Surreal Places in Colombia That Were Made For Instagram

The area of La Candelaria in Bogota, Colombia's capital, is filled with unique graffiti
The area of La Candelaria in Bogota, Colombia's capital, is filled with unique graffiti | © Sonja Novak / Alamy Stock Photo
Photo of Chris Bell
2 June 2021

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.

El Peñón de Guatapé, Antioquia

Natural Feature
Map View
The Rock of Guatape (spanish: El Penon de Guatape) inselberg or monadnock
@ El Peñón de Guatapé
El Peñón is a giant rock – believed by some to be a meteorite – jutting out of the middle of a labyrinthine network of lakes and coves in the Antioquia department. It stands out for miles around and the 740 steps to the top reward energetic climbers with panoramic views over a spectacular vista of sparkling blue waters as far as the eye can see.

Las Gachas, Santander

Natural Feature
Map View
Enjoying the deep natural swimming holes of Las Gachas, Guadalupe, Santander, Colombia
© Raquel Mogado / Alamy Stock Photo

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.

Mavecure Hills, Guainía

Natural Feature
Map View
Colombia, Guainia, Inirida, Cerros de Mavicure, cliffs of Mono at left and Pajarito at right
© Hemis / Alamy Stock Photo

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.

La Candelaria, Bogotá

Historical Landmark
Map View
La Candelaria, Bogotá
© Devasahayam Chandra Dhas / Alamy Stock Photo

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.

Laguna Negra, Guaviare

Natural Feature
Map View

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.

Comuna 13, Medellin

Architectural Landmark
Map View
Comuna 13, Medellin, Antioquia Department, Colombia, South America
© robertharding / Alamy Stock Photo

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.

Los Flamencos, Guajira

Natural Feature
Map View
Greater Flamingo (Phoenicopterus ruber) group wading, Los Flamencos Sanctuary, Guajira Peninsula, Colombia
© Minden Pictures / Alamy Stock Photo

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

Natural Feature
Map View
Trees On Field At Cocora Valley
© EyeEm / Alamy Stock Photo

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.

Casa en el Aire, Antioquia

Hostel
Map View
Casa en el Aire is one of Colombia’s coolest and most unique hostels. Perched on the side of a cliff in the mountains of Antioquia, it also has an amazing bonus feature: a high-wire hanging out over the abyss below that supports a bunch of hammocks, which guests are free to hang from – if they’re brave enough.

Caño Cristales

Park
Map View
Waterfall and plant colors at Cano Cristales Colombia Underwater plants Macarenia clarigera endemic to small stream Llano area
© Tom Till / Alamy Stock Photo
Perhaps Colombia’s most well-known surreal destination, the so-called ‘River of Five Colours; in the jungles of Meta department is a photographer’s dream. Also known as ‘the river that escaped from heaven,’ Caño Cristales would surely be in the running for the most beautiful river on earth.

Casa Elemento

Hostel
Map View
Casa Elemento Columbia
Courtesy of Casa Elemento Columbia / Hostelworld
This hostel, perched high in the mountains of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, overlooking the distant Caribbean Sea, is the home of one of Colombia’s most popular Instagram-friendly locations: the so-called ‘largest hammock in the world.’ This giant rope hammock hangs out over the edge of the hillside and offers commanding views of the majestic mountains and sea. Posing for a photo in the Casa Elemento hammock is a rite of passage for an Instagram traveller in Colombia.

Tuparro National Park, Vichada

Natural Feature
Map View
Colombia, Llanos, Vichada, Tuparro National Park, Maipure raudales , or whitewater rapids
© Hemis / Alamy Stock Photo

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.

El Chocó

Natural Feature
Map View
Two Humpback Whales (Megaptera Novaeangliae), with fluke, Bahia Solano, El Choco, Colombia
© imageBROKER / Alamy Stock Photo

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.

Chicamocha Canyon, Santander

Natural Feature
Map View
Chicamocha Canyon View
© Panther Media GmbH / Alamy Stock Photo

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.

Nuevo Tolima, Guaviare

Natural Feature
Map View
Detail of the cave paintings of Nuevo Tolima, Colombia
© Diana Marcela Gamboa Rinckoar / Getty Images

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.

San Agustín

Natural Feature
Map View
San Agustin archaeological park, Colombia
© James Wagstaff / Alamy Stock Photo

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.

The Lost City

Archaeological site
Map View
The terraces of the Lost City, Sierra Nevada, Santa Marta, Colombia
© Michael Harris / Alamy Stock Photo
The Lost City of the Tairona people was hidden away in the jungles of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta mountain range for hundreds of years and was only rediscovered in 1972. It predates the much more famous Machu Picchu by over 800 years and can be visited on a tough four-day trek through the mountains. The reward for all the exertion though is a classic Colombian photo opportunity, with the jaw-dropping backdrop of the stone terraces of the city surrounded by the verdant green jungle.

Tayrona National Park

Park
Map View
Tayrona national park in Colombia
© Olga Kot Photo / Shutterstock
Tayrona National Park on the Caribbean coast is a surreal place all round: crystalline blue waters, wild jungle, ancient ruined cities, and giant boulders towering over hiking trails. It conjures up images of Jurassic Park and there are plenty of wild animals to keep nature lovers occupied. The real Instagram favourite is the vistas of Cabo San Juan beach and the view of two mirrored beaches from a viewpoint above the sea: Caribbean perfection.

Casa en el Agua Hostel

Hostel
Map View
Casa en el Agua, house on water in San Bernardo Islands, on Colombia's Caribbean Coast
© Pierrick Lemaret / Alamy Stock Photo
Perhaps Colombia’s coolest and most beautifully located hostel is Casa en el Agua, a floating hostel completely surrounded by the blue waters of the Caribbean and accessible only by boat. With not much more to do than sunbathe on the deck, enjoy a cocktail at the bar or snorkel and swim in the warm sea, Casa en el Agua is sure to have your Instagram followers in fits of jealousy.

Palomino

Natural Feature
Map View
View of the snow-capped Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta Caribbean mountains on Palomino River in Colombia, South America.
© Brannon Gerling / Alamy Stock Photo

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.

Tatacoa Desert

Natural Feature
Map View
Tatacoa desert, department of Huila, Colombia, South America.
© agefotostock / Alamy Stock Photo

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.

La Cueva del Esplendor

Natural Feature
Map View
Diving into the beautiful Cueva del Esplendor, Jardin, Antioquia, Colombia
© Dave Stamboulis / Alamy Stock Photo

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.

Las Dalias Natural Reserve, Caqueta

Natural Feature
Map View

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.

Los Estoraques

Natural Feature
Map View
Large brownstone pedestals and columns in Los Estoraques Unique Natural Area, Playa De Belen, Colombia
© reisegraf.ch / Alamy Stock Photo

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.

These recommendations were updated on June 2, 2021 to keep your travel plans fresh.

Cookies Policy

We and our partners use cookies to better understand your needs, improve performance and provide you with personalised content and advertisements. To allow us to provide a better and more tailored experience please click "OK"