I arrived in Colombia at the beginning of this year and was taken aback. No, there was no war or crime to shake me up. The natural beauty and friendly people actually charmed me over. The Colombian city of Cali where I was learning salsa turned out to be one of my best stays on the ten month long Latin American trip.
It is not like the darker side of the country is lost on me. I have heard of guerrilla groups FARC and ELN. The country also has been perpetually at war with itself thanks to the druglords and their influence. Economic inequality continues to be a problem, and corruption has not gone away. However, Colombia is also one of the positive stories of this decade. Peace is finally making a comeback and every body is understandably celebrating. This, and some other reasons also make Colombia one of the best countries to live. Though you may find them subjective, here are seven of them which you will agree with if you go to Colombia.
Want to watch a video instead? Here it is.
Great nature and weather
Colombia possesses 10% of the world’s bio-diversity. It has everything from tropical forests to mountains and even deserts. For nature seekers there is enough to explore. San Cipriano which is a natural park with a river, streams, waterfalls and forests is close to the city Cali. And that is the biggest advantage for people who love nature, many nature trails are not very far from cities making for an ideal weekend trip.
Because of its topography, the weather in Colombia is really great. Of course, it gets a tad hot and humid as you get closer to the coast. But give me that over biting cold any day and I’ll take it! Medellin, Colombia’s second largest city, is known as the ‘city of eternal spring’ and you can enjoy good weather there all year round.
The beautiful Colombian smile
Colombians are famous for their friendliness. Through out my stay I was always amazed at how easy going they were. Making friends is easy and they pass that famous smile as soon their eyes meet yours. And it is much easier to speak to a smiling person, ask me for I was learning Spanish on the go.
You must have heard that Colombian women are beautiful. Well, that is not….untrue at all. But what makes them even more special is their smile, friendship and warmth. One such person is our friend pictured above, like most Colombians, she believes in having a good laugh and in making friends wherever she goes.
Festa – you can dance your life away in Colombia
If moving your feet makes you happy, then you would find it difficult to be sad in Colombia. Dance is a very important part of their culture, and socialising happens on the dance floor. Cali, known as the salsa capital of the world, is probably the best city in Colombia to dance. But other cities aren’t far behind either. Dancing is a great way to meet people of the opposite sex, and many couples in Colombia first met in a salsateca or discoteca.
Beyond that Colombians are great at celebrating. Their numerous festivals, the year-end, the carnaval or even a win at a football match will display that. It is true that if you stay long enough in a place with music, people will start dancing at some point.
Lip smacking food!
Another advantage that makes Colombia more interesting is the food. Though to be honest, Asian cuisine is better and Indian food is the best in my opinion(I am from India, what did you expect?). But anyway, getting back to Colombia, food for most parts is fattening but extremely tasty. Bandejas is an assorted lunch with different items to go with rice. Bandeja paisa is the one that is served in Medellin and is a meat eater’s delight. This heavy lunch consists of fried bacon, eggs, sausage and roasted meat with rice, lentils and salad. It is a meal which asks to be followed with a long siesta.
Despite not being a great fan of aerated drinks, I was drinking them quite regularly in Colombia. Because their local drinks are just so good! Colombiana, the cola champagne and Postobon manzana, the apple flavoured soda, rank right up there for me along with Brazil’s Guarana antartica.
My favourite dish though is the Cholado from Valle del Cauca region. This cold sweet dish is made of crushed ice, condensed milk, fruits, coconut and other delightful little things. The best time to have them is on a Sunday evening with family and friends. Best way to get prepare for the week’s grind; right?
Better value for your money
One US dollar equals 2926 Colombian pesos(as of August 2016) which means that your money runs longer in Colombia. Things aren’t yet expensive in the country. It is possible to dance the night away at a salsateca and have a couple of pints for less than 10 USD. Same goes for food and other things such as transport. Domestic flights aren’t expensive by international standards, which makes it easy to plan weekend trips.
But more than the price, what Colombia offers is value. I have been countries which are as cheap as Colombia(and that includes my country India), but they do not offer the same quality as the ‘land of magical realism’ does. And that is where Colombia scores! That is why many Americans are steadily choosing Colombian cities as their retirement location. It may be just a matter of time before things become expensive, but let’s enjoy as long as it lasts.
Country of the future
Many economists call it one of the rising stars of Latin America. Though problems remain and a lot needs to be done, we can all be optimistic about the country. Teaching English is already a viable option for expats and running a business isn’t a bad option either. I have heard that it is easy to get PR(permanent residency) in the country. The government is encouraging foreigners to come in to invest their money or skill in the country, as they need to play catch up with other economies.
You could always argue for or against these points and I guess contradictions to these may be true as well. But it is difficult to debate that with its nature, people, culture and relative safety the country is fast turning into one of the better places to live in the world.
I am definitely going back there one day. What about you? Are you coming?