Discover the Transformation of Medellin, Colombia – South American Tourism

Travel Adventures in Medellin, Colombia

According to government figures, about 1 million international tourists visit Colombia every year. Officials are expected to see that double in the coming years as word gets out from travelers returning home, spreading the word about Colombia’s picturesque landscapes, tropical rainforest, snow-capped Andean peaks towering over countless valleys throughout Colombia. In addition, its beautiful Caribbean and Pacific coasts, with plenty of warm beaches are other great destinations. A traveler’s dream come true.

The city of Medellin sits in a narrow valley originally inhabited by the Aburras Indians. It is the second largest city in Colombia and is said to be, “One of the most beautiful cities in South America.” by experienced travelers who have discovered the magic of Colombia.

There is plenty to do and see in this wonderful and vibrant city where the locals, known as Paisas (pie-suhz), have been working to change the image of Medellin’s past. The Paisas are very inviting and have opened up their city to visitors from around the world interested in learning more about Colombian culture, history, music and most importantly the warmth of the Colombian people.

Although English is not commonly spoken, the Paisas are a very friendly bunch who are more than happy to help and assist travelers wherever there is a need.

The are several interesting museums, galleries, respected Universities, as well as many public parks throughout the city, for tourists to enjoy and explore during the day.

The city of Medellin is located at 5,000 ft above sea level, its climate is not as hot as other cities located at the same latitude near the equator. And due to its altitude above sea level, as well as a privileged location in the Andes Range, Medellin’s weather is more characteristic of a humid subtropical climate rather than that of a tropical climate. The city’s average annual temperature is 22ºC (72ºF) and because of its proximity to the equator, its temperature is constant year round with minimal temperature variations. Average temperatures range from 15ºC (52ºF) to 30ºC (86ºF) throughout the year.

A magical and miraculous transformation has swept across the wonderful city of Medellin, reaching as far and high as the hilltop shantytowns where residents never thought change was something that could impact their communities so drastically.

This change has come to all of Colombia, it’s unlike anything you have seen in the media and does not resemble anything you have seen in any Hollywood movie. Colombia is working to change its reputation around the world, seeking a place among the greatest developing countries in this new century. The popular President of Colombia, Alvaro Uribe, with the help of the United States has accomplished what many thought was impossible – peace in Colombia. It has become a modern country with a bustling and vibrant economy. Its economy continues to boom as new construction and development continues around Colombia at an incredible pace.

Traveling to Colombia feels like discovering paradise where the locals are always happy to greet you with open arms and a big warm smile.

Colombia Travel

Colombia is a country located in the Northwestern part of South America. The capital of Colombia is Bogota. The population of Colombia is over 46,000,000 people, and the majority of this population resides in the Andes Highlands and the Caribbean Coast. To the west, Colombia borders the Pacific Ocean, and to the north, the country borders the Caribbean Sea. Colombia shares borders with Panama, Venezuela, Ecuador, Peru and Brazil. The Andes mountain range runs from north to south through Colombia. To the east of the Andes Mountains is the Amazon Rain Forest which comprises 42% of Colombia’s land area. Colombia is the 27th largest city in the world.

The principal language spoken in Colombia is Spanish. About half of the population is Mestizo, a mixture of the indigenous people and Europeans. About 10% of the people are of African descent, and another 3.4% of indigenous people. There are approximately 37% of the population that are of European ancestry. Some sources claim that at least 29% of the entire population has some African ancestry.

Colombia is a major producer and exporter of coffee, emeralds, oil, flowers, and coal. Ecopetral, a Colombian oil company, is the fourth largest oil company in South America. Colombia has the largest known coal reserves in South America.

The government is a representative democracy. Colombia’s government has become very stable over the years. This has allowed Colombia to attract International companies to invest in Colombia. Bogota, Medellin, and Cali are major growth areas internationally. Other cities that have been beneficiaries of international growth are Cartagena and Santa Marta, both located on the Caribbean Sea. The Chinese have been making investments in the town of Buenaventura, Colombia’s largest and most important port city.

The biodiversity of Colombia is vast, and can be seen in the diverse geographical locations. From the coastal areas to the Andes Mountains to the Amazon Rain Forest, a multitude of species of animals and plants thrive. Colombia has 34 national parks, and many other spectacular natural sites to explore. There are also 7 UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Colombia.

Colombia is now enjoying an increasing tourist trade. In previous years Colombia had suffered from a lack of tourism as a result of the violence and the prolific drug trade. Things have drastically changed in Colombia and tourists are now discovering what Colombia has to offer. Cartagena, Santa Marta, San Andres Island, Providencia Island, and Barranquilla are a few examples of some popular international tourist destinations. Also attracting many foreigners to Colombia is the reasonable cost of living and a culture that is very engaging. “Health Tourism” has also become a major draw for Colombia. Many foreigners travel to Bogota, Cali, and Medellin for medical treatment. In 2010, Cali, Colombia performed over 50,000 cosmetic procedures.

