With a greater metropolitan population of about one million, Bucaramanga, the capital of Santander, is one of Colombia's major cities; it's packed with skyscrapers surrounded by mountains. While it may not be the most interesting city in the country, it's not overrun with visitors and is a pleasant place to get a taste of local culture.

Buca, as it's known to locals, was founded in 1622 and developed around what is today the Parque García Rovira, but most of its colonial architecture is long gone. Over the centuries the city center moved eastwards, and today Parque Santander is Bucaramanga's heart. Further east are newer, posh neighborhoods with hotels and nightspots.

Dubbed 'The City of Parks,' Buca has some fine green spaces and is a suitable spot to recharge your batteries. It comes to life at night, when dozens of clubs, hundreds of bars and 10 universities don their party hats.