Colombia is a country that has been living in the shadows for many years. With its amazing variety of landscapes such as deserts, rainforests, and mountains, it’s certainly worth a visit. But natural beauty isn’t the only thing that Colombia is known for…
So, let’s tackle the question: What exactly is Colombia famous for?
In a nutshell, Colombia is famous for its arepas and specialty coffee, as well as the kindness of its people. It’s known for its diverse landscapes and culturally rich heritage where art, music, and theater mix. It also has its share of famous people like Shakira and Sofia Vergara.
Stay put to find out more about Colombia and the 15 things that it’s known for.
1. Colombian coffee
One of the first things that probably comes to your mind when someone mentions Colombia is its world-famous coffee.
But what makes Colombian coffee so special?
Colombian mountains are home exclusively to Arabica seed crops. These seeds are famous for having a silky texture and aromatic taste. This, in addition to a handmade recollection process, adds up to a high-quality, smooth beverage.
A wide proportion of Colombia’s population relies economically on coffee trade.
When you visit, you will find hundreds of Colombian coffee brands, each more delicious than the last. These brands offer not just beverages but also desserts and innovative preparations with coffee.
Both Colombians and Venezuelans take credit for the invention of this famous food. Regardless of its origin, it is so delicious that it has since then been adapted by Mexicans (Gorditas) and Salvadorians (Pupusas).
Colombian arepas are round, flat and made of corn. They are served at any time of the day with cheese, eggs, chicken and even soups. No Colombian breakfast is complete without one and it is definitely a must-try when visiting.
As the saying goes, “there’s nothing more Colombian than arepas!”
3. Colombian carnivals
It just wouldn’t be Colombia if there wasn’t a party going on somewhere!
Latin American people like to party, and Colombians are not the exception. Colombians are famous for their kindled, enthusiastic spirit, and they will use any excuse to celebrate.
Each major city holds a carnival once a year, where regional traditions are displayed in a fun, artistic manner. If flower arrangements fascinate you, then you must attend Medellin’s Flower Fair in August. You will witness the biggest and most beautiful blossoms you have ever seen. If dancing amuses you, then go to Barranquilla’s Carnival in February. What makes it so famous are the colorful floats in the parades.
One thing is for sure: no matter which carnival you decide to attend, you will have lots of fun!
4. Salsa dancing
Although Salsa music originated in the Caribbean, mainly in Cuba and Puerto Rico, it arrived in Colombia in the sixties and stayed.
Dancing became fairly common practice for leisure but it has now evolved in a competitive matter. Each neighborhood has a group of dancers that represents them in global competitions.
If you are in the mood to learn something, take dancing lessons in Cali. With more than 90 schools dedicated to teaching salsa, Cali has become the world’s capital of salsa dancing.
But if dancing is not your thing, you can still experience salsa by attending shows, a very enjoyable experience.
Colombia is famous for exporting high-quality flowers like roses or hydrangeas. What many don’t know is that Colombians are proudest of their orchids.
There are more than 4,000 orchid species in the world, out of which almost a third can be found only in Colombia.
The Cattleya Trianae Orchid, which is white and has purple spots, became the national flower after a scientist found that the colors of the national flag (yellow, blue and red) can be seen on the inside of the flower.
6. Pablo Escobar
Colombia is famous for having been the home of the world’s wealthiest drug dealer, Pablo Escobar. This is usually the elephant in the room for most Colombians.
Opinions about the drug lord are entirely segregated: while some see him as a person who helped his community, others see him as a terrorist.
And they are all right.
You may be wondering how a person can be both. Well, Pablo Escobar built a whole neighborhood in the city of Medellin. He built schools and sports centers. But he also committed and ordered terrorist attacks in the Medellin, leaving about 1,700 injured and 400 dead in a lapse of a decade.
If you ever find yourself in Medellin, you can visit some of his properties and several sites dedicated to the victims.
7. Famous people like Sofia Vergara & Shakira
You will never find people like Colombians anywhere else in the world. They have been ranked as some of the friendliest and among the happiest people on earth. And some Colombians are even world-famous.
From scientists to singers, here are a few names of Colombians that have stood out in their field:
- Sofia Vergara, the highest-paid TV actress in the world in 2019.
- Fernando Botero, famous for his figures with exaggerated volumes. His sculptures are displayed in the most opulent locations around the world.
