Existing Member?

Graham Williams's Travel Writing I hope you enjoy these articles read more at: www.grahamwilliams.net

Why not try Colombia?

COLOMBIA | Monday, 10 April 2006 | Views [8273] | Comments [18]

Wax Palm Valley

Wax Palm Valley

I have been in Latin America since the beginning of the year and one Frequently Asked Question has been; which is your favorite country so far? And the answer has to be Colombia. Colombia, the name itself is enough to strike unease into most people, while the names Medellin and Cali conjure up images of narco terrorists, drug barons and murder on the streets. It’s not the sort of place where most people would think of visiting unless they absolutely had too, certainly not the sort of place you would want to go as part of your trip, but despite the negative press and the dire warnings on the websites of most Western Governments, travelers are visiting Colombia and in increasing numbers; so many in fact that three hostels have opened in Medellin alone in the last year to cope with the demand. 

What they discover is a modern country untouched by mass tourism with colonial towns, world class archeological sites and stunning scenery. One such area is La Zona Cafetera, between Cali and Medellin,  where most of Colombia’s coffee is grown, which has rolling green hills and a pleasant climate but is within sight of the High Andes.

One base for exploring this area is the town of  Salento which has long been a favorite destination for Colombian tourists, with it’s small town feel, lovely architecture, craft shops and proximity to the stunningly beautiful Cocora valley, home to Colombia’s national ‘flower’, the Wax Palm – which can grow up to 70 meters tall.  Here there are also easy walks and pony trekking into the cloud forest, which lies on the slopes of the high mountains. For more adventurous travelers it is possible to go high level trekking into the Pamamo, the unique ecosystem of the Northern Andes, staying in primitive Finchas along the way. This is what I did, climbing up through the hummingbird filled cloud forest to the Paramo, an ecosystem unique to this part of the Andes, its rather like high level grassland but with its own family of plants called Espeletia, members of the Sunflower family and which range in size from a few cms to 5 meters high.

One Englishman who fell in love with the Salento area was Tim Harbor who with his Colombian wife Christina, opened a hostel for backpackers called the ‘Plantation House’ in a country house on the outskirts of Salento.

Says Tim “I came to Colombia meaning to stay a week but stayed three months. I could see the potential for a backpackers hostel in the coffee region and bought the Plantation House a week after first seeing it”

 Since the hostel opened over a year ago, Tim has had travelers from almost 40 counties staying with him, with ages ranging from 18 to 60. 

“ I would say we have a more mature traveler staying here, people who can look beyond their governments warnings”.

Apart from Catagena, which has visits from cruise ships, Colombians see very few tourists so there is none of the hassle and hard sell that is often seen in other Andean countries. Most Colombians are very friendly and genuinely interested in meeting foreigners and this good news is being passed on by travelers. Also security is taken very seriously everywhere you probably in less danger of petty crime than anywhere else on the continent.

South of the Coffee zone is Cali is a modern and sophisticated city with good restaurants and shops and not a narco terrorist in sight.. It also has an excellent zoo with an outstanding collection of Latin American animals.

From Cali the road passes through spectacular Andean scenery to the Colonial University town of Popayan, which has really nice buzz, and some great cafes to sit and hang out in. Popayan can be used as base for visiting the statues close to the small country town of San Augustine. These statues are similar to those on Easter Island and are just as mysterious, no one really knows how put them up. They are scattered around on sites surrounded by beautiful countryside.

Of course bad things do happen in Colombia, and it is a highly militarized country. But if you listen to advice from the locals and always travel by day you should have no problems. If you’re planning to travel in South America don’t dismiss Colombia. I had a great time.

Tags: Travel Tips



I loved Colombia.

You missed out on Tayrona National Park..that's beautiful.

  Guleraana Aug 11, 2006 10:57 PM


We are planning on going to Columbia. Alerts from the Canadian Emassy have made us a bit nervous.

We were hoping to go to Bogota, Santa Marta, Cartagena areas as well as the way south for a Jungle tour around Leticia.
Has anyone done this?

  Rene Kormos Sep 29, 2006 4:51 AM


I am currently staying in the town of Santa Barbara, 57 km south of Medellin and it`s the friendliest, funnest place I`ve stayed in ages. Not one tourist but me, everyone so friendly that if you don`t wear a smile on your face, don`t come here! I highly suggest this place, just don`t stay at the Palomares, it`s a brothel! Stay at the Centenario Hotel, $5 a night.

  Nancy Oct 15, 2006 6:14 AM


I would like to make contact with Tim Harbor in Salento If anyone has the details please let me know

  Peter Matthews Nov 26, 2006 3:55 AM


If you have quetsions about hte best places to visit the best option is to ask the embassy of Colombia in your city or state. I am a colombian residing in the USA and I love this country , but I will always miss my beautiful mountains, food and warm poeple. They love visitors and they wont harm anyone, tpday thanks to Presidents Uribe actions, Colombia is a safer place and you will ove your visit, I am sure more than one will be surprise with the so many things you can do in COlombia. I would stay for a month to start and really get a grasp of what we have to offer the world. THanks for spreading the good experiences you have in our country. If anyone neds more info contact me. THanks. carofrav@yahoo.com

  Carolina Apr 7, 2007 6:30 AM


I`m in salento right now, staying at the plantation house with a great group of travelers. The number is +5767593403, catch a bus from Armenia (6am - 8 pm) for 2.8 mil pesos and get off at the fire station. In short a quiet, clean, sweet, coffe drinking, mountanous colonial town.....perfect for the layed back trveller or on set on hiking through the hills.
A job is going at plantation house to be the night superviser...nothning to it, free room as payment. Available form the 14th of may...Burn all lonley planet recomendations...burn em all!

