9 Best Places to Visit in Colombia
By ~ Eric-Sheets
Considered to be one of the most biodiverse countries in the world, Colombia is likewise brimming with a variety of experiences for all types of travelers. The only South American country to have both an Atlantic and Pacific coast, Colombia is also marked by imposing mountain ranges and the vast Amazon rainforest. Renowned for its coffee, exotic fruits, beautiful beaches and warm people, Colombia will charm you with all that you’ve heard it has to offer– and no doubt surprise you with the unexpected treasures recommended by Latin Excursions’ team of expert Travel Designers.
Let’s explore the top 9 places to visit in Colombia!
As the capital city of Colombia, Bogota’s El Dorado International airport serves as the main gateway into the country. The high-altitude city (8,662 feet or 2,640 meters above sea level) is surrounded by mountains to its east and west, which means you may want to consider the local remedy for preventing altitude-sickness: strong black coffee.
After settling in, head to the city’s historic colonial district, La Candelaria, to stroll its cobblestone streets and enter a few museums (such Museo del Oro, featuring pre-Columbian gold pieces). Stop by the 200-year-old restaurant, La Puerta Falsa, to sample national baked favorites such as pandebonos (cheese bread) or pan de yuca (cassava bread). Later, visit Bogota’s Botanical Garden, home to some 20,000 plants, many of which are endemic to high-alpine regions of Latin America.
Climb up Monserrate, a popular urban summit standing at over 3000 meters
Bike through Simon Bolívar Metropolitan Park
Refuel with a steaming bowl of ajiaco (a typical creamy chicken soup featuring potatoes, corn and legumes).
2. Cartagena de Indias
How did a colonial fort city evolve into the most visited destination in Colombia? Cartagena de Indias (often referred to as simply Cartagena) is a colorful coastal city packed with historical as well as contemporary delights, such as urban art and a vibrant gastronomic scene. Cartagena is an incredibly scenic, photogenic and romantic travel destination, as you’ll discover on a bespoke journey with Latin Excursions.
By day, visit the Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas, a grand fortress built by the Spanish. For a spectacular view of the Caribbean sea at sunset, walk the historical stone walls, built in the 17th century and considered a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Don’t miss sampling the street food in Cartagena, such as cheese-filled arepas and exotic fruit.
Join a local chef for an insightful shopping trip to the Bazurto Market followed by a cooking class
Relax on white sand beaches such as the aptly named Playa Blanca
3. Rosario Islands
Made up of 27 islands and islets, the Rosario Islands are surrounded by the crystal clear waters of the Caribbean. Though the archipelago can be visited on a day trip from Cartagena, there are hotels for those seeking a few more days to savor Caribbean life and explore the nearby coral reefs.
A private boat will take you from Cartagena to the Rosario Islands (a 45-90 minute ride, depending on your selection of a catamaran or yacht). The waters you’ll be skimming are protected, however there are plenty of water-based activities that have been sustainably designed.
Snorkel your way through the ultra-clear sea to spot abundant coral and tropical fish
Swim with bioluminescent plankton that light up the dark waters at night
4. The Coffee Region
Also known as the Coffee Triangle, central Colombia’s Coffee Region is made up of three departments: Caldas, Risaralda and Quindíos.The fertile valley is flanked by mountain ranges and dotted with colorful towns. The natural charm of this region is not only due to the countless coffee plantations but also to the hot springs, national parks, gardens and snowy peaks.
Families, couples and solo-travelers will love the immersive experiences that we offer in the Coffee Region of Colombia. Guided by a local expert, you can step foot on a coffee plantation to fully understand the entire process and history behind coffee cultivation. We can even take you to a nearby cacao farm to get a similar taste of the importance of chocolate on local culture.
Visit the traditional and colorful Paisa town, Salento
Delve into the picturesque landscapes of the Valle de Cocora (the setting of Disney’s Encanto)
5. Villa de Leyva
A four-hour drive from Bogota, Villa de Leyva is an accessible destination for travelers to get an authentic feel for life in the Andes. The historical and well-preserved colonial town is a big draw to travelers exploring Colombia and yet somehow maintains its serene vibe. Cobblestone streets wrap their way around a vibrant square of 16th century buildings. Small and safe, VIlla de Leyva is a lovely spot to wander around and take some photos.
