I went on a trip to Colombia with a friend I met in Orlando. I met Keith while he was doing a termite job on my rental I was in. If you need a Orlando Termite Job, give Keith a call. We talk while he was treating and got along great. We realized we would be traveling to Colombia the same time and decided to travel together.
For a long while there, Colombia was one of those countries a lot of people wouldn’t even consider visiting. This, of course, is not to say that people never visited or that it was impossible to visit. Colombia was just one of those places that would have been lower on your travel list. Well, that has truly begun to change, with some incredible experiences and best things to do in Colombia that are too good to ignore.
Colombia is beautiful, the culture, by and large, is fun and vibrant and the plethora of sights to see. There really is a whole heap of the best things to do in Colombia:
- Tayrona National Park
Start your trip off to Colombia with a splash by hopping into Tayrona National Park’s natural reef lagoon, La Piscina. This natural attraction is on Colombia’s northernmost coastline, bordering the Caribbean Sea.
If you love a challenge, there are hiking trails following the shoreline, and towering rock formations speckled throughout the turquoise water to climb on ( and to be fair, good on you for getting your exercise on your holidays if you do decide to go for the hike!).
For a more relaxing experience, chill at the beautiful beach and enjoy the lapping waves.
Tayrona National Park is one of the most picturesque locations in Colombia and far removed from the hustle and bustle of heavily urbanized areas. It really is one of the prettiest areas and the best things to do in Colombia.
- San Andrés Island
A short boat trip away from the Colombian coastline lies San Andrés Island, where the view is nothing but beautiful blue as far as you can see.
Surrounded on all sides by the Caribbean Sea, the island boasts a quaint waterfront where travelers can sip on drinks while watching the sunset or enjoy a traditional Colombian meal.
If you’re looking for more active experiences, canoes are available to rent and it is just a short paddle to Johnny Cay. It’s an absolutely beautiful archipelago.
- Tierradentro Tombs
Navigating through a series of trapdoors, damp corridors, and spiraling tunnels underground are just a few things to expect when you visit this mysterious landmark in southwest Colombia.
Built within the 7th century, these tombs are one of the country’s most treasured archaeological finds, yet they are not as popular with tourists, making the location a great trip for travelers who don’t care for crowds.
For a small entry fee, visitors can explore the tombs alone or with a guide, peruse the two on-site museums, and learn more about the native Paez population.
- Tour a Coffee Plantation
With all the hype about Colombian coffee, no traveler should miss taking a tour of a coffee plantation and enjoying a cup of black gold; even if you’re not really into coffee (it would be like going to Champagne in France and not trying at least a sip of that sparking stuff).
Hacienda Venecia is a plantation that offers tours with hands-on activities, a detailed history of the coffee industry, and delicious cups of their fresh-grown joe. It really is one of the best things to do in Colombia if you love coffee.
Cartagena is the crown jewel of Colombia’s Caribbean coast and one of the best-preserved colonial destinations in the Americas. Take a stroll through the historic walled city, and you may feel as if you’ve stepped back in time to a different era.
Maybe it’s the 13 kilometers of centuries-old walls, or the colorful colonial architecture, many of which are now beautifully restored restaurants and luxury hotels. Perhaps it’s the bougainvillea-covered balconies along the labyrinthine streets or the soaring Catholic churches that tower above every plaza. Whatever it is, visitors can’t help but fall for this Caribbean charmer.
Beyond the old city center lies laid-back Getsemani, and along the oceanfront is Bocagrande, a newer part of town, where upscale condos and hotels fight for prime seafront real estate. And less than an hour away by boat are islands and beaches, offering ideal getaways and day trips.
Bogotá might be the Colombian capital, but it’s the smaller and more manageable city of Medellin that tends to capture the hearts of visitors. Medellin was dubbed the most dangerous city in the world in the early 1990s, but a quarter of a century later, it has earned a reputation for something entirely different: innovation.
