Over the past five years, Colombia has experienced a tourism boom. With an increase in the number of flights to the country, an influx of hotel chains and the country’s peace negotiations settled, Colombia is becoming a major tourist destination. Its Caribbean beaches, Pacific coast, Amazon rainforest, Andes mountain range and desert plains appeal to a diverse tourist crowd. Colombia is full of unique and wonderful landscapes, and here are 20 you must not miss.
Medellín is Colombia’s second largest city, and is famous for its flower festival, warm climate, Botero Museum and has a metropolitan feel. Medellín has a number of unique things to do and see. Nearby Guatapé, for example, has a 650-foot (198-meter) rock protruding out of the flat lands, where you can climb over 700 steps and discover the “best view in the world.” Medellín is a lively city with plazas, colorful graffiti, exceptional transportation links and unique museums.
Cali is Colombia’s third largest city and is the salsa capital of the world. Cali is filled with music, smalls bars, live bands and dancing in the street. The city is the perfect place to learn to dance salsa and take a step back in time to experience the history of the popular Colombian dance in small record stores.
The Amazon rainforest is a vast ecosystem covering large areas of Colombia, Peru and Brazil. Visiting the Amazon rainforest is a unique experience, where you will witness communities living with nature and very few material items. Visiting an Amazon community is a life-changing experience; you get to see how villagers live with no running water or electricity. In the Amazon you can trek through the rainforest, visit monkey island, take boat trips and go fishing for piranhas.
Cartagena is a city located on the Caribbean coast of Colombia. At the end of the 16th century the city constructed a wall to protect its inhabitants from being robbed by pirates. The wall still stands today, and has become a spectacle of the city and its colorful architecture. Cartagena’s wall is complemented by its forts, built to protect from French and British invasion. Today you can walk along the wall, around the forts and take in the city’s unique Spanish colonial buildings.
Tayrona National Park is located close to the city of Santa Marta, on the Caribbean coast. Tayrona National Park is a sacred area for the local indigenous community of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta. The park boasts some of the country’s most beautiful beaches, backed by the rainforest and the snow capped mountains of the Sierra Nevada.
The Lost City, or Ciudad Perdida, is located close to Santa Marta and Tayrona National Park on the Caribbean coast. First constructed in 800C.E., this ancient community was constructed 650 years before Machu Picchu, but was only discovered in 1972. Visiting the Lost City involves a 27-mile (44-kilometer), four- or six-day trek through the rainforest, through rivers and past waterfalls.
Barichara is a unique colonial town made up of whitewashed buildings with orange roofs, all lining cobbled streets. The town is a photographer’s paradise, with small stores and restaurants located within colonial-style buildings, a big plaza and a view point over the mountains. Barichara is full of handmade arts and crafts and unique family-run restaurants, like the Pizzeria Siete Tigres.
The Rosario Islands are a collection of 27, predominantly uninhabited Caribbean islands, located off the coast of Cartagena. These islands are a protected National Park due to their coral reefs and marine life, which make for incredible snorkeling and diving experiences. The islands can be reached by boat from Cartagena’s port, and visitors can stay overnight in hotels dotted around the islands, or alternatively visit for a day trip.
Guatapé is a vibrantly-colored town preserved in time, with its brightly colored buildings kept in perfect condition. Guatapé is located close to El Peñól de Guatapé, a 650-foot (198-meter) tall rock busting out of the flat surrounding land. The rock is open to the public and has an extensive network of stairs, allowing visitors to climb to the top and take a look at the view which locals refer to as “the best view in the world,” looking out over an extensive network of gloriously, uniquely-colored rivers and lakes, backed by mountains. Located around 51 miles (83 kilometres) from Medellín, it’s the perfect day trip from the city.
San Andrés and Providencia are two Colombian islands located in the Caribbean sea just off the coast of Panama. These two islands have white, sandy beaches and turquoise waters, perfect for snorkeling, kitesurfing and swimming. Providencia is known for having the sea of seven colors, and the islands sit on the third largest coral reef in the world, providing a perfect location for diving and snorkelling.
The Monserrate is a mountain located next to Bogotá’s La Candelaria neighborhood. It has a church at the top, which can be reached by cable car, train, or a steep walk up the mountain. At 10,252 feet (3,152 metres) high, the views from the top of the mountain take in the whole of Bogotá, giving a sense of the enormity of the city and its surroundings.
The Valley de Cocora is located in Colombia’s coffee triangle. This national park is within a valley which is an ideal hiking or horse riding destination. The endless valley is also home to the wax palm, Colombia’s national tree. Rising high into the air, the Colombian wax palm is the tallest palm tree in the world. The park is the perfect place for an afternoon picnic while discovering these tall palms and getting in touch with the surrounding nature and wildlife.
Also located within Colombia’s coffee triangle, Salento is a small colonial town whose main business is coffee production. Home to a number of coffee farms or plantations, Salento is a great place to learn how Colombia’s famous coffee is produced, as well as learning about the countryside communities who make a living off the farm. The town is also filled with artisan products made by its locals, and delicious locally-produced, home cooked foods.
Bogotá is Colombia’s rapidly developing capital city, home to over 10 million inhabitants and full of history. The city’s La Candelaria neighborhood gives visitors an insight into how the city developed with its colorful colonial streets and Bolivar Plaza. Bogotá is a mix of old and new: businesses are developing their Latin-American head offices within the city and its boundaries are expanding in every direction. Bogotá has a large number of museums and its cuisine has been influenced by the Spanish, French, Argentine and Peruvian communities.
Colombia’s Pacific coast is predominantly uninhabited and unexplored. Its deep forest environment and remote access have made commercializing the area difficult, but that’s why it’s a great place to visit. The Pacific coast is home to some of Colombia’s endangered wildlife species, specifically birds. Whales also pass by the coast in migration seasons, making it an excellent place to view them along with other marine animals. This area also boasts some of the best surfing in the world, in remote locations only accessible by boats, such as El Valle.
Palomino is located close to Tayrona National Park. Its beautiful, white sandy beaches are backed by the snow capped mountains of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, making this area unique. Palomino’s beach has two fresh water rivers coming down from the mountains to the ocean, making a great place for tubing. Treking high into the mountains and then floating down to the ocean on inner tubes provides a relaxing and unique way to see Palomino’s nature.
The La Guajira desert is located on the northernmost point of Colombia and South America. This harsh desert environment is home to Colombia’s Wayuu indigenous tribe who live within this orange sandy environment contrasting with the turquoise Caribbean sea. La Guajira is a great location for kitesurfing, sand boarding and windsurfing at Cabo de la Vela.