There are so many things to do in Colombia that it can be challenging to organize your trip.
Fortunately, this article will quickly let you know if this is a country you would like to travel to.
And more important: how to visit it!
I have been exploring Colombia since 2015, and here is a list of activities to fall in love with this country.
This article is divided into several sections:
- Secret destinations.
- Outdoor activities.
- Drinks, food, and fun things to do.
- Monuments and archeological sites.
Besides, you’ll also find tons of travel tips to add these experiences to your Colombia itinerary.
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👉 Check out all of our travel guides for destinations in Colombia.
Plan the perfect Colombia trip
In this section, you’ll find the most important things to know about Colombia: weather, best places, is it safe, best beaches, etc.
Best things to do in Colombia: Visit secret destinations
Although tourism in Colombia is booming, only a small part of its territory is known to the general public. There are beautiful places to visit in Colombia.
Here are my favorites.
1# Caño Cristales, a rainbow river
Located in La Sierra de La Macarena, in Meta’s department, Caño Cristales is the most beautiful river in Latin America. It displays 5 colors during the rainy season due to the sun reflecting in a red aquatic plant located on the river floor. “El Tapete” is one of the best spots to see the colors on the riverbed.
It is mandatory to have a guide, and the use of sunblock is not allowed inside the park to preserve nature. The park is closed off-season, so plan your trip between mid-June to mid-Nov.
There are 3 direct flights every week from Bogotá or Villavicencio to La Macarena. You can also go from Medellin or Cali on charter flights. Once in La Macarena, you must take a 20-min boat ride to the park.
- How to visit Caño Cristales.
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2# San José del Guaviare, ideal to avoid tourists
This is the capital of the Guaviare department. Before the peace agreements, it was a conflictive zone, but now it is open for tourism. I loved my stay there.
There are plenty of day trips that you can plan if you visit this area. One of them is to head to Caño Sabana. It’s a pink river similar to Caño Cristales — less impressive.
Another exciting place in Cerro Azul is located 25km west of the capital. Here, you’ll find rock paintings dating back more than 12000 years ago.
You can fly from Bogotá on Satena Airlines.
3# Guachalito, a romantic beach adventure on the Pacific Coast
Playa Guachalito has one of the most beautiful dark sand beaches on the Pacific coast. Its strongest point?
A lush jungle with little access surrounds the beach. You will meet almost no tourists.
To catch the whales, you must visit this area from July to October. This is one of the main reasons why tourists visit this place.
You can fly from Medellín to Nuquí and then take a 30-min boat.
Because of its secluded location, I recommend staying in an ecolodge with food, tours, and transportation included — especially if you don’t speak Spanish.
4# Safari in Los Llanos
The Llanos Orientales is one of Colombia’s most diverse faunas and flora. Tourists love the magic of the incredible variety you can see.
There are several ways to experience this adventure by jeep as there are not many roads. It takes about 5-7 hours, depending on your safari.
Although there are several places you can get a Safari, I recommend flying to Yopal, Casanare. Then a 2hr car ride to San Luis de Palenque where you can find the “El Encanto Guanapalo” natural reserve.
Use a hat, long pants, and long sleeves for mosquito protection and sunblock.
5# La Guajira, a magical adventure in the desert
This is the northern part of Colombia where the Wayúu community lives
Be prepared to ride many hours by jeep to enjoy the best highlights: Run down the dunes of Punta Gallinas, let yourself be carried away by its sunsets, and discover a culture very different from yours.
People come from all over the world to El Cabo de la Vela, where kite surfing is popular.
You first need to get to Riohacha, the capital, and then move up north.
6# The Amazon, a green and wild adventure
This is the most important rainforest in the world.
If you like comfort, this might not be the place for you. There are no 5-star hotels, lots of mosquitos, and the environment is very humid and usually wet.
It is worth coming here for at least 5 days to experience the rainforest. Grab a kayak and explore the flooded jungle or follow your local guide to sleep several nights in the Amazon, surrounded by scary noises.
It’s an excellent place for adventure and getting out of your comfort zone.
If you’re on a budget, I recommend staying in Puerto Nariño and planning your day trips.
There are direct daily flights to Leticia from Bogotá and sometimes Medellín.
7# Cerros de Mavecure, strange mountains near Venezuela
These hills are made of volcanic rock, and they are said to be about 3500 years old. They are also part of the Guiana Shield, the oldest geological formation on earth.
The area is considered sacred by the ethnic groups that live there.
You need to fly to Inirida and then take a 2-hr boat ride on the Inirida river to get to Mavecure’s hills.
Better to visit between January and April, when the beaches appear due to the water levels.
Daily flights from Bogotá and Villavicencio to Inirida are available.
8# Serranía de Chiribiquete, the biggest national park of Colombia
The biggest Colombian National Park was declared a natural heritage of humanity in 2018.
The park restrictions are due to the protection of 5 indigenous tribes that live there.
You can fly over the area with certain travel agencies that have permission to do so.
Very close to Guaviare and Caqueta, there are petroglyphs and pictographs dated more than 20.000 years ago.
Tours leave from Bogotá or San José del Guaviare.
👉 Discover more amazing Colombia Landmarks.
Best things to do in Colombia: Discover a great culture
Do you know why travelers fall in love with Colombia?
Because of its inhabitants.
They live with a laid-back and friendly attitude, always smiling. And they will welcome you with open arms.
Here is what will make you love the Colombian culture.
