Throughout the years, Colombia has been among the countries that earned negative impressions from the other half of the planet. People have been scared to fly and see the raw beauty of this country without having images of drugs, violence, and Pablo Escobar flashing before them. This is the time you cast these terrible misconceptions aside and see this beautiful place for what it really is.
Since 2015, Colombia has experienced a tourism boom, having a surge in its number of flights, thanks to travelers who helped in debunking its ugly myth. Unfortunately, the media has contributed in creating the misperceptions that have been banishing people for long years. There is so much in Colombia that you wouldn’t want to miss.
Colombia isn’t only the land where our beloved Shakira and Sofia Vergara come from. It is a true South American gem where many contrasts meet. It is home to two vast deserts along with splendid coasts of the Caribbean. It also embraces the tropical jungles of the Amazon as well as the snowy Andean Mountains.
It is about time you take on this enthralling journey and experience an authentic Latin culture for yourself. We promise that you will leave this land with a strong urge to come back again someday. The friendliness and generous hospitality of the Colombians is another thing that you would remember for years to come. So, find out the best things to do in Colombia in our exclusive list!
1. Walk through the Historic Walled City of Cartagena
Although it is not the capital city of Colombia, Cartagena is the crown jewel of this country, featuring centuries of rich history and heritage. It is commonly known as the walled city for having around 11 kilometers of defensive walls surrounding its center. Back in the day, those walls served as the protection base of Colombia, with several fortifications augmenting them.
The rich history and heritage of this old city has assisted in it being declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This colonial city remains well-maintained, narrating the long history of Spanish rule many centuries ago. You can clearly observe the vibrant architecture and colorful buildings that give the city a lively ambiance.
In fact, Disney has taken inspiration from this beautiful city while creating the settings of its latest latino movie, Encanto. The colorful trees that embellish the buildings are clearly seen in the depiction, unraveling the allure of this beautiful city.
2. Take A Coffee Tour in the Eje Cafetero Region
Colombia is known to be the third-largest producer of coffee beans in the world. It has vast lands where the coffee plantations and production take place. The best part is that you can get to take a fascinating tour around the subtropical Andean hills where the production happens, which is the Eje Cafetero.
The Eje Cafetero, literally translating into the Coffee Axis, is home to the major number of coffee plantations in Colombia. It is situated in the western part of the capital city of Bogota. This is the place where you get to learn about the grinding and roasting processes of your favorite Black Americano that you have back home.
Aside from the educational tour of coffee plantations, you can do other activities around this region. Situated nearby is Salento, a small resort town where you can stay. You can also rent a bike and ride through the vast landscapes, discovering the beauty of this region and enjoying the picturesque scenes. If you would also like to see the world’s tallest palm trees, don’t forget to pass by the renowned Cocora Valley.
3. Hike to Ciudad Perdida (The Lost City)
Apparently, the world embraces more than a few cities that got lost and forgotten throughout the years. The good news is that treasure hunters usually discover traces that lead them to what could have been forgotten for good. This is the same scenario that happened with Ciudad Perdida, the renowned lost city of Colombia.
The Lost City, or Ciudad Perdida, is located in the deepest parts of the jungles of Colombia. If you would love to embark on an enthralling journey of discovery, you will need to head to Santa Marta from which the tour begins. Cartagena and Barranquilla are the only cities from which you can get to Santa Marta by land, unlike other cities that require flying there.
The hiking tour takes around 4 to 5 days, so it is not for the weak and solo trekking isn’t allowed. Through this magnificent experience, you’ll get to discover an ancient city that is even six centuries older than the Machu Picchu. A large portion of this city remains submerged in the lush jungles of Colombia. This site is usually open in January and February, when the rain is not as heavy as the rest of the year.
4. Explore the Cave of Splendor
If you are eager to see natural wonders, look no further than the Cave of Splendor. This unique cave is the result of natural factors, making it one of the mesmerizing attractions in Colombia. It is situated in the northeast of Jardín in Antioquia.
Known as La Cueva del Esplendor, it is also embellished by the coursing river that streams over its roof. Cascading into a pool of water, the river forms a luminescent waterfall that adds more beauty to the already beautiful wonder.
Hiking is the most popular activity in this destination. However, some tours are offered where you can access the cave by horse. In some cases, exploration of the inside of the cave is offered yet it is not that common.
5. Take A Mud Bath in the Volcán de Lodo El Totumo
Want to go on a brand new adventure? You should put the El Totumo Mud Volcano on top of your itinerary. As scary as it sounds, this destination is among the hot tourist destinations in Colombia. It is located in Santa Catalina in northern Colombia, attracting people from all over the world. However, the volcano is easy to access from Cartagena.
