Colombia might not be the first destination you think of when it comes to exploring gastronomic delights – but this South American country has its fair share of food experiences for travellers to try out, and the food is as unique as it is tasty.
Locals in Colombia are passionate about their food, their farms and the way they cook – and exploring these parts of Colombia is an experience you won’t find in the tourist guidebooks. The food experiences we offer on our website are guided by locals who can share all their food knowledge with you, and most of our Colombian tours will actually include a cooked lunch or dinner as part of the experience, where you’ll get to dig into some delicious locally cooked cuisine.
What is special about Colombian food? We ask a local!
Nidia, our Colombian tour guide, explained to us that people often think Colombian food will be like Mexican food, because the countries are so close together.
“A lot of people around the world think Colombian food is like Mexican food, because it’s so close to Latin-America. But it is not like this. Most Colombians, including myself, don’t like spicy food and we don’t really use chilli in our recipes”
Of course, we wanted to dig a little deeper into what food Colombians do enjoy, and what they eat in their everyday lives outside of the tourist hotspots and chain restaurants in the cities. Her answers below have given us lots of amazing ideas and inspiration, and we think they will give you many reasons to seek out the best food experiences in Colombia when you arrive.
“There are some dishes across Colombia that are famous, it depends on the region of Colombia you are in. In the centre of the country, the capital Bogota, the most famous dish is Ajiaco. Ajiaco is a soup, a big hearty dish and you eat it with rice, avocado and corn.
In other regions of Colombia, there are other dishes that are quite famous. Around the coffee region and Medellin is Bandeja Paisa. This is the Colombian equivalent of an English breakfast, usually containing red kidney beans, rice, chorizo, beef, eggs, avocado, fried plantain. It’s a big dish and you feel very full afterwards.
Another food very famous in Colombia is arepas and empanadas, we share these with Venezuela and Argentina, most South American countries eat these. Then, of course, in the Caribbean coast – there are wonderful fish choices, people love any type of fried fish and seafood”
So, which food experiences should you prioritise when visiting Colombia?
If food is something you want to explore more of during your time in Colombia (we don’t blame you!) here are some experiences you should look into during your visit…
This is one of our tours, and it’s a great all-rounder for trying lots of food and experiencing lots of traditional Colombian culture. You’ll start the day off visiting one of Bogota’s oldest and most traditional produce markets, Plaza de Paloquemao. It’s a feast for the senses, and you’ll be greeted with so many amazing smells, colours and food. You’ll spend plenty of time exploring, and get the chance to taste exotic fruits, traditional Colombian snacks and even sample some fresh breads too.
Once you’ve found some delicious ingredients (to help in cooking lunch!) you’ll finish up in the bustling market and you’ll be taken to a nearby cooking school. There you’ll take part in a hands-on cooking class where you’ll try your hand at making a traditional Colombian dish. It’s a unique chance to learn traditional cooking techniques and try classic Colombian flavours. Don’t worry though, there will be plenty of help nearby if cooking isn’t your natural talent!
Everything good ends with dessert… So this tour includes a final stop to grab something sweet on the way home. The last stop is Bogota’s famous dessert district, a place popular with friends and families, especially on the weekends. There will be so many delicious things to try here, such as tres leches cake, flan and milhojas. It’s the ideal ending for anyone with a sweet tooth!
If you want a glimpse into the real life of many Colombians, and you want a taste of real Colombian home cooking, then this tour is a perfect option. Nidia, our Colombian tour guide, describes is an a perfect chance to see local Colombian culture, outside of the bustling touristic cities.
“When you go to La Boquilla, which is around 30 minutes outside the city, you see the real Colombia. La Boquilla is a fishing village, so when you go there, you visit a local family there. The man you spend time with who teaches you how to fish is a local fisherman, you then have lunch in one of the local houses, which is a truly authentic experience. Plus you learn how to fish the true traditional, artisanal way, not the normal way done today”
You’ll spend the day learning how locals catch fish, and then learning how they cook with them too. It’s a great way to see how Colombian families use the natural resources and how they pair together proteins and the local flavours available to them.
There’s something really special about experiencing a culture from people who have shaped it and been part of it for so long, and this food experience is exactly that. You’ll be spending time with fisherman who can teach you how to cast nets and set crab traps, just like they’ve been doing for many years, even decades!
Visit the independent food places in cities and districts
If you’re based out of Bogota or in other major regions, Nidia assures you there will be plenty of choices for food and drink. The cities are full of new pop-up restaurants and independent places, all serving delicious food.
“There are some areas, especially in Bogota, where you can find great restaurants. There are a lot of restaurants in the city, they’re all really cool and trendy. There is one called Zona G (the G stands for gourmet). There’s also Zona Rosa which is also in Bogota too. In Medellin, there are areas such as Parque Lleras for example. This area is also full of cool restaurants, bars and cafes, so it’s quite a cool area for eating out”
A lot of the cities and urban areas of Colombia have seen vast regeneration in the past decade, and creating a fun and friendly communities for dining out has been a big part of the positive changes. You’ll find the vibe in the areas lively, youthful and fun – and it’s a part of Colombia you’ll definitely want to get stuck into!