Now is actually the best time to travel to Colombia since tourism is still low. The country is still an undiscovered gem among travelers. You’ll have many premier destinations in Colombia almost to yourself. The Caribbean coast offers the traveler a spectacular experience.
Where to go
Many people are surprised to learn that the northeastern part of Colombia is considered part of the Caribbean. The culture in this area is distinctly Caribbean rather than Latin American. This area is steeped in history. This is the homeland of Colombia’s premier writer Gabriel Garcia Marquez. It’s also the land through which Simon Bolivar, the great independence era hero of South America, lived and died.
The crown jewel of travel destinations in Colombia, and perhaps in all of Latin America, is the coastal city of Cartagena. Since many cruise ships sailing the waters of the Caribbean dock in Cartagena, more international travelers are familiar with Cartagena than anywhere else in Colombia. And while arriving by ship is an incredible experience, Cartagena is also just a very short flight from Miami.
The old colonial city of Cartagena, formally known as Cartagena de Indias, was founded in 1533 and the old part of the city is still surrounded by the huge stone walls that kept out pirates and attackers. Walking along the top of the stone wall at sunset is an unforgettable experience.
For those who enjoy a quieter pace there are several small villages in the Caribbean coastal area of Colombia. Five hours by bus east of Cartagena is the fishing village of Taganga. Not much happens in Taganga but it’s a great place to spend a few days relaxing in a hammock and going down to shoreline to dine each evening on fresh fish just brought in from the sea. Just beyond Taganga is Parque Tayrona, one of the premier national parks of Colombia that offers a splendid and delightful Caribbean experience.
The adventure traveler can also spend a few days hiking through the jungle with a guide up to the Lost City, one of the oldest archaeological sites in South America. Believed to date from as early as the 5th century BC, the Lost City (Ciudad Perdida in Spanish) was only discovered in the 1970s. The rugged 24 mile hike takes 6 days (roundtrip) and costs $150 per person.
A different type of adventure, but much easier than the Lost City, is traveling to the historical town of Mompox, which is about 5 hours south of Cartagena. Founded in 1537 Mompox has been named by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. Mompox is truly a colonial town forgotten by time. If you go there, it’s likely that you will be the only foreign visitor in the small town. But getting is not easy: 4 hours by bus from Cartagena, then you transfer to a small boat for a half-hour trip upriver, then you’ll be meet by a jeep for a bumpy half-hour ride into the town of Mompox.
Finally, the most Caribbean place of all in Colombia is the city of Barranquilla. Hometown to the to the singer Shakira, Barranquilla is becoming more known for its wild Carnaval celebration where the entire city parties all day and into the night.
And to close on a very practical note, the exchange rate between the Colombian peso and the U.S. dollars is extremely good. Essentially, the exchange rate offers the traveler a much cheaper Caribbean experience in Colombia than what one can find on any of the Caribbean islands.
Wherever you choose to go, the Caribbean coast of Colombia offers an enchanting set of destinations where you can spend lazy days relaxing in the sun, explore historic colonial buildings, or dance to the loud rhythm of the local music.