The Magical Appeal of Colombia

with Martha Chapman

ProColombia’s trade commissioner
Alvaro Concha

Roberto Yanqui of MarTour which specializes in packages and FITs to Colombia

The always-colourful streets of Cartagena

When I told friends that I was going to Colombia earlier this year, I got one of two very distinct reactions.  Reaction A:  “Yikes!  Are you sure?  Isn’t it dangerous?” and Reaction B: “Oh you lucky thing!  I’m dying to go – I hear it’s amazing!”

So I’m pleased to report that yes it was amazing, the “fear factor” was totally overrated and in fact we fell in love with this surprisingly diverse and enchanting country.

ProColombia, the association to promote exports, investment and tourism to the country,  held a breakfast/info session for agents recently which brought back many fond memories. The Ontario-sized nation is just five hours flying time from Toronto or Montreal – and because you are heading south, there's no jetlag. Amazing diversity of terrain ranges from the jagged Andes region to steamy Caribbean beaches and vast plains, home to the coffee and tropical flower exports the country is famed for.

Cartagena is probably the best known tourist destination in the country, and is far more than “just” a beach destination.  Sure the days are sunny and nights are sultry, the but cobblestone streets and colourful colonial houses of the walled city (which dates back to the 1500s) are also perfect for the history buff.

With a population of nine million, the capital Bogota is a sophisticated mix of shopping and culture (the Gold and Botero museums are both absolute must-sees), elegant architecture and European-vibe nightlife.

To get between the two, the 90-minute flight is the way to go.  By road – and you don’t want to rent a car on these crazy twisty roads – you’d have to allow about 15 hours. 

Tourism specialist Camila Martinez made special mention of Colombian festivals of every hue from music and art to dance and dancing jeeps (yup): “’We are a festive bunch of people!” After all, if Colombia ranks number 3 on the Happy Planet Index it must be a contented country indeed.

And with tourism up 17% from Canada, Colombia may just be the “new” big thing. “Visitors go home somewhat changed…they have discovered something they didn’t know existed,” says Martinez. “And they can’t wait to tell their friends.” 

Martha Chapman

Martha Chapman Columnist

An OJ columnist since 2006, Martha is responsible for the Biting Questions features as well as special seasonal series. A travel industry lifer known to all in the biz, she frequently covers industry events for Open Jaw.

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