to savor.
A common site in a colombian market
This should also be higher on the list because I think it’s so bloody great that the whole world should take note. Every Sunday in Colombia’s big cities, they block off the roads so that people can bicycle, scoot, Rollerblade or just walk/run!! It’s called Ciclovia, and it’s so freaggin forward thinking. I would love this is US and Australia please. In this video I said you didn’t need to wear a helmet, but as you can see, many riders are, and that’s probably not a bad idea. I had so much fun at Ciclovía Bogotá today, and I would LOVE to see this initiative to spread! Thanks for taking me scooting, Adventure Better
A fun day at the cyclovía
An exclusive opportunity that you can only find with Adventure Better is to spend time with real Colombians and learn more about what they live and do. People like Alejandro are all over the country and they can’t wait to show you how they live. A specific incredible opportunity is to visit children who attend rural schools. Adventure Better Founder Zach Morris used to teach English here, and he can introduce you to adorable local children who you can practice your Spanish with and they can practice their English. It’s so adorable with warm fuzzies for everyone!
A fun day visiting Colombian rural schools
While I have not yet been able to see every nook and cranny in Colombia, there are other places on my list that I’m dying to visit including Medellin which is supposed to be very cosmopolitan, and Cartegena which is on the beach and supposed to be incredibly chill. My brother lives in Calli where they evidently invented salsa dancing, and that factor alone is reason to stick around and explore more. Get to booking those tickets!