How to choose among the best places to visit in Colombia? Which regions to explore?
There are so many incredible sites that it is not an easy thing to do.
I’ve been exploring Colombia since 2015 and I still have many places to discover.
To help you plan your trip, I’m going to make a little summary of all the places I know.
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Map: Where to travel to Colombia
Best places to visit in Colombia: Major Cities
Big cities in Colombia aren’t sexy. It can be loud, polluted, and dirty – like every city in the world.
However, there are many reasons why you would like to include some of them in your Colombia itinerary.
- Some local guides speak French/English.
- Local travel agencies offer kickass tours and activities.
- There are airports and principal bus terminals.
- Interesting museums to learn about Colombia’s history and culture.
- It’s your best chance to experience the fantastic nightlife.
Let’s look at the best cities to visit in Colombia, depending on what you’re looking for.
#1 Medellin, one of the best cities in South America for digital nomad
In the days of Pablo Escobar, Medellín was the most dangerous city in the world. Nowadays, travelers love Medellin. They come here to party in Poblado and enjoy the clement weather.
I usually stay in Laureles as I find the district greener and more authentic.
I’m also fond of Medellin. I lived there for 4 months, and it was fantastic. It’s “easy” to move around – except if it’s rush hour -, the weather is mild, and the Paisas – Medellin’s people – are super friendly.
You can plan many multi-day trips from Medellin to explore Antioquia and the Pacific coast.
It’s one of my favorite places to visit in Colombia.
The main tourist sites of Medellín are:
- Arvi Park: a well-known park that I find rather boring.
- Comuna 13: a neighborhood with a rough history that has succeeded in its social transformation thanks to its street art.
- Museo de Antioquia: there is a permanent exhibition about the artist Botero. You can also find his works on the Plaza Botero (in front of the museum).
- Museum of Modern Art
- Casa de la memoria: A fascinating museum that traces the painful history of the country and its conflicts while paying tribute to the victims.
- Subway and cable cars: Medellín was voted the most innovative city in 2021 thanks to its public transportation. Take the subway and then the cable car to Santo Domingo. You will enjoy an incredible view of the city.
- Parque Explora: interactive museum to learn while having fun. 4 themes: music, audiovisual, time and spirit.
- Jardín Botánico: a quiet place to walk around and try to spot butterflies.
- Pueblito Paisa: this is a replica of a village in the department of Antioquia. I do not recommend it.
- Cerro de las 3 Cruces: A walk that locals love to do. It offers a beautiful panoramic view of the city.
- San Felix: A town with several paragliding centers.
- Santa Elena: One of the municipalities of Medellín, known for its flowers.
- Moravia: Moravia was once a huge garbage dump that has been transformed into a public garden.
- Cerro Tusa: Called the largest natural pyramid in the world, it is a demanding one-hour hike with a fantastic view.
- Rio Verde and Rio Melcocho.
- You can plan hikes to the páramos del Sol and Belmira.
#2 Bogota, the best city to learn about the Colombia culture
I know that every traveler hates Bogota, but it’s a mistake. I didn’t like it the first time – and the 2nd time. It’s because I didn’t know how to understand Bogota.
Go to Bogota if you:
- Love good food. The Zona G is filled with delicious restaurants.
- Have the budget for paying fantastic activities. We met some excellent partners there. It’s the best way to experience Colombia Culture – and you participate in the local economy.
- Like museums. Bogota’s museums are the most interesting
- Want to party hard. Parque 93 and Chapinero districts host mind-blowing parties.
- Include San Jose del Guaviare or the Amazon on your Best of Colombia list. You must take your flight from Bogota.
- I recommend staying in Chapinero.
The famous tourist places of Bogotá are :
- La Candelaria: It is the historical center of Bogotá. There are many museums and street art.
- Gold Museum: Discover the knowledge of the indigenous people in making gold objects. The museum has a splendid collection.
- Museo MAMU: The MAMU is a grouping of 4 museums, including the one of Botero, the world-famous Colombian artist.
- Museo Nacional: An impressive museum that explains Colombia’s history over the centuries to visitors.
- Monserrate: Climb the hundreds of steps or take the cable car to enjoy the view of Bogotá from Monserrate and its church.
- Zipaquirá: This is a city where the famous Salt Cathedral is located. It is a day trip that can be easily organized from Bogotá.
- Nemocón: This is another old salt mine that can also be visited from Bogotá. It is less impressive and less touristy.
- Guatavita: A pretty village with white houses and famous for the Guatavita lagoon – this is where the legend of El Dorado was born.