There are 32 departments in the country and one capital district. These departments are analogous to states in the United States. Each department has a capital just as states do in the United States. The five largest cities in Colombia are Bogota with 7,600,000 people, Medellin with 3,800,000 people, Cali with 3,300,000 people, Barranquilla with 2,200,000 people, and Cartagena with 1,500,000 people.

Tourists are lured to Colombia for places to visit, and things to do while traveling in Colombia.

Travel and Living in Colombia: Four of Colombia’s Most Feared and Dangerous Animals

Travel and Living in Colombia: Four Deadly Denizens

For those adventurous and intrepid few who might be considering travel and living in Colombia, here are five of the region’s deadliest denizens. Depending on your itinerary, you may post poised to meet and greet any or all of these animals. Be prepared.

1. Piranha. A large school of hundreds of piranhas can strip a cow to the bone in as little as five minutes. Smaller, roaming schools of these voracious flesh eaters can still left nothing more than a pile of cleaned bones in less than an hour on a slow day. In many small towns and villages in the Colombian and Brazilian Amazon, they’re referred to as “donkey castrators” for reasons you can likely figure out for yourself. They’re attracted not only by blood, but also splashing and noise in the water. When fishing for them, you slosh your rod tip back and forth in the water a number of times, then drop your baited hook into the water. You rarely have to wait for long if any razor tooths are in the area. They’re not bashful about grabbing the bait either. Just don’t try to remove the hook from their mouths bare-handed.

2. Vampire Bats Of the nearly 1000 species of bats, only three are classed as vampires or blood-consuming bats. Whenever I visit the Choco region of Colombia, a vast tropical rainforest inhabited by the typically field-mouse-sized vampire bats, and among others, often much larger fruit and insect-eating bat species, I always take special precautions at night to avoid being “the blue plate special”. I use a sturdy mosquito net with an extra-fine mesh and drape a translucent plastic sheet across the top of the mosquito netting for a little extra protection from “bat droppings”. At night, in the pitch black interiors of local resident homes, you won’t see them, but you’ll hear the furry flyers as they flap around your bedroom. When they make “droppings”, and they will do so frequently, you’ll hear the plop, plop, plop as these hit the plastic sheeting you’ve draped over the mosquito netting for just this occasion. Feel free to engage yourself in a smug expression quietly in the darkness thinking, “they may get you, but they didn’t get me!” Then go back to sleep – if you can.

3. Giant Squid These denizens of the deep are not a myth, they’re real enough to take the lives of at least a couple of local fishermen on Colombia’s Pacific coast each year. Attacks are most common at night when fishermen in wooden launches of 25 feet or so in length use fire-lit torches or car battery powered flash lights to attract schools of fish to their boat. At least two of the longer tentacles have bony hooks to help hold prey and the mouth is a deadly hooked beak-like structure which can easily scissor its way through flesh and bone. Even a “small” squid of three feet or so can be potentially dangerous if it gets hold of a hapless fisherman or a “visitor” like you swimming in the sea offshore at night. Larger ones from three to five meters or more are virtually inescapable on the open ocean, especially if you’re in the water.

4. Sharks A fisherman in a small wooden launch frantically waved my guide and I down off the coast of the Utria Ensenada National Park on Colombia’s Pacific coast one December afternoon. As we approached, we noticed his boat slowly swirling in a tight circle with his line locked at a steep angle into the blue-green waters. A two and a half meter long Bull shark had swallowed whole his live catch of a 20 pound Bravo and was now hooked himself. Ultimately the shark would have damaged the boat, sank it and added the fisherman to his Christmas Eve meal ticket had we not happened along. The shark was the one who got eaten this time, but too often the ending is much different for fishermen in the seafood-rich waters of the Pacific Ocean between Nuqui and Bahia Solano.

Nature Lovers and Adventure Seekers Delight

The Pacific Ocean coast of Colombia’s “Choco” region is both a nature lover’s and adventure Lover’s delight. Whether you’re up for some world class deep sea sport fishing, a relaxing soak in a natural thermal pool, the region has something for you to enjoy. Travelers to Colombia cannot always know what’s next. There’s almost never a dull moment.

Deep Inside Colombia – Crossing The Andes With A Surfboard

I’ll never forget the look on the face of that Colombian campesino man. My wife just explained to him in Spanish that what I am holding under my arm is indeed a surfboard, despite the fact that we were standing in a Colombian village that was located somewhere in the middle of the Andes Mountains, hundreds of miles away from any ocean. After hearing this news the man made a joke about us getting bad directions. He then flashed a smile that revealed a mouth full of rotten teeth. Soon after that he shook his head, tucked his hands into the front pockets of his hand-woven Inca style poncho, turned, and moved on down the only street in his town. When the man reached the center of town a gust of wind swept down the street and blew the black fedora hat off his head. As I was watching him chase after it through a cloud of dust, I thought to myself; “I gotta’ get to the ocean.”

