A few years ago nobody dared venture there, but now Colombia is the new trendy destination in Latin America. The Amazon, the Andes, the Caribbean and the Pacific : Travelling in Colombia is a journey through four ecosystems in one country – one of the most beautiful in the region. It is a mixed culture, with magnificent colonial cities and unspoiled nature.
Happy ! 87% of Colombians say they are happy, according to a recent Win/Gallup's poll on the happiness of people around the world. Colombia's is in the lead, far ahead of the UK, or the United States.
No, it's not dangerous to travel to Colombia
The 1980s and 90s were particularly bleak for Colombia, caused by drug trafficking and internal conflict. In power from 2002 to 2010, Alvaro Uribe made the fight against the Farc guerrillas his top priority . During his two terms in office, its membership fell from 30,000 to 7,000, and safety significantly improved.
In November 2016, the signing of the peace agreement between the government of Juan Manuel Santos (Nobel Peace Prize winner 2016) and the Farc turned the page on half a century of civil war. The Farc (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia), Marxist guerrillas, became instead Farc (Joint Revolutionary Alternative Force), a radical left-wing political party. If Ivan Duque, the newly-elected president and close ally of Alvaro Uribe, takes a hard line against the Farcs when he takes office in August 2018 and refuses immunity for their leaders, the reconciliation process will get underway.
Some splendid regions such as Nuqui,, which the Foreign Office has seen as high risk travel destinations, are now open for business. The once heavily polluted cities of Medellin and Bogota have undergone profound social change over the past 15 years.
Medellin, once one of the most violent cities in the world, has reinvented itself by integrating its ' comunas ' - the term for shanty towns in Colombia . It is a model for the whole of Latin America : elected officials from Buenos Aires or Rio visit to learn from the public policies pursued here.
The areas of the country that the Foreign Office still sees as out of bounds are the borders with Venezuela, Peru and Ecuador; areas of very dense forest where drug trafficking persists, no man's lands which in any event have nothing of interest to tourists.
Our clients rate this destination highly
Colombia is a fabulous country, inhabited by people so welcoming that you can't help but want to go back. It's a must-see destination - forget the dangers of yesteryear.
Vincent, Montpellier, January 2018
It was a delightful trip. Everything had been beautifully prepared and thought out by Ollie, who was extremely professional and attentive. The presence of our team member at each stage of the trip (Concierge, guide, driver, etc.) is very reassuring. We have once again proven our expertise !
Daniel, London, March 2018
This 'little Brazil' of Latin America is still unknown !
Frank, Bristol, August 2017
We ensure travel in complete comfort, invaluable in countries whose infrastructure is not yet fully established. Guided tours with private guides ensure a fascinating approach to the country and give you the best possible picture of day-to-day local life. This experience needs to be repeated.
Tim, Edinburgh, January 2018
We only take you to completely safe regions and cities, which are generally safer than neighbouring countries.
And by choosing to travel with us, you are accompanied at each stage of your journey by our guides and drivers, recruited for their attention to detail and professionalism.
You also have the contact details of our Concierge, based in Cartagena. Thanks to his in-depth knowledge, he anticipates our clients' every needs. He will contact you upon arrival in Colombia and will remain at your disposal for the duration of your stay.
Our ' Old Friends ', artists, historians, journalists, and fishermen are also carefully-selected hosts who enrich your Colombian experience. A research professor in history at the University of Los Andes in Bogota (the most prestigious university in Latin America) could have a drink with you to talk about Colombian geopolitics. On the history of the Farc, from demands for access to land to extreme violence ; on Colombia's relations with the United States ; on the reconciliation process and the last elections, they are able to answer any questions you might have. We also invite you to meet an artist who works with a range of materials and who trained at the University of Bogota. Their paintings, drawings and videos have been exhibited in, among other places, the Grand Palais in Paris, the Museum of Contemporary Art (MoCa) in Taipei and at the Imperial Museum of Art in Beijing. They welcomes you to their workshop to introduce you to their work and more broadly, to introduce you to Bogota's art scene. These meetings, together with others we offer, are rare opportunities to see Colombia from a different angle.
