Colombia

Main Beach in ColombiaMain Beach in ColombiaColombia is located in Northern South America, bordering the Caribbean Sea, between Panama and Venezuela, and bordering the North Pacific Ocean, between Ecuador and Panama. Colombia is the twenty sixth largest nation in the world and forth largest in South America. Colombia has the third largest Spanish Speaking population in the world after Mexico and Spain.

The mainland is divided into four major geographic regions: Andean highlands (composed of three mountain ranges and intervening valley lowlands); Caribbean lowlands; Pacific lowlands; and Ilanos and tropical rainforest of eastern Colombia. Colombia also possesses small islands in both the Caribbean Sea and Pacific Ocean

The capital of Colombia is Bogota. The city is located on the high plateau called ‘Sabana de Bogota',2640 meters (8600 feet) above sea level, surrounded by the eastern range of the Andes. Once considered a place to avoid, the capital has cleaned up its act and is fast becoming one of Latin America's urban highlights.  Bogota is quite a modern city with futuristic architecture, graffiti and congestion; restaurants, bookstores and street vendors peddling emeralds, thieves, beggars, street people and drug dealers wrapped around the inner core of the old city. In addition to being the capital, Bogotá is Colombia's largest economic centre. Most companies in Colombia have their headquarters in Bogotá, as it is home to most foreign companies doing business in Colombia as well as Colombia's main stock market.

Best time to Visit Colombia

December to March and July to August are the best times to visit Colombia when most of Colombia's festivals and events take place. From Late December to Mid-January and from Mid-June to mid-July, the tourist places may get very crowded.

Colombia's security has improved a lot in the past years, precautions and safety concerns are like any other mayor cities in the world.

Children will enjoy having a good time in the different malls and would be pleased to taste the different Colombian plates in the hundreds of luxury restaurants out there.

For recreation centers, among the most popular are Salitre Magico and Mundo Aventura park with a lot of attractions for adults and kids.

Getting there

Colombia has good  cheap air links with Europe and North America. Most visitors use Colombia's major international airport in Bogotá - others include Cartagena, Barranquilla, Medella­n, Cali and San Andrés. Departure tax is usually included in the cost of the flight. There are road connections with Venezuela and Ecuador only, which are popular and easy. It's now also possible to cross the border to Panama on a small ferry that skirts the shore

Currency

The currency in Colombia is Colombian Peso. You can change cash  at casas de cambio found in almost all major cities and border towns. Avoid street dealers except where there's no alternative. In Cartagena, they're particularly notorious for ripping off tourists - avoid them like the plague.

Visa

Nationals of some countries, including most of Western Europe, the Americas, Japan, Australia and New Zealand, don't need a visa to enter Colombia. It's a good idea to check this before leaving, though, as visa regulations change frequently. All visitors get an entry stamp or a print in their passport from DAS (the security police responsible for immigration) upon arrival at any international airport or land border crossing - it says how many days you can stay in the country. The maximum allowed is 90 days, but DAS officials often stamp 60 or even just 30 days. Make sure you get an entry stamp or you'll have troubles later.

Things to see and Do

Colombia has an amazement of attractions. Whitewashed colonial villages virtually unchanged over two centuries, or the burial sites of lost civilizations. National parks range from jungle to mountains, volcanoes to beaches, bays and Caribbean islands.

Zipaquira Salt Cathedral

The hauntingly beautiful underground salt cathedral at Zipaquira is one of Colombia's most fascinating attractions. The cathedral was born from an old salt mine, dug straight into a mountainside. Opened in 1995, it is 75m (246ft) long and 18m (59ft) high, and can accommodate a staggering 8400 people. Visits are by one-hour guided tours.

PopayainPopayainPopayain

Founded in 1537, this is one of Colombia's most beautiful old towns. Beautifully whitewashed, Popayain doesn't need to be tarted up for the tourist hordes - it's a living, breathing historic site, with bustling streets and a sizable student population.

Santa Fe De Antioquia

Another Colombian town that seems to have stopped dead some time in the 18th century, Santa Fe de Antioquia is in the heart of paisa (Antioquian) country. Cobbled streets, colonial churches and lavish carved doorways bring this 500-year-old whitewashed town to life. Pick up a pack of pulpa de tamarindo, the beloved local sour-sweet candy made with tamarind.

Villa De LeyvaVilla De LeyvaVilla De Leyva

Founded in 1572, Villa de Leyva was declared a national monument in 1954. A colonial town par excellence, it has been preserved in its entirety - the impressive Plaza Mayor is lined with whitewashed colonial houses and churches. Villa enjoys a dry, mild climate and is within easy reach of the capital, making it a popular weekend getaway for Bogotanos.

Activities

Hiking in picturesque national parks; snorkeling and scuba diving in the coral reefs of the Caribbean; paragliding, white-water rafting, horse riding and rock climbing: Colombia's amazing geographical diversity and sheer natural beauty make it perfect for all sorts of outdoor activities.

Where to Stay

Colombia has some of the best value accommodations in the world. Budget travelers carrying western currency will be amazed at the prices and standards of accommodation through Colombia. For the visitor seeking more up-market style lodgings, Colombia has its share of quality hotel chains and independent 5 star hotels.

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