- Páramo de Chingaza and Páramo de Sumapaz: wonderful hikes to observe the flora and fauna of this unique ecosystem.
- La Chorrera: the highest waterfall in Colombia.
- El Salto de Tequendama: A beautiful viewpoint over a waterfall and its haunted hotel.
- Parque Natural Chicaque: only 45 minutes by jeep from Bogotá, a humid forest, perfect to observe the flora and fauna of Colombia.
- Parque Simon Bolivar: the largest park in Bogotá, with a lake and a botanical garden.
#3 Cali, best city in South America for dancing Salsa
Travelers skip Cali because they think they’ll be bored – and 99% of us dance with 2 left feet.
It’s true that if you don’t care about dancing, then you might don’t want to include it in your Colombia itinerary. However, you don’t have to dance all day long. There are many day trips to visit exciting Colombia sightseeings around the city.
- Hike in the Western Andean mountains
- Plan a trip to La Barra or Popayan
- Tubing in San Cipriano
- Kitesurfing in the Colima lagoon
Have fun at night, and explore during the day. I can’t think of a better situation. If you’re not shy, it will surely be one of the best places to visit in Colombia!
The famous tourist places of Cali are :
- San Antonio is the historical center of Cali. This is where you will find most of the hostels and the main park.
- The church of La Hermita.
- Mercado el Alameda: the biggest market in Cali. Taste the exotic fruits and street food. Strong Pacific influence.
- Museo Aero Fenix: impressive collection of planes from before the Second World War.
- Museo Caliwood: How did the film industry start in Colombia? Lots of vintage material and movie posters.
- Museo La Tertulia: An interesting and interactive art museum on three floors.
- Plazoleta Jairo Varela: There is the monument of the 4 Trumpetas de Niche.
- Cristo Rey: An impressive statue of Christ with a breathtaking view of Cali, especially at night.
- 3 Cruces: A short Sunday walk with a beautiful city view.
- Andoke: Observe thousands of beautiful butterflies.
- Gato de Telajada: Several strange cat statues.
- San Cipriano: A village located 2 hours from Cali, surrounded by waterfalls and rivers.
- Pico de Loro: A peak with a fantastic view of the Cauca valley and the Andean mountains.
- Pance: A small town ideal to get some fresh air and enjoy nature, 2 hours from Cali.
#4 Cartagena de Indias, best romantic city in South America
Cartagena de Indias already has a tremendous reputation worldwide, and many travel websites consider it one of Colombia’s best places to visit. The old city center has buildings with beautiful colonial architecture, colorful facades, flowery balconies, and delicious restaurants.
Therefore, it’s an ideal city for a honeymoon journey, but there are some inconveniences you should know.
- Beaches in Cartagena aren’t pleasant.
- Depending on the season, the city can be super crowded.
- It’s expensive.
- There are not many Colombia sightseeings around Cartagena.
If you’re looking for fancy restaurants and sumptuous hotel boutiques, Cartagena will be one of the best places to visit in Colombia.
The famous tourist attractions of Cartagena de Indias are :
- The historic center is divided into 3 neighborhoods: El Centro, San Diego, and Getsemaní.
- The city walls: They surround the historic center. You can walk on top of it, ideal at sunset.
- The street art of Getsemaní.
- Bazurto: The largest open market in Cartagena.
- Castillo San Felipe: A fortress built by the Spaniards to protect Cartagena from pirates.
- Parque Centenario: A park built to celebrate the centennial of Cartagena’s independence. It is located in front of the Torre del Reloj.
- Torre del Reloj: the main entrance to the El Centro neighborhood.
- La Popa: La Popa is the highest point of Cartagena. You will find the convent of La Popa and an incredible city view.
- Rafael Núñez: A beautiful house-museum, the residence of Rafael Núñez, who was an important man of Colombia.
- Palace of the Inquisition: Museum that gathers the instruments of torture from the time of the Inquisition in Cartagena. There are few explanations.
- Museo Naval del Caribe: This is the best museum in Cartagena. It explains the history of the region through the centuries.
- Palenque: San Basilio de Palenque was the first city of free slaves in South America.
- La Boquilla is a fishing village that lives on the edge of the mangrove, in the shadow of the buildings of Cartagena.
- Los Colorados: natural reserve, located 2 hours from Cartagena. Perfect for a break away from the city and the noise.
- Tierra Bomba: The closest island to Cartagena.
- The Rosarios Islands: Isla Barú, Isla Grande, Isla Cholón… This archipelago has more than 30 islands. I tell you more in the section “Rosario Islands”.
