My 21 Favourite Locations to Go to in Colombia

view of Medellin from a viewpoint in Colombia
Posted: 4/18/2019 | April 18th, 2019

From the blue waters of Tayrona Nationwide Park, the sweeping views of the Cocora Valley, and the ruins of San Agustín, Tierradentro, and the Misplaced Metropolis, to the white colonial buildings of Popayán and the hustle and bustle of its metropolises, Colombia is filled with matters to see and do.

I’d wished to go to Colombia for years. And after spending six weeks there, I need to say, it lived as much as the hype.

I imply I’ve been fawning over it quite a bit in my previous couple of posts. And I do know I’m the millionth blogger to take action, nevertheless it actually is as unimaginable as folks say. (Even getting knifed there couldn’t cease me from loving the nation.)

I had falsely assumed that six weeks could be sufficient to get an excellent sense of Colombia. In spite of everything, six weeks is a good period of time to spend wherever.

However I used to be flawed. Given its measurement and the sheer variety of actions, it was barely sufficient to scratch the floor.

But I did handle to see quite a bit.

Right this moment I need to share my listing of what I believe are one of the best matters to see and do in Colombia. These are the actions and locations you must attempt to deal with while you go to:

1. Cartagena

a view of colorful doors and roofs in Cartagena, Colombia
Cartagena is without doubt one of the most visited locations in Colombia (due to numerous direct flights and cruise ship visits). Courting again to 1533, the town is famed for its colonial Outdated City: a maze of cobbled alleys, flower-covered balconies, and large church buildings on spacious plazas.

However regardless of the crowds (and there are numerous crowds), I actually loved Cartagena. Whereas there aren’t numerous vacationer actions (you are able to do most of them in a single day), what makes it an exquisite place to go to is simply that: it’s someplace you may decelerate, chill out, and gorge on the exceptional gastronomy.

For extra, take a look at this weblog submit about Cartegena and all my favourite locations to eat there.

2. Tayrona Nationwide Park

boats pulled up on a sandy beach in Tayrona National Park
Situated on Colombia’s Caribbean coast, Tayrona has lengthy stretches of golden seashores lined with coconut palms and a dense rainforest with plenty of straightforward day hikes. You’ll additionally discover campsites for in a single day stays, hammocks for lease, eating places, diving, and horse using.

It’s straightforward to go to as a day journey from Santa Marta. I extremely counsel you begin early on the huge entrance at El Zaino and exit the park via Calabazo. This underused route takes an entire day, and when you move the Cabo San Juan campground, you’ll get the final half of the path to your self. Attempt to keep away from visiting throughout January and weekends, when the crowds on the seashores and climbing paths are at their peak.

3. The Misplaced Metropolis (La Ciudad Perdida)

the La Ciudad Perdida trek in Colombia with terraces and stone steps; photo by Liam King (flickr:@liam-hels-big-trip)
The Misplaced Metropolis was constructed round 800 CE and comprises 169 terraces carved into the mountains, in addition to a community of tiled roads and small plazas. It’s probably the most stunning treks within the nation, and the positioning is older than Machu Picchu! To go to, you have to rent a tour operator (you may’t do it by your self). It’s about $300-350 USD for the trek from Santa Marta via the jungle as much as these stunning ruins and takes 4–6 days. If you happen to’re pressed for time, you may also do it in three days; the one distinction is the tempo you go at.

(Tip: You cross numerous rivers, so be sure you convey an additional pair of sneakers or flip flops for while you cross the rivers. You’ll simply damage a pair of sneakers alongside the best way.)

4. Salento

bright streets in Salento, Colombia with doors painted yellow, green, and blue
Surrounded by inexperienced mountains and low farms, this is without doubt one of the oldest cities within the coffee-growing area and the preferred for vacationers. The homes are painted quite a lot of vibrant colours, and the excessive vantage factors all through city present some gorgeous views (sunsets are fairly magical). There’s not a lot to do within the metropolis itself — it’s merely a base for espresso excursions or climbing the Cocora Valley (see beneath) or the paths round city — so it’s straightforward to spend a couple of days right here watching the world go by with an excellent e-book in hand.

