Despite what you may hear in the news and media, Colombia is fun, vibrant, friendly and an all round great place to visit. There are some regions that may have safety issues, and it's definitely wise to check your country's latest safety report (it's recommend to do this when visiting any country). However, Colombia is also a big country (twice the size of France), and the majority of the county, is no less safe than any USA or Western city.
Colombia has the jungle (Amazon), snow-capped mountains, flat plains, green valleys, coffee plantations, Caribbean beaches, deserts, cities, history, culture, hiking, great restaurants, festivals, and salsa.
The country's capital is Bogotá, and this is where most people will arrive if flying into the country, so it has the highest number of hostels. It's a cultural hub, with some great night life and good museums, including the famous Gold Museum. You can also take a bike tour around the city, and visit the different areas of the city, including the red light district. Cartagena is another beautiful city, as well as being an old city, with much colonial history, a major port, and a large number of hostels. Cartagena receives day visitors from cruise ships during the peak season. This is also the place to catch a boat to Panama.
If you like hiking and history, then head up to Santa Marta, and book yourself onto the Lost City hike. This hike is a four to six day hike through the jungle, the ancient Lost City of the Tayrona Indians. After you've challenged yourself with the Lost City hike, spend a couple of days relaxing on the beach at Tayrona National Park, a stunning jungle, backed onto a sandy beach. You can rent a hammock and spend a couple of days in the parks, relaxing.
Cali, which is in the south of Colombia is another popular hostel destination, especially if you love salsa. Cali is the salsa capital of the world, with some of the best nightlife and clubs in the whole of Colombia.
If you want to get off the tourist travel, then a visit to the Amazon, might all so on the cards. Leticia is the Amazon capital of Colombia, and there are only two ways to get there, either by plane or by boat from either Peru or Brazil. Once you arrive in the jungle town of Leticia, you will be able to arrange an Amazon hike or multiday excursion, or boat ride of the Amazon River. This region is one of the most bio-diverse regions in the world, with pink dolphins, river dolphins, anacondas, and monkeys just to name a few of the animals you might see. Leticia borders with both Peru and Brazil. If you wanted you could literally have breakfast in Colombia, lunch in Peru, and dinner in Brazil, all in the same day.
Foods to try include arepas, which can vary throughout the country. The best arepas are the ones stuffed with various different fillings, such as cheese and beans. Hot chocolate and cheese for breakfast is also another Colombian specialty.
Accommodation in Colombia is of a high standard and includes, guesthouses, hostels, hotels, resorts, campsites and budget hotels. Hostels are a great way to meet other travellers, and also a great way to find out about local events. Most hostels will have wifi, English speaking staff, information on local activities and events, or contact information about tours and onwards travel. Most hostels in Colombia, and most of South America, have electric showers. This can be quite a shock when you first encounter them. Usually the shower has some wires jutting out the side of the shower, you may also get a slight electric shock of the shower head -- don't mess around with the shower head while you are in the shower.
Have fun and enjoy Colombia and all it has to offer.
Handwritten by local expert for Colombia hostels Kelly Sheldrick