06 Oct Anyone for Coffee in Colombia?
Anyone for coffee – in Colombia?
Alex Burridge – South America Travel Centre
Not often high on the list of countries that travellers to South America include in their plans, Colombia may just be one of those gems that is overlooked in the haste to tick off the big drawcards like Machu Picchu, Patagonia, and Rio’s famous Carnival. The notoriety of its former paramilitary conflict and once-rampant cocaine trade unfortunately maintains the misconception that the entire country is a no-go zone! This certainly isn’t the case and travellers “in the know” have long been enjoying the colourful culture and lifestyle, and the wonderful sightseeing – like pre-Columbian archaeological sites, Spanish colonial architecture, and Amazon forests and communities.
When an opportunity arose last year for me to make a trip to Colombia, I was delighted to take it. Colombia’s capital Bogota was surprising, with its superb galleries and impressive Gold Museum, and the lovely tropical port of Cartagena whose very ‘walkable’ Old City dates from 1533 and well deserves its World Heritage listing. An unexpected highlight was the couple of days I spent among the lush landscape of the ‘Zona Cafeteria’ (Coffee Country) in western Colombia. The higher elevation, cooler climate and rich volcanic soil of this area determined it would become the cradle of Colombian coffee culture. It is seductively aromatic, with a laidback lifestyle, and many of the traditional farms and century-old haciendas have been converted into luxurious accommodation. Aside from the chance to see, taste, and learn everything about the almighty bean, this region has also become a centre for great eco-activities like hiking, river-rafting, kayaking, and even zip-lining high across coffee plantations – it must be all that caffeine?!