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Digital Subscriptions > Lonely Planet Traveller (UK) > December 2016 > Great Escape COLOMBIA

Great Escape COLOMBIA

Start in the capital, Bogotá, before striking north to the higgledy-piggledy colonial towns of Boyacá state. Once you’ve had your caffeine-kick in the coffee heartland of Zona Cafetera, relocate to the Caribbean to explore the shady squares of Cartagena and the sandy shores of Tayrona National Park.
Calle Real in Salento, a sleepy town in the Zona Cafetera region of western Colombia

Plan your trip

1 Mingle with street artists, cyclists, market vendors and pilgrims in Bogotá, Colombia’s capital on the rise (p64).

2 Venture north through verdant countryside to the sleepy, storied towns of Boyacá state (p66).

3 Plunge into the Zona Cafetera, where coffee plants and giant palms grow in the shadow of snow-capped mountains (p68).

4 Scale the ramparts of Cartagena, the beautiful and boisterous port on the Caribbean coast (p70).

5 Idle on glorious beaches, hike rainforest trails and meet indigenous communities in Tayrona National Park (p72).

MAP ILLUSTRATION: ALEX VERHILLE. PHOTOGRAPHS: KRIS DAVIDSON, ADAM LIEBENDORFER/WASHINGTON POST/GETTY, GAL SCHWEIZER/LATIN CONTENT/GETTY

HOW TO GET THERE

Colombian national carrier Avianca is currently the only airline offering direct flights to Bogotá’s promisingly named El Dorado airport from the UK (from £550, from Heathrow; avianca.com). Airlines such as Air Canada, American Airlines, BA, Delta and Iberia fly with a stop-off (from £860; iberia.com). British nationals do not currently need a visa for Colombia for stays of up to 90 days.

HOW TO GET AROUND

Colombia is a big country, so distances can be vast. With a growing network of budget airlines it’s worth flying between major cities if you’re pushed for time – there are regular, affordable flights between Bogotá and Pereira, and Cartagena (Bogotá to Cartagena one-way from £70; avianca.com). Car hire is available in major towns, and can be a good idea if you’re looking to explore more rural areas at your own pace (from £20 per day; avis.com). Most visitors to Colombia choose to travel via comfortable long-distance coaches, which run between all major destinations (Bogotá to Cartagena, 12 hours, from £25).

HOW LONG TO SPEND

The itinerary for our feature can be done in around 12 days, but two and a half weeks will allow you to explore the country at a more leisurely pace. To extend your trip, consider dropping by the second city of Medellín or the mountainous El Cocuy National Park.

SAFETY AND SECURITY

Recent years have seen Colombia’s internal security situation improve dramatically, helping trigger a boom in tourism. However, problems are far from over. Though a ceasefire was in place at the time of writing, the FARC rebel group remains active in large swathes of the country, along with some smaller rebel groups. All the destinations in this feature are far from areas of rebel presence – for advice on where specifically to avoid, see the FCO website (gov.uk). Crime remains an issue, particularly in larger cities like Bogotá. A number of neighbourhoods in the south of the capital are best avoided, and it’s advisable not to walk alone after dark.

WHAT TO BUDGET

Colombia is a very affordable country to visit – expect to pay between £2–£4 for a hearty meal in rural areas, with dining at top-end restaurants rarely costing more than £15. Mid-range lodgings will come in at around £30, while luxury hotels cost £70-£100, barring a few exceptions in Bogotá and Cartagena.

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About Lonely Planet Traveller (UK)

In the December issue… Discover Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel list of the top countries, cities and regions to visit in 2017; follow gold rush pioneers of yore to the wild Yukon in the northwest of Canada – the country leading our list; take a Great Escape to Colombia, where the Andes, Amazon and Caribbean combine; learn how to live like a Finn, with coffee, lake swims and saunas; see dizzying views of New York City, and much more
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