When to go to Colombia
National holidays and celebrations
Colombia has one of the highest numbers of national holidays of anywhere in the world, with some of the most important being the Catholic holidays of Easter and Christmas, but there are several major civic holidays as well. These include Independence Day on August 7th and New Year's Day (January 1st). Whether a national holiday is Catholic or civic, it means that travellers need to be prepared for locals to be on holiday - often, this means fewer local people in the major cities, and therefore many restaurants and other attractions will be either close very early, or not open at all. Remember, as in the UK, if a national holiday falls on a weekend, it will be marked the following Monday instead.
It's also worth bearing in mind that during some public holidays, hotel prices will be higher than usual - particularly in the week before Easter. You will also need to book your hotel as far in advance as possible during those periods.
The national currency of Colombia is the Colombian peso (COP$). Always exchange your currency at designated exchange points either at the airport, or in banks or hotels. In the cities, you'll find that most hotels, restaurants and stores accept major debit and credit cards, while there are also ATMs in shopping centres and on major roads - these will usually provide options in English. So, if you need any extra cash at some point, it should be simple to obtain.
Cuisine in Colombia is as varied as the landscape. Meat features heavily, however, so it's not the easiest destination for vegetarians and vegans to dine in terms of main meals - but the astonishing variety of fresh fruits and other meat-free snacks mean that this is still a place lots of food lovers can enjoy.
There is much regional diversity with Colombian cuisine, which is part of what makes it such an exciting culinary destination to explore. An excellent example of a regional highlight is Cartagena's black beef, known locally as posta negra. Made from tri-tip sirloin, this dish is cooked with the fat still on the meat, enhancing the overall flavour. It is fried until black, then red onion, tomato, garlic and pepper is added, and the whole lot served with coconut rice.
Nationwide favourites, meanwhile, include breakfasts of fresh fruit, eggs and bread, lunches of soup, a main dish and dessert (this is the main meal of the day), then a light, almost snack-like dinner. Among the must-try foodstuffs is arepa, which is the most common side dish to any Colombian meal. This bread is made from cornmeal and is often compared to a thick pancake - it's absolutely delicious! And of course, being a nation famous for its coffee, this is a staple drink, especially at breakfast time.
Those with a sweet tooth should try bunuelos. These are a popular type of fritter served throughout South America; in Colombia, they are made of a white cheese dough, and are incredibly moreish.
Colombia's climate can broadly be classified as tropical and very warm, though it's important to bear in mind that the country's incredibly varied landscape means the altitude is similarly varied - and this means the temperature depends a lot on where exactly you are. For example, in Andean peaks it will often be freezing, while at the same time the lowlands will be sweltering.
However, the temperature changes little throughout the year. As a rule of thumb, the best time to visit Colombia is either between December and March or July and August. This is when there is the least rain, making it a good balance of sunny climes and drier weather for things like trekking.
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Apple Leisure Group continues to expand its domains as its subsidiary AMResorts signs an agreement to open its first resort in Colombia by 2018. Operating under the brand NOW Resorts, the new all-inclusive property will be situated in the Cartagena region and comprise a total of 400 rooms.
Air Europa continues to expand in Latin American territory by launching new routes to Colombia, Ecuador and Argentina. Boasting over thirty years of experience, this prestigious airline specializes in comfort and optimal customer service. With the new additions, Air Europa counts 1,057 destinations across 179 countries today.
Sofitel Legend Santa Clara in Colombia has received three World Travel Awards in this year's Latin America Ceremony that took place in Peru. The luxury hotel was named as the Best Hotel in Colombia for the sixth time, and for the third consecutive year its Botero Suite was named as South America's Leading Suite, and Colombia's Leading Hotel Suite for the first time.