When I told my friends that I’ll make a trip to Colombia, they asked me ” But, why Colombia?”
Then, when I canceled my trip around the world to come back to Colombia, people again asked me “But, why Colombia?”
And now that I’ve decided to open my travel agency soon for Colombia, guess what people are asking me? “But, why Colombia?”
When you’re traveling, some countries kick you in the gut. You’re more at ease; everything seems natural. It’s my case with Colombia.
This country has stolen my heart. So let me answer this recurrent question that keeps on burning your mouth: But Why Colombia?
1. The smile of the Colombians
Colombians are curious by nature. They don’t hesitate to observe you without embarrassment. And if you meet their look, they will smile at you – sometimes with their eyes too. It’s funny how the “I look at you” culture is different from one country to another. In China, they’re faking to take pictures all around them to have a secret snapshot of your face. In France, they… just don’t care and look at their feet in the subway.
2. Become friends with the locals
During your trip to Colombia, you are “shocked” by one main thing. It’s the kindness of the people. At the beginning, you are suspicious – And it’s normal, how can you imagine a world like that. You avoid answering to their smile or questions and refuse to listen to their advice or invitation. Then, you start to be used to it. Step by step, you open a little more your heart to all this kindness. At the end of your trip to Colombia, it seems natural for you to share an Ajiaco (traditional meal from Bogota) with people you’ve met 1 hour ago.
3. Communicate with sign language if you speak English only
Colombians are not the best persons to talk in English with – Except some youths from Bogota or Medellin. But, they are very patient to try to understand you. Take your time, a deep breath, use the 2-3 words that you’ve learned from a Spanish book – Si, Por Favor, and Cerveza – and translate all the other words with your hands. It’s always funny to observe an Australian trying to speak another language. But you know what? It’s the best way to learn 😉
4. Learn some slang during your trip to Colombia to show off with your friends
Like in any country, Colombians are using their own slang – Chilians are the Nb 1, it’s not even Spanish anymore. It’s perfect to impress your friends and to make Colombians smile. They will love you in less than 30.4 seconds. I’m a big fan of “Que Chimba” (super cool), “Parcero” (Friends, Medellin expression), “Chevere” (super cool), “Marica” (Gay, friendly expression between friends).
5. You never have the feeling to be lost
You always find someone to help you during your trip to Colombia. Once, I arrived in San Antero without knowing anything about the town. I was planning to go to Capurgana, and I wanted to discover some other parts of the Caribbean Coast on my way. The shuttle drops me in the center, and I decide to have lunch before looking for a place. In 10 min, the owner speaks with me, advises me a hotel and calls a friend with a bike to pick me up.
I arrived at Manglecolorao hotel. I ate delicious seafood, surrounded by a lovely family vibe. In 3 days, I’ve been asked to play “je l’aime à mourir” with a ukulele minimum 5 times – I had the feeling to be a rockstar -, went to a mud volcano and received 34 mangos for free – That I couldn’t finish.
6. They call you Corazon, Papy, Mi Amor, A la Orden every time you’re doing something
I’m not coming from a place where you receive a thank you for every good service. Most of the time, it seems natural that you have to do it. It’s fabulous to hear a “Corazon” or a “Mi Amor” when you say good morning or thank you to a lady. Would you like to know my favorite?
” A la Orden mi Amor” – Oh my gosh, you’re killing me Mamita. (At your service my love)
7. Sleep in amazing hostels during your trip to Colombia
There are plenty of hostels in Colombia. It became a business because more and more travelers are falling in love with this country. They take their chance to establish some atypical places to welcome the new backpackers. And the result is astonishing! Casa Loma (Minca), Casa En El Aire, The Dreamer (Palomino), The Wandering paisa (Medellin), Le Serrana (Salento), Casa En El Agua (San Bernardo) and many others. They all have a different energy and awesome vibe to offer.
8. Live near the Darien Gap
Near the border with Panama, two towns will remain in my heart. With my guide job on San Blas, I’ve been living there for 1 year. I’ve learned to love – and sometimes hate – this place. It’s a little far away from everything, and you can only reach it by boat. There is no car, and for me, it’s like a TeleNovela where everyone knows the dirty secrets of everyone. Not touristy yet – Except by Colombians -, there are cool beaches, waterfalls, fruit juices, homemade ice creams – I miss you Chila! Ah yes, the towns are Capurgana and Sapzurro.
