This article originally appeared in the Central & South America Guide. It has been extracted from its original format. To read the full guide, visit the digital edition.
Colombia has reinvented itself to become one of Latin America’s fastest-growing destinations and Bogota is the new go-to Latin capital for lovers of art (a must-see is the Museo Botero) and history, great dining and a nonstop nightlife. A popular trip from Bogota is a half-day venture to the Zipaquira Salt Mine with its spectacular underground cathedral carved out of the rock, while at least one night should be reserved to explore and hang out in such charming market towns as Raquira and Vila de Leyva in the neighboring province of Boyaca. And to discover “undiscovered” Colombia, head for the green hills of the “Coffee Triangle,” a bucolic region that has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Landscape for its “centennial tradition of coffee growing” (its leading gateways are Armenia, Manizales and Pereira). Overland and off-the-beaten-path is San Agustin, where hundreds of stone totem statues of animal and human deities are scattered through the forest, while a flight south takes travelers to Leticia, the major gatway to Amazon adventures. And by the sea, the star of Colombia’s northern Emerald Coast is Cartagena, once a pirate town guarded by the mammoth San Felipe de Barjas fort, today a lively, pastel-colored, fun-filled resort town. Offshore are the idyllic Rosario Islands. (colombia.travel
What’s New in Colombia
✘ TravelMart LatinAmerica, the 36th annual in-gathering of travel buyers and sellers of leisure travel to Central and South America, takes place Sept. 12-14 in Cartagena, where delegates with find that the luxury boutique Casa San Agustin, combining three colonial buildings and an ancient aqueduct, has been completely renovated. (hotelcasasanagustin.com)
✘ Coming beachfront to Cartagena’s Boca Grande district in early-2013 is the 280-room InterContinental Cartagena, complete with a spa, restaurants and bars. The property will anchor a mixed-use development that includes a casino. (ichotelsgroup.com)
✘ The privacy of Playa Koralia, a complex of 19 brightly painted bungalows fronting a secluded stretch of Colombia’s Caribbean Riviera, has made it popular among Latin American celebrities. Located 50 minutes from Santa Marta, the resort features oversized rooms; a tiny spa, and an open-air bar. (koralia.com)
✘ Effective Nov. 2, JetBlue Airways will inaugurate nonstop service between New York (JFK) and Cartagena; flights will operate three times a week.