Why in 2011:
Forget drug lords and violent political rebels—that’s old news. Colombia is not only safe, it has mass tourist appeal thanks to attractions ranging from gorgeous colonial cities to Caribbean beaches to Amazonian jungles. In the first quarter of 2010, tourism in Colombia grew 10.8 percent from the same period in 2009, thanks in large part to an 11 percent reduction in airfare. (Colombia recently opened its runways to low-cost carriers like JetBlue and Spirit, as part of an effort to attract U.S. travelers). More ships are also sailing through the country’s ports—ocean cruises increased 16.2 percent in the past year, and several major lines, including Royal Caribbean and Princess, are offering itineraries that dock in Cartagena. Plus, hotel deals abound after a construction boom across the country—the result of tax breaks and a strengthening economy. Of the 4,700 new rooms this year, nearly half of them will be in Bogotá, where a crop of trendy boutiques, restaurants and nightclubs has popped up.
Best time to visit Colombia: The tropical climate means warm weather year-round, so the biggest damper is rain. Precipitation varies across the country, but in the more populated Andean region (which includes the cities of Bogotá, Cali and Medellín), December through March is the dry season. Unfortunately, ideal weather coincides with peak tourism levels, so try April, when crowds—and prices—have thinned and rain hits only sporadically.
Price check: Flights from Miami are a steal in February; non-stops start at $299 (LAN Airlines). One-stop trips are necessary if you leave from New York and Los Angeles, but fares on Spirit are relatively cheap: $357 and $437, respectively.
For more information about Columbia go to: www.columbia.travel