Destination at a glance: Colombia

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Once typecast as the bad boy of South America, Colombia is one of the continent's most remarkable success stories. A decades-long civil war has been largely relegated to the past, and Colombians and foreign travellers alike are rediscovering this captivating country. Colombia's trump card is its diverse geography, which includes Andean peaks, rainforests and savannahs, supporting an astounding 14% of the world's biodiversity.

Riding on the wave of newfound optimism, Colombian cities are also experiencing a dramatic rebirth, with a flurry of urban renewal projects underway. The country's greatest asset may be its people – a mix of indigenous, African and European ancestry – who are famed for their hospitality.

BEST TIME TO VISIT
January to March (the dry season)

TOP THINGS TO SEE
• The cobbled lanes of Cartagena, Colombia's most romantic colonial city
• Zona Cafetera, the coffee-growing region set against a backdrop of volcanoes
• The rebirth of Bogotá, a vibrant and style-conscious city with a burgeoning arts scene
• Laid-back Capurgana and Sapzurro, two blissfully old-fashioned settlements
ringed by rainforest on the Caribbean coast
• The hauntingly beautiful subterranean salt cathedral in Zipaquirá

TOP THINGS TO DO
• Head to San Gil, a mecca for adventure lovers with incredible rafting, caving, horseback riding and mountain biking
• Journey to Colombia's Amazonian wilderness at the Reserva Natural Zacambú
• Trek through rainforest and mountains to the ruins of the Ciudad Perdida
• Explore the archaeological sites hidden in the rolling hills around San Agustín
• Take a mud bath inside the crater of the diminutive Volcán de Lodo El Totumo

GETTING UNDER THE SKIN
Read Love in the Time of Cholera, the fantastical love story by Nobel prize–winning author Gabriel García Márquez
Listen to pop vocalists Carlos Vives and Shakira, or the Afro-Caribbean beats of Toto La Momposina
Watch Maria Full of Grace, Joshua Marston's complex film about a pregnant drug mule seeking a new life in the US
Eat satisfying arepas (corn cakes served with cheese, pork and many other toppings); sancocho (a hearty soup made with meat, yucca and other vegetables)
Drink probably the world's best coffee; order a tinto (black, espresso size), pintado (small milk coffee) or cafe con leche (latte-size with more milk than coffee)

IN A WORD
Que hubo? (What's up?)

TRADEMARKS
Coffee; Gabriel García Márquez; emeralds; lost cities; Shakira; football; cocaine

RANDOM FACT
Avianca, Colombia's flagship airline, was the first commercial airline founded in the Americas

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