The city boasts cable cars linking the settlements in its hills to a modern metro system in the valley below, a greenbelt of lush “eco-parks,” and striking libraries and community centers in some of the poorest neighborhoods.
A great day of sightseeing might start in the Old Quarter at Botero Plaza, where you’ll find a collection of 23 portly sculptures donated by the beloved Colombian artist Fernando Botero. Adjacent to the plaza is the must-visit Museum of Antioquia and the striking Rafael Uribe Uribe Palace of Culture. Then, head into the hills above the town by riding the sleek escalator system through Comuna 13 to explore this neighborhood’s colorful homes and elaborate street murals.
Finish your day in Medellin’s trendiest commune, El Poblado, where you’ll find buzzing eateries, boutique shops, and the vast majority of the city’s hotels.
- Eje Cafetero
The world’s third-largest producer of coffee beans, Colombia is a fantastic country for tastings and tours. The vast majority of production takes place in the subtropical Andean hills west of Bogota between the small cities of Armenia, Pereira, and Manizales. This region, known as the Eje Cafetero (or Coffee Axis), is home to a growing number of coffee plantations that have opened up their operations to the public in recent years for tours, tastings, and lavish farm stays.
These small (and often organic) plantations are the kind of places where the farmer-owner might take an hour out of his day to explain the process of how a humble “cherry” turns into a coffee bean that will one day be roasted and ground into a latte back home.
The small resort town of Salento is easily the most attractive place to base yourself, with numerous farm tours nearby and plenty of things to do. You’ll also have easy access to attractions like Cocora Valley, home to the tallest palm trees in the world. You can rent bicycles from Salento to explore the region under your own steam or ride on one of the old-fashioned Willy jeeps that serve as the town’s de facto taxis.
Picture the Amazon, and Colombia may not be the first country to come to mind – which is odd, because about a third of the nation is blanketed in its thick (and often impenetrable) jungles. The capital of the vast Amazon Basin is the small frontier town of Leticia, which sits along the banks of the mighty Amazon River, right where Colombia bumps up against Brazil and Peru.
Leticia makes a great base for eco-tourism, wildlife safaris, or hikes into the Amazon to learn about the indigenous tribes that call this area home. The only way to arrive here is by plane from Bogotá, and you can continue onward by boat either downriver to Manaus, Brazil, or upriver to Iquitos, Peru.
Most visitors to Colombia will inevitably begin their trip in the nation’s largest city—and beating heart—Bogotá. It’s a city that often divides opinion, with some complaining of its gridlocked streets and dreary weather, and others falling head over heels for its unique combination of colonial charm and urban sophistication. Either way, this city of eight million tends to grow on people who give it enough time.
Begin your sightseeing in the historic center of La Candelaria, where you’ll find the impressive buildings lining Plaza de Bolívar and can’t-miss cultural attractions like the blindingly bright Museum of Gold. Then, head over to the wealthier neighborhoods of North Bogotá for some of the nation’s best boutique shops and chef-driven restaurants.
- The Lost City
Colombia’s most popular hike is undoubtedly the four-day, 44-kilometer trek to Ciudad Perdida, a lost city hidden deep in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta mountains that were only rediscovered in the 1970s. Built and occupied by Tayrona Indians between the 8th and 14th centuries, this ancient city is said to be one of the largest pre-Columbian settlements discovered in the Americas.
Much of the site remains buried beneath a thick jungle quilt—the modern indigenous inhabitants of the area have banned excavations—but you’ll find that the stone terraces and stairways are in outstanding shape. It’s not possible to visit this site alone, so you’ll need to book a tour from Santa Marta in advance.
In this land of contrasts, you’ll encounter snow-capped Andean peaks, tropical Amazonian jungles, turquoise Caribbean coasts, and two sun-kissed deserts. You’ll also find a host of spectacular attractions at the places in between, from the bustling cities of Cartagena and Medellin to the quiet colonial villages of Salento and Mompox.
Above all else, the famous Colombian hospitality will undoubtedly find you coming back for more. It is a truly lovely place to visit.