Next to its more obvious natural splendors, Colombia has a great deal to offer when it comes to art, culture and craftsmanship. The major cities are electrifying, speckled with hip live music bars, artsy cafés, provocative street art, contemporary galleries and an array of conscientiously curated historical museums. Parallel to that, picturesque and easygoing pueblos offer a break from the hectic city life. Often nestled in remarkable natural settings, many towns and villages feature regional artesanía, or crafts, such as ceramics, paper and felting artistry or delicately handcrafted jewellery and Colombian essentials such as the handwoven mochila bag. Laid-back Barichara, for example, effortlessly showcases uncluttered adobe architecture that could easily pass as landscape art, whereas romantic Cartagena’s sunbaked cobblestone streets will lead you into cool and secretive courtyard-galleries. Affordable, culturally diverse and easily explorable by means of a well-established national bus system and city-to-city flights, Colombia is quietly establishing itself as a top destination for artists and art aficionados from all over the world.
The magic is in the mix: bustling cities, tranquil pueblos
What makes Colombia such a spectacular destination for artists is its diversity. While cities like Bogotá and Medellin are loud, exciting, edgy, and full of contradictions, Cartagena seems to have preserved its old world charm, flaunting thick stone walls, sunny plazas and rustic wooden balcony balustrades. Often nestled in remarkable natural settings, many towns and villages feature regional artesanía, or crafts, such as ceramics, paper and felting artistry or delicately handcrafted jewellery and Colombian essentials such as the handwoven mochila bag. Mellow pueblos like dry Barichara and charming Villa de Leyva are intriguing not only because of their unique architecture and proximity to impressive nature, but also their easygoing vibe. The plazas seem made for lazy afternoons, ideal for reading poetry by Colombian writers such as the late nineteenth century romantic poet José Asunción Silva or the celebrated writer Jorge Isaacs. In the evening, take your pick of comfy craft beer breweries and unpretentious restaurants. During the day, hike to high altitude lagoons like Iguaque or to satellite pueblos like Guane, which is situated next to Barichara and seems to have been forgotten by time.
Hiking in the rolling hills of the lush Zona Cafetera means coming face to face with unspoilt natural beauty. Narrow paths between towering wax palms (palmas de cera) meander up the Colombian Paramo, where overgrown forests reveal impressive waterfalls and hidden caves. Serene pueblos such as Jardin or Salento fuse relaxation, artisanía and adventure; these spots are meccas for photographers and nature lovers. Albeit somewhat touristy, these towns are far from overcrowded or artificial, instead possessing a unique identity that is as enchanting as it is down to earth.
Mountain vistas, coastlines and jungles
Few other countries have as much natural diversity as Colombia. The landscapes span from snowy volcano peaks to Mangrove-adorned, cerulean Caribbean coastlines and the dense, animal-rich Amazon. Colombia’s wealth of plant and animal life is staggering to say the least. Surprisingly, it often only takes a few hours of travel for landscapes to change drastically.
Artists looking for inspiration and recluse in nature will certainly find what they are looking for here. From sketching frailejones (perennial subshrubs) and discovering the serenity of the paramos to embarking on a multi-day jungle trek to the Ciudad Perdida (The Lost City) to soaking up sun rays on the beaches of Tayrona National Park, Colombia’s multiplicity of landscape and animal life is unparalleled.
An eclectic medley of art fairs and festivals
Colombia’s fairs and festivals span across music, film, art, and literature. The ARTBO, for example, takes place in Bogotá in October and is one of Latin America’s most important art fairs. It draws many international collectors, art aficionados, curators and gallerists. Feria del Millión, which also takes place in October, displays the work of emerging artists and seeks to support and encourage young art collectors by featuring solely works that don’t exceed a price of one million pesos (roughly $280 USD). FICCI is an annual Cartagena-based film festival that showcases both international and Colombian cinema in locations across the city. The festival has drawn international auteurs such as the Cohen Brothers and Werner Herzog. The music festival Petronio Álvarez in Cali celebrates the music, food and artesanía of Colombia’s Pacific region. The HAY Literary Festival in Cartagena fuses literature, visual arts, cinema, music, geopolitics, journalism and the environment, and has been drawing audiences for over 14 years.
Colombia’s breathtaking landscapes, colourful street art, its major contemporary art fairs, carefully curated museums and intriguing upcoming art scene make it a prime destination for artists and art lovers from all over the world. Moreover, nationals from many countries don’t require a visa to visit. (Nationals from countries that do, can obtain a visa at a reasonable fee.) With a granted stay of up to 90 days in Colombia, artists and creatives are able to take their time when exploring. Another tempting option is to combine traveling with a stay at an art residency such as Flora or ArteSumapaz. After all, what better way to experience Colombia than to delve into the cultural scene, improve one’s Spanish language skills, connect with local artists, and create art.
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