Today’s visitor post is compiled by Jasmine Stephenson, and explores four reasons Colombia is awesome probably a lot safer than you think.

Mention you’re considering a trip to Colombia, and you’re likely met with horror tales of cocaine, kidnappings and trouble with the neighbors. But these days, Colombia’s beat its bad reputation and offers the adventurous traveler a wealth of things to see. For those planning a trip through South America, Colombia is a must-see country to visit. Here are several factors that stand out to me personally.

Reason #1: The variety

The Amazon? Check. Mountain tops? Check. Some of the world’s biggest cities? Check. Beaches? Got those, too. Practically everything a traveler wants s available in Colombia. There is a myriad of landscapes as well as climates, maintained indigenous cultures, stunning colonial pueblos, impressive architecture… I truly can’t think about anything Colombia is actually missing.

Reason #2: The people

Colombians are some of the friendliest, most open people on the planet. And while there are some places throughout the country that are well-worn tourists paths, there are also many other places I’ve discovered in Colombia where I’m seemingly one of the first vacationers. People often as me to be part of their conversations, solicit my opinion about Colombia, what I’m doing while in their country, and many other questions about my life. All of that is accompanied by helpful advice about what to do during my stay.

Colombians really are a passionate people. They speak a dynamic, colorful Spanish that can make even the most mundane point sound completely magical. They’re fiercely loyal, while simultaneously aware of their country’s history and its current hurdles. You can’t help feeling inspired by the progress this country has made in the last 10-20 years.

Reason #3: The music

Colombian music reveals a rich musical heritage and remains a big part of the culture. From cumba to vallenato to salsa, music pervades all facets of life. It’s not uncommon to hear an old man on the bus beating the side of his suitcase as though it were a drum set, or have a local serenade you with a traditional song on the metro.

Reason #5: Dance

It’s no surprise given the role music plays in Colombian culture that this is a people that truly loves to dance. The styles are varied, but they all seem to incorporate the fire of Latin music and passion. Where it was a friend at a restaurant, the bartender at a club or the hostel proprietor where I was staying, everyone seemed eager to show me some steps and get me dancing as well.