Epic Places in Colombia Even the Locals Don’t Know About

Arrecifes is one of the largest and most popular beaches in Tayrona National Park
Arrecifes is one of the largest and most popular beaches in Tayrona National Park | © Zoonar/Konstantin Kalishko / Zoonar GmbH / Alamy Stock Photo
Photo of Anny Wooldridge
5 September 2021

Colombia is filled with lesser-known locations and hidden secret destinations. This vast country has a large number of small, and sometimes even unexplored biodiverse locations, many of which Colombians don’t even know about. Part of the Amazon Rainforest is in Colombia, in which there are remote locations that no one has ever explored. Incredible architecture in Florencia, fascinating wildlife in Mocoa and remote beaches in Capurganá – here are 16 Colombian locations that locals don’t even know exist.

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Prado, Tolima

Architectural Landmark
Map View
Prado is a small, quaint town in the municipality of Tolima, southwest of Bogotà. This small town is situated away from the Andes mountain range in a low-altitude area, meaning it has a warm, tropical climate all year round. Prado’s hidden gem is its dam and large body of water located just outside of the town. This extensive water system is backed by tropical, plant-covered mountains, and provides a great destination for a trip outside of Bogota. There are a small number of hotels located on the water’s edge, many complete with swimming pools and boats. Prado is a great place to discover a variety of water sports: waterskiing, wakeboarding, kayaking, swimming and general boating all take place here. Prado is also home to a small number of fresh-water waterfalls (located in hidden areas around the lake) and it’s a great place to go hiking or walking if you can take the heat.

Valencia, Amazonas

Architectural Landmark
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Panorama of a sunset in the Amazon Rainforest which comprise the countries of Brazil, Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Peru, Suriname and Venezuela
© Sébastien Lecocq / Alamy Stock Photo
An indigenous Amazonian tribe (made up of 20 families) live a two-hour boat ride from Colombia’s Amazon capital, Leticia. Valencia is a small community of native Amazon families who have settled on the river’s edge. This is a great place to discover how communities utilize the Amazon rainforest and make the most of their surroundings by growing an extensive range of crops, fruits and vegetables; the community is fully self-sufficient. In the center of the town is a tall viewing platform and from the top there is a panoramic view stretching for miles, which shows a mix of rainforest, the Amazon River and other communities in both Colombia and Peru. The best thing about the community is the people, their their unique stories and way of life; this is a community that lives without running water, drainage or electricity.

Suesca, Cundinamarca

Architectural Landmark
Map View
Suesca is located 37mi (60km) from Colombia’s capital, Bogotà. This quaint, historic town is considered the birthplace of rock climbing in Colombia, and has extensive climbing routes ranging from beginner to advanced levels on natural cliffs. Suesca is also the perfect extreme sports destination for adrenaline enthusiasts, with whitewater rafting, mountain biking and hiking trails around the mountains and cliffs.

Guadalupe, Santander

Architectural Landmark
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Natural phenomenon of Quebrada las Gachas in Guadalupe, Colombia. These are natural plunge pools of up to 6ft in the purple algae-colored riverbed
© Lauren Squire Photography / Alamy Stock Photo
Guadalupe is a small town located in the Santander region of Colombia. In typical Santander style, Guadalupe’s buildings are painted white with traditional red roofs. Guadalupe is around a five-hour drive from Bogota, with the last part of the trip being on unpaved, remote roads. There are just a handful of hostels and restaurants, while the magic is located just outside of the city, where there is a Caño Cristales-style, brightly-colored river, with a variety of reds, blues and greens in the water. Natural jacuzzis, waterfalls and caves are located around the river bed.

Capurganá, Chocó

Natural Feature
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Capurganá is a remote beach village located in the Chocó region on the Pacific Coast, close to the Panama-Colombia border. This village has no road access: it can only be accessed by small plane from Medellin; a two- or three-hour boat trip from Turbo, Colombia; or a 45-minute boat trip from Puerto Obaldia, Panama. Capurganá has a tropical savanna climate and a picturesque beach with crystal-clear waters. This beach is a preserved area and is perfect for diving due to its coral reef, and is home to a number of sea turtle nests. A one-hour hike from the town is the famous El Cielo and Pool of the Gods.

Mocoa, Putumayo

Natural Feature
Map View
Small waterfall at Fin del Mundo Waterfall in Mocoa, Southern Colombia: This waterfall is part of the Fin del Mundo cascades which translates to End o
© Julian Peters / Alamy Stock Photo
Mocoa is located in the Putumayo region of Colombia and is a doorway to the Amazon. This traditional colonial town is on the border of the Amazon region of Colombia; it combines the Amazon rainforest and the Andes mountain range in perfect harmony. Mocoa has everything the Amazon Rainforest does: a large variety of endangered animals including parrots, toucans and monkeys. Mocoa is home to a large number of Indiana Jones-style rope bridges connecting the village to the rainforest. Just outside of the village are a large number of waterfalls including the Hornoyaco Falls and the Fin del Mundo (End of the World) hike.

