Behold! The beauty of Colombia goes beyond that of its beautiful women or Shakira’s hip movements. We are talking about the second most biodiverse country on the planet.
If nature and breathtaking landscapes are the reason you usually pack your bags and rush to the airport, the wonders of Colombia will satisfy you until you have nothing left to ask for.
However, if you must choose, make sure you first check out the eight listed further down the page, and then… we’ll discuss:
One of those places on my Latin journey where I would occasionally stop to gaze in awe, touch my chest, and marvel again: “Am I really here?” A natural paradise in every sense of the word; Caribbean coast on one side, with a slightly temperamental electric blue sea caressing the area’s typical white sands, and on the other side, vegetation that defies monotony, starting with coconut palms, mango trees, fig trees, continuing with desert shrubs and cacti, reaching jungle vines and orchids, and mangrove vegetation typical of tropical seas.
Monkeys eat mango fruits right above your head, crocodiles, jaguars, and toucan birds are at home, and the same can be said for the four indigenous ethnic groups that inhabit this ancestral space, preserving their traditions and religion and representing a cultural heritage of humanity.
And the cherry on top is that the most suitable bed to rest at the end of the day is… a hammock by the water.
After a standing jeep ride called Willy, where you had plenty of time to laugh, chat with fellow passengers, and generally raise your adrenaline levels just enough to prepare you for the hike ahead, start your expedition with a 360-degree view around you, with eyes as big as soup plates.
What characterizes this corner of the earth (which seems to have nothing in common with the earth) is the tallest species of palm trees on Earth: the wax palms. Waves of mountains wearing thousands of shades of green are glimpsed behind the fog curtain, and an indescribable mysterious atmosphere envelops the endless landscape in which you lose yourself. And you, and the rest of the adventure-thirsty.
The unpredictable weather, combined with the ups and downs of the terrain and the fear that you took the wrong path and missed the last jeep, keeps you putting on and taking off your jacket. The feelings in your chest are absolutely contradictory: you want to get to the end, to see what this valley looks like from above. But do you really want to get there and things to resume, knowing that you probably will never return here and certainly nowhere that resembles it?
You might have heard of Machu Picchu… You know, an old city, the cradle of a civilization shrouded in mystery and largely crushed by the greedy foot of the European who arrived on new land five centuries ago. Imagine a place in the same category of wonders made by human hands in collaboration with nature, but seen by 8,000 people a year (Ciudad Perdida, “Lost City”), compared to 3,000 pairs of eyes daily (Machu Picchu).
It’s not just any jungle hike (if there’s any jungle hike that can be described that way without being oxymoronic). Sierra Nevada, the mountain range that houses this wonder, has just been designated “one of the planet’s irreplaceable natural ecosystems,” and the plethora of unique species and level of endemism are not unrelated to that.
There’s no means of transport on this land – where you are more than a guest on indigenous territories – other than your own locomotion, and the expedition you undertake stretches over 4-5 days. The place is not accessible on your own, but only accompanied by a guide, and the entire adventure will lighten your wallet by about $300 (with all the essentials included), without feeling at the end that any of these pennies wasn’t fully worth it.
Trying to ignore the name that wouldn’t do justice even to a donkey, let alone a natural wonder (ci-ca-mo-cha, in exact pronunciation), this huge sculpture in the earth’s crust is the second-largest canyon on the American mainland, after the Grand Canyon.
I don’t know how you feel about those grand places that instantly make you imagine how someone watching you from a cloud would see you just like a lost ant among valleys in cappuccino colors and huge chunks of mountains, but they… overwhelm me. They make me realize the place my daily thoughts occupy on the Universe’s to-do list: not even as much as a frostbitten onion. And that has the effect of lifting a boulder off my heart.
Now, moving on to more practical matters: you can visit the canyon in various ways, but I chose the challenge of challenges and exactly what would give chills to someone with a fear of heights: from a paragliding flight. If you feel that adrenaline has been slowly poured into your veins, you can opt for the cable car. If you’re up for building quadriceps, go for cycling or hiking.
The routes taken on foot will take you between two and four hours, but for wind in your hair and the same wind whispering in your ear, you can choose to cross the desert on horseback or motorcycle. Always keep in mind that at the end of the race, when your sweat glands are about to resign, a natural pool awaits you in the heart of the desert.
Yet the real specialty of the desert is astrology; here you can admire celestial phenomena in all their glory. Why? I’m glad you asked. Imagine that the favorable position of the area flirts with the Equator, which means that from here you can see both hemispheres, and to this add the favorable climate and the complete lack of light pollution (another drawback, less publicized, forced upon the earth by the sinful hand of man). And the cherry on top of these natural conditions is a state-of-the-art astronomical observatory.
Exactly! Why would you want to walk through what is known as the “lung of the planet”, especially in an almost untouched area of the earth, and especially when you also have to pay for the yellow fever vaccine? Exotic birds and animals? Monkeys looking for food that mistake you for a vine or fruits that you will never taste again… what’s the point?
Even the indigenous communities and hunter-gatherer tribes with all their ecotourism… what useful things could they teach you? Ancient fishing, cooking, and farming techniques? But what use are they in the 21st century? Let’s say you could flirt with the idea of crossing three borders in the same day (Peru, Colombia, and Brazil), but why bother, especially when colorful parrots and toucan birds fly around it?
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