9. Chill on islands in the Caribbean Sea
Fortunately for you and me, only Cartagena and Santa Marta are famous on the Caribbean coast. During your trip to Colombia, you can have access to incredible islands where almost nobody goes – Except during the Colombian holidays. I swear, I had the feeling to be like Richard Branson with less hair. Go and have a look to unusual trees on Isla Fuerte, play ping pong on Isla Mucura and swim in the 7 colors sea in Providencia.
10. Kitesurfing in the desert of La Guajira
Yep, There are also deserts in Colombia. La Guajira desert is in the North. The northern city is Cabo de la Vela. It’s an adventure to arrive, but it’s part of the fun – You should do it by yourself. But Cabo is not only famous for his position. It’s also the Mecca if you want to do Kitesurfing and Windsurfing. It never rains, and the wind is omnipresent. There are plenty of schools just waiting for you.
11. Visit the most northern point of South America during your trip to Colombia
From Cabo de la Vela, you can book a 2-days tour to go to Punta Gallinas (Jeep and boat). There are flamingos, a fantastic landscape made of dunes, different blue waters, sandy rocks and you can try the best hammocks of your life. They called it Chinchorro. OMG, you have to try it, it’s better than a bed. I made a mistake by choosing a “simple” hammock the first time. I was so jealous of Dom (my travel buddy).
12. Watch the whales on the Pacific coast
You can have access to the Pacific Coast by boat or flight only. And the inhabitants refuse to build a road to their hometown. Black sand, cliffs, intense nature and music. It’s all you need. You can forget the internet during your trip to Colombia on the Pacific Coast. You go fishing, dancing in rhythm with percussions and running naked in the jungle – optional. Then you can observe the whales from a tiny boat.
13. Discover the Amazon during your trip to Colombia
Did you know there is a town at the border of 3 countries? That you can observe pink dolphins, piranhas, parrots, monkeys, Mowgly – Ok for him I’m not sure yet – easily? Take a flight from Bogota to Leticia and come to live an unique experience. Treks in the jungle, Ecological park, hostel surrounded by animals – mosquitos included – and learn about the indigenous culture. You should stay 5 days minimum and if you’re researching by the police, you can escape to Brazil or Peru through the river.
14. Hiking amazing mountains
There are 3 branches of the Andes crossing all Colombia. These mountains cover 33 % of the country! As a result, there is the possibility to hike through amazing and unusual landscapes like the Paramo (an unique ecosystem between the treeline and the glaciers in Colombia), relax in natural hot springs and climb 5000 m altitude summits. Most of them are protected and sometimes you need authorization to explore them (booking in advance or with a guide). I went to Paramo of Los Nevados. It was cold and muddy. We have been lost in the area called “The lost valley” – What a coincidence! It was an adventure I will never forget.
15. Live in a National Park
There are 58 protected areas in Colombia and they represent 11% of the territory. Tayrona Park is one of the most famous. Its access is easy, flat -Almost- and on the Caribbean Coast. For these reasons, it can be super touristy. Fortunately for you, most of the people are just going to Cabo San Juan and then leave. It’s the perfect spot to do a “trek” alone in the Sierra Nevada for 3 days during your trip to Colombia.
16. The tallest palm trees in the world
It’s written on the paper, they can be 60 m high. I tried to size them myself but I’m way too short to be efficient. So I’ve decided to use my fingers. We all have a mate saying “You know buddy, the gap between my thumb and my pinky is a perfect 20 cm“. After 5 attempts, I failed with this technique too. So I invite you to come to Valle de Cocora and do the experience yourself – Instead of laughing behind your screen :D.
There are 1900 species of birds in Colombia. It’s 20% of the total number of species on the planet. Be ready to observe Parrots, Hummingbirds, Andean Condor, Colombian Woodpecker, Quetzal… – You have to be lucky for this last one. All Colombia is a playground for Birds lover, especially the Sierra Nevada of Santa Marta, Los Nevados, the rainforest in Antioquia, the Amazon and the Pacific coast.
18 . Visit a peaceful and splendid colonial town
The sun is going up quickly from behind the mountains. Now the sunlight reaches the white walls of the houses. Two kids wearing the same uniform, brother and sister I guess, are walking on the cobblestones of the street. It’s Monday and it’s time to go to school. Both are smiling and join their friends on the main square. Around, in the shade of the balconies, some men are drinking coffee, sitting on their colorful chairs.