#5 Santa Marta, a touristic hub on the coast
There is 0 interest in visiting Santa Marta. However, you may have to stay there one night as it’s the easiest way to reach the Eastern side of the Caribbean coast.
It’s also the departure point for various excellent multi-day trips to La Guajira or the Lost City.
The famous sights in Santa Marta are:
- Rodadero: This is the modern district of Santa Marta, with large buildings and a crowded beach.
- El Parque de los Novios: The main square of Santa Marta.
- Bahia Concha: It is a long bay with turquoise water and a fine sand beach. It is the closest beach to the Tayrona National Park.
- Playa Cristal: the famous beach of the Tayrona National Park, accessible by boat from Taganga.
- Playa Cinto: my favorite beach in Tayrona National park.
- Tairona Gold Museum: a museum about Colombia’s Caribbean region.
- La Quinta de San Pedro Alejandrino: the house where Simon Bolivar died.
- Taganga: a fishing village known for its inexpensive diving centers.
- Tairanoka Reserve: a natural reserve with various activities and explanations about the Tairona indigenous people.
- The Lost City Trek: the most famous trekking in Colombia. 4 days of trekking in the Sierra Nevada to discover the terraces of the Ciudad Perdida.
#6 Pereira, a touristic hub in the Coffee Region
As Santa Marta, Pereira won’t blow your mind. However, it’s a strategic place to visit the coffee region. It’s also easy to get there as there are an airport, a major bus terminal, and several car rental companies.
We met excellent local travel agencies when we were there. Thanks to them, you can plan different adventures:
- Multi-day trips to the National Park Los Nevados
- Canyoning and thermal baths
- Visit unknown-and-beautiful colonial towns
The coffee region is one of my favorite regions to visit in Colombia.
7# Popayán, the famous white city
Popayán is a city located south of Cali. It is known for its many churches and its white historical center. Every year, many travelers come here to celebrate Holy Week.
Passing by Popayán, you will be able to :
- Bathe in hot springs.
- Explore Puracé Park and watch the condors.
Other major cities in Colombia
There are other major cities in Colombia that may also catch your interest (we will publish these travel guides soon):
- 8# Bucaramanga : Bucaramanga is the capital of the department of Santander. There are few tourist sites but the city is pleasant (with many green areas).
- 9# Barranquilla: Located between Cartagena de Indias and Santa Marta, Barranquilla celebrates the biggest carnival in Colombia every year.
- 10# Neiva : Travelers stop by Neiva to visit the Tatacoa desert.
- 11# Ibague : Known as the capital of music, Ibague is the largest city in Tolima. Every year, it hosts the Colombian music festival. From there, you will be able to explore Los Nevados National Park.
- 12# Manizales : Capital of the department of Caldas, the city’s most famous tourist attraction is the Manizales Cathedral – and you can climb to the top!
Best places to visit in Colombia: Beach Towns
Colombia is the only country in South America with two coastlines:
Therefore, there is a bunch of cool beach towns where you can relax.
👉 Love beaches? We wrote a post about the best beaches in Colombia.
#13-14 Capurganá & Sapzurro, visit 2 beach towns in the Darien Gap
First of all, yes, it’s safe to travel to Capurgana and Sapzurro – Located in the Chocó department. I know that the Darien Gap has a bad reputation because of the Colombia paramilitaries, but I stayed there for over 1 year without having any issues.
Both towns are remote and only accessible by boat. I loved it there. There are some nice beaches, an authentic beach town atmosphere, and many half-day trip activities you can do by yourself.
From Capurganá and Sapzurro you can visit :
- Playa de la Miel
- Playa Aguacaté
- The San Blas Islands
#15 Rincón del Mar, the ideal beach town
Rincón del Mar is a little hidden paradise that we must preserve. The inhabitants are the nicest people I’ve met on the coast, and it’s the most beautiful beach town on the Caribbean Coast with its endless white-sand beach and colorful houses.
Moreover, there are plenty of activities you can organize with the locals, as a snorkeling tour, bioluminescent plankton, and a trip to the San Bernardo Islands.
Rincon del Mar is one of my favorite places to visit in Colombia.
#16 Palomino, visit the most famous beach town
Nowadays, every traveler knows about Palomino – it wasn’t the case a few years ago. It’s a chill beach town with not many things to do, except tubing on the river. It’s maybe not the best option if you’re looking for a place with fewer foreigners. However, there are some nice accommodations and restaurants.
Unfortunately, the current is quite strong in this area, so you won’t be able to swim in the ocean.
#17 Dibulla, an authentic fishing town
If you want to experience living and chilling in an authentic Caribbean beach town, then you should ditch Palomino and pick Dibulla instead.
