Entertainment

I Just Got Back From A Trip To Colombia And This Is Why It’s As Amazing As Everyone Says It Is

Thanks to popular Netflix series that shall remain nameless, Colombia often conjures up images of drug cartel violence and kidnappings or extravagant lifestyles of those same cartels leaders. It was also ravaged by civil war for more than 30 years leaving tourism basically non-existent.

However, within just the last five years, Colombia has seen an increase in foreign travels of more than 45% and it now rates as one of the most visited countries in South America. The country is rapidly establishing itself as a major tourist destination, with Caribbean coastline, rainforest, endangered animals, unique ecosystems and the Andes mountain range. It has something for everyone, and unique experiences as well as unique landscapes. Here are 13 good reasons to visit Colombia.

It’s home to incredible biodiversity

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Credit: omgitsjustintime / Instagram

Colombia is considered one of the world’s ‘megadiverse’ countries. The Andes mountain range runs through the country, creating three connecting mountain ranges, with Bogotá situated on a flat savannah within them. The Amazon rainforest covers 35% of Colombia, and this unique rainforest environment is home to many indigenous communities, endangered animals and unique fauna.

And Colombia’s unique landscapes don’t stop at the rainforest. The connecting of two ecosystems occurs in many areas of Colombia, but the most unique is where the Amazon meets the Andes mountains range, creating a unique landscape at the Serranía de la Macarena National Park. Colombia also has two desert areas, La Guajira and Tatacoa. Colombia’s coastlines, one Caribbean and the other Pacific, create unique beaches, backed by snowcapped mountains and deep forest. Colombia is also home to a large páramo ecosystem that helps create rain.

There are countless once in a lifetime experiences

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Credit: Carlos Andres Reyes/Flickr

Colombia is full of unique experiences and activities, with the biodiverse environment creating the perfect location for many activities. The choice is almost endless: whitewater rafting, rock climbing, abseiling, bungee jumping, surfing, whale-watching in the Pacific, kitesurfing in the Caribbean, waterskiing, horse riding through the mountains, hiking through the valleys, trekking through the Amazon, cliff jumping, diving on the island of San Andres, snorkelling in the reefs or swimming in endless fresh water lagoons.

The country is known for its warm, friendly, and diverse people

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Credit: Colombia.co

Columbians have a great reputation for friendliness and hospitality. As with all stereotypes, you may want to take this with a pinch of salt – but why not visit and find out for yourself? You may find that you never want to leave.

“It’s ludicrous this place exists and everybody doesn’t want to live here,” uttered by the late Anthony Bourdain while strolling through the streets of Cartagena in 2008.

Diverse and delicious foods – especially when it comes to unique fruits and vegetables

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Credit: omgitsjustintime / Instagram

Colombia’s range of climates and altitudes allows farmers to grow a large variety of crops all year round, and the country is home to a number of unique fruits and vegetables. Colombia prides itself on its fresh foods, with restaurants serving home-cooked meals, and many homemade meals and foods available from street stalls or local cafes. Juices are popular, as well as rices, corn arepas and fresh breads.

When you’re there, these are the musts: Bandeja paisa, a traditional lunch of rice, beans, fried egg, avocado, pig belly, beef and chorizo; the Pacific and Andean cuisines in Popayan, UNESCO’s first Creative City of Gastronomy; and West African-influenced dishes of the Palenque people in San Basilio de Palenque, the first free-slave town in the Americas.

A robust and well-preserved national parks system

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Credit: Carlos Andres Reyes/Flickr

Colombia has 59 National Natural Parks, which vary in landscape, climate and ecosystems. Many of them offer unique experiences for visitors, such as hikes, water activities and other experiences. All of Colombia’s National Parks are designed to protect the wildlife, ecosystems, culture and architectural heritage of the area.

Unique and exotic wildlife that can’t be found anywhere else on Earth

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Credit: Carlos Andres Reyes/Flickr

Colombia is a country with a high level of biodiversity; it is home to over 10% of the world’s animal species as well as the highest number of endemic species. Over 1,800 species of bird inhabit Colombia, with over 456 mammal species and large numbers of insects, reptiles and marine creatures. The majority of the country’s wildlife resides within four National Parks – Cocora Valley, Gorgona Island, Serrania de la Macarena and Amacayacu.