Isn’t it lovely? Welcome to the countryside of Colombia. I’m a big fan of Villa de Leyva and all the Antioquia region.
19. Have fun with the river/waterfalls during your trip to Colombia
In Nature, I love big trees and water. I guess it wakes up my “Peter Pan” side and makes me want to jump and swim everywhere – I don’t want to become a boring adult, fuck that. Do you like that too? Have a look at the tallest waterfall (La Chorrera) near Bogota, swim in some natural “hole-tube” in Las Gachas or admire the 7 colors river in La Macarena. Say hi to Wendy for me.
20. Visit a coffee farm
Colombian coffee is famous in all the world. An effective marketing campaign (Juan Valdez’s Character) took place around the 30’s to promote the quality of their beans. They select all the good seeds for the exportation and keep the bad ones in the country – more or less. Some Finca/Hacienda – Farm – are open to the public. You can learn more about the coffee history and the different processes. You will find most of them in the coffee triangle (Armenia; Manizales; Pereira).
21. Learn Salsa in Cali
Every night, there is a party somewhere. The game is always the same. First, they glance at each other, evaluating their skills and wondering how it would be together. The music stops, another one starts and he takes the occasion to grab her wrist. Their bodies are flying on the stage, their eyes half closed to feel the music. They are beautiful and the other dancers stop dancing to observe them. You think they are falling in love, that at the end, they will run away from the club to take a taxi. But the music stops, another one starts again and another man takes her hand. Without any last look, the alchemy between these two ephemeral lovers disappeared. Welcome to Cali.
22. Be drunk with happiness and dance, dance, dance
There are many different kinds of sounds and dances in Colombia. Colombians spend their days in music, dancing with life without any worries. Ok, they have an advantage, they have rhythm in their blood. Boys are dancing with their mum since they are kids. Stand up from your chair, smile and let your body speaks instead of your mouth
23. To discover that at the end you will like Reggaeton
I can already hear people saying: “Heresy! This Tom has no taste”. First, you’re partly right. I have a preference for old rock/indie or Deep techno but I’m able to listen to any music if I like the rhythm. I agree, the lyrics are shit and degrading for women. But you have to admit one thing, when there is a Reggaeton song at a party, you only want to do one thing, moving your body like Enrique!
24. Sunday is a party day with Vallenato
Ok, this one is a special one, and you need to go to Capurgana to understand it. I’m always amazed how Colombians think about Sunday as a party day. Most of us (Europeans, Americans, etc.) are crying on Sunday – most of the time with a hangover – because the next day is Monday. But during my trip to Colombia, it was the day to put out speakers, beers, tables and dominos to play and gamble.
25. Electronic music in Bogota
Bored with Colombian music? You want to dance alone, only moving your head and shoulders from left to right. I agree it can be relaxing. In Bogota, there is a significant electronic music culture. Forget Medellin or Cartagena, if you want to enjoy an excellent electronic party in a club during your trip to Colombia, go to the Capital.
26. The carnival in Barranquilla
It’s the third biggest one in the world. There are parades and foam fights every day but what I’ve really enjoyed is the vibe in the streets at night!!! Speakers are out – as usual – at every street corners, youths and old people dance together and the birds can hear the laughs of the Colombian Grandma. Tomorrow doesn’t matter. Tonight the music is on and everyone dances to celebrate it.
27. A perfect country for a digital nomad
Before, people who wanted to travel the world had to set up for a time in big cities and look for a job (waiter, teacher, etc.). Thanks to the technology, there is another alternative now. You can work remotely from your computer. Welcome to the digital nomad world. Colombia -especially Medellin – is a perfect destination for that.
28. Football is more than a passion. It’s cultural
I’m receiving buckets of water on my head for 20 min. It seems the weather is not happy tonight. Whatever it is, I’m waiting in line with my group of friends. The Security guard checks us; I guess we don’t look like bad boys as it’s done quickly. We take our seat – which looks more like a small bath now – and I wave a guy to get a beer. My friend stops me before I commit a horrible crime. It’s without alcohol. I’m thinking “whaaat da fu***ck” but say “no I’m fine. Thank you”. I hear a whistle, the game starts. People are all standing, under the rain with their green plastic poncho. They sing, jump, applause, yell at the referee. It gonna be a fun football match.