There are not many things to do around, but it’s enough to occupy you for a couple of days.
Organize a horse riding activity at sunset or an ecological hike in the Sierra Nevada, then plan a multi-day expedition to La Guajira.
#18 Thermales & Guachalito, visit the paradise on earth
The pacific coast is wild and beautiful. There is no road to get there, and you shouldn’t expect a 5-star hotel. However, it will be the perfect place for disconnecting from the modern world.
Guachalito is a magnificent black-sand beach surrounded by lush vegetation. There are few eco-lodges scattered alongside the beach, which can be an excellent option for enjoying some slow vacation days with your loved one.
And, if you don’t have the budget for it, Termales remains an excellent choice. Take the opportunity to learn how to surf. 😉
It’s one of the wildest places to visit in Colombia, and it’s just half an hour by plane from Medellin —you’ll have to land in Nequí. The contrast between the city and Guachalito is striking.
Guachalito will be one of the best places to visit in Colombia if you want to feel cut off from the world.
#19 El Valle, it will be hard to say goodbye
El Valle is a small beach town on the Pacific coast, 30 min from the Bahia Solano’s airport. There are a few restaurants, nice hostels, and guesthouses. It’s more affordable than Guachalito.
From El Valle, you will be able to visit several tourist sites such as:
- La cascada del Tigre
- La playa el Almejal
- Utría National Park
#20 La Barra, the cheapest zone of the Pacific coast
Being quite close to Cali (3h bus + 1h boat), Juanchaco attracts many Colombian tourists, especially during the whale watching season.
Juanchaco doesn’t deserve your attention, but we really liked La Barra and its surroundings. It’s a tiny beach town with not many things to do. Fortunately, some hotels offer entertaining and affordable activities — grab this opportunity to visit Bahía Malaga National Park.
Another option is to stay in Ladrilleros. You will find several hotels and the beaches are quite nice.
Best places to visit in Colombia: Colonial Towns
Because of the reputation of Villa de Leyva or Barichara, some travelers are willing to spend a day in transportation just to stay 24 hours.
It makes no sense to me.
Colombia’s colonial towns are pleasant to visit, but the genuine interest lies in the atmosphere. And, you won’t get it by flying 30 seconds around like a hummingbird.
- There are always some cool activities to do around.
- Try all the restaurants and decide which one is your favorite
- Stay in a lovely guesthouse and lay back for an afternoon
- Grab a coffee on the main square and watch bystanders
#21 Barichara, ideal for planning extreme sports activities
Many travelers consider Barichara as one of the best places to visit in Colombia.
I’ve to admit that this colonial town is super lovely and pleasant. However, it’s a bit of a headache to get there.
Add this famous Colombia destination to your itinerary if you like extreme sports activities. There are excellent local travel agencies that offer fantastic experiences like rafting, cave exploring, paragliding, canyoning.
#22 Villa de Leyva, my favorite romantic getaway
Villa de Leyva is a town I like to visit again and again. It’s close to Bogotá and there are all the conditions needed to enjoy a fantastic stay.
- Delicious restaurants and lovely hotels
- Many entertaining outdoor activities: bike, vineyard, hikes
- Colombia sightseeings where you can stop on the way back
- Cool nights which is perfect for sleeping well
- Cobblestone streets
Villa de Leyva is one of my best places to visit in Colombia.
From this village, travelers like to discover :
- Iguaque Flora and Fauna Sanctuary.
- La casa terracota.
- El Convento Santa Ecce Homo.
#23 Buenavista, the best view in Colombia
Buenavista is a little colonial town nestled up a hill in the coffee region. There are two excellent coffee tours and some delicious ice-creams.
#24 Filandia, an excellent alternative to Salento
Filandia is my favorite alternative to Salento and the atmosphere is much more authentic there. Moreover, there are some really good restaurants and cafés – Helena Dentro & Cultivar.
From Filandia, you can easily organize a trip to Valle de Cocora, visit various coffee plantations or an expedition to listen to howler monkeys in the Barbas Bremen nature reserve.
#25 Salento, the departure point to Valle del Cocora
Like Cartagena & Palomino, Salento is always listed in every “where to travel in Colombia” article. Nowadays, the colonial is so famous that most of the locals have run away.
There are some excellent accommodation options and the main square is the official departure to Valle de Cocora, where you can find the tallest wax palm trees in the world.
It’s also a good option if you want to get a more in-depth explanation about coffee.
#26 Salamina, another secret alternative to Valle de Cocora
Salamina is a lovely colonial town, with colorful streets and carved wooden balconies.
