Gender & Identity, Food & Drinks, Life

10 things you NEED to know about Colombia

Colombia has Maluma. I don't think I need to say anything more. 

When I first told family and friends that I would be living in Colombia for a year, reactions ranged from the excited to the horrified. Narcos doesn’t exactly paint the most favorable picture of the country, after all. But after being here for over six months, I can safely say that there is so much more to this incredible country than what is most often assumed from pop culture. Here are just a few reasons why everyone should pay a visit to Colombia.

1. Nature

[Image Description: This photo shows two tall palm trees against a dark sky.] Via Unsplash
Colombia is one of the most biodiverse countries on the planet! Here you can see anything from beautiful mountains and national parks, remote deserts and rich rainforests. It’s perfect for daredevil hikers and lazy beach bums alike.

2. Recent political change

[Image Description: Various protest signs that are red, yellow and blue that read in Spanish: “No mas secuestros. No mas terorismo. No mas muertes. No mas FARC.”] Via Flickr
Colombia is in a time of transition. In June of last year, they signed a peace deal with the guerrilla group known as the FARC, ending fifty-plus years of violence in the country. While problems still remain to be solved, the country is in the process of recovering from its violent history, and these changes are palpable. It’s an exciting thing to witness.

3. Coffee

You’d think that Colombians of all people would be ones to drink their coffee black, but they actually prefer their cups of Joe sweetened with sugar. While a lot of Colombia’s high-quality coffee is exported, there’s no shortage of coffee farms, where you can see how the coffee is made and take home some premium beans.

4. Beaches

[Image Description: A beach with deep blue water and a boat on the water.] Via Flickr
Colombian beaches are gorgeous, and there’s nothing better than taking a dip after being out in the scorching sun all day. Beaches like the one pictured above, in Tayrona National Park, are the perfect places to go to appreciate nature.

5. Dancing

[Image Description: A woman and man dancing together in a dark room.] Via Flickr
I’ve taken a few salsa classes since coming here, but I don’t think my dance skills will ever reach the Colombian standard. The people here are born to dance, and there’s nothing more fun/embarrassing than heading to a salsa bar. Of course, it’s always a lot easier after a bit of aguardiente is in your system.

6. Music

[Image Description: A photo of a man wearing a black and white polka dotted shirt singing into a microphone.] Via Wikipedia
Colombia has Maluma. I don’t think I need to say anything more.

7. Fun cities

[Image Description: A city lit up at night.] Via Unsplash
Colombian cities have so much to offer. You can visit museums and eat delicious Colombian and international cuisine, as well as catch some beautiful views from vantage points like Monserrate in Bogotá. Bogotá is also home to one of the biggest gay clubs in Latin America, making its nightlife one of the best.

8. Art

[Image Description: A black sculpture of a man’s head with his eyes closed.] Via Wikimedia
When most people think about the arts in Colombia, the famed author Gabriel García Márquez usually comes to mind. But there are so many other artists out there, like Fernando Botero. He is known for his sculptures and paintings that depict people in exaggerated forms, making his artwork appealing, engaging, and comical to observe.

9. Fruit

[Image Description: A pile of yellow-orange fruits.] Via Wikimedia
Unfortunately, other than treats like arepas and buñuelos, Colombian cuisine often lacks variety. But while rice and beans make up the majority of dishes in the country, you can also find some of the most delicious fruits. They’re beautiful, super cheap, and always hit the spot if you’re looking for something sweet. Going to the fruit markets is always a fun activity, and trying out new fruits is an easy way to get to know the country better.

10. The people

[Image Description: A group of men and women dancing in a parade wearing brightly colored clothing.] Via Flickr
I think I will be hard-pressed to meet kinder, more generous people than the ones I’ve met in Colombia. Colombians are so friendly, and unbelievably willing to show people how amazing their country is.

Colombia is complex and in an immense time of transition. I’ve been lucky enough to spend not just two weeks here but ten months, and the more I see the more I want to stay. So book your tickets and pack your Spanish-English pocket dictionary. A trip to Colombia is one you won’t forget!