5. Cocora Valley

the famous wax palms set against a green hill in Cocora Valley, Colombia
The Cocora Valley is residence to Colombia’s nationwide tree, the wax palm, which grows to just about 200 toes tall. This space has most likely the preferred day hike within the nation (which was additionally my favourite exercise throughout my whole journey). You’ll cross jungle rivers, go to a chook sanctuary, and revel in some stellar views and forest surroundings. The route’s about 5 hours, and you’ll select to both take the clockwise or counterclockwise route. The clockwise route, beginning on the Wax Palm Valley, is simpler, with fewer hills. Counterclockwise is simpler on the finish, although slightly anticlimactic, as you finish the hike strolling down a boring street.

(Tip: Begin early to keep away from the brutal noon warmth, since there are numerous uncovered areas right here.)

6. Bogotá

two women walking through streets of graffiti in Bogota
Bogotá is Colombia’s vibrant capital. Whereas it’s not the nation’s hottest vacation spot, it felt essentially the most “Colombian” to me: there was only a sure edge and appeal to it, and it appeared the least touristy, with the fewest gringo expats. The historic downtown, La Candelaria, is full of shiny colonial buildings, detailed museums, scrumptious eating places, tiny enjoyable bars, historic church buildings, and centuries-old homes. The north finish of city is residence to boutique motels and leisure areas like Zona Rosa and Zona G. The foodie scene within the metropolis is unimaginable, with numerous worldwide choices and cutting-edge gastronomic happenings. Throw in some superb strolling excursions, day journeys, and hikes and also you’ve obtained a recipe for an astounding metropolis.

For extra, right here’s an inventory of all my favourite matters to do – and locations to eat – in Bogota.

7. Cali

people performing the salsa in a darkened room in Cali, Colombia
This sizzling, sizzling metropolis is the salsa capital of the world, the place folks come to bounce. Loads of the company at my hostel had been there for weeks to be taught (the hostels additionally provide free dance courses). If you happen to like to bounce, you may’t miss this metropolis. Moreover dancing, although, there are a variety of parks, museums, and church buildings you may go to, plus free strolling and meals excursions. Whereas I didn’t keep lengthy, I positively loved the scene.

8. Popayán

white buildings in Popayán with people walking around the main town plaza
Popayán rivals Cartagena as Colombia’s most spectacular colonial city. It’s generally known as La Ciudad Blanca (“The White Metropolis”) as a result of all of the buildings are painted white. Popayán can also be a university city (there are three universities), and it’s produced 17 presidents too! Although small, I actually beloved the gradual tempo of life and the surprisingly sturdy meals scene right here (eat at La Cosecha Parrillada, Restaurante Italiano y Pizzeria, La Fresa, and Mora de Castilla).

When you don’t want numerous time (take the strolling tour, climb the hill, see the church buildings, and also you’re finished), I do counsel staying longer to benefit from the gradual tempo of life. A lot of Colombia is go-go-go, it’s good to discover a place that’s extra “keep and chill out some time.”

9. Tatacoa Desert

a cactus and bright red sand in Tatacoa Desert; photo by descubriendoelmundo (flickr:@descubriendo-el-mundo
Hundreds of thousands of years in the past it was as soon as a lush tropical forest. Now, Tatacoa Desert is full of rocky canyons in shades of crimson and grey. It is usually residence to probably the most necessary observatories in South America, the place you may gaze on the stars (climate allowing). If you wish to be blown away by the universe, you really want to see this place! Aside from that, there’s not a lot right here. Bike into the desert, take some walks, stare on the sky. Keep an evening or two. It’s not a preferred space, however it’s a picturesque approach to break up the lengthy bus journey from Bogotá to the south or vice versa.

10. San Agustín Archaeological Park

face carvings on a tomb in San Agustin Archaeological Park; photo by Erik Cleves Kristensen (flickr:@erikkristensen)
A UNESCO World Heritage Web site, San Agustín is a small mountain city that’s residence to tons of of pre-Columbian statues and burial mounds. Its assortment of non secular monuments and megalithic sculptures is the most important in Latin America, for which you’ll want not less than one full day (two to actually see all of it in depth). If you happen to love historical past, that is most likely one of the best spot in all of Colombia to expertise it.