The main Colombia highlight nearby is Valle de Samaria, another valley where you can observe the tallest wax palm trees in the world. It’s a great alternative to Valle de Cocora, and there is nobody!
#27 JardÍn, a town for drinking coffee and chasing waterfalls
While Jardín starts being famous among travelers, it’s still not invaded by foreigners.
I recommend Jardin to people who like hiking and waterfalls. There are many day-trips you can organize with excellent local agencies.
Moreover, we discovered a couple of beautiful hotels and mouth-watering restaurants.
I love visiting this Colombian town.
While being in Jardín, travelers like to visit:
- La Cueva del Esplandor.
- The Andean Cock of the rock bird reserve.
- La cueva de los Guacharos.
- El Salto del Angles
#28 Jericó, a religious town made up of churches and coffee plantations
Jericó is nestled on the top of a green hill and offers some beautiful sceneries to visitors. Like Jardin, Jerico is situated in Antioquia – one of my most beautiful Colombia departments. I like to include both towns in the same itinerary as you can move from one to the other thanks to a Chiva – a large and colorful bus typical from there.
While being in Jericó, travelers like to visit:
- Parque de Los Nubes.
- El morro.
- The house of Santa Laura, the first and only Colombian Saint.
#29 Guatapé, get to the top of la piedra del Peñol
Guatape is the most famous day trip from Medellin. Let’s see why:
- It’s easy to get there from Medellin by bus
- You don’t need a guide
- The view from El Peñol – a giant monolith nearby – is breathtaking
- The colonial town is cute
Even if it’s straightforward to get to Guatape, you will still spend at least 4h on a bus (round trip). Therefore, I recommend staying 1 night in Guatape or heading to San Rafael and San Carlos.
More beautiful colonial villages in Colombia
Did you know that in Colombia, there are 17 villages classified as cultural heritage?
I would like to visit them all. Here are the villages we still have to explore.
- #30 Santa Cruz de Mompox: This city is located in the department of Bolívar, in the middle of the wetlands. Its historic center has been declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
- #31 La Ciénaga: Located in the department of Magdalena. From there, it is possible to visit the stilt villages of Buenavista and Nueva Venecia.
- #32 Guaduas: With its beautiful colonial houses, it is an ideal destination to discover during the weekend from Bogotá.
- #33 Guadalajara de Buga: Famous for the Basílica Menor del Señor de los Milagros.
- #34 Honda: Colonial city built on the banks of the Magdalena River, near Guaduas. Known for its bridges and its pleasant environment.
- #35 Aguaduas: From this beautiful city come the aguadeño hats. Located in the department of Caldas.
- #36 Santa Cruz de Lorica: Nice public market built on the waterfront.
- #37 Playa de Belén: Pleasant village of Santander famous for the natural park Los Estoraques.
- #38 Monguí: A town known for its balloon making and its proximity to the Páramo Oceta.
- #39 San Juan de Girón: Colonial city near Bucaramanga. An ideal place to spend the night before a flight.
- #40 Santa Fé de Antioquia: A beautiful city near Medellín. Travelers can visit the Puente del Occidente bridge and meet the barequeros.
- #41 Socorro: On the road between Villa de Leyva and San Gil. Its stone cathedral (Nuestra Señora del Socorro) is one of the largest in South America.
- #41′ Paipa: A peaceful town known for its lake, thermal baths, and cheese. It is also a strategic destination for exploring Boyacá.
Towns surrounded by lush vegetation to visit in Colombia
Colombia is not only made up of stunning beaches, cute colonial towns, and big cities. Actually, an important part of the country is covered by thick green plants AKA jungle.
Let’s find out the best places to visit in Colombia for travelers who love insects and scary night shadows.
#42 Minca, a town to visit in the middle of the Sierra Nevada
If you want to travel on the Caribbean Coast, then it’s interesting to stop a couple of days in Minca to take a break from the beaches. It’s straightforward to get there from Santa Marta.
It’s a well-known place to do some birdwatching and relax a few days in an Eco-lodge. The town itself doesn’t offer any interest. The best Colombia sightseeing is the 2-day hike to Cerro Kennedy.
Avoid the weekends as many Colombians like to get to the Pozo Azul -natural pools- and the Marinka waterfalls.
#43 Paso del Mango, an excellent alternative to Minca
You won’t find many “Best places to visit in Colombia” articles mentioning Paso del Mango. It’s because only a few people know about this place.
