Here at House of Coco, as you can imagine, we have some seriously itchy feet but with travel back on the near horizon, travellers eager to embark on epic adventures need look no further than Colombia. From vibrant cities to unexplored jungles, incredible wildlife and a variety of ecosystems, from Salsa beats to the best epicurean trails, Colombia has it all.
The Lost City trek: a Colombian adventure to top Machu Picchu
Hidden deep in the jungle of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta mountains sits Ciudad Perdida, the ‘Lost City’. Built by the Tairona people more than 1,000 years ago in 800AD, the Lost City is more than 600 years older than Machu Picchu. Astonishingly quiet and still largely undiscovered, the Lost City can only be accessed by a single trail traversing forests of exotic flora and fauna, crossing waterfalls and hanging bridges. After days trekking in the jungle, a final challenging climb up 1,200 stone steps reveals the ancient entrance. Although 90% of the Lost City still lies under thick jungle, upon reaching the summit, hikers will discover a series of 169 terraces, a net of tiled roads, and several small circular plazas, all perched high up in the lush jungle mountaintops. Led by a local guide, the rewarding experience will also support sustainable community-led tourism in the region, specifically the rural communities of Kogi ‘jaguar’ and Wiwa people, descendants of the Tairona tribe. Awe-inspiring and remote, a trek to Colombia’s Lost City is 2021’s ultimate challenge.
G Adventures offers a seven-day Lost City Trek from £441 per person. www.gadventures.com
Dancing through Cali, the salsa capital of the world
Cali, the salsa capital of the world is a city with music and rhythm pulsing through its veins. With lively salsa bars and fun-loving locals, the city’s sizzling nightlife is world-renowned and makes visitors feel truly alive. Colombia is hailed as the Land of more than 1,000 rhythms with every corner of the country moving to its own distinct beat, and Cali is famed for its salsa scene and local interpretations of the dance. Visitors can take private daily lessons with a Cali dance instructor who will teach them the ‘salsa choke’, the city’s latest salsa trend, as well as the classic salsa, the mambo and the bachata. Key skills are taught in the classroom but the bars are where dancers will master the attitude. Locally-revered dance spots welcome tourists and beginners with open arms, capturing Cali’s zeal for life. Tin Tin Deo is an old school salsa bar that comes alive with locals at weekends, and continuing on to the thriving string of bars on La Sexta means visitors can dance until the early hours. Over Christmas and New Year, locals celebrate the vivacious culture of the city when ‘La Feria de Cali’ comes to town. This five-day celebration is Cali’s biggest annual event with salsa marathons, all-night dance parties and horseback parades taking place.
Responsible Travel offers a Salsa Holiday in Cali, Colombia trip from £975 per person. www.responsibletravel.com
Discover the only South American country with coastlines on two oceans
Colombia is the only South American country with coastlines on the Caribbean Sea and Pacific Ocean, offering a variety of different beach escapes. Along the Caribbean coast, travellers can visit archipelagos of quiet Caribbean islands surrounded by azure waters, where sandy beaches nestle against deep jungles. One of the jewels of the area is Tayrona National Park, a lush, tropical protected area where the foothills of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta mountains meet the ocean. Dozens of secret trails and jungle routes through the park lead to quiet beaches, where travellers can soak up the laid-back vibes. Heading west, Colombia’s Pacific ocean is where action-packed, opportunities await. Rugged and dramatic, Colombia’s Pacific beaches are home to world-class scuba diving spots, miles of deep, unexplored rainforests and remote beach lodges. Travellers can catch coveted glimpses of humpback whales from July to November, as they journey 8,500 kilometres from Antarctica to the warm waters of the Colombian Pacific Coast to give birth to their calves. With some of Colombia’s best waves, the secluded Pacific waters also attract surfers who see the area as Latin America’s final surfing frontier.
Abercrombie & Kent offers a Colombia: Caribbean Coast to Pacific Coast 12-night trip from £4,999 per person. www.abercrombiekent.co.uk
An intrepid Amazonian discovery
Referred to locally as Amazonia, Colombia’s Amazon region is a vast slice of rainforest that accounts for a third of the country’s total area, yet feels worlds away. The lush rainforests are home to chattering monkeys and sloths hanging from high branches, whilst exotic toads and frogs take shelter on the forest floors. Along the river on the way to the entirely car-free village of Puerto Nariño, visitors can catch coveted sightings of black crocodiles and the Amazon’s pink river dolphin. Tourism is still relatively undeveloped in Amazonia, with little human impact on nature and the indigenous population. Encounters with Colombian Amazon locals provide crucial insights into this beguiling region: most inhabitants belong to indigenous riverside communities such as the Mocaguans, the Ticunas and the Yaguas, who are self-governed according to ancient traditions and beliefs. Visitors can become immersed in the natural and laid-back way of life in the Colombian Amazon, discovering some of the least explored territories of an already intrepid region.
Journey Latin America offers an Off the Beaten Track Colombia: San Agustin and the Amazon 13-day trip from £3,130 per person. www.journeylatinamerica.co.uk
A tale of two cities, from Bogotá to Cartagena
City lovers will not be disappointed by the array of choice in Colombia. Travellers can begin in the high-altitude capital of Bogotá, before heading north to Cartagena, the electric city that reigns as the queen of the Caribbean coast. Bogotá has been a mecca for street artists since graffiti was legalised in 2011, with intricate urban artwork adorning the buildings and public spaces. In historic downtown, La Candelaria is Bogotá’s cultural epicentre and home to some of the country’s most renowned museums including Museo Botero, where one of Latin America’s most important art collections is found. Bogotá also offers a taste of regional Colombian delicacies at LEO, the innovative restaurant founded by Latin America’s game-changing chef Leonor Espinosa, which serves the ancient, ancestral flavours of the nation. Visitors can also indulge in the famous coffee region to reach Cartagena, the brightly coloured coastal city that oozes romance and charms with its traditional architecture, ancient walled city centre and cobbled streets. Local music and rhythms flow through the city, with lively festivals and buzzing nightlife that keep Cartagena moving year-round. Bocagrande beach’s sandy shoreline is just 10 minutes outside Old Town, and to really escape the city, the archipelago of islands just off Cartagena’s coastline boast some of the finest beaches in Colombia.
Hayes & Jarvis offers a Colombia Tour From Bogota 7-night trip from £2,399 per person www.hayesandjarvis.co.uk