Miles and miles of hiking for all skill levels

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Credit: omgitsjustintime / Instagram

Colombian National Natural Park’s feature a large number of hiking routes, which vary in both difficulty and distance. Hiking gives visitors the opportunity to experience the country’s unique landscapes and ecosystems, and to see wildlife up close. Hiking trails and guided tours are available throughout the country, with the most popular being in the Valle de Cocora and the hike or trek to the Lost City, an ancient indigenous abandoned village created in 800 AD, or 600 years before Machu Picchu.

Stunning classic and modern architecture

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Credit: Carlos Andres Reyes/Flickr

Colombian architecture dates back centuries, with small towns and villages all traditionally having a plaza and cathedrals, many of them hundreds of years old. The architecture of Colombia’s cathedrals is beautiful, detailed and has to be seen to be believed.

While parts of Colombia’s big cities have become marvels of modern architecture, Bogotá, the country’s capital, has a historic centre that is home to many very old buildings on cobbled streets. Colombia combines old and new within its cities, and continually strives to create exquisite new modern buildings, as well as restoring its colonial heritage.

Fun and modern cities full of entertainment

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Credit: omgitsjustintime / Instagram

Bogotá (Colombia’s capital) and Medellín (the second-biggest city) are both up-and-coming conurbations in South American and the world. Medellín has created and implemented an extensive Urban Development strategy, which has seen the city completely change over the last 20 years from one of the world’s most violent cities to an award-winning centre of innovation, which is becoming a model for other cites around the world.

Bogotá is also developing rapidly into a major business hub for Latin America, and a large number of multinational companies are creating their Latin American HQs within the business district.

A frenetic obsession with sports

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Credit: Colombia.co

Colombia has been gaining huge success in sports in recent years. The country’s football team is one of the best in the world and is heavily supported throughout the country. When a football match is played the majority of the country stops to watch and offer support. Cycling is another popular sport, with large numbers of Colombians taking to the streets and countryside to take part in long-distance rides or the city’s ciclovía events.

Thousands of years of recorded history

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Credit: omgitsjustintime / Instagram

Colombia’s history dates back for many centuries, with Pre-Colombian indigenous communities establishing themselves all over the country and creating many of the country’s towns and cities. Colombia has been heavily influenced by its natives, as well as by the Spanish, French and British, with many countries trying and failing to take control of the country from the Spanish.

Colombia is now turning a corner from its history of the last 50 years. Civil war has torn through the country, but in 2016 a peace agreement was signed and implemented, creating at last a positive and sustainable future for the country.

Hundreds of Indigenous cultures

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Credit: Colombia.co

Indigenous natives live within many areas of Colombia, including the Amazon, Pacific Coast and La Guajira. Indigenous Colombians and Afro-Colombians strive to keep their traditions alive, with traditional foods, music, culture and events. Colombia has been predominately influenced by its indigenous communities and heritage through music, with many sounds and rhythms originating from Africa and being brought to Colombia along with descendants of Afro-Colombians.

A Toxi-Tour Will Take Activists To Seven States In Mexico That Host The Country’s Most Polluted Spots

Things That Matter

A Toxi-Tour Will Take Activists To Seven States In Mexico That Host The Country’s Most Polluted Spots

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Like most countries that depend heavily on coal energy and on manufacturing to keep its productive wheels running, Mexico is deeply affected by the environmental damage that many industries cause. Added to local production, Mexico has also been the site of maquilas, factories set up by foreign investors who are lured by cheaper labour and by lax tax regimes, as well as by looser rules when it comes to environmental impact. Both industry and public opinion need to be better informed of the toxic hot spots in the country.

Mexico sits at an strategic political and commercial position, and industrial powerhouses such as the United States and Canada, whose companies have set shop in the other member of NAFTA, by far the most disadvantaged. 

The toxi-tour caravan will travel the country for ten days in total, December 2-11.

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Participants include environmentalists and scientists from both Mexico and overseas. The objective is to raise awareness and to denounce the companies that cause most damage. Perhaps shaming is the first step towards change. Besides Mexicans, there are representatives from the United States, Europe and other Latin American Countries. 

The journey began in El Salto, Jalisco, where a polluted river has led to cancer and death.

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Credit: Regeneración radio

In this site industrial pollution of the Santiago river has caused the death of more than a thousand people due to cancer and kidney failure. People from cities in the United States affected by pollution in places like Flint, Michigan, can surely relate. A river is generally a propeller for economic development and productive activity, as well as a source of an increasingly scarce commodity: water. However, this river is basically poisonous now and has brought death to those who live nearby. 