Paso del Mango is an alternative to Minca. It’s a bit more complicated to get there, but it’s worth it as you won’t meet many other foreigners. There is an excellent hostel that offers various activities and an excellent setting.
There is a “secret” 5h hike between Minca and Paso del Mango in case you would like to visit both ;).
#44 Mocoa, A city at the border with the Amazon
Mocoa was half shattered by a terrible mudslide a few years ago, and the city is not appealing at all.
Pick your accommodation nearby the departure of the trail “Cascada fin del Mundo”. There are a bunch of superb waterfalls and the area is excellent for birdwatching.
The zone is super humid. Your clothes won’t dry.
#45 Leticia, the only access to the Amazon
If you want to visit the Amazon in Colombia, you must pass by Leticia. The city is vast and loud, but it’s interesting to move around as you can eat your breakfast in Colombia, have lunch in Brazil, and have dinner in Peru.
Most of the multi-day tours with a local agency will start from Leticia. Also, don’t hesitate to pick an eco-lodge distant from the city to immerse yourself in the wild.
There are two seasons in the Amazon:
- December to May: the water level increases
- June to November: the water level decreases
The tourist sites close to Leticia are :
- Mundo Amazónico.
- Natural Reserve Tanimboca.
- Santander Park.
👉 Our best tips to plan your Amazon tours from Leticia
#46 Puerto Nariño, the green lungs of the Amazon
Although Leticia can be “fun” for a couple of hours, it’s far from being the best place to visit in Colombia to embrace nature.
Take the public boat to head to Puerto Nariño, an eco-friendly town where motor vehicles are forbidden. From there, you can plan different activities to observe wildlife and visit various cultural centers.
Best places to visit in Colombia: Islands
We can’t create a list of the best places to visit in Colombia without mentioning some paradise islands.
#47 Archipelago de Rosario, visit the Caribbean islands near Cartagena
Beaches in Cartagena aren’t appealing at all. Fortunately, visitors can easily travel to the Rosario islands from the Walled City. I don’t recommend picking the day-trip tours sold by the hotels & street vendors. There are too many people and not enough time on the islands. The best option is to stay overnight.
Be aware that most of the Rosario Islands are invaded by tourists, especially during the high season.
To head to the islands, you can:
- Take a boat or a taxi to Playa Blanca
- Take a public Boat to Isla Grande
- Book private transport to various upscale Eco-lodges/resorts.
- Rent a private boat trip with your friends.
The most famous islands of Rosario are:
- Isla Barú: The most famous day trip is to Playa Blanca, but you can also stay in the south of the island or visit a beautiful aviary.
- Isla Grande: This is my favorite island. You can easily get around on foot by following shady dirt roads. Most of the island is owned by hotels, so choose your accommodation carefully (with direct access to the sea).
- You can rent private islands with friends: Isla Rosa, Isla Pelicano, Isla Matamba…
#48 Archipelago de San Bernardo, Caribbean islands in front of Rincón del Mar
The Archipelago of San Bernardo is made up of 10 paradise islands, and there are only 2 tiny portions considered as public beaches.
The setting is mind-blowing with crystal-blue water, white-sand beaches, and palm trees.
Pick well your accommodation as you won’t be able to wander from one place to the other, as most parts of the islands are privatized. There is a hotel or hostel for every taste.
The most famous islands of the San Bernardo archipelago are :
- Isla Tintipán
- Isla Múcura
- Isla Palma
#49 Isla Fuerte, an island forgotten by travelers
Most travelers don’t know about Isla Fuerte because it is a bit isolated from other tourist sites in Colombia.
Isla Fuerte is a good choice to relax for a few days and enjoy the island vibe. There is not much to do except hang out in a nice hotel and book their different activities: Scuba diving, paddle, rafting…
#50 San Andres Island, A paradise victim of mass tourism
We didn’t stop in San Andres Islands, but from what I’ve heard, there are many hotel resorts and loud Colombians.
You should pick your accommodation nearby San Luis if you look for a better paradise island atmosphere.
There are still some excellent diving spots.
#51 Providencia, the ideal paradise island
We chose not to stop in San Andres because we wanted to stay longer in Providencia. I assure you it’s one of the best places to visit in Colombia – if you’ve got the budget and the time for it.
You must take 2 flights to get there, so it’s not worth it to plan on staying 3 days.
I can’t imagine a better island life. Book a little guesthouse and rent a scooter to move from secluded beach to secluded beach. And don’t forget to book a scuba diving expedition and a snorkel tour to explore the mind-blowing submarine world around Providencia.
Other secret islands in Colombia
In Colombia, there are two little-known islands in the Pacific Ocean.
