By Stephen Bugno
Colombia is in the news again as The Expeditioner has out. And for good reasons, the Financial Times and the New York Times are talking about tourism in Santa Marta. This country has always been an incredible place to travel: with two oceans, snow-capped mountains, white-sand beaches, lost archeological sites, gorgeous colonial cities, coffee plantations, rainforests, and some of the most friendly and beautiful people on earth.
But there was a little problem for a while with all those drug lords and kidnappings and such, and for the most part that is ancient history. Unfortunately, 40 years of bad press with stories of drug lords, gang violence, and guerilla warfare take some time to wear off.
In the past decade, the tourists have been flooding in. Almost everyone I meet who has backpacked through South America says that Colombia is their favorite. I don’t think Colombia is a good place to get off the beaten track, which many people will remind you. There are still rural places and spots up in the mountains and in the jungle near Panama where rebels continue to rule. Those are places to avoid. So this is one trip where I will keep to the main cities and tourist spots more or less.
But I am taking a risk, as the government’s new tourism slogan reminds me: “The only risk is wanting to stay.”