Colombia is doing an excellent job at shedding it's sinister image, as Latin America expert Steph found out on her latest visit. Read on to find out why the country makes an unusual and unique holiday destination...
La Zona Cafetera (Coffee-producing zone)
I started the trip in the Zona Cafetera, which is just 45 minutes flight from the country's capital. The landscape is green and lush, and there are a handful of lovely traditional Coffee Fincas which are now boutique hotels to stay in.
There are lots of coffee farms in the area, where you can spend the day learning about the process from crop to cup, and of course tasting lots of the stuff too. And if you don't like coffee, like me, don't worry - there is plenty else to do in this region. The area is peppered with charming little colonial towns like Salento and Filandia; there is Los Nevados National Park if you care for something more active, and alternatively, the stunning Valle de Cocora (home to Colombia's National Tree, the Wax Palm) is perfect if you are looking for some gentle hiking or perhaps a horse ride…
From here, I headed back to Bogota and straight on up to visit Cartagena, where I would have liked to have stayed forever. The Colombians are quite pleased with their Miami-esque skyline in Boca Grande, but the old walled part of the city is incredible. All the buildings have been immaculately restored, and behind many of the discreet entrances you'll find yet another delightful boutique hotel. La Passion is one of our favourites, with its quirky décor and rooftop pool. Plus it's owned by a Frenchman, so the breakfast was delicious.
You don't need a map in Cartagena; it's small enough that you'll eventually find your way back. And if you do get lost, you'll more than likely find some little gem of a bar or restaurant (of which there are hundreds). Particularly fun is Café del Mar, which is right up on the old city wall. It's the place to hang out at sunset. Nearby the Rosario Islands are a great place to spend the day if you are looking for some beach action.