The caravan will visit sites were more than three million people have seen their health diminished by pollution.

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Credit: Notimex

The rest of the Toxi-tour stops include Dolores Hidalgo, Guanajuato; Apaxco, México state; Atonilco de Tula, Hidalgo; Tlaxcala; Puebla; and Coatzacoalcos, Veracruz. The journey will conclude in Mexico City on December 11. As you may lmow, Mexico City is deeply affected by high levels of pollution. Its high altitude and the fact that it is nested in a valley make it prone to elevated pollution levels that have damaged the upper respiratory tract in millions of its inhabitants.

In the photo we can see the cement manufacturing plant of Apaxco, which releases fine particles that have caused upper respiratory tract issues for both the workers and the people living near the factory. Imagine breathing grainy, minuscule cement dust day in, day out. Another big issue is the unlawful disposal of waste in landfills which end up pumping chemicals into the soil and rendering it sterile. 

The organizers have a pretty clear idea of who is to blame for the environmental crisis in these places.

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As Mexico Daily News reports: “The Toxi-Tour will “denounce United States, Canadian, German, French, Spanish and Mexican companies” that cause environmental damage, said Andrés Barreda, a representative of the National Assembly of Environmental Victims, which organized the caravan.”

Yes, Mexican companies share the blame, but the fact that Global North companies have caused physical damage to the land and people of a previously colonized nation brings back memories of colonial times and trauma. So for these companies the lives of Global South countries are less valuable? It would appear that is the case. This is afforded of course, by corrupt authorities. The caravan will also get political and will engage local community leaders and people that have been affected or displaced by industry.

As Mexico News Daily reports: “In Tlaxcala on Friday, caravan members will learn about the community proposal to clean up the Atoyac–Zahuapan river basin, while on Saturday they will visit contaminated areas of Puebla city and speak with locals who have been dispossessed of their communal lands.”

Mexican history is a history of dispossession, and environmental violence is another way in which those in power have decimated the productive capabilities and future survival of communities that live and die by a deep attachment to the land and nature. 

Pagebreaks – 3 Slices Of Heaven In The Mexican Beachside You Have To Visit

Culture

Pagebreaks – 3 Slices Of Heaven In The Mexican Beachside You Have To Visit

For decades, Mexico has been one of the main destinations for global tourism. The country offers amazing beaches where visitors can find both natural beauty and experienced hospitality workers who make their living by providing unforgettable experiences. We have selected 13 beaches that can cater for any kind of visitor and for budgets of all sizes. Remember that old Corona ad, “From where you would rather be”? Well, we would rather be in one of these slices of heaven.

1. Costa Careyes
Located in: Jalisco
Good for: high end, luxury traveling, honeymoons

Credit: xaviermaxemin / Instagram

This relatively recent development is located in the Mexican state of Jalisco, so you can also visit the city of Guadalajara or the many tequila haciendas in the region. This beach is pristine and hasn’t been developed as much as classics such as Acapulco or Cancun. It is pricey, but ideal for a romantic getaway or a honeymoon… you might leave the room for a bit just to witness the stunning sunsets. You can find more details here: https://www.careyes.com/.

2. Puerto de Veracruz
Located in: Veracruz, Gulf of Mexico
Good for: old fashioned Mexican charm

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Veracruz is one of the oldest cities in Mexico, the port where the Spanish started the development of the new colony. The old port has been revitalized in recent years, and you can experience the charm of jarochos: you can smoke a cigar while sipping a cafe con leche in the traditional La Parroquia. You can also listen to nostalgic regional son jarocho or join old folks in a communal dance known as danzon. 

3. Bahia de Los Angeles
Located in: Baja California
Good for: those who love the stunning desert/ocean combo

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Less developed than beach towns such as La Paz and Los Cabos. This is a dream for those who love the combination of desert and sea. The Gulf of California bathes beaches that are red and feature spectacular rock formations crowned by cacti and succulents that defy the laws of gravity. A surreal but soothing destination. 

4. Isla Holbox
Located in: Quintana Roo, Yucatan Peninsula
Good for: just relaxing on a hammock as the waves caress the sand

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This island north of the Yucatan Peninsula is truly heaven on earth. It is part of the Yum Balam Nature Reserve, so it is not highly developed. The island is separated from the mainland by a lagoon which features flamingos and pelicans. Good to know: no cars are allowed on the island.

