La Guajira colombia thanks

Top 10 Things to Do in Colombia

Colombia
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Though Colombia has only relatively recently begun to welcome international tourists, internally locals have been paving a well-worn route that has forged an imperfect but nonetheless impressive infrastructure for tourism – so much so that narrowing down a diverse country like Colombia to a mere 10 highlights for a tour is a near impossible task.

On Colombia tours you’ll discover a rich, textured culture in progressive cities such as Bogota and Medellin. You can also lounge on Caribbean beaches in Tayrona National Park, climb snow-capped peaks in El Cocuy, dance with indigenous tribes in La Guajira and watch whales in Nuqui. Options are seemingly limitless – so much so that it’s said in Colombia today, the only risk is wanting to stay.

All that said, not everyone on a Colombia tour can see everything there is on offer. So, what are the top 10 things to do in Colombia?

10. San Andres & Providencia

If it’s postcard-perfect beaches you’re after, look no further. San Andres is a more popular island, but the secluded beaches at Providencia are some of Colombia’s finest.
San Andres Colombia

San Andres, Colombia. Photo by Julian Montes.

San Andres and Providencia are two islands off the coast of Colombia. Blessed with beautiful, year-round weather and some of the most sparkling waters you’re likely to see, both are incredible options for anyone looking for a bit of relaxation in the Caribbean.

While San Andres may be a little more built up, it still retains its small island charms and laid back atmosphere. Providencia, however, takes this to whole new levels. Littered with secluded beaches and only sparsely populated, it’s your own personal island adventure.

9. El Cocuy

Snow-capped mountains? In Colombia? You betcha. This challenging but rewarding hike up El Cocuy is one of Colombia’s most surprising highlights.
El Cocuy colombia

El Cocuy. Photo by Luis Angel Camargo.

Though it might be somewhat off-the-beaten track in Colombia, El Cocuy makes the list by virtue of its sheer unexpectedness. While Colombia is making a name for itself as a country that defies expectations, surely even the most liberal and open-minded of travelers wouldn’t expect to need to pack clothes for the snow when they visit the country.

Trekking El Cocuy is one of the best experiences you can have in Colombia – it’s a story to tell and an experience like no other. El Cocuy is a moderately challenging trek, so be prepared and do your research before attempting it.

8. Amazon River

An intrepid traveler’s dream, the Amazon River is one of the most exciting places on earth for wildlife and adventure.
Amazon Colombia

Amazon, Colombia. Photo by Eli Duke.

The Amazon River has captured the traveler’s imagination for centuries. This is nature in its wildest form, where even the small settlements in the area dare not disturb nature’s delicate equilibrium.

Travel to Amazonian Colombia and you’ll be able to visit indigenous communities in Peru and Brazil, as well as see monkeys, pink dolphins, colorful parrots and much more. In short, the Amazon River in Colombia is an experience you won’t forget in a hurry.

7. Nuqui

Every year humpback whales come in droves to Colombia’s coast at Nuqui. Be one of the lucky few to get this close.
Nuqui Colombia

Nuqui, Colombia. Photo by Luis Alejandro Bernal Romero.

Much like El Cocuy, Nuqui comes completely unexpected on a Colombia tour. From July to October travelers can visit this area on Colombia’s Pacific Coast and watch humpback whales come close to the shore. It’s a unique experience to see these majestic creatures close up, and many adventurous souls come away from Nuqui with it high on their list of best travel experiences.

6. Cocora Valley

Wax palm trees dominate the skyline in Cocora Valley, a simple but rewarding trek in Colombia’s coffee region.
Cocora Valley Colombia Tour

Cocora Valley. Photo by Juan Felipe Gomez.

Cocora Valley and neighboring colonial village Salento are two of Colombia’s most charming attractions. Wandering the streets of Salento is like wandering back in time, and a true insight into the life of Colombians in the coffee region of the country.

Trekking in Cocora Valley is equally impressive. The iconic wax palm tree dominates the skyline, while the rolling hills of Cocora Valley make it the perfect place to relax and take photos.

5. Medellin

Medellin is one of Colombia’s biggest success stories. Don’t miss an opportunity to find out why.
Medellin, Colombia

Medellin, Colombia. Photo by Yair L Mesa.