We love Colombia so much that we are tempted to make the Colombian Tourist Office's catchphrase our own : 'the only risk is wanting to stay '.
Our favourite spots, cities, islands, and forests
The San Felipe neighbourhood is populated by artists and gallery owners who chose it for its low rents and available space. They now warmly welcome visitors after decades of isolation. A new Bogota Art District (' ADB '), whose heart is centered around streets calle 75 and carrera 20. A must-see gallery: FLORA ars+natura (on calle 77), founded by Jose Roca, former curator of Tate Modern, who brings together botany and politics.
Medellin, the symbol of a changing country
In 15 years, Medellin has evolved from Latin America's most violent to most innovative city. A radical social and urban transformation, symbolised by the Metrocable, a cable car that connects the city centre to poorer neighbourhoods, reflecting the principle of equality which is at the heart of the city's new administration. Another example of this change is the school enrolment rate, which rose from 25 per cent in 2005 to 87 per cent in 2015. Pablo Escobar's former stronghold now tops the rankings of cities enjoyed by visitors. A tour of the city can be made by following the curved and rounded sculptures by Botero (a native of the city), which are scattered around the streets and parks.
In its aristocratic neighbourhoods, as in its popular alleyways, there is a sense of its three centuries of history. We love the city's flamboyantly coloured architecture: the city's restoration has brought its old colonial mansions back to life. You can enjoy the party atmosphere of its tropical nights, in its squares shaded by jacarandas.
Green renewal in Tayrona Park
The 1980s saw the first tourists venture into Tayrona Park. Against the backdrop of conflicts between marijuana guerrillas and CIA-funded paramilitaries this was high risk holidaying at best. Since then, the regular army has cleaned things up, guerrillas and narcos have put down their arms to run mules, or have left for other jungles. The area was returned to its original inhabitants, the Kogis, Wiwas and Arhuacos, all descendants of the original Tayronas. This is a Robinson Crusoe paradise, best explored on foot along the Caribbean coastline, eyes riveted to the snow-covered peaks of Sierra Nevada. Here, far from the bustle of the world, all you hear are the sounds of nature.
This is one of the wettest regions in the world, far removed from any human interference, but rich in native species and with waters teeming with life. From August to October, humpback whales migrate and can be seen in close proximity in large numbers. It is also a surfing spot, a sport adored by the fortunate few who live on these shores or make the effort to travel here.
Providencia, a Sustainable Future
'Please only leave behind your footprints on the sand ' pleads a wooden sign sticking out of the sand at the end of the tiny runway, just wide enough to accommodate small aircraft for 20 passengers amid the tropical rainforest . Around 430 miles off the coast of Colombia, Providencia Island is a small green mountain plonked in a sea of seven colours at the end of the world. Here there are no high-rise hotels, but instead charming coloured clapboard houses of subtle green, purple and faded pink where the 5000 inhabitants of this paradise live, a world away from mass tourism. It is a gentle diving paradise , home to manta rays, sharks, wrecks and beautiful coral.
2 Accommodation that illustrates Colombia's renaissance
In Medellin there is El Cielo, a restaurant that employs former members of Farc and the army. Here the former enemies - soldiers, guerrillas and paramilitaries - have swapped camouflage for aprons and are working together in harmony. And the food does not disappoint : El Celio is considered one of the top 50 restaurants in Latin America.
In Cartagena, there's El Interno, a gourmet restaurant that employs female inmates from a women's prison - the restaurant is actually located within the prison itself. With its cosy atmosphere and gourmet dishes (the menu is created by an award-winning chef) : you quickly forget that you are in a prison. The initiative gives the prisoners an income and helps them to reintegrate into society. The rule is : one day's remission per day worked.