- #52 Gorgona Island: a former prison turned into a nature reserve. The island is managed by a private company. It is an area known for hammerhead sharks.
- #53 Malpelo Island: tourists can only approach by boat and organize diving trips around the island. The currents are strong and several deaths are reported each year.
Best places in Colombia to plan exciting outdoor activities
Because of the Andean mountains, there are various places where you can get some adrenaline rush. It’s affordable and safe ;).
The most commons in Colombia are:
- Cave exploring
Let’s find out the best places to visit in Colombia for practicing extreme sports activities.
#54 San Gil, a town with a solid reputation for outdoor activities
Santander was the first department to develop extreme sports activities in Colombia seriously.
Many travelers go to San Gil for this reason. Everyone can show up in the city and book the tours they want for the next day. The only inconvenience is that you spend many travel hours to get to San Gil.
Usually, people like to paraglide above the Chicamocha Canyon and raft on the Suarez river – Rapid class 4/5.
#55 Tobia, visit a 3-h getaway from Bogota
The town of Tobia is not famous enough yet to be able to plan outdoor activities during the week.
However, many Colombians from Bogota get there on weekends. You can book some affordable all-included packages (rafting + rappelling) or you can ask for something more specific.
We did some excellent canyoning tours in Tobia.
#56 Paicol, an off the beaten path colonial town
Paicol is a little colonial town not “far away” from the Tatacoa desert and Tierradentro.
It’s an ideal stop to plan a few outdoor activities with the top-notch local agency present in town.
As in Tobia, there are not many visitors during the week. Therefore, it can be complicated to organize a rafting trip if you’re not a group of 4.
In any case, cave exploring, biking, and rappelling trips are always doable.
#57 Tamesis, a 4h getaway from Medellin
Tamesis is an excellent pick if you want to stay in a town that nobody knows, except a few aficionados. Moreover, the landscapes around Tamesis are mind-blowing.
It’s a great spot for rappelling.
#58 San Rafael, an ideal place to cool off
San Rafael is only 45 min from Guatape, but almost no travelers get there. It’s an excellent spot to swim in crystal-clear rivers.
Canyoning and tubing are the two main activities in San Rafael.
#59 San Carlos, a paradise for canyoning lovers
San Carlos is 1h away from San Rafael and there are some excellent spots for canyoning.
It’s the perfect place to visit in Colombia if you’re looking for a mix of adrenaline, peaceful vibes, and mighty waterfalls.
#60 Suesca, more than 400 rock climbing routes
If you like playing Spider-pig, then you will love Suesca. Roca de Suesca is a large cliff at a 15 min walk from town. There, more than 400 routes are equipped so you can practice your climbing skills.
There are also qualified local agencies where you can rent pieces of equipment or take some lessons.
Best places to visit in Colombia: Deserts
There are 2 deserts in Colombia. You won’t find many sand dunes, but it’s worth a visit.
Let’s have a look at the best places to visit in Colombia for kissing a cactus.
#61 La Guajira desert, visit the northernmost point of South America
La Guajira is quite a vast desert starting from Riohacha to the Venezuelan border. There are different Colombia sightseeings you can include in a tour, the 3 main ones being:
- Cabo de la Vela
- Punta Gallinas
- The national park Macuira
Except for Cabo de la Vela, you need to book a tour to explore La Guajira, and you will spend many hours in the jeep.
A trip to La Guajira is also an opportunity to share with the Indigenous Wayuu and live in a Rancheria (farm).
#62 Tatacoa desert, a place to observe the starry sky
Frankly, I was a bit disappointed with the Tatacoa desert. The most photogenic section – Cuzco – is quite small, and a couple of hours is enough to visit it.
We heard it was fun to sleep in the desert, but most hotels are illegal as building constructions within the park is forbidden. So, we didn’t do it and stayed in Villavieja instead.
Nevertheless, it can be a nice day trip if you pass nearby.
Best archaeological sites to visit in Colombia
Colombia isn’t like Peru, Guatemala, or Mexico. You won’t find sumptuous pyramids or other mysterious constructions.
However, Colombians found many gold artifacts and proof of old civilizations, especially two crucial necropolis sites in the South of Colombia, both declared UNESCO world heritage sites.
Lots of concrete explanations are still missing.
👉 Find out what Colombia is known for in the world
#63 Tierradentro, visit a necropolis made up of deep underground tombs
Tens of underground vaults (5-7m deep) have been discovered in Tierradentro. You can freely move from site to site with a local guide – (Spanish only).
My favorite spot was “El Aguacate” as the view was breathtaking.
