Colombia is doing an excellent job at shedding it's sinister image, as Latin America expert Steph found out on her latest visit. Read on to find out why the country makes an unusual and unique holiday destination...
Tayrona National Park
In the first part of my trip to Colombia, I started out in the green and lush landscape of La Zona Cafetera (the coffee-producing zone) and went on to visit Cartagena, where I would have liked to have stayed forever.
Carrying on along the Caribbean Coast towards Venezuela, the next stop was Santa Marta - the gateway to Tayrona National Park. Santa Marta is always overlooked, because - let's face it - Cartagena is better, but I found a real charm in the place. It hasn't been as well restored, and it isn't bursting with amazing hotels and restaurants, but that's what I liked about it. It's so vibrant and full of local life and colour.
But Tayrona National Park is the real reason people come to this part of the country, and rightly so. Set right between the Caribbean Sea and the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range, the park has jungle trails, huge swathes of untouched beaches (you can't swim here, though, as the sea is so rough) and best of all, Ecohabs. You wouldn't expect a National Park run lodge to be up to much, but these 14 Tayrona style huts perched up on a hillside are one of the best places to stay in the country.
Last but not least: Bogota. I was staying in the Zona Rosa around Parque de la 93 in the north of the city. It's one of the more up market areas of Bogota, which feels very safe, and the pedestrianised Zona T is full of bars and restaurants and is lively every night of the week.
There isn't much in terms of culture here, but if you are looking for that, head down to La Candelaria. This is the colonial heart of Bogota, which is heavily guarded by policeman on every corner during the day, as this is where the Presidential Palace and all governement ministries are. From here, you can head up in the funicular railway to Monseratte for amazing views of the city; visit the fascinating Museo del Oro or the Fernando Botero Museum.
There's a lot to see round here, but I'd still be inclined to do it all in a day trip and choose a hotel in the Zona Rosa, which has much more atmosphere. I only skimmed the surface of Colombia, so there is a lot more to explore, but so far it has ticked all the boxes: adventure, culture, beaches and cities.