I am, sadly, one of those people who hear the name Columbia and when not thinking of the space shuttle, think of a South American country ruled by drug cartels. I think of a country where large-scale drug wars between gangs erupt into urban violence on the scale of modern-day Syria. I guess that comes from being a child of the 80s and seeing the video on the news each night of a country in chaos.
The modern Columbia is doing a lot to reshape its image. We found tour company Butterfield and Robinson doing its best to help. The well-established tour company considers Columbia one of its Places on the Verge. The Places on the Verge program criteria includes any region facing environmental or cultural change, if not necessarily risks, and seeks to bring people face-to-face with the complex challenges facing cultures across the globe.
We at No Kids often talk of getting an authentic experience while traveling, and that is what Butterfield and Robinson is hoping to accomplish by showing you a country in the process of renewal. Their eight-day guided tours give you an up-close look at the country, the challenges it faces, its progress toward becoming an example of environmental sustainability (much like northern neighbor Costa Rica) and the roots of their problems. In a 2014 interview co-founder George Butterfield said:
“I just think there are a lot of travelers out there who, like me, are increasingly interested in learning more about the world around them—about really connecting with it and educating themselves so that they can actually effect change.”
You start off your trip in Bogotá and end in Cartagena, stopping along the way to examine the coffee triangle’s economic and environmental impact. The Pereira region is a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its success producing some of the best coffee in the world. You will get a chance to feel like you’re back in the Jurassic period as you hike through an old-growth forest with massive ferns in the Nevados National Park (as long as the nearby volcano isn’t active) and drive the other amazing parks of the tropical country. The region is also home to Medellin, once one of the most dangerous places in the world, and now a place to see the urban revitalization sweeping through the country.
The U.S. Department of State’s travel warning for Columbia remains in place, but the stops on this tour are considered “improved” by the government.
The Department of State has issued this Travel Warning to inform U.S. citizens about the security situation in Colombia. Tens of thousands of U.S. citizens safely visit Colombia each year for tourism, business, university studies, and volunteer work. Security in Colombia has improved significantly in recent years, including in tourist and business travel destinations such as Bogota, Cartagena, Barranquilla, Medellin, and Cali. However, violence linked to narco-trafficking continues to affect some rural and urban areas.
The image of the modern Columbia is one of modern buildings, bike lanes (still lacking in many major U.S. cities) and a reported restaurant scene that can rival some of New York’s best.
The trip is meant to be an active one and you will get your exercise as many of the segments are done by bike. But each night you’ll get your rest in well-appointed luxury hotel rooms. The trip runs around $6,995 per person if you’re traveling with a companion, add $700 if you’re on your own. I think this trip is a perfect example of getting to know a country beyond its reputation.