Florencia, Caquetá

Cathedral
Map View
Florencia is a town located at the bottom of the Andes mountain range with a population of around 168,000 people. This town is steeped in history (it was founded over 100 years ago) and is important for the surrounding area because on one side is the bottom of the Andes and on the other side is the start of the Amazon rainforest. The town is the boundary in between both ecosystems, with the Orteguaza River running through the middle. Florencia is home to the incredible architecture of the San Francisco de Asis plaza and the unforgettable Our Lady of Lourdes Cathedral.

Puracé, Popayan

Park
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Termales San Juan, Colombia, Purace National Park
© blickwinkel/F. Neukirchen / blickwinkel / Alamy Stock Photo
Puracé is home to the Puracé National Park located in the Popayan region of the country, around a four-hour drive from Cali. The national park is the origin of four main rivers – the Magdalena, Cauca, Japurá and Patía – and is home to a 15,092ft (4,600m) volcano. You can take a six- to seven-hour trek to the top of it, or alternatively bathe in the hot springs or sulphur pools. The national park provides a habitat for over 200 species of orchids; wildlife such as bears, woolly monkeys, howler monkeys, capuchins, mountain tapir, pudu; and over 160 species of birds.

Punta Gallinas, La Guajira

Natural Feature
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Sand dune beach, Playa Taroa, in Punta Gallinas, the northern most point in Colombia and South America.
© Melissa Lucier / Alamy Stock Photo
Punta Gallinas is the northernmost point of Colombia and South America, located in the remote La Guajira region of the country. The town is predominately populated by the Wayuu indigenous tribe, as it has been for hundreds of years. Located on the Caribbean Coast, the crystal-clear waters provide a contrast to the giant, orange, rolling sand dunes which line the coast. This town gives you the opportunity to experience Colombian culture through the indigenous tribes and their traditions.

Cerros de Mavecure

Natural Feature
Map View
The Cerros de Mavecure is a picturesque location with three spectacular monoliths – named Llanito, Pajaro and Mono – uprising from the Amazon Rainforest. The height of the mountains range from 820ft (250m) to 2,300ft (701m) – a contrast to the flat surrounding areas. A unique sight appears when it rains: during a heavy downpour, streams and waterfalls are created at the top of the mountains, and the waterfalls down the side of the mountains create the appearance that the mountains are crying.

Rio Claro, Antioquia

Natural Feature, Park
Map View
Reserva Natural Canon Rio Claro
© andy kramer / Alamy Stock Photo
The Rio Claro Nature Reserve is located 95mi (153km) southeast of Medellin and 165mi (265km) northwest of Bogota. The park is a privately owned nature park with the aim of preserving the rainforest within the Andes region of Colombia, and many unique species of wildlife are located within the park’s boundaries. It is also a perfect destination for adrenaline junkies, with activities such as rafting, caving, zip lining, swimming and trekking available.

Gorgona Island, Cauca

Natural Feature
Map View
Scenic view of Gorgona Island in Colombia.
© KIKE CALVO / Alamy Stock Photo
Gorgona Island is located 17mi (28km) off the Pacific Coast of Colombia. This small island is 5.6mi (9km) long and 1.6mi (2.5km) wide. The whole island is a national park in order to protect its unique subtropical forest and coral reef ecosystems, endemic wildlife and fascinating flora and fauna. Once a penal colony, this island is steeped in ancient and colonial history, with many jail buildings still in existence and hidden only by vegetation. The island has no permanent population, but can accommodate up to 80 tourists at a time, with a restaurant, ecotourism center and lodging facilities. The island is famous for its snake population, and for being a humpback whale migration passage. Hammerhead sharks, reef sharks, sea turtles, whale sharks and many species of birds call this island home.

Jardin, Antioquia

Natural Feature
Map View
The beautiful Cueva del Esplendor cave with a waterfall, Jardin, Antioquia, Colombia.
© Dave Stamboulis / agefotostock / Alamy Stock Photo
Jardin is a 100-year-old colonial town located in the region of Antioquia, around three hours’ drive from Medellin. This small, quaint town is filled with traditional colonial architecture, whitewashed walls and brightly colored doors and balconies. The town is home to a cable car system that provides local villagers with access to the town to sell products. One of these cable cars also stops at the peak of a neighboring mountain, Flower Hilltop, which offers an incredible view of the town and surrounding areas below. Jardin is surrounded by natural reserves including the magnificent waterfall at the Cave of Splendor. In the natural parks you can follow hiking paths, discover wildlife and swim in natural pools.

Yopal, Casanare

Architectural Landmark
Map View
Yopal, close to the Los Llanos region of Colombia, is also known as Cowboy Country, as this small town is the gateway to vast plains. Rice, beans, corn, coffee, sugar cane, plantain and citrus fruits are all commonly grown in this area. El Cravo Sur is a naturally formed beach with waterfalls, and crystal-clear water pools. In addition to water activities this area is also known for its horseriding trails, hiking and wildlife.

Villeta, Cundinamarca

Architectural Landmark
Map View
Villeta is located 55mi (90km) from Bogotà, down the mountain in a tropical and warm climate. This small town is popular with locals and Bogotanos for long weekend trips; it is home to a number of luxury villas and hotels. This area is perfect for a relaxing weekend away from the city, or an adventurous hiking, trekking and ecological trail.
These recommendations were updated on September 5, 2021 to keep your travel plans fresh.

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