Medellin, for so long the black sheep of Colombia, has finally shed its reputation and become one of its shining stars. Thanks to progressive politics, a palpable sense of determination from locals as well as a lot of hard work, the city is now safe for travelers and thousands of visitors flock to the city every year.

Medellin boasts a great restaurant scene, an impressive nightlife and a rapidly modernizing skyline that is punctuated with beautiful new buildings and skyscrapers.

4. Tayrona National Park

If idyllic beaches and hours spent relaxing with coconuts to eat sounds like your idea of heaven, Tayrona is the place for you.
Tayrona Colombia Tour

Tayrona National Park. Photo by Ben Bowes.

Few beaches take the breath away quite like the ones you find at Tayrona National Park. With its rugged coastlines, wild jungles and epic mountain-scapes you’ll swear you’ve just wandered onto the set of Lost.

Tayrona National Park isn’t the cheapest area to visit, but its undoubtedly worth the price of admission and the effort it takes to arrive (the only way in involves a relatively long hike in muddy conditions, or a trip on the back of a mule).

3. Bogota

Explore Colombia’s best museums (including the Gold Museum and Botero Museum), sample Colombia’s international cuisine and rub shoulders with the cosmopolitan crowds of Bogota’s nightlife.
Gold Museum, Bogota

Gold Museum, Bogota. Photo by McKay Savage.

Every day Bogota is added to more and more lists of “up and coming cities”. For those in the know, this transformation happened a while ago. As well as the fantastic museums you can visit (such as the Gold Museum and Botero Museum), you can explore Bogota’s many varied neighborhoods and get a taste of just how international this city is becoming. In fashionable Chapinero you’ll rub shoulders with the artists and hipsters of the city drinking coffees in trendy cafes, while further north in La T (especially recommended is La Villa on Tuesdays and at the weekend) and Parque 93 you’ll find a more affluent clientele that are looking to let loose and party.

For your fix of colonial arhcitecture, take a relaxing stroll in Usaquen and see Bogota’s most famous sights in La Candelaria before heading off to eat in Zona G.

Oh, salsa dancers, bring your dancing shoes.

2. La Guajira

Turquoise waters and fiery sands abound in this surreal area of Colombia – the most northern region of South America.
Goats on the beaches of La Guajira, Colombia.

Goats on the beaches of La Guajira, Colombia
Photo by Paul B. Fowler

While La Guajira‘s beaches aren’t made for languid relaxation like those found in Tayrona National Park it is, nonetheless, one of Colombia’s most astonishing and breathtaking destinations.

The surreal colors of Punta Gallinas will sear themselves on your mind, while the views over the desert-like landscapes are nothing short of mind-blowing. La Guajira also offers an opportunity to see indigenous communities and their rich cultures, as well as the chance to eat the freshest, cheapest lobster you’ll find outside of Asia.

1. Cartagena

Colonial Cartagena is one of South America’s most picturesque cities, and an essential visit on any Colombia tour.
Cartagena, Colombia

Cartagena, Colombia. Photo by Stefan Krasowski.

Even when Colombia was embroiled in the troubles of the past decades, thousands of tourists made their way to Cartagena to meander through the relaxing cobblestone streets and discover life at a completely different pace.

In Cartagena you’ll discover superb museums, delectable cuisine, beautiful beaches and much more. The biggest appeal of the city, however, is just to get lost in the Old City and, come sunset, enjoy a delicious cocktail as the sunsets over Cafe del Mar.

 



Comments

  1. It’s impossible to sum this up in 10 items. But definitely missing are:
    - picking your own coffee beans and roasting them afterwards
    - passing a day in a typical Colombian hacienda and do NOTHING
    - entering a Emerald Mine in Muzo http://www.kiwitz.com/smaragd-fieber-ausflug-nach-muzo
    - dance Salsa til you drop in Cali

    • Belen says:

      Defently dance salsa in cali is one of them

    • carlos Augusto says:

      Los sitios maravillosos en Colombia son muchísimos pero no pueden estar ausentes en el Top 10 lugares como kla Catedral de sal de Zipaquirá, Isla Gorgona, El Parque arqueológico de San Agustín y Caño cristales, entre otros.

  2. Karsten says:

    hello Andre, txs for the informations i’m back in Colombia in February and am looking forward the onderful people and wonderful country!!!

