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We travel more than ever before. Affordable airfare, the wealth of travel information on the Internet and local economies welcoming tourists has promoted unprecedented levels of travel. For Colombia, tourists are sign of welcome change. Tourists are a symbol of safer cities, economic optimism and a world reconsidering what Colombia is. What was once known as one of the most dangerous countries on Earth is building a new reputation – the most bio-diverse country on Earth.

With the sharp increase in amount of travel, some tourists are also reconsidering what ethical travel looks like, a movement known as eco tourism. Eco tourism is environmentally conscious travel, where cultural exchange is practiced with respect to local traditions, lifestyles and nature.

As one of the most bio-diverse countries on the planet (the most bio-diverse by square meter, for those keeping track at home) Colombia is quickly becoming one of the most popular spots for eco tourism, and the government has started an array of programs to help boost this burgeoning industry and combat growing environmental concerns including deforestation, erosion and pollution.

For example, #ColombiaLimpia has cleaned up over 180 tons of trash across 84 different tourist destinations. Major cities including Bogota and Medellin limit the days citizens can drive in the city and even close hundreds of kilometers of roads every Sunday so people can walk, run and bike through the cities. To combat deforestation Colombia’s highest court recently ruled that the Amazon, under the law, should be treated as an “entity subject of rights,” giving the rainforest the same protections and legal rights as a Colombian citizen. Currently, the government is also pursuing a program called the Amazon Vision Project, which aims to end deforestation in the Amazon by 2020 and has received international support and funding.

This renewed interest in environmentalism and rise of eco tourism have obvious benefits to local culturesand the natural world, and also allows for a richer form of travel. Many eco tourists choose to volunteer in local communities, often in return for Spanish lessons or other forms of intercultural exchange. The chance to immerse yourself in Spanish language and the culture of the country you visit, while often the intention, is easier said than done. Other eco tourists make a point of staying at environmentally conscious hotels and hostels, often off the traditional tourist track in pueblos such as San Rafael or San Carlos. Finally, eco tourism often caters to the outdoorsy traveler, and some eco hostels and hotels also provide day trips or excursions such as hikes, camping, canyoning, climbing or rafting. Setting up an adventure through you eco hostel or hotel guarantees your adventure will be run by environmentally conscious locals, keen on conserving and enjoying the land for years and years to come. In any case, eco tourism gives travelers a chance to learn more about local cultures and countries they are visiting.

If you’re looking for an eco tourism opportunity we wish you a great trip! If you’re in Medellin feel free to stop by Eco Language Colombia in beautiful San Rafael, where eco friendly living, personalized Spanish lessons, cultural exchange and outdoor adventures (from gentle swims to full day canyoning) await.

Canyoning in San Rafael