It’s a bit of a headache to get there, a mode of private transport isn’t a bad idea ;).
#64 San Agustin, a place with more than 500 giant stone statues
San Agustin is famous for its various archeological sites where you can contemplate massive stone statues of 4-5m high.
There are many lovely accommodations outside the city, and the landscape is quite lovely. Horse riding is an entertaining way to move from one archeological site to another.
Don’t plan only to stay 1 night as you can book many other fun experiences like rafting, birdwatching, zipline, and cultural tours.
Best Colombia’s hidden gems & unknown places
20 years ago, Colombia was really messed up because of the Guerrillas and Narcotraficants. While there are still present in some remote areas in the country, the situation has improved a LOT.
In 2016, the most prominent rebel armed group, the FARC, signed a peace agreement with the government.
Today, various incredible new-safe places have started receiving tourists.
👉 Discover our favorite Colombia Landmarks.
#65 Caño Cristales and its rainbow river
The easiest way to reach la Macarena is to take a charter with a local travel agency. They will take care of everything, from transportation to the park entrances. Moreover, if you pick the right local agency, it’s almost the same price as if you do it yourself.
Caño Cristales is a world-famous 5-colors river you can sight from mid-June to November when the national park is open to the public. All the tours leave from La Macarena.
It’s one of the most beautiful places to visit in Colombia.
#66 San Jose del Guaviare, our favorite off the beaten path destination
If you’re looking for a unique Colombian experience, then San Jose del Guaviare is a perfect pick.
It’s an authentic town with local farmers coming every weekend to sell their products. Top-notch Colombia sightseeing scattered around like rock paintings, waterfalls, colorful rivers, natural pools, birdwatching, dolphins…
You can’t move around without a means of private transportation. The easiest way is to book an all-included package – and the prices can be super interesting.
We loved visiting San Jose del Guaviare in Colombia.
#67 Viterbo, a small peaceful town in the coffee region
The city of Viterbo is not very well known and has nothing exceptional. What we did enjoy were the experiences in the surrounding area. Bruce and I rode horses through the countryside, climbed a huge statue of Christ, and learned how to make panela, chocolate, and coffee.
#68 Yopal, Colombian Safari with friendly llaneros
Yopal, the capital of Casanare, is the perfect city to discover the llanera culture (kind of Colombian cowboy). You will access the natural reserves from there. This natural region is called Los Llanos, and its vast plains are ideal for animal watching, horseback riding, and photography.
👉 I review 2 excellent Colombian Safari.
👉 I help you find the best llanos tours from Yopal.
Other unknown places to visit in Colombia
Little by little, other tourist sites in Colombia are becoming known:
- #69 Cerros de Mavecure: a set of 3 huge volcanic hills, surrounded by dense jungle and accessible by the Inírida River.
- #70 Güejar River: a magnificent canyon that can be explored by rafting.
- #71 Florencia: becomes known for its aquatic activities (rafting and canyoning).
Best places to visit in Colombia: National parks
There are 59 protected areas in Colombia, and you can visit 29 of them. Local agencies organize day trips or multi-day hikes to explore the Paramos, contemplate beautiful rivers, and so on.
👉 Discover our article on the best Colombia National Parks.
#72 Visit Tayrona National Park
Tayrona National Park is one of the most famous places to visit in Colombia. It is located near Santa Marta, in the Sierra Nevada. Once you have paid the entrance fee, you can stay as many days as you want. A well-marked trail leads through the lush vegetation of the park to several heavenly beaches:
- Playa Cabo San Juan
- Playa Brava
- Playa la piscina
- Playa nudista
- Playa Arrecife
#73 Trekking in Los Nevados National Park
Los Nevados is a vast protected area with snow-capped peaks, páramos, and the famous Cocora Valley. It is possible to make many excursions for several days. Guides are not mandatory, but I recommend hiring one.
The tourist sites of Los Nevados are :
- Nevado Santa Isabel
- Nevado del Ruiz
- Nevado del Tolima
- Paramillo del Quindío
- Paramillo de Santa Rosa
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#74 Randonnée dans le parc national del Cocuy
The Cocuy National Park is located in the department of Boyacá, near the Venezuelan border. There are 3 hiking trails that allow you to admire the beautiful landscapes of this park. These are one-day hikes, as it is forbidden to sleep there.
Here you have a complete overview of the incredible possibilities that this beautiful country offers. Now, it’s time to start creating your itinerary.
The 8 best experiences you shouldn’t miss
Visit Caño Cristales (the most beautiful river worldwide)
Explore San José del Guaviare (an off-the-beaten-path destination)