Colombia might just be my favourite South American country, I was sulking for days after we left and can't wait to go back. Our time there was nothing short of magical. Here's my top 5 reasons to travel in Colombia.
1. Colombian People Rock
Colombians are some of the friendliest people I have had the pleasure of meeting in South America. From the Paisas in the central region to Costeños in the northern region they welcomed us to their country with open arms and showed us nothing but warmth and kindness.
As backpackers constantly travelling to new places you are on your guard a lot of the time so it can be somewhat unnerving for people to be so friendly, but in Colombia there are absolutely no hidden agendas, just really nice people.
Sure people are out to make a quick buck sometimes, why wouldn't you? But it's never in an aggressive way - just friendly banter.
Of course you have to be careful in busy cities with pickpockets but that's true the world over and definitely shouldn't be a reason for you to not travel in Colombia.
2. Colombian Culture is inspiring
Because of the horrific violence and corruption people have endured they are extremely resilient.
They always look to the good things in life, they ignore the minor annoyances and let downs and instead notice all the positive things happening around them and cling onto them. I found it very inspiring.
I can always tell a genuine smile from a fake one and Colombian people exhibit the former, smiles that always reach their eyes when they greet you. It's just such a happy go lucky place and a top reason you'll want to travel in Colombia.
We loved how people hang about in parks and squares chilling and socialising, it was so refreshing. And it's such a relaxed atmosphere- nothing starts on time (which was great for my unrelenting tardiness!)
3. Colombia has incredible tasting Food
We absolutely love street food and Colombia didn't disappoint. From Arepas (corn cakes often stuffed with various fillings) to Buñelo (deep fried cheese dough balls) we loved it all.
In Cartagena there was a Caribbean 'Dulce' Festival going on and while I'm normally more of a savoury person I loved these deserts!
On the beaches, simple dishes of coconut rice, fried whole fish and plantain is served. So delicious, I don't think I would ever get bored of eating it!
There is a great hangover cure (you'll definitely have one or two of these when you travel in Colombia) too called the Bandeja Paisa which is a massive plate of beans, rice, fried egg, plantain, pork belly and sausage. So much food! And the tamales (stewed chicken with rice cooked in banana leaves) are delicious. As are the coco locos! Man these drinks could have easily been the death of me - I couldn't get enough! I don't know who invented rum and coconut water but they are a genius!
4. Colombia has a fascinating History
It would be difficult not to be interested in Colombian history. It's so rich, recent and shocking.
Thankfully much of the violence that fell hand in hand with political parties and drug trading is much reduced and hopefully will soon be a thing of the past.
The death of the country's main drug lord, Pablo Escobar, and the recent heavily invested regeneration of terror ridden areas have seen a u-turn in safety in the country, resulting in a now rapidly increasing tourist trade.
Events that have happened within my lifetime seem to strike a deeper chord with me and I loved learning about the politics of Colombia. The transformation from what it was like in cities as notorious as Medellin even 15 years ago is just so incredible it has to be experienced first hand to believe it.
It's very sad that the world's media hasn't caught on to all the positive change that's happening in Colombia and so many people's perceptions the world over are still of a dangerous, drug ridden, no-go country where you are likely to get kidnapped.
Trust me when I say it is now very safe to travel in Colombia and it is now one of the safest places to visit in South America.
5. colombia has a gorgeous Climate
I've never experienced diversity like it in the same country. We only visited central and northern parts but the variation in climate couldn't be more polarised.
Owing to the altitude central Bogota is cool, sometimes cold, and it rains A LOT - you don't go out without an umbrella and a jumper. But on the Northern island of San Andres it couldn't be more the opposite, it's sunny and HOT all the time. Often uncomfortably so!
Colombians in central cities of Bogota and Medellin dress quite conservatively in long trousers and shirts even when it is warmer but as you move further north through Cartagena to the Caribbean coast it's shorts and vests all the way. It's confusing what to wear on the on the 40 minute flights between each because you are either too cold or hot to start with and the opposite in such a short space of time but it's one of the fun things about travel in Colombia.
Because it was the cheapest option, one day we travelled from Santa Marta on the Caribbean coast with a cold 2 hour stop over in Bogota back up to San Andres Island in the Caribbean Sea - it took some acclimatising to!
So if you think you might want to travel in Colombia - do it! If you have and didn't love it, I'm afraid I don't believe you.