Rising like a phoenix from the ashes of its conflict-riddled past, Colombia is experiencing a tourism renaissance unlike any other. With record low crime rates, booming economic growth, and the promise of increased political stability, this country of 50 million people is quickly climbing to the top of everyone’s travel list.
November 2018 will mark the one year anniversary of Colombia’s historic peace deal signing with the narco-terrorist organization, FARC, ending a 52-year civil war that left more than 260,000 people dead and six million displaced. For decades, Colombia’s blood-soaked headlines eclipsed the bounty of natural beauty the country offers, keeping tourism significantly at bay.
ndigenous people inhabited what is now Colombia by 12,500 BCE
Travel guide Lonely Planet ranked Colombia second in its list of best countries to visit in 2017
ON THE HEELS OF AN HISTORIC PEACE AGREEMENT, COLOMBIA NOW WORKS TO SHED A REPUTATION REINFORCED BY DECADES OF NEGATIVE MEDIA.
MEDELLÍN—ONCE NICKNAMED THE ‘MURDER CAPITAL OF THE WORLD’—HAS COLLECTED ACCOLADES THAT INCLUDE THE WORLD’S MOST INNOVATIVE CITY AND ‘SOUTH AMERICA’S SILICON VALLEY.’
In 1991, with Escobar at the height of his power, the homicide rate in Medellín reached 375 murders per 100,000 inhabitants per year, or about three times today’s highest homicide rate by city, found in Caracas, Venezuela. (Today, that figure sits at 21 homicides per 100,000 people—or roughly that of Cincinnati, Ohio.)
But today, Colombia has, despite the challenges that remain in any post-conflict society, changed dramatically if gradually, thanks to the ongoing conflict being pushed into more remote regions of the country by government forces and innovations around safety and infrastructure made in cities across the country.
Overall, the number of visitors to Colombia has grown a staggering 250 percent in the last ten years, from one million visitors in 2006 to more than 2.5 million in 2016. In September of this year, Colombian newspaper La Republica reported that visitor numbers were up 20 percent, compared to the same time period last year.
The country is home to 1,826 bird species—the most on the planet, which escaped the habitat destruction that came with development in other parts of the Amazon. Colombia also has 3,500 of the estimated 25,000 species of orchids found around the world. The Malpelo Fauna and Flora Sanctuary, a protectedmarine environment 310 miles off the country’s coast offers some of the best big-fish scuba diving in the world. All of this makes Colombia well-positioned to be a leader in environmentally sustainable tourism, and it appears to be on the right path: The government has more than doubled the area officially designated as protected, from around 50,000 square miles in 2010, to 109,000 square miles today.