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Marooned far off the coast of the Colombian mainland, the islands of San Andrés and Providencia remain a place apart in both geography and culture. Both were colonized by the English who instilled their culture in the local residents. English is widely spoken but you'll also hear some Spanish. San Andrés is the larger of the two islands and is the first port of call if you are coming from the Colombian mainland. The island is duty free so Colombian mainlanders come here for a bit of a shopping holiday, stocking up on booze and cigarettes. The main town on San Andrés isn't much to look at but its easy to get out of town ...

Marooned far off the coast of the Colombian mainland, the islands of San Andrés and Providencia remain a place apart in both geography and culture. Both were colonized by the English who instilled their culture in the local residents. English is widely spoken but you'll also hear some Spanish. San Andrés is the larger of the two islands and is the first port of call if you are coming from the Colombian mainland. The island is duty free so Colombian mainlanders come here for a bit of a shopping holiday, stocking up on booze and cigarettes. The main town on San Andrés isn't much to look at but its easy to get out of town and explore the quiet coastline and small settlements scattered around the island. Providencia is a volcanic island and offers dramatic topography and steep cliffs. The island is much less developed compared with San Andrés, making it the perfect getaway if you are looking for an escape from civilization. There is good snorkeling and diving on both islands and on San Andrés you can try kiteboarding.

Michael Kohn
About the Expert

Michael Kohn is the author of Lonely Planet guides to Israel & the Palestinian Territories, South Africa, Tibet, Central Asia, Mongolia, and Sri Lanka.

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Facts at a Glance

  • Location: The Archipelago of San Andres, Providencia and Santa Catalina consists of two island groups about 480 miles northwest of Colombia and 140 miles from the coast of Nicaragua.
  • Language: Spanish, San Andrés-Providencia Creole
  • Currency: UTC/GMT -6 hours
  • Research: Wikitravel | Wikipedia
  • Weather: Rainfall | Daylight
  • Current Time:

Climate

  • Best Time to Visit:

    December-June