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Playa Blanca, Santa Marta, Colombia. Photo by PROEXPORT

How would you like to visit the country with the second-highest level of biodiversity in the world? Besides its breathtaking natural setting, this country produces some of the best quality coffee and the most beautiful emeralds on the planet. Its people are known for their great warmth and the best rumbas of South America.

This alluring country is Colombia.

Located on the southeastern border of Panama, Colombia is a country that has almost everything: beautiful beaches on its Pacific and Caribbean shores, lush forests and Amazon jungles, deserts, snow-capped mountains, a pleasant tropical climate, cosmopolitan cities and a rich cultural heritage. It is home to 102 indigenous ethnic groups, around 64 Amerindian and Afro-Columbian languages, more than 30 traditional festivals, and 191 folk rhythms. UNESCO has named seven cultural traditions as elements of Intangible Cultural Heritage and seven natural and cultural properties as World Heritage sites.

Thanks to these various attractions, highly increased government security measures, and improved political and social stability in recent years, Colombia is being reborn in the eyes of the world as an excellent tourist destination. Between 2001 and 2011, the number of visitors to the country grew by 10% per year on average, which is almost four times the world average. Cartagena. Photo by PROEXPORT

Tourism in Colombia is a huge industry and offers something for every type of visitor. The country officially promotes 17 specialized tour themes, including sun and sand, culture, agrotourism, nature, cruises, diving, golf, bird-watching, religious tourism, and wellness tourism.

For example, ecotourists can enjoy dozens of protected areas, which encompass ten percent of the national territory, or they can venture into the Colombian Amazon region, which represents one third of the country. They can tour the Archipelago of San Andrés and Providencia or visit Cartagena, San Blas, and Santa Marta--tourist favorites that they combine beautiful beaches with nature and colonial history.

The Colombian coasts are also a delight for diving, snorkeling, and sailing enthusiasts, with plentiful coral and endemic and migratory marine species, such as sea turtles and humpback whales that visit from July to October.

Another popular destination is the Coffee Triangle, or the area in the beautiful highlands of the Caldas, Quindío and Risaralda departments, where you'll find the heart of Colombian coffee farming and a reflection of authentic rural life.

Typical coffee hacienda. Photo by PROEXPORT

The different routes connecting the Triangle offer the opportunity to visit and stay in typical coffee haciendas, tour small coffee farms managed by local families, and, of course, taste what many consider to be the best coffee in the world. You can also go horseback riding or biking in the mountains, go bird-watching, participate in adventure sports, tour nearby towns, and visit the Coffee Park and Panaca theme parks. Because of its beauty and high cultural value, the Colombian coffee landscape was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2011.

Finally, you can't go to Colombia without appreciating its large cosmopolitan cities: Cali, Bogotá, and Medellín.

Bogotá, the nation's capital, is known as the "Athens of South America" and is compared with cities like London and Buenos Aires. It is the financial and political center of the country, home to famous universities, exquisite architecture, a modern transportation system, museums, and endless accommodation options for visitors. Medellín is considered the cultural center of Colombia and is a vibrant and modern city that still retains a regional charm. Meanwhile, Cali is positioned as the world capital of salsa--the perfect destination for those who want to dance and enjoy authentic Colombian rumbas. Medellín. Photo by PROEXPORT

All of Colombia's charms can be enjoyed sustainably. The government has tools such as the Quality Tourism Certification and the Colombian Environmental Seal to identify and distinguish services and products that meet certain environmental and social criteria. The international seal SmartVoyager also certifies tourism businesses in the country.

Visit our directory for a list of sustainable businesses in Colombia and discover this up-and-coming tourism destination before the rest of the world catches on!