Colombia’s tropical Caribbean coast, the rolling green hills of the coffee region, and the rich history of its colonial cities make it an intriguing extension to a South America trip.
As the veil of the past fades into memory, the country’s charms are drawing visitors that want to explore beyond the Galapagos Islands, Machu Picchu, and the jungle. Keep reading for some of the places you can find on a trip to Colombia.
The city was founded by the Spanish and was used as a stronghold for riches on their way from other parts of the empire to Spain. The pirate Francis Drake sacked the city in 1586, holding it for ransom for a month before being paid an extensive ransom in silver and gold.
The response of the Spanish was to build a wall fortifying the city from further attacks-an undertaking that took two centuries and included the Castillo de San Felipe. Today the fortress still stands guard overlooking the ocean and is one of the crown jewels left by the Spanish before the country’s independence.
Exploring the walled city of the historic center, its cobblestone streets, and its brightly painted buildings is a journey back in time. The new parts of town boast chic hotels and international restaurants, and the city’s museums and plazas give insight into the rich history of the region dating back to before the Spanish.
Santa Marta, to the north of Cartagena, was the first city established by Spain in 1525. Simon Bolivar, the liberator of South America lived out the last of his days here, and today the city is known for its thriving restaurant scene and as a jumping-off point to the nearby Tayrona National Park.
The park is home to some of the best beaches in Colombia and is at the forefront of the highest coastal mountain range in the world.
Hiking or horseback riding are the two ways to reach the exotic destinations of the park during Colombia tours, taking you through lush land that was home to the Tayrona culture that proceeded the Spanish.
The Kogi people, descendants of the once-thriving Tayrona, still live in the park, and cultural Colombia trips take you to both their villages and archeological ruins of those that came before them.
A Colombia tour to the coffee region starts in Medellin, a city that has risen from the ashes of the drug trade to become a sprawling metropolitan city that draws a hip crowd from around the country. The city is a gateway to the towns of the coffee region-but has highlights of its own worth discovering. A cable car system, open-air elevator, and green spaces add a modern touch to the historic parts of town. Nearby, Arví Park is a natural oasis with trails that wind through the forest, past streams to mountain lakes and lookout points over the city below.
The coffee region of Colombia is situated in an area where the climates of the mountains and the coast converge to make a perfect environment for coffee plants. The towns of Armenia, Manizales, and Pereira are part of the coffee triangle, where more than 500,000 coffee farms produce crops that are shipped all over the world.
Hills and valleys give way to historic haciendas, stunning scenery, and monasteries. Coffee was introduced to the country by Jesuit priests in the 16th century, some of which gave the locals a penance of planting crops instead of traditional atonement.
The natural beauty of the area and the way of life here is a refreshing break from the world at large. A sea of different shades of green landscapes greets those who venture here on Colombia trips, and visiting a hacienda on a working farm puts you center stage for tastings of the finest blends that the region has to offer.
A manmade highlight here is Salento, one of the oldest towns in the region. Cowboys and farmers gather at watering holes in the evening, and during the day small cafes amid colorful buildings are the perfect places to take in the laidback atmosphere of the town.
For many who visit the coast and the coffee region of Colombia, both the landscapes and the people turn their heads and open up the warmth of the culture, giving a fresh perspective that isn’t typically found on well-trodden paths of other destinations. Colombia approach to tourism is refreshing; the people here welcome visitors and are more than happy to share their land with those who are curious.
Happy Gringo Travel offers Colombia tours to both the Caribbean and the Coffee Region that can be tailor-made according to your interests and preferences. To start planning a Colombia trip that is part of a journey to South America that also includes Ecuador and Peru, contact a member of our team.