5. Isla Mujeres
Located in: the Caribbean Sea, near Cancun
Good for: snorkeling and scuba diving

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Another paradisiac highlight in the Yucatan Peninsula. This island has amazing beaches such as Playa Norte, plenty of resorts and scuba diving and snorkeling experiences. Even though it only has 4.22 km², it has it all: a lighthouse, Mayan ruins and even a sanctuary for sea turtles. 

6. Puerto Vallarta
Located in: Jalisco
Good for: going out and sleeping in!

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This traditional beach destination captivated filmmaker John Huston when he shot The Night of the Iguana here. Elizabeth Taylor, who was tagging along with her then-husband Richard Burton, also fell in love with the dramatic landscape, food and good vibes of this awesome place, which is also famous for its vibrant nightlife. A perfect alternative for those who find Cancun and Los Cabos to be just a bit too touristy. It is near the Tequila region, so a little stop is in order.

7. Mazunte
Located in: Oaxaca
Good for: cheap and low key hippie vibes

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This has been the de facto destination for Mexico City natives that just want to relax by the beach and eat some delicious Oaxacan food. Even though it is now a bit more developed than some would wish, it still retains a mystic but relaxed atmosphere. People feel so at ease that it is sort of a nudist beach: if that is your thing, clothes away! Seriously, one of the most beautiful places on Earth.

8. Mazatlan
Located in: Sinaloa
Good for: spectacular scenery and delicious seafood, Sinaloa style

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An oldie but goodie. This resort town borders the Pacific shoreline in the state of Sinaloa. It was an impressive boardwalk or malecon that covers 21 km. Old Mazatlan is a 19th-century colonial jewel with gorgeous architecture. If you are into big-game fishing, this is the place to be. You can also eat some amazing Sinaloa seafood. A taco gobernador, anyone? (if you are wondering, it has shrimp, black beans, a secret spicy sauce, and melted cheese, all in corn tortillas of course!). 

9. Playa Ventura
Located in: Guerrero
Good for: relaxing times and amazing food in a rustic environment

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Near the legendary but now dangerous Acapulco lies this beach which is visited by turtles and offers a rustic experience. Food is just great: pescado a la talla and lobster smothered in chili and butter. What is not to like? We hope it keeps that rustic feel and that development doesn’t translate into big resorts. 

10. Los Cabos
Located in: Baja California Sur
Good for: sea life watching

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A classic destination full of top-end resorts, but also the home of a charming town and plenty of spectacular animal sightings. You can take a whale watching tour or watch seals basking in the Baja sun. There are of course plenty of restaurants, bars, and nightclubs. And by the way, you might spot one of the many Hollywood A-listers who have made Cabo their preferred holiday spot. While you are here, why not rent a car and travel up the Baja peninsula all the way to the wine region near Ensenada?

11. Punta Cometa and Playa Mermejita
Located in: Oaxaca
Good for: thinking about la inmortalidad del cangrejo

 

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On the way to the charming Playa Mermejita (in Mazunte, see above) you can stop at this spot, which offers the most romantic sunset on Earth. You can also stare at the ocean and the beach and think about your life: nothing like being away from the tribulations of your daily life to reflect on where you are going.

12. Playa Pichilinguillo
Located in: Michoacan
Good for: unadulterated natural experiences

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White sands, tame waves, and blue waters. This is a playa virgen that totally gives us The Blue Lagoon vibes. It is ideal to scuba dive or snorkel, as waters are almost transparent and fish are still unafraid of humans. The lobster here is delicious. Plus, you will be helping the local economy thrive as it is not yet subject to big transnational resort companies. 

13. Playa del Carmen
Located in: Quintana Roo
Good for: a good mix of relaxing and fiesta!

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People who got sick and tired of how gringo Cancun looks have moved their business to Playa del Carmen, which started out as a “poor relative” and is now a hot spot for nightlife and glorious days at the beach. It attracted European tourism early, so there are plenty of culinary options as some visitors just decided to stay and open their own restaurants! Prices have peaked recently, but it is still a great option for those who believe that Cancun’s best days have passed.

READ: These Latin American Beaches Are The Perfect Getaways For All Of The Beach Bums In The World