This is the smallest volcano in Colombia and it is popular for encompassing a mud bath that visitors enjoy diving into. All it takes is for you to actively climb up a few steps before you can get into the mud volcano.
It is believed that the mud has healing properties, given its chemical composition. This mud volcano is deemed as a gift of nature and it is known for treating many rheumatic problems. Moreover, this mud detoxifies the body of harmful toxins and cleanses the skin and rid it from the accumulation of dead skin cells.
6. Go See the Caño Cristales River
If you wish to have a once-in-a-lifetime experience, you shouldn’t miss visiting the beautiful river of Caño Cristales. This river has earned several titles, with “the river that escaped from paradise” being the most popular. It is also known to be the world’s most beautiful river for its natural red color. Yes, you read that right. The river features a unique red color, no wonder it’s one of the most exciting attractions in Colombia.
Caño Cristales is situated in the province of Meta in Colombia’s La Macarena National Park. While it is famous for its red color, it’s also known as the River of Five Colors, given the other hues it features at some times, including green, black, yellow, and blue. This is because the water is so clear, exposing the colorful algae that grows beneath, giving the river its colorful effect.
Before visiting the river, you need to know that there are certain times to do so. The aquatic red plants are at their peak from July through October. Make sure you are aware of the weather and climate conditions before booking your tour. Otherwise, you may miss the real beauty of the river and be disappointed.
7. Explore the Huge La Macarena National Park
La Macarena National Park is best known for the renowned Caño Cristales River. However, the most beautiful river in Colombia is just a part of it and there is so much more to it than just that. Commonly known as Serranía de La Macarena, the park is a vast area of natural landscapes, where several forms of nature are embraced.
Located in the Meta Department, the park encompasses part of the Amazon Rainforest as well as the Andes Mountain Range. It is also home to the East Llanos, a spacious tropical plains of grassland. The llanos is the Spanish word for “the plains” and it stretches for several kilometers, reaching the borders of Venezuela.
Moreover, the park features the raw beauty that Colombia embraces. It is home to a biodiverse environment, offering a large number of unique species. Not only are the aquatic flora and fauna eccentric, but also the species of reptiles, insects, plants, and birds. It embraces some endangered species of animals, including unique monkeys, jaguars, cougars, and deers.
8. Visit Casa Terracota
Can you imagine being inside a pottery house? Well, the largest piece of pottery in the world can be found in Colombia. You can actually live this fantasy in Casa Terracota, a house made entirely of clay. Being a hot tourist attraction in Colombia, it is easy to access, where it is situated in Boyacá town which is a few minutes away from Tunja city.
People usually refer to this architectural piece as “Casa de Flintstones,” for it resembles the appearances of houses from the primitive ages. Octavio Mendoza was the artist behind this creation; he designed and built the entire house with only clay. He let his unique structure harden under the sun until it became the solid ceramic house that it is.
The house is situated in the beautiful town of Villa de Leyva, Colombia. Its intriguing appearance beautifully blends with the surrounding landscapes of green plains. Visitors are allowed to get inside the house and explore it.
You will feel the oddity, in a good way, once you pass the threshold of this splendid house. The interiors are designed just like regular houses, with several bedrooms, a dining room, and a full working kitchen. There are also different levels to explore, with the upstairs having a nice suite, patio, and lounging area. The good part is, even the furniture pieces are made of clay!
9. Stand on La Mano del Gigante
Colombia offers myriads of spectacular views that will leave you in awe. Even better, it offers eccentric spots from which you can fill your vision with the best sights ever. La Mano del Gigante, meaning the Giant’s Hand, is one of the best attractions in Colombia that oversees a huge part of the Huila department.
La Mano del Gigante reaches around 4,855 feet above sea level, a high enough viewpoint that offers gorgeous sights. It is designed into an actual huge hand, which was an intriguing design that assisted in drawing tourists from all corners of the globe to the Huila area.
This splendid area offers a lot of fascinating activities that will keep you busy while exploring great parts of Colombia all at once. Paragliding and coffee tours are some of the most popular around the area before making your way to the Giant’s Hands walkway. Taking the renowned walkway terminates at the mentioned attraction. You can also cycle your way up there while observing incredible landscapes.
10. Ride a Téléphérique to the Las Lajas Sanctuary
Want to see a hidden gem in Colombia? The Las Lajas Sanctuary should be your next destination. It was one of the most prominent cathedrals not only in Colombia but in South America. And, you can get there by riding the téléphérique, the exhilarating mountain cable cars, which is another interesting adventure on its own.
