Travel Guides

Colorful Colombia: Advice from Jenny, Latin America Travel Expert

Our friend Jenny Desmond is a travel bug and small business owner based in Boulder, Colorado (needless to say, we have a lot in common!). We at Sherpani are big fans of Jenny's work. She takes US residents on expertly curated tours to Latin American destinations, specifically Cuba and Colombia. Jenny says Colombia is quickly emerging as a top Latin American destination, and we wanted to learn more about this special place from someone who knows best.

Jenny, who never travels without her Sherpani bag in tow, was kind enough to offer her expertise and answer our questions about making the most of the Colombian experience! Read on to discover must-see places, travel safety tips, and what to expect when you book a tour with Jenny's company, Vive Más Tours.

Sherpani: Please tell us a little bit about yourself and your business!
Jenny: I was forever changed when I took my first trip to Colombia in 2021. What I discovered changed my world and my company. I have always been passionate about Latin culture and lived in Costa Rica and Nicaragua in the 1990s. I have traveled to 16 of the 33 countries in Latin America. My Latino friends tease me that I’m a white girl with a Latina heart, and I can’t ever get enough of the food, language, and culture of these diverse countries.
In 2015, I started my company, Vive Más Tours, with the hope of sharing my love of Latin culture with others from my community. Ever since, I have been taking US-Americans on small-group tours of Cuba for unique cultural experiences. Recently, I expanded the business to include tours of Colombia.
Sherpani: How amazing! What about Colombia struck a chord in your traveler's heart?
Jenny: This is a country nearly twice the size of Texas, with numerous ecosystems, and elevations ranging from sea level to 18,000-foot peaks. It is a comfortable and safe place for travel, particularly in the highly touristed areas where we have established our itineraries. I am enthralled by the culture and plantations of the coffee region with its Jeep Willys and towering wax palm forest. Even older than the coffee region’s heritage is the port city of Cartagena. Established over 500 years ago, this historic city is so well preserved that you can still visualize the Spanish building their fortress to guard the city against marauding pirates. There truly is something for everyone in Colombia.
Sherpani: Sounds like it. What can you tell us about exploring the natural world in Colombia? We are always looking for ways to connect with nature.
Jenny: Colombia is the most biodiverse country on the planet!
I got into the hobby of bird-watching last summer after many years of going out with local ornithologists in Cuba and Colombia. Because of the incredible variety of ecosystems and its location near the equator, birds migrate to Colombia from both North and South America, making it the country with the most birds in the world. Over 1,900 species call it home for at least part of the year, as compared with ~800 in the United States.
My favorites have always been varieties of toucans and hummingbirds. On my trip to Colombia this month, in the Quindío region, I was thrilled to watch a Southern Emerald Toucanet drilling out a nest with his beak. I caught this photo of him with his beak full of sawdust. If you want to see more of my bird photos, they can be seen on the Vive Más Tours Facebook page.
Sherpani: A bucket list spot for birdwatchers! Our next question is one we imagine you get often: is Colombia safe?
Jenny: When I first visited Colombia nearly 3 years ago, I brought my biases with me. My understanding of Colombia was shaded by the tragic violence enacted by Pablo Escobar in the ‘80s and ‘90s, which had only been reinforced by Hollywood and Netflix. I expected 2021 Colombia to be just as lawless as the media had depicted it to be.
Traveling around Colombia, both by air and ground, is safer than in many other parts of Latin America. Over my many years of travel in other countries, I’ve seen lots of soldiers and had my bus searched many times, but never in Colombia. Police presence in the cities is just like home, where they are there to keep the peace, prevent theft, etc. Not every officer carries a sidearm. One time, walking as a group through the city park in Cartagena, an officer stopped us in a gesture of goodwill, welcoming us and reassuring us that if we have any issues, we should report them. I like to compare the safety of Colombia to that of NYC—as long as you use your street smarts, you shouldn’t have any problems. One way I do this is by using my Sherpani Anti-Theft bag, which can handle the ruggedness of adventure travel.
Sherpani: We are so glad you love your Sherpani gear! Thank you for your authenticity on the safety topic. We are always searching for the best destinations for solo female travelers, Colombia sounds like a perfect fit! What other Colombian gems are waiting to be discovered?
Jenny: I love getting out of Colombia’s big cities and into the countryside, particularly the Eje Cafetero, or Coffee Triangle region of the lower Andes. Although I may not see Juan Valdez himself, I often envision him walking among the 5-7 foot tall coffee trees, picking the bright red coffee berries and filling the sacks on his donkey’s back.
This area of Colombia was transformed after WWII when the country imported many Jeep Willys. They quickly took the place of horses and mules to haul out the coffee harvest over primitive dirt roads. This region prizes their Jeeps and even uses them for taxis. Every July they hold the “Yipao Parade” of Jeep Willys, doing tricks and overloaded with household goods or bags of coffee. It’s a crazy fun experience!
The wax palm trees of this area are the tallest in the world, and there is a stunning forest of them spread across a few mountains in the Cócora Valley. Many trees rise above 200 feet and are over 150 years old. These palms grow only 7-10 cm each year. If you’ve seen Disney’s Encanto, you will recognize the palm trees and the nearby town of Salento, which influenced the movie’s artists. Here is a picture of my friend Kristy surveying the forest at one of the lookout points that we hiked to.
Sherpani: Anyone who travels with you is in for a treat! Any final thoughts for folks who are interested in booking a trip with Vive Más Tours?
Jenny: I am always happy to talk to interested travelers by hopping on a 15-minute Zoom call, which you can schedule with me on my website. However, Colombia has so much more to offer than I could fit into a single conversation. Colombia has a rich history, including its indigenous stewards (many of whom still have a deep connection to the land), and its painful story of colonization by the Spaniards (who built the largest fortress in the Americas).
Experiencing Colombia has been one of the most enriching experiences of my life.

We want to thank Jenny for her time and helpful insights into Colombian travel! If you're ready to discover all that Colombia has to offer, Vive Más Tours is ready to take you there!

Jenny has upcoming Colombia trips in April (almost sold out!), June, and November this year. As you can tell from her expertise, traveling with Vive Más Tours is the best way to unlock rich historical context, profound cultural experiences, and so much more on your Colombian adventure. We think it's time you give Jenny a call (then pack your Meridian suitcase 😉)!

Happy Travels! Or, should we say, Feliz Viaje!!

Sherpani & Vive Más Tours


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By women for women, the Sherpani Travel Blog talks about all things travel. With a new post every week on Travel Tuesday, our blog is the go-to place for unique travel guidesgeneral travel tipspersonal travel stories from women in our community, and more!

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