11. San Gil

mountains around San Gil, Colombia, overlooking a river valley; photo by Sergio Fabara Muñoz (flickr:@kinofabara)
San Gil is taken into account the outside capital of the nation. Excessive-sports followers like it right here. You may go white-water rafting, paragliding, caving, rappelling, trekking, and extra from this metropolis! This metropolis is a superb place to do outside actions and also you’re going to seek out numerous tour operators within the metropolis. Attempt to plan not less than three days right here. It’s value it.

12. Providencia and San Andrés Islands

swaying palm trees on a white sand beach in San Andrés Islands
These islands are literally nearer to Nicaragua than Colombia. They’re additionally thought-about a number of the most unspoiled locations within the Caribbean. You’ll discover white-sand seashores, stunningly clear blue water, and few crowds (although, due to some current press, Providencia is changing into quite a bit busier).

Attempt to make it when tens of 1000’s of black crabs migrate to the ocean. This occurs twice a yr for a few 1-2-week interval between April and July, so it’s not at all times straightforward to nail the timing.

13. Medellín

cable cars ascending into the hills over Medellín, Colombia
In a rustic filled with hype, this hyped-up metropolis is all that it’s cracked as much as be. Set within the Aburrá Valley, Medellín is without doubt one of the fastest-growing cities in Colombia. It has sufficient actions and matters to do to fill weeks on finish: from microbreweries, museums, strolling excursions, spacious parks, road artwork, meals excursions and markets to unimaginable nightlife, and on and on and on.

It’s probably the most widespread locations for expats and vacationers within the nation. Whereas it’s straightforward to get misplaced in Gringoland right here, attempt to get out of Poblado or Laureles and see the locals’ aspect of city.

There’s extra to the town than these two areas!

14. Guatapé

the Rock of Guatapé with its staircase leading to the top
This pueblo is without doubt one of the most picturesque cities in Colombia and probably the most colourful on this planet, as many of the conventional houses have murals painted on the underside half of their façades that depict animals, folks, and shapes. Simply hanging out in one of many shiny plazas, consuming espresso and people-watching, is without doubt one of the most nice matters to do right here.

Most individuals, although, come to climb the steep (and troublesome) staircase to the highest of the monolithic Rock of Guatapé (La Piedra) for a number of the finest views within the nation. Guatapé is a protracted day journey from Medellín (hostels within the metropolis set up them all through the week) so I like to recommend attempting to spend not less than an evening right here so that you aren’t as rushed and might benefit from the space little extra.

15. Chingaza Nationwide Park

a lake in Chingaza National Park, Colombia
This is without doubt one of the largest nature reserves in Colombia, residence to greater than 1,000 plant species and 187 chook species. Right here you’ll be taught in regards to the Páramo ecosystem and the way it impacts the worldwide water system. (Enjoyable truth: Almost 80% of Bogotá’s water provide comes from Chingaza.) If you happen to’re going to hike, becoming a member of a tour is a good suggestion. The guides are often naturalists who can clarify the distinctive atmosphere of the realm. The most effective routes is the difficult hike to the summit of Lagunas de Siecha, with a fantastic view over the lakes.

16. Barranquilla

the church of San Nicolas in Barranquilla, Colombia
Situated between Santa Marta and Cartagena, Barranquilla is the spot to be throughout Carnival, the second largest in Latin America. It begins on a Sunday with the Battle of Flowers (a giant parade) and the coronation of the King and Queen.

However there’s quite a bit to do right here when it’s not carnival season as effectively. Ensure you go to El Museo del Caribe, a museum providing an fascinating perception into the historical past of Colombia’s Caribbean coast. There’s additionally a particular exhibit devoted to Gabriel García Márquez (the well-known creator who wrote Love within the Time of Cholera).

17. Tierradentro

stone carvings inside a tomb at Tierradentro; photo by tacowitte (flickr:@inyucho)
Tierradentro is without doubt one of the most necessary archaeological websites in South America. It’s up there with San Agustín however will get much less press because it’s situated in the midst of nowhere and never on a principal street. It comprises over 100 hypogea (underground tombs) relationship from the sixth to the tenth centuries, the one examples of their form within the Americas. It takes a day or two to hike all of the paths across the tombs. You may rent a information if you’d like, however the trails are fairly straightforward to do by yourself.

