If you ask the average traveller about Colombia, they’ll look at you wide-eyed with thoughts of unruly drug cartels and merciless kidnappings. And if you tell them you’re actually thinking of visiting, well, they’ll be quick to recount an episode of Locked-Up Abroad or a story about some poor family being held for ransom.
But talk to someone who’s actually visited, especially recently, and they’ll describe a country with a melodic latin vibe, impossibly happy people and glorious green landscapes.
Lauren and I are yet to visit Colombia, but we’re just around the corner in Peru and hoping to drop by. So until we can give our own perspective, here’s a list of articles describing countless positive experiences (special thanks to Felipe from Colombia Quest).
Why You Should Ignore Everything You’ve Heard & Go to Colombia
(from Boots’n’All, by Adam Seper, view article)
This article notes three misconceptions about Colombia:
- Misconception 1: Colombia is full of cocaine-addled drug addicts
- Misconception 2: Colombia is dangerous; you will get robbed, kidnapped, shot, or possibly killed
- Misconception 3: There’s really nothing much to see in Colombia
Adam debunks each of these myths in detail with his own experience. He also goes on to say:
One thing a trip to Colombia did was open my eyes… [it] took a sledgehammer and knocked a huge hole in [the stereotypes]. I urge you to let Colombia do the same thing for you.
This is quite a detailed article on the misconceptions about Colombia and well worth the read.
Land of Enchantment
(from American Way, by Kevin Raub, view article)
This article is more adventurous and talks about the Ciudad Perdida, often called the Machu Picchu of Colombia. But Kevin also refers back to Colombia’s prior reputation, saying:
No, we are not hostages, though we are marching heads down, sucking air like oxygen-deprived Mongols on a relocation trek through the Gobi desert. Some of us think we can’t go on, some of us are thirsty and some of us just want it to be over. But make no mistake, we are not here under duress — we have chosen to do this.
He also explains one of the advantages of visiting a country still marred by a troubled past:
I remember when I saw Machu Picchu for the first time — my view was clouded by the kaleidoscopic colors of various North Face parkas and Peruvian alpaca sweaters. There were just too many people there. Here, we are alone, which lends itself to the whole sense of actually discovering something in 2010 that hasn’t yet been exploited for the benefit of tourism. There is no ticket booth, no bathroom, no coat check, no buses, no overpriced-food counters, no nothing.
Clearly, Kevin shows Colombia is one of those rare destinations yet to be pillaged by the travelling masses.
Bogotá Moves Beyond its Bad-Boy Image
(from USA Today, by Jayne Clark, view article)
While tourists typically flock to Cartagena, this article talks about a revolution in Colombia’s capital, Bogotá. Jayne writes:
The days of Colombia’s bad-boy image as a land of narco-terrorist turmoil are waning. Officials are actively courting tourists with the slogan ‘The Only Risk Is Wanting to Stay.’ And nowhere is the transformation more apparent than in its capital city.
Being a little more modest, an American journalist in the article says:
Bogotá has problems, like any other city. But a decade ago there was a feeling of being under siege and that’s gone.
Even the statistics support these claims:
In 2008-’09, foreign-tourist arrivals were up almost 11% (at a time when tourism dropped 4% worldwide).
There’s no doubt that the war against narco-terrorism in Colombia continues. But the difference now is that travellers are enjoying Colombia somewhat oblivious to this war. It’s no different travelling to Sydney or London or Montreal and having no idea that officials are fiercely fighting organised crime behind the scenes.
That said, it still pays to be alert and wary. Although Colombia no longer has the highest rate of kidnapping, the rate certainly hasn’t gone to zero; there are still many areas that even locals stay well clear of.
But the opportunity in Colombia isn’t just about travelling to a safer destination. The real opportunity is travelling to a destination that remains off the beaten path. Imagine having the opportunity to travel to Thailand 10 years ago… well, what are we waiting for?