29. Play Tejo
One day, a smart guy wakes up with a brilliant idea. He decides to create a game where the goal is to throw metal disks into a box full of clay, iron circles, and papers with small quantities of gunpowder inside them to make some explosions.
Ok, It’s not the real story, but it gives you a rough idea of what Tejo is.
30. Hammocks are everywhere
I have a fusional relationship with hammocks. I had to use them many times at my job and I think nobody can feel sad in it. It’s a cozy cocoon that can swing. It’s hard to do better, no? Colombia has a perfect weather all year long for hammocks.
31. Drink a cold Aguila
Aguila is like Reggaeton. First, you’re not a fan, then you don’t care and at the end you like it. During your trip to Colombia, when the weather is humid and warm – so every day on the Caribbean Coast – you will be happy to get a cold beer in your hands.
32. Drink amazing juices and eat weird/unknown fruits
I tried a fruit which supposed to be like viagra, I ate another one with a cheese taste – Disgusting – but what I remember the most are the delicious fruit juices that I could have every morning, every lunch, every afternoon. Sellers are everywhere, be curious, try them all!
33. Eat amazing homemade spicy sauces
Colombians don’t like spices. But they make AMAZING homemade spicy sauces. They mix chilly, garlic, spring onions, and some secret ingredients. I always camp in front of the stand with my empañadas. The spoon of the spicy sauce stays in my hand until my snack is over – Except when someone is waiting. In this case, I’m sad.
34. Eat hundreds of different arepas
I’m not a big fan of arepas – My friends know that quite enough. But arepas are part of the Colombian culture, and you can eat many different ones. It’s like when Tom Hanks explains what we can do with shrimps. You can find Arepas with eggs, with cheese, for breakfast, for hamburgers, from Medellin, from Venezuela, with butter, dry, not dry etc.
35. Time doesn’t matter
“The soldier’s minute. In a battle that’s all you get. One minute of everything… at once. And anything before is nothing. Everything after… nothing. Nothing in comparison to that one minute” – Thomas – Peaky Blinders.
Colombians have a different relationship with time. They just don’t care as much as we do. It’s why they can’t answer you correctly to the question: – And, how long does it take? I’m still pissed of when I have to wait 30 min at the cashier in a supermarket but I’m learning 🙂
36. Plans are made to be changed during your trip to Colombia
We all like to make plans and it’s normal. It’s reassuring. Do you remember how annoying it is when you have to change your plans sometimes? Ok, this situation will happen all the time in Colombia. But you don’t care because there is always a solution and someone to help you during your trip to Colombia. It’s magical but true. Like Woody Allen said, whatever works 😉
37. Learn to do nothing
It’s more a point in relation to the travel in general. You will have plenty of time doing nothing: Because you have to wait for a flight, because you are on a bus or because you’re fucking lost, with no battery and you’re expecting that someone comes to help you. In any case, take the example of this old grandpa on his chair in front of his door. He’s chill and happy to do nothing. Try, it’s not so easy to do!
38. It’s not touristy yet
Colombia is not touristy yet – Except few places like Tayrona, Santa Marta, Cartagena, Poblado, and Salento. It’s a chance for us because it’s more authentic. Many travelers are spreading the words that Colombia is incredible – like me -, so hurry up! But you have to promise me one thing. Respect the country and the people! Let’s keep this fantastic vibe of dance and kindness. Don’t be the stupid vacuum guy coming for his white powder.
39. You can see the smile of the moon and the shade of a rabbit
As the moon is only the reflecting light of the sun, we see it differently according to where we are on earth. In Colombia, the moon is smiling at us. You can even see the shape of a rabbit when it’s full moon. And I swear I wasn’t drunk!
40 . Make your own opinion of Colombia
This point will be the last, and it will serve as a conclusion. Many people have a terrible idea of Colombia because they see it only through the headlines in the newspaper and the Narco’s series. It’s true that Colombia had a bloody history and the country is not perfect. There are still drug problems and paramilitaries in the country. But you know what, they don’t give a shit about the tourists.
I have got a survey online asking the travelers who have been to Colombia to give their opinion. For now, 35 travelers have answered. I let you read the results.
The link is online. Everybody can give his opinion. Would you like to fill up the survey and help me to provide a better impression of Colombia? It only takes 2 min.
I will update the results every month.
Tempted by Colombia? Awesome!! Now, it’s time to learn everything you need about Backpacking in Colombia.