Coffee, beaches and beautiful people – The complete Colombian Experience

Oh Colombia! An outstanding country characterised around the world foremost for its beautiful people, world-class coffee and exotic fruits, but also – less tastefully – for the not-so-pretty drug cartel violence of the 80s and 90s. The truth is however that Colombia has been drastically transformed in recent years, from a dangerous region to avoid into one of the best and most welcoming countries in South America.

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Salento, Colombia | Photo: Chris Rodriguez

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Colombia has been rated as one of the most gay-friendly destinations in Latin America with a strong and very active local gay community

When it comes to the LGBTQ+ community, in particular, Colombia has been rated as one of the most gay-friendly destinations in Latin America with a strong and very active local gay community, not only in the capital of Bogotá but also across several other regions. The country has become a hot destination for gay couples seeking high quality and affordable adoption or surrogate services, as well as those seeking to get married. Same-sex marriage became legal across Colombia in 2016, a fact that helped drive the growth of the LGBTQ+ community among locals as well as ex-pats who couldn’t help but fall in love here.

Sexy Colombian men may be a key reason for the surge in the country’s popularity among the international LGBTQ+ community, but it is also the people’s charming and welcoming attitudes that help make the unique locations, boutique hotels, and natural parks all the more inviting. From the vibrant, ever-awake capital of Bogotá all the way to the coffee fields in Cocora Valley and the amazing beaches of Cholón Island, we bring you Mr Hudson’s top recommendations for a Complete Colombian experience.

Photo: Sara Illustration

Photo: Juan Esteban Agudelo

1. Bogotá D.C. 

Bogotá D.C is the capital of Colombia and its population of 8 million makes it the biggest and most active city in the country. The city provides a wide variety of cultural attractions, culinary experiences and amazing hotels, with a hugely welcoming gay and lesbian community to boot. The city has been recognized around the globe as one of the most LGBTQ-friendly cities in the region and as such has seen a boost in popularity among gay travellers over the last few years. Based up on a high plateau, Bogotá can get gloomy with lots of rain and cold mornings, making a rain jacket and coat both solid additions to your trip outfit.

Bogotá has several top hotels spread throughout the city, including all major hotels chains such as the Four Seasons, W hotels, etc. However, there are also a number of chic boutique hotels that provide a more exclusive and unique experience such as BOG, Click Clack, and Casa Legado. All these are strategically located in one of the most exclusive areas of the city, all within walking distance from several restaurants and local coffee shops like Café Rico, as well as bars and high-end shops.

Photo: Santiago Boada

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One of the largest gay bars in the world, Theatron hosts more than 13 different rooms and an open bar, with a men’s-only section on the upper floor

The most popular nightlife area in the city is ‘Zona T’, which hosts diverse restaurants, bars and entertainment venues, including Mr Hudson’s favourites Cristobal and Salvaje. If you’re in the mood for something more local, Andres DC is the place to go. While there is no official gay bar in this area, most of the bars here are extremely gay friendly, Le Coq, Menosuno and Fenix rooftop in particular. Once the mood is set, you’ll want to head to the centre of gay life in Bogotá, Theatron. One of the largest gay bars in the world, Theatron hosts more than 13 different rooms and an open bar, with a men’s-only section on the upper floor. This Latin Disneyland for gays seeing upwards of 6,000 partygoers each weekend, guaranteeing a lot of craziness and lots of potentials to mingle with hot locals!

Those looking for traditional attractions in the city meanwhile can try climbing up Monserrate to enjoy a traditional soup of Ajiaco Bogotano, pausing at Plaza la Perseveracia and La Candelaria, or even stopping at a local Tejo club-like Trumequé for a chance to play Colombia’s national sport.

Bogotá | Photo: Jorge Gardner

Bogotá

Bogotá | Photo: Ivan Ramirez

2. Medellín, Antioquia

300 kilometres west or a 40 min flight from Bogotá lies Medellín. Medellín, the so-called city of eternal spring, is one of if not the most beautiful city in Colombia. The city comes surrounded by greenery and nature with huge bamboo forests, orchid gardens and rivers converging, all met by amazing weather every single day of the year. On top of all that, Medellín is home of some of the sexiest men and women in all of Colombia. And the agent to help you mingle with them is Aguardiente, Colombia’s anise-flavoured national drink, born in Medellín itself and readily available across the city’s bars.

