Sunday 30 November 2014

5 things you need to know about Colombia

1. Its Colombia NOT Columbia!
Fed up with everyone from international media sources to Paris Hilton and even US presidents* misspelling their country's name, a social media campaign was launched last year to shame offenders into correcting their error. 

The campaign is also designed to encourage people to take a second look at a country that most people immediately associate with drug-lords and kidnappings. 

So remember! Colombia is a country, while DC stands for the District of Columbia. Columbia is also a university in the US.

*A news story from Global Post calls out a number of news outlets that have misspelled Colombia; Paris Hilton tweeted 'just landed in Columbia' when she arrived in Bogota to open a handbag shop; the Nixon administration gave Colombia a lunar rock collected during the Apollo 17 landing on the moon with a metal plaque that reads: "Presented to the People of the Republic of Columbia. Richard M. Nixon

2. Its beautiful
While Colombia doesn't have some of the big ticket items of some of the other countries in South America, like Machu Picchu or the Bolivia salt flats, the landscapes in Colombia are breathtaking. 
Tayrona national park
From the beaches of the Caribbean to the heights of the Colombian Andes, Colombia is second most biodiverse country in South America (after Brazil) and fourth in the world. When we travelled around the country by bus, we were confronted by beautiful landscapes at every turn. One of our favourite spots was the lake at Guatapé.

View from La Piedra near Guatapé

3. The people are really friendly
Tourism is still relatively new to Colombia. For years, the kidnappings, regular bombings and every day violence kept foreigners away. Now that the country is on the up, the presence of tourists is an outward sign that Colombia's problems are becoming a thing of the past. So, tourists are welcomed with open arms by the super friendly locals. 

4. Fruit!
The biodiversity in the country means that there is a great variety of fruits in Colombia, many of which, such as the tomate de arbol (tree tomato) or cherimoya (custard apple), you're unlikely to find elsewhere. 

At the market
While in Medellín, we went on a tour of one of the local markets to try out the range of tasty exotic Colombian fruits, including cherimoya, which really does taste of custard and apple! I also discovered maracuya, which became my new favourite fruit. I wrote a guest blog on the tour for Indefinite Adventure. See: Getting Fruity: A Real City Fruit Tour in Medellín.

5. Bogota is wetter than London!
We left the UK to go to South America in March, the beginning of northern hemisphere spring and southern hemisphere autumn. As we headed south, we got to experience a little bit too much winter and so were looking forward to getting to the sun in Colombia, particularly after all the rain we experienced in Brazil! We hadn't banked on Bogotá being at such a high altitude and so cold and rainy. It wasn't until after we arrived that I read the guide book: "Pack a raincoat and warm clothes - Bogotá averages 14C, gets cold at night and it rains most of the year". We had to wait a little bit longer to see the sun!

Have you been to Colombia? Did you like it? What was your favourite bit?

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