Las Lajas Sanctuary is situated on a gorge near Ipiales city which is near the borders where Colombia meets Ecuador. Its location is deemed a bit secluded from the major cities and is considered a hidden treasure in Colombia. This architectural masterpiece is an eye-candy that used to be a place of worship. While there are many eccentric worship places around the world, none of them dangles off a cliff.
There are several famous legends around the construction of this sanctuary. The most famous tale is about a mother and her deaf-mute daughter who were stuck in this area during a storm. They saw the Virgin Mary in this place and the daughter was cured. Believing that the area has healing powers, a sanctuary was built in this holy area and it became famous among the Colombians.
11. Enter the Magical World of Bichacue Yath Arte & Naturaleza
One of the most fascinating attractions in Colombia is the nature preserve that is known as Bichacue Yath Arte & Naturaleza. This great natural forest is tucked away among the lush trees of Colombia, revealing a world that resembles that of the fairytales. Bichacue is located in Cali and used to be a coffee farm. However, it turned into a nature preserve after the coffee industry damaged the land.
Visitors of this fascinating sanctuary have always claimed that it looks like a land where mythical creatures live. The landscapes look like ones straight out of a magical movie, where elves and fairies call the hills their homes. While roaming the vast lands of nature, you will come across small shops from which you can purchase handmade crafts.
Not only will you enjoy nature and purchase some nice goods, but you will also learn a lot in the Bichacue area. It’s a perfect destination for tourists from all age groups, even little children, for it’s deemed an educational retreat. You can learn a lot about the history of pre-colonial Colombia as well as ecology.
12. Visit the Museo del Oro (The Museum of Gold)
Do you happen to be a history buff? Then, definitely, museums are your thing. However, we are introducing you this time to a museum that is one of its kind, the Museum of Gold. This splendid museum is found in the city of Bogotá. It is home to the world’s largest gold collection that goes way back to the pre-Columbian era.
While there are several gold museums around the world, only a few can stand out like this one does. It houses a wide array of gold artifacts that date back to ancient times. Moreover, it showcases collections that belong to the many cultures that once settled in the lands of Colombia.
The museum holds several rooms, where each one displays a different era in the history of Colombia. You can spend many hours discovering the highlights of Colombian history and observing the prominent collections it displays. The museum is open throughout the whole week except for Mondays, so you will easily get the opportunity to visit it during your stay.
13. Discover the Windows of Tisquizoque
Florián City is home to one of the best climbing areas in all of Colombia, the Windows of Tisquizoque. It lies in the Florian city, in the eastern Andes. Being tucked away in the forest has made it off the beaten path for many years. However, today it is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Colombia.
The view of this attraction is one to die for. You will see a mouth of a cave apparent high on a mountain, resembling a window, hence the name. A river courses out of the cave’s mouth, creating a cascading waterfall. The river falls into the ground, forming a spectacular sight of mist, making for a perfect spot to take a picture.
Going on a bike adventure is one of the popular activities to do around this area. Since the renowned attraction is a little remote, going on a motorcycle tour has solved the issue. You will get to your destination in no time while enjoying a new bike adventure as well.
14. Climb Up the Rock of Guatapé
The Rock of Guatapé is a prehistoric rock that has been attracting tourists for years. This massive stone is several millions years old; it used to be a worshipped deity for former inhabitants of the area, the Tahamies Indians. The interesting part is that you can climb to the top of the ten-million-ton rock.
The climbing journey takes 708 steps to get to top, but the sights and landscapes you will be rewarded with are worth the effort. Once you are up there, spectacular landscapes of nature are unraveled, for the rock overlooks more than a few lakes and islands. Rare species of plants also grow on this area; their raw beauty is something that captures your attention.
Getting to the Guatape rock is not hard. You will need to reach the Caribe Bus Station from which you will find the right transportation. Most people either take a taxi or the Medellin Metro to the La Piedra del Peñol, another name for the famous rock. The ticket you’ll purchase at the bus station only costs 4 dollars, and you’ll be ready to embark on your new adventurous journey.
15. Meet the Wise Old Men at El Gallineral Park
They may sound weird when you first hear it, but once you learn who the old men are, you will no longer be perplexed. Before we get to this part, we need to give you a brief introduction about the mesmerizing El Gallineral Park. It is situated in San Gil near the Fonce River in Colombia, and it is open all week long until 6 p.m. with a small entrance fee.
El Gallineral Park is home to thousands of trees that are over three centuries old. The age of the trees give them an impressive appearance. However, the Spanish moss that covers them like curtains play a role as well. The Spanish moss-covered trees give the appearance of wise old men, and that’s what the community of the old men is.
Besides observing the unique appearance of the trees, you have spacious lands to explore. The park is also home to several walkways, where people are allowed to roam between the trees. Moreover, there are artificial pools serving as various squares between the trees.