Traveling to Colombia: Safety, Sights, and Culture
Is a trip to Colombia on your bucket list? If it isn’t, we think you just might want to put it there.
Colombia is one of the most well known countries in South America, and has recently become a popular travel destination for long and short term visits.
Why is everyone racing to get to Columbia? Situated just south of Panama on the northern coast of the continent, this country is the home of thriving cities, world-class dining, and breathtaking sights. Colombia is renowned for its intriguing history, exquisite natural beauty, and flourishing agricultural community. With so much diversity of culture and landscape, Colombia offers seemingly endless opportunities for adventure!
If traveling to South America is next on your list, our cultural guide to Colombia will help you gain an understanding of this enchanting region! Safety
Before we take a look at the unique draws of Colombian culture, it’s important to consider the safety of the region. Like many of its neighboring South American countries, Colombia has had a past reputation of crime and violence. However, due to the diligence of the current government, Colombia’s safety standards have seen incredible amounts of improvement over the past ten years.
In 2018, the US government upgraded Colombia to a Level 2 Country. This means that, while visitors should still be cautious, Colombia is considered a safe destination for travelers. The Colombian drug empire from the 80’s and 90’s has been disbanded, and the most powerful guerrilla terrorists have signed peace treaties or are negotiating to do so.
Today, the vast majority of the country is safe to visit, with one of the lowest crime rates in the continent!
These increasing safety standards have been all that Colombia needed to become one of the most desirable South American tourist destinations. Since 2007, the country has seen a 10% increase in the number of visits.
Colombia’s history is as intriguing as its current culture is charming. In pre-colonial times, Colombia was settled by the Tayronas and the Muiscas, small communities of people who were known for their abundance of fine South American gold. When the Spaniards arrived in the region, they were captivated by the incredible wealth of the indigenous people and their story of the city of gold, El Dorado. The Spanish conquest and colonization of present-day Colombia lasted until 1819, when the revolutionary leader Simón Bolívar helped gain the country’s independence.
Today, Colombian culture is still strongly influenced by its history as a Spanish colony. Colonial architecture, cobbled roads, and whitewashed or brightly painted buildings invite visitors to explore the past. While over two hundred indigenous languages are preserved throughout the country, Castilian Spanish is the official language of Colombia. The colorful traditional clothing and richly spiced cuisine also carries some Spanish influence.
The Colombian people tend to be very open, friendly, and generous. They enjoy close relationships with friends and give generous gifts on many occasions. The family-centric culture thrives on traditional music, such as Champeta, vibrant festivals, and delicious cuisine. The people are welcoming to tourists and enjoy sharing their language and rich cultural heritage with visitors!
Sometimes called the "gateway to South America”, Colombia is located in northwestern South America, where the Panama canal connects Central and South America. The fourth largest country in continent, Colombia has more natural biological diversity than almost any other nation in the world. Spanning the continent from coast to coast, it is bordered by tropical beaches on both the Pacific and Atlantic oceans. On the west coast, hikers find lush green rainforests descending to hidden coves, while the east side enchants travelers with white sandy shores and secluded island havens.
The interior of the country is populated by the dense rainforests of the Amazon, the vast grasslands of Los Llanos, and the towering heights of the Andes mountains. This mountain range itself hosts three microclimates, with rainforests at the base, cloud forests at higher elevations, and the tropical high mountain páramo in the peaks.
The breath-taking beauty of the country’s lush rainforests, pristine lakes, tropical beaches, and snow-capped mountains is enough to lure any visitor. Sightseeing, hiking to hidden paradises, observing exotic wildlife, or relaxing on the coast—Colombia has it all!
The Republic of Colombia has a thriving agricultural community which provides employment to one fifth of the population. The country produces a wide variety of goods from cut flowers, sugarcane, and cocoa beans to bananas, rice, and corn, and, of course, coffee.
As the fourth largest coffee producer in the world, Colombia is famous for its aromatic blends and single origin roasts. Most of the coffee beans come from the department of Antioquia, a region located in the central northwestern part of the country. Medellin, the capital of Antioquia, is known for its trendy selection of craft coffee shops. The top rated Medellin coffee shop, Pergamino, makes almost all of their coffee beverages from beans grown on the owner’s family farm in the nearby mountains!
Colombia is also one of the world leaders in the flower industry, second only to the Netherlands as the largest exporter of freshly cut blooms. Bananas, sugarcane, and palm oil follow closely behind flowers as the most prominent agricultural outputs of the country.
With agriculture being such a large part of the country’s economy, Colombian street markets are definitely worth seeing! While most of the nation’s agricultural products are exported, a fantastic selection of locally grown goods makes it to the farmers markets. Whether your travels take you to Medellin, Cartagena, or Bogotá, you can usually purchase beautiful tropical flowers, freshly harvested tropical bananas, and famous Colombian coffee blends directly from the source at a street market.
With its increasing safety, diverse cultural heritage, rich natural beauty, and unique agricultural developments, it’s easy to see why Colombia has recently become a favorite spot for long and short-term visitors!