Cities in Colombia

The major cities in Colombia are Bogota, Medellin, Cali, Cartagena, Barranquilla and surprisingly, Cartagena. To foreigners, they are often surprisingly modern with far more visible affluence than you might expect, contrasted with poverty, shanty towns and heavy pollution in the downtown areas.

Bogota

- Population: 7.3 million
- Altitude: 2600 meters (8600 feet)
- Main airport: El Dorado International
- Climate: Temperate during the day/ Cool at night (down to freezing at times)
- Water from tap: Yes, but not tasty.

Bogota is the largest of the cities in Colombia and is divided into two parts. The Northern half of Bogota, is where the wealth is concentrated. People live in high rise or multi-level apartments or even houses and for the middle-upper to upper classes, in financial terms, the standard of living is high with maids, nannies to watch your kids and so on. Labor is very cheap in Colombia. However, as you head South in Bogota, past the presidential palace, the level of wealth is vastly lower.

Bogota offers a somewhat cosmopolitan feel, high-end shops and restaurants and very congested streets. The traffic is one of the biggest drawbacks in all the major cities and given the amount of diesel fumes, the pollution can be intense at times. Driving is aggressive and discourteous but you get used to it after a crash or two...

Medellin

- Population: 3 million
- Altitude: 1500 meters (5000 feet)
- Main airport: Jose Maria Cordova
- Climate: Warm during day/ Comfortable at night
- Water from tap: Yes, it is wonderful in all ways!

Medellin is the second largest city in Colombia and where Lina was born. Best known for Pablo Escobar and the message and drug cartel the city has transformed itself into one of the most important economic centers of Colombia.

Personally, I believe that the city carries the scars of its troubled past. Medellin has boomed economically over the last 10 years but I still feel that many of its inhabitants are experiencing an identity crisis.

The city is picturesque with a high concentration of high rises in the wealthy area of El Poblado. The city has become home to numerous shopping malls and has pretty much everything to offer but is somewhat lacking on interesting tourist attractions.

Cali

- Population: 2.7 million
- Altitude: 997 meters (3271 feet)
- Main airport: Alfonos Bonilla Aragon
- Climate: Warm/ hot during day/ Comfortable/ warm at night
- Water from tap: Not sure.

The third largest of the major cities in Colombia and lies at roughly 1000 m above sea level but in all honesty, I don't know much about the place.

Cartagena

- Population: 1 million
- Altitude: Sea level
- Main airport: Rafael Nunez
- Climate: Hot/ very hot tropical
- Water from tap: No, it is not safe. (same along entire coast)

Cartagena is a remarkable place. However, putting it into context, the city has two faces. The one is glamorous, beautiful, wealthy and famous. The other, is poor, and ethnically linked to the colonial days when slaves were shipped over from Africa by the Spaniards. 500 years later and the effect still remains. Essentially, racial differences determine to a large degree your social and financial status.

That said, the oldest town in Cartagena is remarkable and has been very well conserved. The area is very small and can be explored on foot in 2 to 3 days and I highly recommend that you take your time and stroll around and explore while taking in the atmosphere, roam the city walls and enjoy the spectacular view of the Caribbean Sea and Bocagrande in the distance.

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