  3. Hey Paul, would you recommend the amazon in Colombia or do you think it might be better elsewhere in South America?

    • I’d definitely recommend it, but I’d also say if you’re planning to only go to the Amazon, probably Brazil would be your best shout. If you’re adding it into a Colombia itinerary, it’s certainly worth a stop off.

      • Lucia says:

        I don’t agree with you Paul, I would say the Colombian Amazon offers incredible experiences within a smaller location making it easier to see everything without having to travel days up and down river. And when you are in Leticia you are at the point called the ’3 frontiers’ where you can actually have breakfast in Colombia, lunch in Peru and dinner in Brazil. I would say Leticia is a good starting point for any Amazonic journey and you can easily find information on any kind of trip you want to have. Plus, Leticia has great accommodation service for all kinds of budgets. :)

        • Hi Lucia, thanks for your comment! I would say it sounds like you do agree with me… My point is that it’s a fantastic place to visit, and that as a bonus you can see Peru and Brazil!

      • Andrea says:

        I have been in leticia and also have visited the Brasilian and Peruvian side , which are mainly a disgrace, unfortunately these 2 countries are destroying the forest and turning it in a desert dump, in comparison with the Colombian side where the communities have more respect for environment, so I advice stay more on the Colombian side of the Amazon!

    • Colombia is the best place to start .. you can work your way around and visit Peru and Brazil in one week …
      There are all inclusive packages where you can sleep in a different place every night , and for the brave do camping in the jungle :)

      It is definitely a must destination !

    • claro en el de peru que es mas grande que el que tiene colombia

  4. Ana Porras says:

    For those with a more adventurous spirit, you’re definitely missing San Gil and the entire department of Santander, where you can go rafting, paragliding, cave diving, climbing, etc…

  5. Daniel Clombian says:

    Nuqui is definitely awesome! but WHY to see whales? the noise of the engines annoys and scares them. so sad they still promote it :(
    i would say its more interesting to visiting all the foundations dedicated to rescue the sea turtles! you can even give them a hand :)

  6. Isabel Bonilla says:

    Cali is the salsa dancing capital of Colombia, get your facts straight ;)

  7. How about spending a weekend in one of the many traditional pueblos in the state of Antioquia? My favorite pueblo is Jardin, where it seems like Colombia was frozen in time 50 years ago.

  8. While visiting Cartagena be sure to take one of the cartagena insider tours. available in English ans french, they will show a very interesting and complex perspective of the city, defying all preconcepts! A salsa route, a tour to the indigenous areas, a guided tour of getsemani, the cultural quarter, and other personalized and unique routes are available. Chack out their facebook page : cartagenainsider.

  9. Mark says:

    I have been exploring Colombia since 1970. You cannot sum up beautiful Colombia in 10 sentences.
    Eje Cafetero
    Leticia
    San Augustin
    Los Katios
    Gorgona
    Piedras De Tunja
    Zipquira
    Monseratte
    Cathedral Las Lajas
    Pasto Airport
    Pink Dolphins
    Monkey Island
    The Zoo at Villavo
    And a bizillion more.

    • Absolutely right, there’s far more to see. Unfortunately, not everyone can travel there so often (if only)! So I hope this is a good introduction to the country, at least.

    • Katherin says:

      You forgot to mention one of the most beautiful landscapes in Colombia. We have a Caynon!

      El Cañon del Chicamocha

      http://parquenacionaldelchicamocha.com

      • Looks beaaaauuuutiful! I think I’m going to have to write another article as there are so many other places to see!

    • Adriana says:

      I was just wondering why some of these places weren’t in the 10 best. I think the column should be the best “20″ places, there is a lot to see.
      Also:
      Villa de Leyba
      Raquira
      All the volcanos and paramos

  10. I live part time in Colombia. For the most part, the people are very nice and friendly, although their curiosity about foreigners can be a little frightening until you get used to it. I love the coastal area beaches and I love the mountains. I enjoy the rain because I know that’s why everything is green. I prefer the moderate climates of the mountains where you move up the mountain if you are hot and down the mountain if you are cold. ;) I love the mountain people. They are generous to a fault and very kind and caring. Not to far from me are Parque de Panacha and the Parque de Café. In my area of Pereira, there are mountain bike groups and tours which are safe, fun, and lovely. As a more mature person ;) I must admit that my favorite diversion is a trip to Santa Rosa de Cabal and the Termales (hot springs and spa). I love to go there for the late afternoon and evening so that I miss the direct sun of the day. There is an older and quieter family section and a newer area for the younger crowd. The hotel rooms are generously large and family orientated and while not 5 star, are always very clean and fresh. I’m so glad that I get to live here part time.

