A hot culture and beautiful people
The Andes, the Amazon, and the Caribbean meet in enigmatic Colombia, a South American highlight that’s growing out of its dangerous past. It’s gorgeous and friendly, a cultural grab-bag; the loudest booms you’re likely to hear are the explosions from the gunpowder-tossing drinking game of tejo, an ancient tradition around here. The key to safety is sticking to the right places. Do see the capital Bogotá, situated on a 9000-foot plateau. In the historic La Candelaria district, you can have local coffee, then take a cable-car ride up towering Monserrate Hill. In cosmopolitan neighborhoods like Zona Rosa, you can walk safely between salsatecas after midnight. Next up is Cartagena, the lovely Caribbean colonial town of plazas lit up with accordion-rich vallenato music. More sea fun is nearby at the coral reefs at Islas del Rosario, or the deep bays and jungle-backed coast at the more remote Tayrona National Park. Offshore, San Andrés and Providencia islands are English-speaking diving centers soaked in Carib culture. Inland, Medellín has shed its drug cartel image, with busy open-air bars at Lleras Park and gondola rides up the Andes. Highway travel is no longer the Russian roulette it was a decade ago, but you’re best off avoiding night buses in favor of planes.