18. Manizales (and Los Nevados)

the snow-capped mountains of Los Nevados with hikers; photo by Triángulo del Café Travel (flickr:@triangulodelcafe)
On the street from Medellín to the south is the town of Manizales. Right here, you may take some excursions at this northern level of the coffee-growing area, or roam round city, which has some first rate eating places and church buildings, and a scenic gondola journey. The principle purpose folks go to is to hike Los Nevados, a mountain vary with majestic snow-capped peaks. You are able to do a day or multi-day hikes, however no matter you do, don’t rush as much as the highest — acclimatize your self to the altitude in Manizales for a couple of days first. The city is 2,000 meters (6,500 toes) above sea degree, however mountains are about 6,000 meters (19,700 toes)! I wasn’t climatized and will actually really feel the altitude simply strolling round city. Don’t push your self if you wish to do the hike.

19. The Caribbean Coast

Colombia's tropical Caribbean Coast with people walking across a beach
The seashores on the Caribbean coast may not win any awards (not less than in my view), however the sleepy cities jogged my memory numerous the tiny backpacker seaside villages round Southeast Asia: a dust street, plenty of hostels, a relaxed ambiance, and never a lot else to do. I might simply see why folks find yourself getting caught right here for weeks at a time. The most effective seaside cities to go to are Costeño Seaside and Palomino.

20. Punta Gallinas

Punta Gallinas sand dune, Colombia; photo by Luis Pérez (flickr:@pe5pe)
Punta Gallinas is the northernmost level in all of South America. Most individuals come right here by way of a tour from Santa Marta or Cabo de Vela, with the latter (via La Guajira Desert) being the higher possibility if you happen to simply need to take your time and chill out as a result of it’s nearer so there’s quite a bit much less drive time. In truth, the one approach to see the realm is by way of a tour. Most are two or three nights relying on the place you’re coming from. Any hostel can set up a visit for you.

21. Minca

lush green mountain hills over Minca, Colombia; photo by diego_cue (Wikimedida Commons)
Minca is situated within the foothills of the Sierra de Santa Marta Mountains. As soon as a sleepy backpacker city, it’s now a sizzling spot for vacationers escaping the oppressive warmth on the Caribbean coast and hoping to do some quiet hikes. The most effective hikes is to Los Pinos, nevertheless it isn’t straightforward: it takes about three hours from the middle of city, and it’s a gradual climb into the mountains however, like all matters like this, it’s value it.

There are numerous waterfalls within the space as effectively. Two of one of the best are the Pozo Azul and Marinka. Each have swimming holes at them too.

Make sure you take a look at the sundown Mundo Nuevo Hostel. It’s an incredible vantage level.


Colombia has one million and one matters to do. I misplaced observe of all of the locations I saved wishing I had time to go to. You may spend months there (and lots of people to do). Nonetheless, I believe this listing is a superb begin. My advice is that if you happen to’re quick on time, fly (the bus rides are lengthy) or simply stick to at least one space of the nation and go in depth round that area.

Making an attempt to “see all of it” in Colombia is only a recipe for burnout!

E-book Your Journey to Colombia: Logistical Suggestions and Methods

E-book Your Flight
Discover a low-cost flight through the use of Skyscanner or Momondo. They’re my two favourite engines like google as a result of they search web sites and airways across the globe so that you at all times know no stone is left unturned.

E-book Your Lodging
You may e-book your hostel with Hostelworld. If you wish to keep someplace aside from a hostel, use as they constantly return the most affordable charges for guesthouses and low-cost motels. I exploit them on a regular basis.

Don’t Overlook Journey Insurance coverage
Journey insurance coverage will shield you in opposition to sickness, damage, theft, and cancellations. It’s complete safety in case something goes flawed. I by no means go on a visit with out it as I’ve had to make use of it many occasions previously. I’ve been utilizing World Nomads for ten years. My favourite corporations that supply one of the best service and worth are:

On the lookout for one of the best corporations to economize with?
Take a look at my useful resource web page for one of the best corporations to make use of while you journey! I listing all those I exploit to economize after I journey – and I believe will assist you too!

Need Extra Info on Colombia?
Make sure you go to our sturdy vacation spot information on Colombia for much more planning ideas!

Picture credit: 4, 10, 11, 12, 18, 19, 21, 22

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