Colombia might not have quite the culinary reputation of other Latin American countries such as Mexico or Peru, but it is a surprisingly rich culinary destination and has been tipped by many media outlets recently as an up-and-coming foodie destination. From the excellent gourmet restaurants of Bogotá and Cartagena to the unusual regional cuisine of the Amazon, here are the best spots for foodies to visit in Colombia.
Surely the undisputed foodie capital of Colombia, Bogotá has enjoyed a culinary renaissance in recent years, as chefs choose to open up new restaurants in the newly thriving Colombian capital. Gourmet establishments like Leo and El Cielo have enjoyed international attention, while less fancy spots like Paloquemao Market and La Puerta Falsa also attract foodie travellers looking for a taste of authentic Colombian cuisine.
Cartagena is probably the most well-established foodie city in Colombia, partly because tourism to the Caribbean city never really dropped even in the worst years of the Colombian conflict. Therefore, Cartagena is home to a huge number of world-class restaurants serving everything from quality seafood to international gourmet dishes. The best of the Colombian restaurants include La Cevicheria and La Mulata, while a trip to Bazurto Market is a feast for the foodie senses!
The only place in Latin America to have been declared a City of Gastronomy by UNESCO, Popayán has a strong and historic tradition of regional cooking and is a fantastic place to visit if you’re looking to sample some of Colombia’s most culturally important dishes. A National Gastronomy Congress is held annually in the city, and typical dishes like carantanta, empanadas and tamales de pipian, and peanut chile sauce, are sure to whet the appetites of even the fussiest foodie traveller.
For BBQ lovers, there’s really nowhere better to visit than Colombia’s wild Eastern Plains, or Llanos Orientales, a vast region of flooded plains, cowboys, and wildlife bordering Venezuela. Cattle are an essential part of the fabric of life in the plains and, consequently, llanero people make some truly top-class BBQ dishes! A proper parrilla in the plains is a wonderful experience for any foodie (vegans may want to look away!).
If Bogota and Cartagena are safe bets for a foodie in Colombia, then the Amazon is the wild-card destination for sure! With a wealth of truly unusual and unique dishes, many of them coming from the many Indigenous cultures living in the Amazon jungle, the departments of Amazonas, Guainia, Guaviare, Vaupes, Putumayo, and Caqueta are the regions to visit for unique Colombian cuisine, which not many people have tried. From the second largest freshwater fish in the world to a mind-blowing variety of spicy peppers and powders, the Amazon is the region of choice for the adventurous foodie.
Colombia’s Pacific coast cuisine is strongly informed by the Afro-Colombian cultures which call much of the region home, as well as by the seafood caught in the sea and many jungle rivers which make up much of the Colombian Pacific. The city of Cali is an easy and accessible place to sample many Pacific specialities, but there’s no substitute for really visiting the area: Bahia Solano, Nuqui, or Tumaco are excellent options for enjoying one of Colombia’s best regional cuisines.
The Andean region of Santander has developed a truly unique food culture within Colombia, and there are many delicious and one-of-a-kind dishes which you can sample when you visit. Standout dishes include baby goat with goat entrail rice (it’s a lot better than it sounds) and carne oreada, a kind of beef jerky.