Colombia is one of my favourite countries I have visited. When Carly from Curly Bird Travel asked if she could write a blog post about Colombia, and her love for it, I couldn’t refuse. Colombia really has to be experienced first hand, so here is Carly to tell you why now is the time to visit Colombia!
I know how you feel. I was also apprehensive about beginning my South America backpacking in Colombia – especially as a solo female traveler. Let’s be honest; the world doesn’t have the best image of Colombia, and the rise in popularity of shows like “Narcos” in recent years hasn’t helped to improve it. Traveling to Colombia will. I was fascinated and delighted to discover that the bad reputation it may have earned from it’s past has nothing to do with the Colombia you will discover today. All I ask is that you help crush those stereotypes by visiting this charming country and experiencing it for yourself.
You might worry about Colombia being dangerous, scary or politically unsettled, when in reality the vibe that myself and hoards of other backpackers and solo travelers like me were reveling in was nothing but pure positivity. We all agreed that there was something special about Colombia that made it stand out amongst the other countries in our travels through Latin America, and even, in my case, the world. As I started traveling south into Ecuador and Peru, it seemed like every backpacker I met was talking about Colombia. The ones who hadn’t been yet were excited to get there because they had been hearing such good things from travelers like me, who were still raving about the time we spent there and lamenting that we weren’t there anymore. We all wanted to go back, every last one of us. What is it about Colombia?
Trying to put our finger on just what it was, we came to the consensus that there was a certain happy, radiantly positive energy that was present wherever we went in the country, and we could feel its loss when we left. What gave Colombia that special energy, making it stand out amongst the rest?
Well, it starts, and ends, with the people. Of course, there are loads of cool things to see and do. There is Medellin, an “innovator city” with a fascinating history that has completely transformed in the last decade. Quaint and colorful villages like Guatape, Jardin, and Salento are to die for, in the midst of coffee country with cowboys walking around. The Islands of San Andres and Providencia showcased the most beautiful blue waters I have ever seen. The entire Caribbean coast is a backpackers paradise, equal parts relax and party, and it’s easy to get stuck here for months (I did).
Still, Colombia doesn’t boast any huge attractions like Macchu Picchu or the Galapagos Islands. Here, it’s not all about what there is to see. Colombia’s charm lies in it’s people. They bring everything to life. It turns out that could be all that you need for an unforgettably pleasant, worthwhile travel experience. Never have I received or felt such pure, genuine hospitality and happiness from a group of people while traveling like I consistently did with the Colombians – and I have traveled a lot!
So what is it about the Colombian people specifically? For starters, tourism and tourists are still pretty new to them. For a long time – the period from which all the bad Colombian stereotypes have emerged – Colombia was unsafe. During the reign of Pablo Escobar, the entire country was a battlefield, with rebel left and right wing political groups, criminals and drug lords waging war against each other and thousands of civilians caught in the crossfire. It was so violent and dangerous that international travel bans were issued. Tourists could not come for fear of being hurt or kidnapped.
Thankfully, these events are history now and Colombia has come a long way towards reaching peace in their country. Colombians’ hard work is paying off and the tourism industry has finally begun to re-emerge as more and more people are laying their misconceptions aside and taking a chance on Colombia, after hearing so many good things. Indeed, I do think word of mouth is the main instigator in this tourism boom. I myself was intrigued by all the good things I heard when I started researching Colombia, which eased my mind about beginning a solo backpacking trip there.
I think the special, happy energy we feel as we get to know Colombia is a result of tourism still being so fresh. For Colombians, tourism is a sign of progression. Many of them lived their entire lives without seeing outsiders because for so long, people just couldn’t come. To see tourists now in their country is a sign that things are good again. Of course, they are thrilled to see us!
For anyone who has spent a significant amount of time in destinations that are accustomed to, and have become hardened to tourism, you will know how sometimes the treatment you get as a tourist isn’t the nicest. But Colombians love tourists. I can’t count how many times Colombians thanked me personally for coming to visit their country. They know about the stereotypes, they have endured a lot as a nation, and they are so happy and appreciative to see outsiders coming to visit despite it all, and after so much time without them.
If I had listened to the bad news, if I didn’t give Colombia a chance, I wouldn’t have gotten to know my favorite country that I have traveled to so far. The doors are open again, and there is no better time than now to visit Colombia and soak up the luxury of being in a place untainted by tourism, waiting for you with open arms.
Carly is a 30 year old solo-travel veteran who is new to the blogging scene. She has spent the majority of the last ten years living, working and traveling outside of her home country, the USA. She has degrees in Spanish and English languages from Montana State University, and has taken her language skills around the world, living and working in Spain for four years and recently returning from a tour through Latin America, where she fell in love with Colombia and was inspired to write this article. She has traveled to 38 countries in Europe, Asia, North and South America, Australia and New Zealand, but Colombia holds a special place in her heart and at the top of her list of all-time favorites.
Have you visited Colombia? Share your Colombian stories in the comments below.
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