It is fair to say that Colombia stole my heart. It surprised me and exceeded my expectations in a way that very few places can. The people inspired me, the vistas captivated me and the diversity of the country astounded me.
Here are the top 6 places that I find myself raving on about to just about anyone who will listen. Well off the beaten track you won’t find any guidebook touting tourists here. But what you might find, if your lucky, is a little bit of Colombian magic.
1. Las Lajas Sanctuary
Not far from the border town of Ipiales this huge church and religious sanctuary is built dramatically in a canyon between two mountains. The photos do not do justice to the grandeur and tranquil beauty of this place.
2. Laguna de la Cocha
My camera died on the way back from Laguna de la Cocha and I’m sure my tears were more for the loss of the photos I took that day than anything else. Near Pasto in southern Colombia this tiny town is completely and irresistibly adorable. The houses and wooden boats that float along the canal are painted in the most brilliant colours. Bridges adorned with flowers join the shops and houses together. Animals graze and children play in the streets. Everyone stops to say hello and the smiles are genuine and full of warmth.
3. The Tatacoa Desert
When I heard about this place I was tentative, a trip to the desert didn’t seem too exciting. I was delightfully surprised. There was dazzling sunsets, a brilliant show of stars in the night sky and, above all else, the resolutely positive and welcoming inhabitants.
4. Caribbean beaches beyond Santa Marta
Beyond the tourist hubs of Cartagena and Santa Marta there is a wealth of untouched beaches surrounded by mountains and clear blue waters. It is well worth the hot and sticky local bus trip to spend some time in the rugged wonder of this place in the world.
In the coffee districts of Colombia there is so much to see and do. I could write pages and pages on the beauty and diversity of this area. One hidden gem though that I must share is Finlandia. It is the next closest town to Salento a tourist hot spot (for good reason). Finlandia has all the charm, delicious fresh coffee and handmade artisans of Salento, the only thing its missing is the hoards of tourist and inflated tourist prices.
6. Getsemani Neighbourhood in Cartagena
The main square is always filled with locals, the street food is exceptional and cheap. Old men play cards in their doorsteps and Colombian music fills the air. In one of the most tourist driven cities in Colombia this neighbourhood is authentic, enchanting and an experience not to be missed.