I was beginning to feel like a fish out of water. Surfers cannot stay away from the ocean for too long, or they start to “dry out”. As I was standing on that dirt street in that dusty little town, I realized that I had not seen the ocean in over a month. More importantly, I had not surfed in it. Halfway through a two month excursion across the country of Colombia, in South America, we were on our way to a small Caribbean beach resort on the northeastern edge of the country for a much needed break from the madness we had experienced so far on that trip. We had spent the holidays traveling from Bogotá to Medellín, and then back to Bogotá again to meet and visit with various different members of my wife’s family. There had been some mishaps along the way involving pick-pockets and miscreants. Up to that point it was not fun, and we will leave it at that.

Traveling on a tight budget in a foreign country is the best way to experience the true culture of that country, but it can be quite taxing on your soul. We could not afford plane tickets to fly all over the country, so we had to take busses and taxis instead. Some of those bus rides took over two days to reach our destination. We traveled through some of the most remote areas of Colombia, changing busses and hailing taxis the whole way. Along the way we saw some of the most beautiful scenery on earth, and experienced some very interesting, intense, and strange things. Black magic and evil curses are practiced in many areas of Colombia, and I cannot say any more on that subject, for fear that you would think of me as crazy. There are things that cannot be explained in this world, and a lot of them happen in Colombia.

There were other things that happened to us that were even more terrifying than black magic. Let’s just say it’s never a good thing to have your bus stopped in the middle of the night by rough looking men with machine guns on a winding, dark, mountainous road. That is whole other story for another time.

Back to our main story; we were about four hours North of Bucaramanga, and waiting to board yet another one of those colorful busses. All I could think about at that moment was surfing and relaxing at this place called Tayrona. I was told you can sit in your own thatched-hut “choza” and watch the waves from your front porch. For those who are not familiar with the sport of surfing, that sounds about as good as it gets for a surfer.

It had not been easy carrying that surfboard all over Colombia. We landed in Bogotá in the middle of the country a month before, and I had been schlepping it around with our other luggage from one bus or taxi to the other ever since. It was like I was living my own little version of the movie
Fitzcaraldo, and my surfboard was the ship that was being carried for many miles across dry land. I was determined to make the effort pay off.

While we were waiting for our bus in that little mountain village we were inundated by the usual local people trying to sell us stuff. My wife, being a Colombian native did most of the talking for those negotiations. These little villages along the main roads of Colombia survive on money from people who are just passing through, or waiting for a bus. The local indigenous people sell everything from bags of purified water, to homemade “empanadas” (a meat and potato filled turnover made with corn-meal dough). My wife and I had been surviving on food and water provided by those people for most of our trip. Amazingly, neither of us had been sick yet. Albeit, most of this food had been delicious, you have to wonder about the cooking and cleaning practices in a town that has no running water. Something tells me that if the cook had a choice between using their last bucket of water to wash their hands before cooking, or having water to drink the next day, they’d forego the cleanliness. I tried not to think about stuff like that on that trip. I only thought about how much flavor those homemade items had with their homegrown ingredients.

People sure know how to cook in Colombia. Wow! The food in that country just seemed to have a lot more flavor than the food I was used to in the United States. We really experienced the authentic food of Colombia; “buñuelos, “pandebonos”, “arepas”, you name it and we tried it along
the way. We were on a budget, yet eating very good food. The people who made this food were as poor as one could be, but they could make food like no-one else on earth. The freshness, lack of pesticides, and the nutrient-rich soils also have a lot to do with why the food tastes so good in Colombia.

After we ate our share of “empanadas” that we purchased from a little old village woman carrying a hand-woven basket, we were ready for a freshly blended fruit smoothie. There were always several of these little smoothie stands in every town that we stopped at along the way, and we always made sure that we sampled at least one. No matter how small of a stand, the vender always had electricity to run their blender, ice box, and boom-box. I immediately ordered a couple of “tomate de árbol “smoothies at a nearby stand, and then we sat down on an old wooden bench provided by the smoothie vendor.

We were told by the driver of the last bus that our next bus should be along in “no time at all”. It had been my experience up to that point that this bus driver may, or may not be right. Sometimes the bus came right away and the transfer went smoothly. Other times we ended up waiting long periods of time between transfers. Those ones did not go so smoothly.

The mountain roads and leftist guerrilla laden areas that these busses travel through can cause long delays, to say the least. Hanging out in that small town in the middle of nowhere in the foothills of the Andes Mountains waiting for a bus was quite nerve-racking. The local people of those types of towns were always very suspicious of anyone that stayed behind after a bus came through. Most people just passed right through. They were especially suspicious of a Gringo with a surfboard and a Colombian wife. There was a war going on in that country. Everywhere we went everyone wanted to know whose side we were on. As we were sitting in that dusty, one-horse town in a remote area of Colombia, I knew we were in for a long, harrowing wait.