October 6, 2018, 4:36 am
Huge swathes of Colombia were once no-go zones for travellers and Colombian people as well. Most of the departments in Amazonas and Orinoquía were practically off-limits, as were many parts of the south and west. Although there are still some remote destinations in Colombia to avoid, the good news is much of the country is now opening up to tourism in the wake of a peace accord and Colombia’s improved safety. Here are some once dangerous destinations that tourists can now visit during a holiday in Colombia.
San Jose del Guaviare
The capital of the department of Guaviare was once Ground Zero for the Colombian cocaine trade, and it was extremely ill-advised to visit. However, the city and surrounding area has turned a big corner in recent years, and Guaviare is slowly becoming a popular off-the-beaten-track travel destination in Colombia. Offering a beguiling and unique mixture of jungle, waterfalls, ancient rock formations, and llanos, San José del Guaviare will also delight nature lovers – with excellent birding and ecotourism potential – as well as anyone with a passion for history and culture due to the ancient indigenous rock paintings which you can visit.
Caño Cristales and La Macarena
It may seem odd that one of Colombia’s most recognizable iconic attractions – the vibrant rivers of Caño Cristales – were once a totally no-go zone, but they indeed were as little as seven years ago when FARC guerrillas had a heavy presence in La Macarena National Park, and pitched battles with the Colombian army were common. The area has since been pacified and now tourists are free once more to experience the wonder and joy of visiting the region and gazing upon “the most beautiful river in the world.”
La Planada and Rio Ñambi Natural Reserves
La Planada and Río Ñambí are two stunning natural reserves in Nariño Department which were once some of the most popular and well-visited in the country until the region descended into violence in the late ‘90s. Fortunately, they are now open and welcoming visitors in safety once again. Located on the road between the Andes and the Pacific, both reserves boast staggering levels of biodiversity, especially when it comes to birds and amphibians, with some breath-taking species of poison arrow frogs found at Río Ñambí in particular.
Nuqui and Bahia Solano
These two small towns on the Pacific coast of Colombia’s Choco region were once plagued by outbreaks of paramilitary violence, and as they can only be accessed by plane, were hardly ever visited by tourists. However, they have both emerged from that violence to become increasingly popular with eco-tourists in search of experiences in one of the most bio-diverse regions on Earth: the Pacific jungles of Colombia. Between June and October, visitors can enjoy the stirring spectacle of watching humpback whales and their young, while turtles come ashore to lay their eggs from September onwards. You can also hike in the jungle for some of the best tropical birding experiences you are ever likely to have!
The only departmental capital of Colombia with absolutely no road access to the rest of the country, Mitú is the capital of Vaupes department in the eastern jungles of Colombia. It’s perhaps the least-known of the Colombian departments. It’s mainly famous for being taken over by the FARC in 1998, in their most daring and successful raid, but offers a lot more than people realize when it comes to tourism. A particular highlight is the incredible birding available there, with many extremely rare and range-restricted species possible over four or five days of birding in the jungles and sandy forest surrounding the tiny town. You can also swim in jungle rivers, visit indigenous villages and climb ancient rocky hills overlooking hundreds of miles of unbroken forest.
Learn more about interesting places and see itineraries for tours in Colombia.
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