    • Hey Lynn, thanks for the comment! Living in Colombia is incredible (I lived there 3 years), and it sounds like you have a great life! I love the Termales in Santa Rosa de Cabal, although I only managed to go once. Keep living the dream!

  11. CATALINA says:

    Caño Cristales missing.
    It is Medellín not Medellin =)

    • Caño Cristales is there! And Medellin, I don’t have a Spanish keyboard :(.

      Thanks for stopping by, Catalina!

  12. Andres Arango says:

    Thanks Paul for help us improve the country’s PR, Colombia is way more than drugs, i hope people from around the world give it a shot, and get to know a beatiful and diverse culture as well as the beautiful landscapes.

    • I think tourism in Colombia is growing all the time. It’s so great to see as there’s so much to see (not to mention the people)!

  13. Ana says:

    Hi Paul, excelent job!
    Here are more nice things to do in Colombia (I hope we reach 100 and 50 are new for me ;)
    1. Colonial towns in Boyaca. Party animals: think about festivals in Villa de Leyva and once you are there visit Raquira. Looking forward to relax? Then the rest of the province is for you to choose and even Villa de Leyva when there’s no celebration at all.
    2. Good Friday in Popayan is an amazing experience where you see the old religious traditions alive. Escapade tip: Indigenous tribes in Cauca
    3. Traveling back in time to Mompox. Just be ready to see life passing by.
    4. Festivals like Corralejas in Cordoba, Coleo in Los Llanos, Carnival in Barranquilla, etc. But even little towns’ celebrations are fun! Go, dance and have a drink at the “berbena popular”!
    5. Wet markets big or small are full of colors and exotic fruits. Ideal places to make great pics and learn about the culture. Grab you camera and ask for the “plaza de mercado” regardless of the location you are visiting!

    • Haha, we could easily get to 100!

      Absolutely right about the extras you’ve mentioned. I particularly love Mompox.

  14. I think you shoul try to visit la serranía de la macarena, here you can find the most beautiful places in Colombia, with caño cristales, a five colors river and breathtaking landscapes https://www.google.com.co/search?q=serran%C3%ADa+de+la+macarena&espv=210&es_sm=93&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ei=3tj0UqXiDsWkyAH1v4G4Aw&ved=0CAkQ_AUoAQ&biw=1024&bih=537,
    another one almost unknown even for the colombians is the serranía of chiribiquete, another paradise in colombia, you don’t even have to leave the country to see the heaven on earth. https://www.google.com.co/search?q=serran%C3%ADa+del+chiribiquete&espv=210&es_sm=93&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ei=itn0UpCSIObXyAGktYGACA&ved=0CAkQ_AUoAQ&biw=1024&bih=537

  15. Caño Cristales is missing and Providencia
    http://www.cano-cristales.com/

  16. Well, i am a Colombian friendly man. I enjoyd tourist watching. How they enjoy this beautiful country, because of that i am planing to get a piece of land in that beautiful town call SALENTO. There are too many tourist passing by every single day, i am longing to see more foreigners around Salento.
    Wellcome to Colombia everyone…

  17. GenghisKhan says:

    Paul, thank u so much!!!
    I can see that u have traveled for many locations. In Colombia we have a lot of places to visit, and in every one you’ll find more delightfull landscapes and lovely people. You can see the deepest salt church of world. We have two of them. Other thing you must do is scuba diving, in many diferent places: parque tayrona, islas del rosario, san Andrés, Barú (caribbean sea), and lots of locations at pacific sea, for example Gorgona. And try the food while you are at the main roads, arepas, empanadas y chorizos are some of our most popular and tasty food.

  18. Nanda says:

    Hi
    This is a great article. I am from Colombia but do not know my country. Very sad. :(
    Any of you guys/girls doing a tour were I can join in. I am interesting in going to Valledupar for the festival. or Please do recommend tours where people can join in.
    Colombia is beautiful and I do want to visit and know my country more fully this year
    Thanks for the articles

  19. MSGlo says:

    I love the article!! The only thing missing is Carnavales in Barranquilla. Its an amazing experience. Starting with the Lectura del Bando thru Precarnavales and Carnavales.

