From the darkness of decades past now comes the dawn of Colombian tourism. New and exciting natural adventures await eager tourists who find themselves ready to explore the South American country known for “having it all.” Colombia welcomed more than 1.8 million visitors in 2013, causing the travel industry to take note. On July 17th, Colombian national airline Avianca began a new route linking Cartagena to New York three times a week. Similarly, National Geographic now offers the National Geographic Expedition of Colombia. No longer just a place to go and learn about world class coffee production, the country now boasts a variety of organized tours to many beautiful and uninhabited regions.
“Colombia is adventure,” as the official tourism association Proexport likes to say. From the lush and dense jungle of the Colombian Amazon to the white sand beaches that receive waves from both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, there is no shortage of activities to choose from. We’ll begin in the capital of Bogota. Known for its cultural history and top-rate cuisine inside the city, you don’t have to go far outside of town to find adventure. Surprisingly, a number of water-based activities can be found in this region that just happens to sit in the middle of the country — far from the coastlines on either side of the continental divide. You can repel down a waterfall, commandeer a sailboat, or try your hand at kite surfing at Tomine dam. Take to the air with a paragliding tour of the scenery around Neusa. Back on land, you can head to Chingaza National Park to the east of the city, or Sumapaz National Park to the south, for endless activities including rock climbing and mountain biking.
Halfway between the main travel hub of Bogota and the coast sits Medellin. As a city surrounded by some extreme terrain, you once again will not have to go very far to find adventure. Whether you want to try your hand at climbing a 200 meter tall rock at El Peñol, or just pop a tent at one of the several natural reserves, Medellin gives you options. Like Bogota, paragliding and rappelling can be easily found. You might try canopy gliding, rafting, or just stick to a simple yet scenic hike.
Moving to the outskirts of the country, Huila in the southwest is well-known for a combination of rivers and mountains that provide for whitewater rafting, climbing and hiking, and a variety of activities accessible by horseback. You might also enjoy an archeological experience here, as the Tierradentro and San Agustin are located nearby. Moving to the northwest, we find Choco on the Pacific Ocean. It’s from here that you can witness the ‘Migration Festival’ featuring whales, turtles and birds. With white sand beaches protected by dense jungle, you can take to the water for surfing and scuba diving.
And lastly to the northeast, where Santander runs up to the Venezuelan border and you can pay a visit to the Chicamocha Canyon, named for a river that runs down through two enormous rocks. The rocky mountains make for a wide variety of activities including caving, climbing, biking and even hang-gliding down a waterfall! There are even more adventures waiting in the vast wilderness of Colombia. Pick an activity and we’re sure to find a place within the borders of this great country where you can do it. Zip-lining? Kayaking? No problem! Just remember, Colombia is magical realism.