In recent years, Medellín has become a mecca for world travellers and digital nomads, thanks to its affordable living and great weather. Some areas of the city such as El Poblado and Laureles offer a lot of restaurants, bars and hotel options for travellers, including several co-working options. Selina and El Viajero hostels have become a popular option for foreigners, but there are more upscales options such as El Cielo, Click Clack and Marquee. An authentic way to spend a morning in Medellín is to browse the endless array of cafés and bakeries around the city, especially in El Poblado area, a walkable area with gardens and alfresco seating.

When it comes to restaurants, Provenza in El Poblado is the place where several options such as La Cruda, La Deriva and El Botánico can acquaint you with the city’s gastronomy. Otherwise, La Rufina located 20 minutes outside the city can provide a perfect country gateway with great food and drinks. As for the LGBTQ+ scene, Medellín is quite active and comparable to Bogotá, especially when it comes to the queer and drag community. There are several gay bar options such as Bar Chiquita, Club Oráculo, Industry Club, and Purple all of which provide a very different vibe, from mellow to wild respectively!

Photo: Juan Zavala Aleman

Medellín | Photo: Daniel Vargas

3. Cartagena de Indias

As we continue heading towards the coast of Colombia, we find Cartagena de Indias and its walled Old Town. The 16th century gated city is definitely the main attraction in the region and the best way to explore the city is on foot, getting lost among the colourful houses, shops, and streets. Unlike lofty Bogotá, Cartagena can get quite hot and humid, so don’t forget to pack a linen outfit and white guayabera in your luggage. Outside of the Old Town, there isn’t much else to see, aside from the beaches of course. Of the best islands and beaches worth exploring near Cartagena, Baru, Cholón Island, and Playa Blanca are all just one boat ride away and the perfect answer for a day trip escape from the city.

When it comes to places to stay in Cartagena there are a few boutique hotels providing unique bases for explorations in the region. One of our favourites is Casa San Agustin, a tropical boutique hotel with amazing rooms and a great atmosphere. There is also Casa La Cartujita and Leones de Alba which are two of the top places to stay in Cartagena, as well as the more traditional – yet equally as chic – Hotel El Marques.

Cartagena offers a wide variety of restaurants and bars, some of the most popular include Carmen, Alquimico and La Única, which each serve a variety of international cuisines, delicious drinks, and good vibes, all of them with that same Cartagena beach Caribbean touch and style. Cartagena doesn’t have any specific gay spots per se, but growing international tourism has nevertheless brought a number of world LGBTQ+ visitors to the city and pretty much all bars are open and accepting of everyone, regardless of sex, race or sexual preference.

Cartagena | Photo: Ricardo Gomez Angel

Photo: Juanes Echeverri

4. Coffee Axis

When it comes to Colombia, coffee is one of those things that instantly springs to mind, and the coffee region (or ‘Coffee Triangle’) shows how relevant coffee remains for the country. The coffee axis or Eje Cafetero in Spanish is comprised of several cities in the Paisa region of Colombia. Armenia, Pereira, Salento and Filandia are some of the main cities that make up the coffee axis, but largely the name refers to the rural land between the cities where traditionally most of the coffee production in Colombia took place. More recently, although the coffee production has been moved elsewhere, the region still remains a hotspot for tourists thanks to its natural beauty.

Glamping and eco-hotels are the main attractions in the area and there are some outstanding lodgings that provide comfort in nature alongside luxury 5-star services.  Some of our favourites are Montana GlampingBio Habitat and Casa du Velo all of which are quite popular among LGBTQ+ travellers. The beauty of the glamping experience is that it offers the perfect mix of nature and comfort all in one place, in amongst the natural fields and jungle of Colombia.

Photo: Juan Zavala Aleman

Photo: Loguista

Each town within the Coffee Triangle is unique and worth exploring but it is Salento that wins our hearts. Near to Salento, we have the Cocora Valley, one of the many natural wonders of Colombia and home to the traditional Quindío wax palm. This place is breathtaking and one of a kind, with the possibility of horseback riding tours around the valley and through the hilly jungle, putting visitors in reach of all the best viewpoints.

Since this is a more traditional and conservative area of the country there is not an active LGBTQ+ scene, and, unlike the bigger cities, you won’t find such an openness to the gay community. Sooner or later, however, with more and more international travellers making their way to the region, things will undoubtedly improve on this front and a more active scene will emerge.

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