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Colombia

Named after Christopher Columbus, Colombia is one of South America’s hidden gems, adorned with magnificent landscapes and coasts on both the Pacific and Atlantic oceans as well as tropical rainforests and snow-capped Andean peaks that tower over fertile valleys.

From an historical standpoint, few Latin countries boast better museums or more exquisite colonial architecture. Colombians are proud of their cultural and intellectual tradition that has borne Nobel prize winning writers such as Gabriel García Márquez and artists such as Fernando Botero. The country boasts a rich variety of native musical styles and a population that is ethnically diverse and always ready to greet you with outstretched arms.

The capital Bogotá is an easy city to while away a couple of days on arrival. The historic centre known as Candelaria has an interesting mix of old colonial buildings with churches, cafes and museums which sit alongside modern structures. Spend a few hours people-watching around Plaza Del Chrono De Quevedo. For a lateral diversion head to the Zipaquira and visit the underground Church. It is most bizarre having been built in a tunnel of salt mines. The Gold Museum is an absolute must see as well.

Colourful Cartagena is a must visit for anyone wanting a Caribbean coastal setting combined with Spanish colonial architecture. It is a beautifully preserved town and as such is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The name Cartagena originates from the early Spanish navigators who believed that they had reached the Far East. The bustling streets house many monuments and museums to fill the day as well as tranquil bars ready with sundowners, hammocks, fantastic seafood restaurants and salsa clubs which come alive at the weekends.

A perfect island escape is San Andres which is only 11km long and consists of coral coves and beautiful beaches.

A short drive away from Cartagena you’ll find a mud volcano in which you can lie and receive a full body massage. Unusual, to say the least, but relax, lie back and enjoy a massage from an experienced local and you will soon be drifting off into a hippo-like state of well-being.

East of Cartagena, head into the nearby mountains on horseback and experience the beautiful Tayrona National Park where you’ll find hidden beaches and a true off the beaten track setting.

A perfect island escape is San Andres which is only 11km long and consists of coral coves and beautiful beaches. El Cove is the island’s deepest anchorage and was reputed to be a hiding place for pirates’ treasure. At La Laguna there is a plethora of wildlife surrounded by palm and mango trees. Good diving facilities are also available for those who want an adrenaline rush.

Other highlights include the whitewashed village of Villa de Leyva, Medellin and nearby colonial Santa Fe de Antioquia. For the ultimate lateral trip head into the depths of the Lost City (Ciudad Perdida) in the Sierra Nevada Mountains.