- Colombia is famous for having its fair share of famous singers too, such as Super Bowl and FIFA World Cup performer Shakira.
- Egan Bernal, winner of the 2019 Tour de France, is one of the many sportspersons that represent the country.
8. Colombian food
While arepas remain a constant everywhere in the country, emblematic Colombian food varies among regions.
The famous Bandeja Paisa consists of arepa, chorizo, beans, rice, fried eggs and ground meat. Farmers used to carry this rather large meal with them to be prepared for their day-long trips to the city to sell their coffee.
Pro tip: Try some of the representative food, but leave some space to try gourmet places. Cities like Medellin and Bogota D.C. have become gastronomic destinations in recent years.
Due to the abundance of crops and livestock, Colombia finds itself in a privileged position for cooking. If you go to the right place, you will find high quality sushi, pasta, or anything you feel like at the moment, and the best part is the great prices.
9. La Tatacoa Desert
No, this isn’t Mars. And it isn’t Arizona either. This is La Tatacoa Desert in the Huila department of Colombia, but good guess.
If you are looking for a unique, picture-worthy spot, you just found it. The weather here can be exceedingly hot during the day, perfect to relax by the pool. Or, if you are more on the bold side, take a hike to the observatory, or rent a four-wheeler and explore further.
This place is just as spectacular during the night. Its secluded location makes this desert the perfect spot for stargazing.
Pro tip: Stay at one of the bio luxury hotels for a comfortable yet environmentally-friendly experience.
10. Cartagena’s Historic Old Town
Cartagena, also known as “the heroic city”, is a tourist favorite and part of the UNESCO’s World Heritage List.
During the XVII, locals built almost seven miles of walls to keep enemies away. What is left of these walls surround what is considered today as the Historic Old Town. This is the place to wander around and find architectural landmarks, luxury stores, and restaurants.
This spot is the perfect mix of luxury and fun. During the day, go shopping and be a guest of the street shows. Right before sunset, get a table at the famous Cafe del Mar to see a whole natural spectacle.
At night, stroll through the streets of the Historic Old Town and take your pick of restaurant. They are all excellent.
11. Tayrona National Park
If you prefer to blend in with the locals and go to less crowded spots, this is a great option.
Tayrona Park was once the home of several indigenous tribes. Your day there will probably start by hiking to the archeological ruins of the Lost City, and, if you walk a little bit further you will probably end up in one of the park’s quiet beaches.
12. Zipaquira Salt Cathedral
Only Colombians could turn a salt mine into a church! That’s right!
Just one hour away from the city of Bogota, you will find the Zipaquira Salt Cathedral. The underground structure, which was first opened in 1954, currently houses a museum filled with marble and salt statues, and of course a church.
It is a one-of-a-kind religious space and it was voted Colombia’s number one wonder.
13. Caño Cristales
If you are looking to go on an eco-tour, this is the perfect plan for you.
For some, Caño Cristales is the most beautiful river in the world. It has algae in the bottom that changes color depending on its exposure to the sun. Its colors range from green to red and the water running through it is completely crystalline.
Some people visit this secluded spot to have the perfect picnic and spa day.
14. Los Nevados National Park
Los Nevados National Park is located within four departments of the coffee-growing region in Colombia. It is home to six glaciers and has a vast array of alpine tundra, or paramo in Spanish, which is a very characteristic ecosystem of Colombia.
It’s not just about the destination; it’s about the journey, especially your way up the Nevado del Ruiz Mountain. The first part of the ascent must be made by car, but you will enjoy amazing scenery.
Once you get to the walking part of the climb, you will face snowy weather, so don’t forget to gear up. It is a short climb but the views from the top are breathtaking.
15. San Andres Island
San Andres Island is Colombia’s most famous island. It is the biggest landmass in the San Andres, Providencia and Santa Catalina Archipelago located in the Caribbean. Its sea is called the “sea of seven colors”.
Like many other tropical destinations, San Andres is the ideal spot for relaxation and tax-free shopping. The island is famous for its fantastic five-star resorts.
Its culture is very rich too. Most islanders speak creole and listen to reggae and calypso music. Their seafood is one that you definitely shouldn’t miss.
And now have the answer to the question “what is Colombia famous for?” Be careful, you might miss your flight home on purpose.