by Rachel Young
For many, Colombia, on the northwestern tip of South America, represents an unconquered Eden. From densely-packed cities to unassuming towns dwarfed by a mountainous backbone, and bountiful rainforests edging upon quiet and sequestered beaches, this diverse South American country acts as a most willing conduit between the two worlds of wellness and adventure. That’s not often an easy divide to bridge, but Colombia’s amalgam of Afro-Caribbean, Indigenous and European cultures ensure that, when it comes to passion and wholeness, no one gets left behind.
Imbued with a healthy respect for the arts and magic, Colombia plays host to an upwelling of wellness enterprises and urges explorers to challenge their preconceived notions of vibrant health. No matter if you want to experience the divine chaos of nature or shake your hips in crowded streets, Colombia is eager to flash its true heritage to the world.
Here are five wellness things to do in Colombia:
Experience Colombia’s wild, natural magic
Colombia’s colors paint a picture of a country that is rich in natural history, and there’s no better way to experience it than getting right to the heart of it all. Some of South America’s oldest human populations existed along Colombia’s coast, and their ruins/cave paintings can still be found in national parks today — Colombians now, and always have been, close to nature. With the Amazon to the Southeast, beautiful coastline to the west and mountains splitting them down the middle, the Colombian identity is closely tied to its beautiful surroundings. The environment plays a big role in their economy, from coffee to sugar to mining, and into the daily private lives of Columbians. It’s not uncommon to find the locals climbing mountains and hiking in their free time. It is a part of Colombia that is rarely portrayed in the media.
Hot springs can be found in less urban areas of the country and usually have retreat destinations build around them, such as the popular Paipa Hot Springs about hours outside of Colombia’s capital city of Bogotá. Some of the best hiking can be found in the Los Nevados National Park, anchored in Colombia’s mountainous region. True adventurers can trek across the Cuidad Perdida trail, discovering ancient ruins as they are actively reclaimed by thick jungle. It is not for the faint of heart.
Move your body to the music
Colombians live for music and dance. In the cities of Cartagena and Barranquilla, it would seem that rhythms runs through the veins of every person who walks through the street. Colombia’s distinct, eclectic style of music pays homage to its diverse ethnic culture — there are as many styles of music as there are people. It’s impossible not to feel the pulse of the beat; to feel drawn to dance floor, or the streets, or wherever else a party may pop up! The Barranquilla Carnival is widely considered to be the country’s best festival, celebrating African music and heritage, so be sure to check that out. If “nightlife” not really your scene? If you’re in the Colombian Andes in the summertime, get your dancing fix at Bambuco National Folk Festival. There’s a certain folkloric, highly-emotion quality to it all that is sure to stay with you.
Find your spirituality — challenge what you know to be real
If you believe in magic and commune with spirits, Colombia will endlessly fascinate you. There is a certain mythology that shrouds the country and all its vivid wildness – one that gave rise to the El Dorado legend and other examples of indigenous spiritualism. Whether it’s natural remedies sourced straight from the jungle, vision quests to set you down the right path, or some old-age wisdom passed down from ancient native populations, it’s not uncommon for people to venture to Colombia seeking spiritual healing. Shamanism is popular amongst visitors, as it is a unique sampling of Colombia’s culture that is simply available nowhere else in the world… at least, not in the same way, and not with as much conviction, and definitely not in such a stunning environment.
Of course, this is not the only spiritual experience to be had — Colombia is a predominantly catholic country and its hilly terrain is peppered with haunting churches and monastaries, ages old. The church upon the towering Mount Monserrate near Bogota is particularly beautiful.
Eat like a local
Colombian culture sports a proud, meat-laden diet — but Colombia’s real pride lies in the abundance of fresh produce, available almost everywhere you go and at very good prices. There’s a wide selection of exotic fruits that only grow in humid, lush environments.
Fruit stands and markets abound in both large cities and small towns. Be sure to try the pitaya (also called dragonfruit), which is especially refreshing and good in the high summer’s heat.
Harness the spirit of adventure
Heart pumping physical exertion, or pushing the limits of what we think is possible, can be some of the most refreshing and invigorating things to do on this planet — so let’s all say “thank you” to Colombia for being such a wealth of adventure gold.
With so many different states of nature, from water to snow to earth and air, it’s possible to challenge oneself in all different elevations. Fly over mountainous coffee plantations in light aircraft, or escape to Colombia’s many beaches and find a surfer’s content, or climb one of those mountains and gain a higher perspective. Or, simply explore the old cities of Cartagena or Mompox. In a place like Colombia, even walking around the cobblestone streets can qualify as an adventure for even the most curious of spirits.
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Rachel Young’s trip to Columbia was not sponsored.