Colombia is the rising star of Latin America, currently seeing a greater increase in visitor numbers than any other country in the region. Friendly, relaxed and incredibly diverse, it’s an easy country to fall in love with. Perhaps the jewel in its crown is colonial Cartagena, founded in 1533 and more recently the setting for Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s best-selling novel, “Love in the Time of Cholera”. Here, behind seven miles of thick walls and a chain of outer forts once used to fend off pirates, lie the stately mansions, flower-filled streets, palm-lined plazas and centuries-old churches that have earned the city UNESCO World Heritage status.

The capital, Bogota, which stands on a plateau in the eastern Andes, has an equally impressive old town, filled with dozens of colonial buildings and the incredible Gold Museum, which houses the largest collection of pre-Hispanic gold in the world. Also of pre-Hispanic origin is the Valley of the Statues, one of Colombia’s most fascinating sites: hundreds of stone statues, men, gods and animals, some more than 5,000 years old, set in a lush valley near the tiny town of San Agustin.

Add swathes of tropical rainforest, remote coffee fincas high in the mountains, bubbling volcanoes with mud pools to bathe in, and the unspoilt beaches of Tayrona National Park, and it’s easy to see what the fuss is all about.

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