Colombian vendor women © Luz Adriana Villa
Until recently, only the more intrepid and curious travellers ventured to Colombia, but after decades of unrest, mainstream tourists are again discovering this unspoilt beauty. Visitors are rewarded with the most diverse and interesting destination on the continent: an exhilarating fusion of entertaining cities, Caribbean beaches, Andean summits, Amazonian jungles, and wide, open plains.
Most visitors start in the capital, Bogota. Sitting high on an Andean plateau, this ancient city was the pre-Colombian capital of the Chibcha Indians and remains a fascinating blend of old and new. The cobbled streets, street markets and colourful Spanish colonial buildings of La Candelaria contrast with the hip bars of the business district. Medellin is the country's second largest city. Visitors will find an exciting nightlife, interesting museums and magnificent restaurants. They can also try paragliding. The Spanish colonial port of Cartagena is the gateway to the country's Caribbean beach resorts. The old town has some of the best-preserved Spanish colonial architecture on the continent.
History buffs who care to venture back further than Colombia's colonial past will enjoy exploring the country's ancient ruins, some of which predate Peru's famous Machu Picchu. Adventurous nature lovers will relish visiting the Amazon Basin, where travellers get around by trekking through lush rainforest, or taking boats along fast-flowing waterways. The environment has many brilliant plants and an awe-inspiring animal population. Wildlife enthusiasts should consider Colombia's enchanting national parks as well.