Growing out of its struggling politics of the 1980s and 1990s, Colombia is now one of the best kept secrets in South America but surely not for long! Travelers around the world are now discovering the comprehensive allure of the only country on the southern continent that touches both the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, not to mention the staggering Andes mountain range that forms Colombia's spine. See the top 5 reasons why Colombia is one of South America's fastest growing tourism countries in recent years.
1. The Coffee
Colombian coffee's reputation precedes its name. From casual drinkers to caffeine aficionados, the beans that come out of Colombia's coffee regions are considered some of the best in the world. The heartland is the home of the coffee industry, namely the departments of Antioquia and Caldas, comprising within them the cities of Medellin and Armenia. On a visit to a locally owned finca, you can gain firsthand experience on harvesting, processing, roasting, and grinding your own coffee beans from those who have learned the art as it was passed down to them from generations before. Then try a fresh cup of espresso or perhaps a pintado/perico (coffee with milk), all straight from the farm!
2. The People
It is frequently said that a country is defined by its people, and Colombians are some of the best representatives that tourism officials can ask for. They love to share their country's customs and traditions with visitors, enthusiastic to prove that their home is not the threatening destination that its outdated name suggests. Humble, generous, polite, hospitable, and friendly, Colombians are constantly willing to offer advice or even a hand, and always with a smile.
3. The Cowboy Country
Many young boys and girls alike around the world grow up fascinated about the cowboy's lifestyle. In Colombia, you can finally live out your dreams! The rolling Andean countryside of central Colombia is incredibly green and fertile, thus making it a rich agricultural area and breathtaking scenic area. The farmers that work this land ride their horses and work the fields seemingly as if part of a living postcard. On a hacienda stay, learn to ride on your own and see what it's like to live in slow motion.
4. The Cable Cars
Medellin, Colombia's second city and once the stronghold of cartel leader Pablo Escobar, has turned itself around so much in the last 20 years that is unrecognizable in many ways. In 2012, it was named one of the top technological and entrepreneurial cities in the world, and it continues to shine in South America as a model of successful political and social reinvention. One of the most exemplifying evidences of Medellin's progressiveness are the cable car routes that link the valley-set downtown with the lower class mountainside residential areas. Complete with various stop stations and all, Medellin's modern cable cars provide some of the city's most needy residents with long overdue connections outward, and visitors with a unique perspective of Colombia's rising star destination.
5. The "Guaro"
If there is anything more synonymous with Colombian culture than coffee and its friendly people, it is aguardiente, lovingly nicknamed "guaro". The anis-flavored liquor contains between 29% and 60% alcohol by volume, and each of the 32 departments in Colombia produces their own brand. Although more contemporary bars may offer aguardiente cocktails, the traditional (and some say, the only) way to drink it is in the form of small shots followed with a swigs of crisp water. It is rude to turn down an offer of aguardiente, so respond saying "salud!" and celebrate your time in Colombia!
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