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Cartagena, a gorgeous fishing village on Colombia's Caribbean coast, has excellent beaches, a historic old town (that's entirely walkable) and beautiful colonial architecture. It's also one of the safest places in the country, so it's no wonder it's a popular port of call for cruise ships. Need a break from exploring the cobblestone streets? Stop at an outdoor cafe for excellent pastries and people-watching.
Ten million people call vibrant, passionate, sprawling Bogota home. The energy of this metropolitan heart of Colombia is in part fueled by its hundreds of eclectic and authentic dining hot spots, fantastic wines, and frequent foodie festivals. Ask the locals where they like to eat, then walk off your empanadas and aji with a stroll through the historic district of La Candelaria or during an indulgent shopping adventure on the North Side.
Once infamous for dangerous gangs and drug activity, Medellin has been transformed. It’s now a vibrant destination for travelers seeking a culturally rich vacation. Medellin rises proudly from the belly of the Aburrá Valley, and its natural beauty makes a perfect setting for hiking, zip lining and horseback riding. Travel through lush jungle to Piedra de Penol, then climb the 740 steps to the top—a journey within a journey that rewards you with unforgettable views.
The oldest city in Colombia, romantic Santa Marta is fringed by beautiful beaches and the stunning mountains of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta range. Ancient ruins take cover in the lush mangrove forests of Tayrona National Park, the perfect spot for a day hike. Snorkel along vibrant reefs, then make your way to a café for a multicultural meal that incorporates the flavors of Latin America, the Caribbean and Europe. When the sun goes down, the nightlife kicks up its heels in the bars and discos of the Parque de Los Novios.
The site of the 2013 World Games, Cali is the sporting epicenter of Colombia. Pristine golf courses and countless opportunities for adventure sports in local parks, mountains and deserts are a big draw. Cultural attractions in Cali reflect the area’s rich indigenous history and European influence. Visit an archaeological park to experience tombs, ruins and cave paintings, or celebrate with the locals at a cultural festival. Show off your salsa in a lively nightclub, then spend the next morning recovering with an aromatic cup of that famous Colombian coffee.
The vibrancy of Pereira is due in part to its large population of students, who roam the European-style streets in search of coffee, cheap eats or ways to blow off steam between exams. Explore the nature walks of El Cedral eco-park, then marvel at the exotic creatures you’ll find at both the Zoo Matecaña and the nightclubs of Avenida Simón Bolivar. Pereira is one of the three cities comprising Colombia’s “coffee triangle,” so a perfect cup is never too far away.