Rediscovering Colombia without war

3.5 million tourists in 2016: since Colombia has taken first steps on the road to peace, the home of world famous Latin American writer Gabriel García Márquez is becoming increasingly attractive as a travel destination.

Kolumbien Wachspalme im Cocora Tal (picture-alliance/robertharding/A. Treadway)
Kolumbien Wachspalme im Cocora Tal (picture-alliance/robertharding/A. Treadway)

There used to be a time when heavily armed paramilitary suddenly appeared and collected $10 per person. “We’ll make sure that the guerrillas don’t make any trouble,” they would claim. During a four-day hike through the jungle in the mountain rain forests of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, crossing hanging bridges suspended from worn ropes over rivers, one could pass by dozens of cocaine kitchens. That was Colombia 10 years ago.

Kolumbien Ruinenstadt Ciudad Perdida (picture-alliance/dpa/G. Ismar)
City ruins of Ciudad Perdida in Colombia’s Sierra Nevada

The route to the Ciudad Perdida, the “lost city,” is still very adventurous even without paramilitary soldiers and FARC or ELN guerrillas, but far less risky.

The Ciudad Perdida, after the Inca city of Machu Pitchu in Peru, is the biggest and best known pre-colonial cultural site in all of Latin America. The hike with nights spent in hammocks is a real nature experience, where the journey is just as important as the destination.

For years, backpackers were systematically targeted by kidnappers. For instance in 2003, eight holiday makers from Europe and Israel were abducted. Some 2,000 soldiers and police searched for them while some of them were held by ELN guerrillas, a group financed by ransom payments.

Kolumbien | Farc-Rebellen wollen mit Übergabe von Waffen beginnen (Getty Images/AFP/L. Acosta)
Rebel area San Jose de Oriente

Following a peace treaty with the FARC guerrillas, some 70,000 fighters in 26 zones are expected to hand in their weapons by the end of May in a first step in organizing a return…