  20. Jose Perez-Alvarez says:

    1. visit Santa Marta and Taganga
    2. Agree, dance Salsa en la sucursal de cielo, cali until you can’t walk!
    3. Carnaval de Barranquilla

  21. Herbert says:

    I will remove the cities, I will add, San Agustin, El Parque del Cafe, la Isla de Gorgona, La Catedral de Las Lajas, a city could be Popayan and if u want to risk it and hopefully things will be ok then go to Tierradentro.

    Btw, there is this restaurant in the Valle del Cocora and the food is incredible, service is non par, really will recommend it.

  22. marcela says:

    Nice list but you could get better photos…..

  23. Alejandra says:

    Hi Paul!! Amazing article!! Thanks for showing to the world that Colombia is more than drugs and capos!! I got i few more stops for your next article ;) PALOMINO, ISLAS DEL ROSARIO and BOGOTÁ!! Come on!! Bogotá is amazing to have fun, definitely the next big south american capital! Great work!! Thank you again :)

    • Hi Alejandra, thanks for your comment!

      Bogota is on the list as number 3, I love Bogota! It’s actually my favorite city in Colombia (I lived there for 3 years), but the article is aimed at tourists so it didn’t quite make number 1! Great suggestions with the other places though, thanks!

  24. MARIA TERESA CACERES says:

    Creo que les falto un poco de información: Santander es bellísimo visitar San Gil con su parque PANACHI. Lo mismo que visitar el LLano con la Serrania de la Macarena.

  25. Carlos Gonzalez says:

    if you are young and restless looking for adventure an love extreme sports… can not miss going to Santander region, do paragliding through the “Chicamocha” canyon or at “Mesa de Ruitoque”, Rafting at rios Suarez, Fonse and Chicamocha, discovery caving at many diff areas with underground streams or doing Rappel at “Pinchote” or ” Cascadas de Juan Curi”. amazing places and landscapes.

  26. rmb says:

    Manizales 8f you want to see the best fairs and coffe anc birds
    Best in eje

  27. Juliana says:

    Def head to Medellin! MI BELLO MEDALLO!
    and must go to la piedra del penon, as well as any cabana!
    #proudcolombiana #mostbeautifulcountry #inlove

  28. Great post! I just returned from Colombia a month ago, and I wish I would have made it to the Amazon River and to Tayrona but alas, three weeks is never long enough. Thanks for the tips for next time!

    • Such a shame you missed out on Tayrona! But glad you enjoyed it anyway, by the looks of things on your blog you’ll be going back!

  29. Alexandra says:

    In this list is not Mompox, a very little paradise next to Magdalena river. This a very beautifull town where the time dont pass, where you can eat the best coast tipical food, arepa de huevo and you can visit colonial churchs when our first history was made.

  30. cpb says:

    hi! i am traveling to Colombia, and I know i will be in bogota for 3 days, but I have 5 more days to go around, I want to go to Cartagena and Medellin. Where should I spend more time? 3 days in Cartagena and 2 in Medellin or the other way around?

    • Hey, thanks for stopping by!

      I think it really depends what you’re after. If you go to Cartagena you can explore the nearby islands and spend a nice amount of time relaxing, so if that’s what you’re after I’d recommend that. If you want to spend more time partying, Medellin would be your best option.

      Hope this helps!

  31. Michael says:

    I am planning a motorcycle trip thought South america and am curious what route through Columbia would be safest as well as most amzing for sights? Please give your insight

    • Hey Michael,

      In general you’ll be fine going through Colombia. I have a number of friends who did exactly the same. If you still to the well-worn track you should have absolutely no problems.

      Driving between Bogota, Medellin, Cartagena, Tayrona, La Guajira, Cali, the Coffee Triangle and San Gil should be absolutely fine providing you take the normal precautions and stay alert.

      Avoid certain areas in Los Llanos and towards the north west of the country, as well as areas around Cali that aren’t main routes.

      I can put you in touch with my friends who’ve done it for more information if you like, just shoot me an email at paul [at] trip.me.

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