Colombia is like the fun uncle of the Americas. One who has a penchant for drinking rum and coffee, telling exciting tales about his journeys and who believes in living life to the fullest. He's a bit eccentric, but has evolved with the times, left his dark past behind him and looks real good for his age.
In other words, Colombia is an ever-evolving country, which has something for everyone. We look at seven reasons that gay travelers should visit one of the most unique and diverse places in the Americas. Plus, LGBTQ+ travel operator Out in Colombia offers all-inclusive tours – in every sense – to all the places mentioned here. Choose between Bogota, Medellin, Cartagena, Santa Marta or some winning combination to craft your own Colombian adventure story.
The Big Threesome: Bogota, Medellin and Cartagena
Colombia’s big cities represent the country’s diversity, each having their own offbeat personality. The capital, Bogota, is a steamy cosmopolitan hotpot full of open-minded people, oasis-like green parks, bustling plazas, colonial architecture, and a wild gay scene – but more on that later.
Medellin on the other hand is a tale of self-improvement epitomized in a city. Over the last few years, it’s morphed from being voted the world’s most dangerous city to being voted as the world’s most innovative one. Medellin has left behind a dark history plagued by violence and conflict, and replaced it with a bright future of coffee and culture. It’s also stunning, nestled snugly in the flowery foothills below the towering presence of the Andes. Not to mention it has become the most gay-friendly city in Colombia and is home to the hottest men!
Cartagena is the third name on everyone’s lips and its beauty reflects another side of Colombia. The port city is perfection incarnate, perfectly positioned on the Caribbean coast -with azure-watered beaches either near the city or on the archipelago of islands but a stone’s skim away. The historic Old Town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which is characterized by well-preserved colonial architecture, colorful buildings with flower adorned balconies and cobblestone streets.
Beauty in Diversity
Mother Nature clearly went all in when she molded Colombia’s diverse landscapes. Colombia has some of the most picture-perfect white sandy beaches in the world – largely due to its enviable position between two coastal regions, connected to both the Pacific and the Atlantic. There’s literally hundreds of coves and bays to choose between – from the beach-club filled sands of Islas del Rosario to the blissful hidden coves of Tayrona Park in Santa Marta.
Beauty is always just a hike away through thick rainforests full of wildlife and cascading waterfalls. The epic snow-capped Andes mountains call to those with the stamina to climb them and the rolling fields of the coffee region. Beauty comes in many forms and Colombia is home to many uniquely beautiful wonders such as Caño Cristales (Rainbow River). So named because every September/October the river lights up into a rainbow of color thanks to the plants that grow along its riverbed – definitive evidence, if ever there was one, that Mother Nature is indeed an ally!
He’s the Adventurous Type
LGBTQ+ travelers make natural thrill-seekers and Colombia’s great outdoors has a variety of landscapes, making any type of adventure sport you can imagine possible. From hiking and biking in the Amazon rainforest to paragliding from the Andes over breathtaking views of Medellin. From kayaking through rivers beside pink dolphins to diving with whale sharks near Cartagena. In Colombia, the only limits are the ones you put on yourself.
Running a Theatron
Bogota and Medellin are both known for their vibrant and fun gay scenes. Bogota’s Chapinero gayborhood alone is home to the most gay bars in Colombia. However, its principal draw comes from the legendary superclub that is Theatron. Possibly the most famous gay club in the world, Theatron is more an adult playground holding a labyrinth of different clubs – there's 13 different dance floors – than a singular entity, and no night there ever plays out the same. Medellin also holds its own with a sizable scene centered around the Provenza area and including such frisky gay watering holes as Bar Chiquita and big clubs like Oraculo – where you'll be sure to meet a wide array of both local and international hot guys out to have a good time.
Colombia’s Prides are also explosions of beautiful gay chaos to lose oneself in. Bogota and Medellin are running a close battle when it comes to having the biggest Pride, but Medellin wins when it comes to being the most raucous and fun – in 2023 it attracted around 90,000 attendees and culminated in an all night party in Parque de las Luces. Then there’s the equally wild Carnaval celebration in Baranquilla and the ten-day-long Feria de la Flores – a colorful street party of open-air flower displays, horse parades and concerts.
Culturally Rich…And A Little Bit Queer
Colombia culture weaves a rich tapestry. Its history is there for all to see in the architecture from the pastel colonial houses – that inspired Gabriel Garcia Marquez – in Cartagena to the postmodern buildings of Bogota. The intrepid architecture fan can also find awe-inspiring structures across the rest of the country, such as the Salt Cathedral in Zipaquira – a beautiful church within a salt mine.
The art scene in Colombia is fresh, alive and most definitely kicking, which can be seen in the street art of Medellin and in the range of galleries in Bogota – where there has been a recent push to showcase the works of local queer artists.
Eat, Laugh, Drink
Colombian cuisine is as delicious as it is diverse. Upscale restaurants serve fine Colombian delicacies such as Bandeja Paisa (rice, beans, ground meat, fried egg, avocado, and plantains) and Arepas (corn cake filled with cheese, meat, or vegetables). To really get the Colombian experience though, visitors can join tours like the CookingOUT experience to visit local markets and feel like a local – while meeting the famously friendly Colombian locals. Then of course there’s Colombian coffee – well-known for being one of the best in the world and all the better sampled on a tasting session down in Colombia's scenic coffee region.
Safe and Inclusive
Colombia has come a long way since a five-decade long conflict ended with a peace accord in 2016. Now, with its troubles largely behind it, the country has evolved into being one of the safest countries in South America.
Since the legalization of homosexuality in 1981, LGBTQ+ rights have fast-forwarded in Colombia – making it one of the most liberal countries in the Americas. Gay marriage is legal, discrimination laws are firmly in place to protect LGBTQ+ folk – including a law to protect those expressing affections in public – and Bogota even elected their very own lesbian mayor, Claudia Lopez, in 2019. Great on paper – and in practice within the gay areas of the cities – but it’s still advisable to tread with caution as there has been some unfortunate violent kickback to the progress – isn’t there always. However, the fact remains Colombia is a country where the rolling ball of progress has very much picked up momentum. The ‘Gateway to South America’ stands open to all. Come walk through!
LGBTQ+ travel operator Out in Colombia offers all-inclusive tours – in every sense – to all the places mentioned here. Choose between Bogota, Medellin, Cartagena, Santa Marta or some winning combination of the above as your base camp to craft your own Colombian adventure story.
This article is sponsored by Out in Colombia. Featured image by marlon.danart. Additional images provided by Out in Colombia.