A Bird’s-Eye View of Colombia’s Six Sensational Regions

Amy Stewart

Greater Colombian Caribbean

Many visitors begin their introduction to this diverse country in Cartagena, the jewel of Colombia’s Caribbean coast. This beautifully preserved 16th-century city has marvelous history around every corner, but especially in the UNESCO-listed Old Town, where cobblestone streets and colonial architecture overlook the Caribbean Sea. Once you’ve experienced the nightlife and wandered the street art displays of Getsemaní, head up the coast to Tayrona National Park, where you can fly by helicopter over the Lost City, the seat of ancient Tayrona civilization. This sprawling preserve contains some of Colombia’s most beautiful beaches and pre-Hispanic ruins, as well as monkeys, lizards, and majestic Andean condors in their natural habitats. For the truly adventurous, keep heading up the coast to Cabo de la Vela, where the desert meets the sea. It’s one of the most spectacular—and serene—landscapes on the Caribbean, where you’ll find much more than sun and sea.

Eastern Colombian Andes

Deep in the heart of Colombia you’ll find legendary moors and valleys, home to modernity and skyscrapers, as well as legends and lost kingdoms. This region is home to some of the grandest landscapes the country has to offer, as well as historic locales to explore like the preserved colonial architecture of Villa de Leyva, or the scenic streets of Barichara. All paths start in the capital city of Bogota, with its numerous museums and historic cultural activities, as well as a mix of indigenous, European and Creole cultures. With numerous river basins in the area, this region is also a great launching point for adventure travel. If you can, make your way up into the mountains, where some of the most unexpected biodiversity is on display—the Eastern Colombian Andes are home to a high concentration of páramos, unique alpine environments found only in these mountains.

Western Colombian Andes

Mountains of coffee and flowers await. The Western range of Colombia’s Andes are home to much of the country’s social transformation, where tourism helps build a new future while preserving tradition. It’s here that you’ll find the country’s Coffee Cultural Landscape, which for over 100 years has been home to the unique method that Colombia’s farmers employ, planting coffee in small plots of high-elevation forest, uniquely adapted to the difficult mountain conditions. Something that really distinguishes this region is its abundance of glamping accommodations, so you can fall asleep under the stars, and enjoy your morning coffee in the heart of an actual coffee plantation. You’ll find clusters of traditional Colombian communities here, as well, marked by colonial Spanish influence. Keep an eye out for buildings made from local materials, such as pleated cane walls and clay tile roofs. This part of the Andes is also home to the thrilling city of Medellín, home of the iconic artist Fernando Botero, unique Antioquoian cuisine, and some of Colombia’s best fashion designers.

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