Despite its miniscule size, VIlla de Leyva has quite a few museums, including the Museum of Paleontology. The surrounding rural landscape, dotted with archaeological sites, opens itself up to being explored by foot or bike. Head to Lagunas Azules for an easy stroll or take a rural gastronomy tour on two wheels.
Try your hand at a pottery workshop in the Raquira village
Day trip to Iguaque National Park for a longer hike
6. Tayrona and the coast
A celebrated natural paradise, the Tayrona National Park is situated on the northern Caribbean coast of Colombia. The protected park is a playground for travelers seeking beautiful landscapes: pleasurable beaches, lush rainforests and abundant wildlife thrive in the presence of the looming Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta mountain range.
The northern coast in this region of Colombia is lined with pristine beaches. While there is no road connecting them all, there is an established hiking trail that allows you to hop from one to another. Whether you are up for the lengthy hike or not, you will no doubt come across a diversity of wildlife while in Tayrona, such as Red Howler monkeys and three-toed sloths. On a guided tour through native flora, you may even spot the endangered cotton-top Tamarin.
Go birding and catch any of the 280+ species of birds in flight
Hike 9 Piedras, a 1.15-mile hike that connects large boulders significant to local indigenous groups
Cobblestone streets, Andalusian-style houses and colonial architecture make Barichara a treasured heritage town in Colombia. Tucked in the Andes, this northern Colombia destination is a bit off the beaten path. Barichara is arguably one of South America’s most beautiful and well preserved colonial towns. To get there, travelers can take flights from Medellin or Bogota to Bucaramanga, followed by a private shuttle to the final destination.
Just lose yourself on a stroll through the charming cobblestone streets. Check out the gold-leaf altar inside the Catedral de la Inmaculada Concepción (Cathedral of Immaculate Conception), located in the town’s center. Connect with nature on an equestrian tour that will convince you of Colombia’s incredible biodiversity. The Jorge Delgado Sierra Arts Park is an open-air museum containing 22 carved stone sculptures—not to mention fantastic views of Barichara.
Take a day trip to Curití, the ‘town of weavers’ and pick up some handicrafts
Wander into the town cemetery to admire intricately carved tombstones
The second-largest city in Colombia after Bogota, Medellin has left behind its notorious past of being the most dangerous drug capital in the world. Government efforts and superb urban planning have allowed the city to bloom into a captivating and even welcoming destination for travelers. From colorful neighborhoods and interesting museums to trendy restaurants, Medellin is a great showcase of Colombian culture.
The temperate climate has earned Medellin the nickname of “The City of Eternal Spring,” meaning it can be explored any time of the year. Head to the Botero Museum, dedicated to the city’s most famous native artist, Fernando Botero. This city is also a global sample of urban renaissance- it exemplifies what it takes to improve a city that used to be considered very dangerous . Take a walking tour and spot incredible street art in Comuna 13, a once dangerous neighborhood that has been converted into a hotspot for creative locals.
Peruse the gothic-style Castle Museum for a curious experience
Enjoy an excursion to Guatape Village and its famous rock (Piedra del Peñol), located just 1.5 hours from Medellin
9. The Amazon
A great density of Colombia’s incredible biodiversity is owed to the Amazon rainforest. Birding expeditions, kayak excursions and immersive experiences with local communities can be had during your Colombia Amazon adventure. The easiest way to get to the jungle is by a connecting flight from Bogota to Leticia, the capital of the Amazonas Department.
Upon arrival in Leticia, consider a visit to Parque Santander at dusk to spot a flock of parrots returning to the trees for their nightly rest. Jungle hikes can be made in nearly any section of the Amazon, bringing you in contact with indigenous groups and native flora and fauna.
When planning a trip to the Colombian Amazon, keep in mind the two marked seasons: the wet (January to June) and dry (July to December).
Walk the trails of Monkey Island to get a close up look at these friendly creatures
Lose the crowds and take a small aircraft to Mitú, a tiny village only accessible by plane or a 15-day boat ride