Located in the extreme north of South America with coasts facing both the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean, the Colombian territory is full of contrasts including tropical beaches, snowy Andean mountains and the dense Amazon forest. This is the land of coffee and emeralds and home to countless animal and plant species. It is easy to lose track of the time when visiting Colombia, whether it is searching for the Lost City of the Tairona people, near Santa Marta, immerging in the colonial charm of towns like Salento and Villa de Leyva or, even easier, relaxing under a shadow by the sea in San Andrés.
The main gateway to the nation is its capital, Bogotá, where the country's busiest airport is located, allowing for multiple connections from destinations all over the Americas and also in Europe. This metropolis is home to more than eight million people and makes for an excellent introduction to Colombia. It is home to great museums, like the Gold Museum (Museo del Oro), and very good restaurants, particularly at its Zona Rosa and Zona G. Bogotá is also a nice hub to spend the night while day-tripping to the neighboring Zipaquirá, with its impressive Salt Cathedral and Villa de Leyva, one of the most visited colonial towns in the country.
Leaving the capital behind, a short flight or about four hours on the road are enough to get to one of the most characteristic regions of the country. The departments of Risaralda, Quindío and Caldas form the Colombian coffee growing axis. This area features several farms, some of them converted into hotels or touristic centers, where you can either sense the coffee plants and learn more about the coffee's productive process. Those really enthusiastic about the beverage might, still, pay a visit to the National Coffee Park, in Montenegro, Quindío. This region also has beautiful colonial towns, like Salento, and amazing natural landscapes, like those in the Cocora Valley, where plenty of wax palms, the national tree of Colombia, are found.
The Caribbean coast is the main touristic destination of Colombia and the city of Cartagena drives most of this activity. One of the best preserved colonial cities in the continent, while also presenting some of the most modern residential buildings in the country, Cartagena is located near some very nice beaches, like those at the Barú and Rosário islands. A four to six days long trail in search of the Lost City, right in the Sierra Nevada, is a great option for those looking for active vacations, while those in search of total relaxation will find their oasis in the beaches of the San Andrés and Providencia islands.
Back inland, Medellín managed to overcome its violent past and is now an increasingly popular destination, thanks mostly to its cultural, gastronomic and shopping offers. Just like Bogotá and Cartagena, Medellín is directly connected to several international hubs, making it an alternative to either begin or finish a circuit around the country.
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