Colombia is one of the world’s most beautiful and biodiverse countries, with more and more travellers waking up to this long-overlooked South American country’s extraordinary potential. Colombia is also full of bizarre sights, making it a paradise for photographers and Instagrammers. Here are some of the most surreal places in Colombia guaranteed to set your Instagram feed alight.
Hoping to travel to Colombia in the near future? Check out TRIPS by Culture Trip – we’ve developed two itineraries that showcase the very best of the country, with our Local Insider on hand to provide extra tips and insight that other tourists simply won’t get. Which will it be? The Andes Mountains or the Caribbean Coast?
Fancy rolling down giant desert sand dunes straight into the sparkling waters of the Caribbean? At the Taroa Dunes you can do exactly that – here, at the northernmost point of South America, the Guajira Desert meets the sea, making for one of Colombia’s weirdest destinations.
The red river of Las Gachas has become something of an Instagram celebrity in recent years, with people from all over the world travelling here in order to get a picture of themselves sitting in its surreal jacuzzi holes, or a video sliding along the slippery river bed into the water-filled craters. Located just outside the pretty town of Guadalupe, Las Gachas is about as visually surreal as it gets.
A truly off-the-beaten-track Colombian destination, the Mavecure Hills are three giant rock hills – remnants of the Guiana Shield, which predates the division of America and Africa – jutting out of the jungles of the eastern department of Guainía. Visitors can camp out on the sandy beaches of the Inirida River overnight (with some of the best stargazing in Colombia) and climb the ancient hills at dawn for incredible views over the rainforest. The hills were also recently featured in the Academy Award-nominated Colombian film The Embrace of the Serpent.
The historical centre of Colombia’s capital isn’t especially surreal in itself, but it is an Instagrammer’s dream thanks to its remarkable street art, giant murals and small political stamps seemingly located on every single street. The best way to experience this amazing local art scene is on the Bogota Graffiti Tour, which explains the culture and history of Colombian graffiti and visits all of the best pieces in the Old Town. La Candelaria is like a giant open-air art gallery, making it a great spot to play around with those filters.
This lake, in the lesser-known jungle region of Guaviare, has one especially stunning characteristic. The water here is so clear that, on a clear day, it acts as a perfect mirror to the sky. Visitors can paddle around the lake on their own wooden dugout canoe, enjoying the beautiful sight of the blue skies and dramatic clouds of Guaviare perfectly reflected in the waters of the lake.
The hilltop communities or comunas of Medellin, once some of the most dangerous and no-go neighbourhoods on earth, have been transformed in recent years thanks to a series of innovative and creative urban development projects. Designed to better integrate the formerly isolated areas with the rest of Medellin, areas such as Comuna 13 boast an amazing network of urban escalators that connect the hillside spot with the city centre. They even built slides to allow children to get down the hills to school in a more fun way. Sliding around the streets of Medellin’s comunas is an Instragram video hit waiting to happen.
Colombia has more species of bird than any other country on earth and they don’t come much more surreal than flamingoes. These beautiful pink birds are a year-round fixture at the beautiful coastal lagoons of Los Flamencos, a protected natural sanctuary on the Caribbean coast in Guajira department. Visitors can get remarkably close to them with local guides on wooden canoes, making for some beautiful photographs.
The Cocora Valley is home to the tallest palm tree in the world, the Quindío Wax Palm. These massive trees carpet the green valley of Cocora, close to the pretty coffee town of Salento. They stand like sentinels, alone in the wide valley, and have a surreal appearance, often being likened to something from a Dr. Seuss tale.
One of Colombia’s least-known national parks, Tuparro saw just 300 visitors in 2016, despite being the home of one of Colombia’s most incredible natural spectacles; the Maipures Rapids of the Orinoco River. A thunderous cacophony of noise and spray, their most famous – and Instagrammable – feature is the surreal balancing rock, a giant boulder that has somehow remained balanced on a tiny point among the chaos.
Colombia’s wild Pacific coast is barely accessible, other than by boat or light aircraft, but it is one of the most beautiful and biodiverse regions of the country. Migrating humpback whales arrive in the area to give birth every year between June and October, making for some beautiful photo opportunities against the stunning backdrop of jungle-covered islands and barely inhabited coastline. Truly lucky travellers will also be able to capture an image of one of the bizarre poison-dart frogs that call these jungles home.
Colombia’s largest canyon, in Santander department, is a truly spectacular sight. Located not far from the Colombian extreme sports capital of San Gil, the best way to see the canyon in its full majesty is to go paragliding over it, or take South America’s longest cable car across and back. The mind-blowing panorama from hundreds of metres in the air is a surefire Instagram hit.
Another hidden gem in Guaviare department, Nuevo Tolima is a giant rocky hill in the middle of the jungle that hides a mystical surprise for those adventurous enough to make the journey: the giant face of the rock is covered in ancient paintings by an unknown indigenous culture, some dating back around 10,000 years. With blood-red images of sloths, monkeys, birds, jaguars, and more, Nuevo Tolima is Colombia’s most magical outdoor art gallery.
Home to ancient stone statues sculpted by an unknown indigenous culture thousands of years ago, San Agustín is an archaeological marvel surrounded by some of Colombia’s most beautiful Andean landscapes. The truly surreal parts, however, are the hundreds of anthropomorphic statues, depicting such bizarre figures as human-monkey hybrids and giants devouring babies.
This small coastal town on the Caribbean coast is most famous for tubing: visitors can hike up into the jungle and ride inflated inner tubes down a beautiful jungle river right down to the sea. It’s an amazing journey, but the truly special part comes in the final stages when, on a clear day, tubers are rewarded with amazing views of the snow-capped Bolivar and Colon mountains, the highest in Colombia. A panorama that includes snowy peaks and the sparkling Caribbean Sea is unique – and it can be found only in Palomino.
The best stargazing spot in Colombia, this large, arid region in Huila department is home to some very weird desert landscapes, including a grey, rocky area that resembles the surface of the moon. There is even an area where a series of massive rocks appear to have taken on lifelike shapes, including a dog’s head and a crocodile.
A short hike from the pretty coffee town of Jardin, in southern Antioquia department, is one of Colombia’s most beautiful waterfalls. The ‘Cave of Splendor’ is a small cave, hidden away under a jungle-clad rocky overhang, with a round hole in its ceiling. From this hole a waterfall drops into a freezing lake where you can take a swim but beware, the water is freezing! More adventurous visitors can arrange to rappel down the falls into the cave.
Caqueta is one of Colombia’s least visited departments, but that’s not because it lacks in amazing sights and activities. On the contrary, Caqueta is one of the country’s hidden gems, in particular, the remarkable canyon of Las Dalias Natural Reserve, a stretch of river enclosed on both sides by a remarkable high-walled canyon, covered in naturally occurring oil. The river is incredibly shallow, meaning the most intrepid of visitors can hike through the narrow canyon, enjoying the surreal views of one of Colombia’s most off-the-beaten-track destinations.
One of Colombia’s smallest national parks, Los Estoraques is a bizarre landscape defined by a series of large brownstone pedestals and columns, formed by erosion over thousands of years. The columns tower around you as you hike through the dry, dusty landscape – usually alone, as this area is very under-visited by tourists. As a bonus, the park is only a couple of miles from La Playa de Belen, one of Colombia’s most beautiful small towns.
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