What springs to mind when you think of Colombia? Great coffee? Colourful cities? That country next door to Peru?
Whatever your answer, I’m pretty sure it’s not deserted black sand beaches, inaccessible by road and shared with nothing but tropical birds. Equally, you probably didn’t picture accordion-fuelled three-day music festivals, or a recent award for the world’s most innovative city.
Colombia is a hugely exciting concept for 2016: a country bursting at the seams with extraordinary natural beauty, endlessly friendly people, vibrant music, fantastic food, white (and black!) sand beaches and world-class diving – yet almost entirely off the tourist radar. This, readers, is what we like to call the Holy Grail of Travel.
Fancy taking a step into the unknown this year? Here is our round-up of five unmissable (and unexpected) experiences in South America’s most surprising nation…
Play Indiana Jones in the Lost City
La Ciudad Perdida – Colombia’s mystical lost city – was only ‘found’ in 1972, yet it’s 650 years older than the famed Machu Picchu (and receives as many visitors in a year as the latter gets in a day…). Accessible through a challenging four-day trek through the heart of the jungle, this is one for intrepid travellers only.
Explore the world’s third largest barrier reef
The little-known Caribbean island of Providencia is a hidden gem; all pearl white sand and turquoise waters, home to the world’s third largest barrier reef. Days on this tiny island are whiled away befriending the fish beneath the waves, or snoozing off the lethal rum cocktails in a hammock slung between palms. With only two tiny flights to the island each day, this is yet to be discovered by the hordes. If there is a heaven, we think this might be it.
Get your buzz on in Coffee Country
Perhaps you expected this one – maybe you even relied on a mug of Colombia’s black gold to wake you this morning (#Mondays) – but there is a reason that Colombia’s coffee is so famous. A visit to the verdant coffee country is not to be missed: staying at quirky haciendas, hiking the lush green hills and getting the caffeine jitters when you can’t resist that fifth cup of Joe.
Go wild in La Guajira
Bear with us here. We’ve given you beaches and diving, coffee and history and culture; but what about getting completely off the radar? Enter La Guajira – a wild and wonderful stretch of endless deserts and salt flats. We’re not in Kansas anymore. Here you’ll drive for hours without seeing another car, trade biscuits and sweets for passage at the ‘road blocks’ set up by local indigenous children and sleep under the clearest sky you’ve ever seen. This is pioneer country.
Live the Robinson Crusoe life on the Pacific Coast
The Caribbean is littered with ‘authentic’ beach resorts offering bottomless piña coladas and free wi-fi. Not so on Colombia’s wild Pacific coast; those instagrams will have to wait. This stretch of volcanic black sand coastline is utterly rugged and remote, largely inaccessible by road and serviced by just a handful of rustic eco lodges. You’ll feel like you’ve stumbled into Jurrassic Park, surrounded by nothing but lush jungle, tropical birdlife and the spray of passing whales.
Ready to hop on a plane? Amakuna offers tailor-made trips to Colombia – visit www.amakuna.com or call 020 7193 7582.