  Patrick L`Estrange May 8, 2007 5:49 AM


I have been traveling in Colombia for several months between Cali,Popayan, Medellin, Bogota, Pereira and Cartagena. What I have found is that the people are wonderful, friendly and laid back! The food is great, overall it is inexpensive for food, transportation and accomodations, the fashion is very hip, salsa & vallenato music fantastic, novellas entertaining...I could go on and on. Take the travel advisories with a grain of salt, this country deserves to be seen for what it really is, a beautiful country that you should experience at least once in your life. Viva Colombia!!

  PJ Jun 1, 2007 6:38 AM


A question...i am in a dilemma as to whether to go to Bolivia or Colombia, any advice would be greatly appreciated! Basically i have been travelling for nearly 5 months with a friend who has had a serious accident and is being flown back to England, i was suppose to go with her to Bolivia but now if i go i go alone or the other option is to change my plans completely and travel with friends i have met here in Cusco to Colombia! If you were in my shoes what would you do? I need advice, as i do not know Bolivia or Colombia!

  Michelle Jones Jun 24, 2007 11:40 AM


Both Colombia and Bolivia have some great things to see, although Bolivia has the obvious attraction that it’s a lot closer to where you are now. As it sounds that you don’t want to travel alone, which is quite understandable I would suggest you travel with your new friends to Colombia. It’s a country you are unlikely ever to see if you don’t go now, so take the plunge.

  Will Jun 25, 2007 9:25 PM


I realley loved colombia !!! It was very fun

  Margaret Oct 12, 2007 8:37 AM


I just want to thank everyone for giving our country a good name. My parents are from Colombia I was born in the states, but I've always visted Colombia since a kid. I gone there by myself many times and I've never had problems. What many people don't understand is that the guerillas have their own zone and are really not with people in the main cities, they are actually trying to hide from the Colombia Government because President Uribe is really hitting them hard. If you are thinking about traveling to Colombia I would go to Bogota. There is everything you would like to do out there. Plus it's a very beautiful city. If you just want to have nice weather and have a great time go to Cartajena. That's one of my favorite cities. I hope this helps for those wanting to travel to Colombia. Don't worry go, people there are friendly.

  Luis Giraldo Jan 5, 2008 3:30 AM


Cali is dangerous, to dismiss it's security issues as a place where there's not a narco terrorist in sight is also stupid. Tell that to the American dating matchmaker who was recently murdered in the city. There were also one or two Americans murdered in robberies at ATM's just a couple of years ago. When you consider how few overseas visitors go to Cali and Colombia in general, it's rather striking.

Cali's a city where there are nearly 2,000 murders a year in a population of less than three million. Get a grip.

Common delinquents are the main problem anyway as they are in most Colombian cities. There's a video on YouTube with some footage of Cali street thugs. Bad sound quality though.

  Roberto Jan 12, 2008 2:09 PM


Roberto is officially an idiot

  Peter May 9, 2008 1:58 PM


Dear Robert, I hope you get to read this and if not well then at least other will.

In Iraq there were 16,273 death in 2006. This means that 56.49 people out of 100,000 died.

That alot right...but guess what

In Washington DC (1991) 83.1 people were murdered out of 100,000

Then In Gary, Indiana the rate was 58

In Detroit (1991) it was 60

In Compton, California (2005) it was 67.1

I could go on for a while but I think I made my point.

Every city has deaths and murder...not just COLOMBIAN Cities...

Keep that in mind Robern the next time you feel like visiting Washington DC ...

  Manuela Oct 22, 2008 10:59 PM




  Manuela Oct 22, 2008 11:00 PM


colombia has alot of beautiful sights, and i like it best when i go in groups. the last time i went, 40 americans went with me, all family, along with 7 from colombia. we are orgin from colombia. and like manuela said people die everywhere, people die in there car. i dont think you shoud ever fear going somewhere, because of the death rate, this goes for any country. you shouldnt miss out on the world because what others say. but yes travel in the day. and well someone said that the stores wont rip you off, no lie its like any other country, they will rip you off, they see your american and think you rich. if you ride a taxi, dont ask the drive for the price at the end of the ride, just look at the yellow paper that is laminated and the prices are there, got them. they will try to make you pay more if you speak english in front of them so if you know spanish its best to do it at stores. in armenia and salento, i think the best way of transportation for big groups is Wheeleis, these are jeeps last time we put 16 people on each. and if you order them they will come and pick you up. they can also do round trips.

i have visited Cali, Armenia, Bucaramanga, Medelline, Bogota, and much more little cities.

if you have a big group like mine you can order a bus to give just your group of people a trip around the country if you have any questions email me


i have someone in my family that travels to colombia at least once a month, taking old clothes to the ones that need it there

  Derryth May 7, 2009 4:59 AM


Hi All,

I've been working on and off in Lima, peru for about 8 months. I'm returning back to the States soon but really want to go check out Columbia after I travel around Peru; however, I will only have about 6 days to spend in Columbia. I'm 24 and traveling alone . Any advise on where I should go ??

  Ben Mar 17, 2010 1:38 PM


as a clarification, the national flower is the orchid, and the wax palm is the national tree :) good trip!!!! enjoy it!

  Ana Sep 12, 2011 8:15 AM

Add your comments

(If you have a travel question, get your Answers here)

In order to avoid spam on these blogs, please enter the code you see in the image. Comments identified as spam will be deleted.



Travel Answers about Colombia

Do you have a travel question? Ask other World Nomads.