Northwest Colombia

Shutterstock/32480320/Holger MetteThe people of Antioquia have made this corner of Colombia the country's industrial capital and
paisas
, as people from here are known, are enterprising, business-savvy individuals, known for their pride in their distinctive accent, gregarious nature and generous hospitality. Their boundless optimism has seen Medellín, for so long associated with Pablo Escobar and his drug cartel, undergo an extraordinary renaissance into a city buzzing with new ideas, art and culture. Outside of Medellín there are delightful typical villages such as Santa Fe de Antioquia, which have unique characters that locals will tell you are pure
paisa
.

El Chocó could not be more different. This area's relentless rainfall and dense jungles have hampered attempts to build any significant roads and as a result, the area is one of the poorest economically but one of the richest culturally. Its population is proud of its African heritage, reflected in their distinctive music. Travellers should take advice before going, but Bahía Solano and Nuquí are relatively safe and boast some of the most beautiful, untouched beaches in Colombia and a chance to see one of the great whale migrations.

The Zona Cafetera is Colombia's main coffee-producing region. The bamboo forests, chattering brooks, banana groves and coffee plantations that make up its landscape create a bewildering spectrum of greens. The three main cities - Manizales, Pereira and Armenia - are relatively new and their susceptibility to damage from earthquakes has left them lacking in architectural charm. But the surrounding countryside is brimming with delightful
fincas
and pretty villages. Moreover, the icy peaks of Los Nevados, the eerie wax palms of the Valle de Cocora, or the incredible volume of birdlife at the Río Blanco reserve make this an excellent destination for nature lovers.

This is edited copy from Footprint Handbooks. For comprehensive details (incl address, tel no, directions, opening times and prices) please refer to book or individual chapter PDF
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