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
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
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
(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 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.