Say “Colombia” and most people will immediately think of something negative: drugs, guerrilla warfare, corruption, kidnappings or crime. This is hardly surprising, since the international press regularly features these facts about Colombia.

In truth, Colombia is one of the most beautiful countries in Latin America, and many places are just as safe to visit as other destinations on the continent. So, if you don’t stray too far from the tourist areas and heed current safety advice, there is no reason why you shouldn’t include Colombia in your itinerary. You will be well rewarded if you do. Caribbean beaches, Andean highlands and fertile rainforest claim the highest diversity of flora and fauna on the continent after Brazil, making it a perfect spot for nature lovers. Yet even those places deemed safe and developed for tourism have hardly been touched by outside visitors.

It’s not, however, just natural wonders that draw travelers to come here; good food, great bars and fantastic coffee are a Colombian trademark, while the locals are reputed to be some of the friendliest and most welcoming in the world, and certainly haven’t lost their party spirit. It’s no wonder the national tourism board has adopted as its saying, “The only risk is wanting to stay.”

Places not to miss on your trip to Colombia:

  • Bogotá: A well restored colonial center, cosmopolitan atmosphere and excellent restaurants and bars make the capital worth visiting despite the noise, dirt and crime it is renowned for.
  • The combination of colonial history and Caribbean beaches make Cartagena popular with both foreign and Colombian tourists.
  • Take the six-day trek through the northern lowlands to the Ciudad Perdida (lost city), one of the largest pre-Columbian towns ever discovered in the Americas.
  • Leticia, on the southern tip bordering Peru and Brazil, is a good base for treks and boat trips into the Colombian Amazon Basin.