I am pretty sure that by now most people have heard of a magical country called Colombia. Famous Colombians like James Rodriguez, Shakira, and Gabriel Garcia Marquez, have helped spreading Colombia´s fame over the last years. Additionally, Lonely Planet helped by listing Colombia as one of their top destinations for 2017.
It is anyway not that difficult to see why Colombia is absolutely worth the visit. It is a country of great variety that has something to offer and see for every type of traveler. This, combined with its still authentic touch and ever-friendly people, makes it a great tourist destination.
You might think you know what to expect when you buy your Colombia vacation package but there are a couple of things that will possibly surprise you when you first set foot in this beautiful country. We noted down the 6 most unexpected things you will notice when traveling in Colombia.
First things first. The country is called Colombia, after Cristóbal Colón. Colombians can get really annoyed when you mispronounce or misspell the country´s name as Columbia so be careful when using it once you are in the country.
Columbia could be a clothing brand or could be the name of places in U.S.A. and Canada but it has absolutely less than zero to do with Colombia. You will find a lot of merchandise and souvenirs with the phrase “It´s Colombia, not Columbia” thanks to a social media campaign launched in 2015. The main goal of this campaign was to change the image and perception of Colombia abroad.
Thanks to its fertile soils, Colombia is rich in natural resources. Lots of fruits, vegetables and crops can grow easily in most parts of the country. Despite this natural variety in food options, there are two ingredients Colombians seem not to be able to live without: rice and plantain.
Almost every dish will be served with a portion of white rice or patacones – little fried pancakes made of plantain. And, if you are lucky, they will actually serve them together in one dish.
The more remote the area, the more difficult it becomes to eat varied meals and you will have to get used to eating rice or plantain for breakfast, lunch and dinner. However, for those who easily get fed up of eating the same, there are usually also potatoes and yucca available in any part of the country.
Additionally, you will always be served arepas for breakfast. Arepas are type of salty pancake made of ground maize or cooked flour. It is sometimes served with accompaniments such as cheese or avocado.
Colombia is renowned for their coffee as it is the third biggest coffee exporter in the world. The quality of Colombia´s coffee is top-notch, and is drunk all over the world.
Nonetheless, did you know that the coffee that stays in the country is actually the one of lower quality? The highest quality beans are selected for export only, meaning that the coffee they serve you in your hotel or after your meal in a restaurant, might not be as delicious as you expected it to be.
In the coffee zone itself you will obviously be able to get a really good cup of coffee but it may be harder to find in other areas. Moreover, Colombians drink something called ´tinto´- the working-class coffee, which is smaller and thicker coffee made from lower quality beans, and more concentrated than normal coffee.
People typically sell tinto in thermoses in the streets and it is really cheap. But, this doesn’t mean you cannot get good coffee in Colombia. Juan Valdez is wide-spread Colombian coffee shop chain similar to Starbucks that offers great coffee all day long.
When you first try to picture Colombia you probably think of beaches, Cartagena, colonial villages and the jungle. But did you know that Colombia is divided by huge mountain chains? This makes it usually easier to travel by air than by land transport as the little mountain roads slow down traffic a lot.
However, you could also see it is as an advantage because it means Colombia doesn’t only have beaches and jungle to offer.
On clear days you can be treated to spectacular views over the snow-capped mountain. These snow-covered mountain ranges – Sierras Nevada, are the perfect place to undertake hikes to glaciers and spot unique wildlife and nature.
If you like mountaineering or are just fond of adventures and challenging hikes, then you should definitely try to include such a hike in your Colombia vacation package.
The best 2 destinations for this kind of hiking adventure are the National Park Los Nevados in the Coffee Zone and the National Park Cocuy.
Colombians make long days and are known for working long hours, starting really early in the morning. However, this doesn´t mean they don´t know how to relax and have fun.
If there is one hard liquor that almost every Colombian drink when going out or celebrating, it will be: aguardiente. Aguardiente can be roughly translated to ´firewater´, and is a transparent drink of about 30% alcohol with an anise flavor. Colombians drink it in shots and each region of the country has its own typical brand.
However, for those who are not into hard liquors, there is also beer! Poker is the most commonly brand of blond beer and can be found everywhere in the country. There is also Aguila and Club Colombia and more and more crafts beer are finding their ways into the hearts of the Colombian beer lovers.
The ideal way to relax for many Colombians is to drink their Poker beers while playing Tejo. This is a sport in which you individually play against the other players by throwing metal disks of more or less 680 grams towards a clay target positioned 20 meters away.
The clay target has an iron circle in the middle and paper triangles filled with gunpowder are placed on that metal circle. If you hit the triangle with your disk, it explodes, giving you points. They say the more you drink, the better you become at it. Sounds plausible, right!?
You might have never heard of a ‘páramo´, but it is worth knowing it as Colombia is home to the largest extension of páramos in the world. It even contains almost 60% of all páramos world-wide, which can actually only be found in 3 other countries.
Páramo refers to a tropical mountain ecosystem that is treeless and that has its own typical vegetation that is similar to vegetation found in tundra ecosystems.
It is usually found above 3000 meters over sea level, but still below the snowline. It is of huge importance as it functions as a sponge. The typical plants of this ecosystem, the frailejones, capture the water from the clouds and release it in the soil.
This creates streams and serves as the primary source of drinking water in the country, meaning it will probably be of great importance in the future when we are running out of water supplies.
We recommend you to include a páramo hike in your Colombia vacation package and discover this unique natural landscape for yourself!
Some of the best páramos to visit are located close to Bogotá, Villa de Leyva, Popayán and the coffee zone.
Colombia is a country full of wonderful experiences for travelers. There is something special for every type of travelers.
If you are in the process of planning your trip to Colombia, you are probably already familiar with many of the touristic destinations in Colombia. This is a great starting point!
However, there are some special things about Colombia that will certainly surprise you and that you don’t offer read about during your trip planning process.
In this post, we have given you a list of 6 special facts and traditions you will certainly encounter once you are in Colombia.
Knowing these 6 things before you actually arrive in the country might be of great help for you. Specially so you get prepared on what to bring, where to go, what to avoid and what expect.
With this information, you will be armed to be a more informed traveler and therefore enjoy even more your upcoming trip to this marvelous country.
If you need help or guidance with the planning process of your trip to Colombia, don´t hesitate to contact us. We have a team of travel experts looking forward to help you have the best holiday of your life.