9# Dance salsa in Cali
One of the most famous dances in Colombia is Salsa. It dates back to the mid-20th century when Cuban rhythms got to Colombia’s Caribbean coast and made their way to Cali.
Most foreigners take salsa lessons in the San Antonio district.
La feria de Cali is between December 25th and 30th. This is the best way to get to live the salsa culture. If you decide to come, you should book hotels in advance.
10# Learn Spanish in Medellin
Most people, myself included, think the least notorious accent in South America’s Spanish-speaking countries is Colombia’s.
This makes it a perfect place for beginners.
Not many people speak English, so it is good to know a few words.
There are excellent Spanish academies in Medellín, and the Paisas are very welcoming.
There are plenty of places in and around the city for you to explore and practice your Spanish abilities.
I recommend staying in Laureles or El Poblado.
There are daily flights from Bogotá and significant cities.
11# Be romantic in Cartagena de Indias.
Once the biggest slave port in Colombia, this city holds tremendous history.
Did you know the walled city is a UNESCO world heritage site?
Don’t hesitate to walk around to find all sorts of restaurants and colorful streets. The blooming flowers falling down the balconies will make you feel like you are in a fairy tale story.
At sunset time, visitors usually like to stand in the walled city to better view the show. A famous spot to do so is to grab a table at Cafe del Mar — it’s even better with a bottle of rosé.
While you’re in Cartagena, jump on a boat and head to the Rosario Islands. It takes about 45min to get to these paradisiacal islands.
12# Visit a coffee farm
Colombian coffee is famous everywhere.
There are more than 500.000 families that live off of planting coffee.
Arabica Coffee plants are harvested on steep mountains and collected by hand before processing.
Colombia’s coffee-growing region, known as El Eje Cafetero, is located in the departments of Quindio, Caldas, and Risaralda would be the most accessible place to see a plantation.
But don’t worry if this area is not included in your Colombia itinerary. There are also other places where they grow coffee, such as Medellin and some places around Bogotá.
13# Street Art in Bogotá
Graffiti can easily be found walking around La Candelaria in the heart of Bogotá.
Places like EL Chorro de Quevedo or La Avenida Jimenez are great places to take a look at this graffiti art.
Bring cash, snacks, and an umbrella as the weather can be unpredicted sometimes.
There are several tours available if you want someone to explain the culture and origins of this art in downtown Bogotá.
14# Explore Markets in every city
With over 30 tropical fruits to choose from and a wide variety of vegetables, meats, and fish, Colombian markets or “plazas de Mercado” are a huge part of the culture. There are several in every city, and each holds its own story.
In Bogotá Plaza Paloquemao or 12 de Octubre are immense, and you can get just about anything you could need.
In Medellín, La Minorista is probably your best choice, although there are other options, such as La America.
In Cali, the famous Galeria de Alameda or Santa Elena are located within the city’s heart.
In Cartagena, Mercado Bazurto and Plaza de Mercado de Cartagena are the most recognized ones among locals.
15# Learn about complex Colombian history
Colombian history is complicated and mostly known for cocaine and fights between big cartels such as Medellín and Cali in the 90s.
The civil war started in 1964, and the conflict lasted until 2016, when the government signed the peace agreement with the FARC (Revolutionary armed forces of Colombia).
Wealthy individuals affected by the cartels created paramilitary groups that evolved into armed forces that would commit heinous crimes in many country regions.
There have been thousands of civilian casualties over the last 3 decades.
You can dive into the heart of Medellín or Bogotá and explore this history on several tours available. The Comuna 13 tour in Medellín is a fascinating one to check out.
16# Go and visit a colonial town
Colombia is filled with little towns that you can find when traveling between big cities. If you want to escape from the noise, there are several places to go depending on where you are. All these towns have their unique traditions. Just sit back and relax in the main square and watch pedestrians go by.
If you are in Bogotá, a good escape could be the Boyaca department, where you’ll find places like Villa de Leyva or Ráquira, famous for its clay pots.
If you are in the Zona Cafetera, you can visit Salento (famous for the Valle del Cocora), Filandia, Pijao or Buenavista.
If you are in visiting Antioquia, you can relax in Jardín, Jericó, Santa Fé de Antioquia or the colorful town of Guatapé (famous for the view from La Piedra del Peñol)
17# Fishing day in La Boquilla, Cartagena
This is a small fishing town located up north in Cartagena — a 20-min ride by taxi.
You can find locals who will show you how to live the fisherman’s life there. Aboard a canoe, venture into the mangroves to catch fish and crabs, and eat them for lunch. You can easily fish for crabs.
- Our article about the La Boquilla tours.
18# Visit San Basilio de Palenque
Also, in the Bolivar department, you can find San Basilio de Palenque. To get here, you can take a 1h30 ride from Cartagena.
This town is the first free town in the Americas where enslaved people fled to. By booking a tour, you can learn how the locals have managed to preserve a part of their African culture.
Many colorful Palenqueras carry a big bowl of fruits on their heads in Cartagena.
- Our article about the San asilio de Palenque tours.
19# Visit the Gold Museum in Bogotá
El Museo del Oro is located in the heart of downtown Bogotá, and it holds the most extensive pre-Columbian gold artifact collection globally, with over 55.000 pieces.
You can have lunch at the restaurant located at the entrance. The second and third floors display gold pieces dated back from before the Spanish conquest of the Americas.
It also contains thousands of pottery, wood, and textile pieces from various indigenous groups such as the Muiscas, Zenu, Quimbayas, and Calimas.
20# Museum of Colombian Navy history in Cartagena
This is the biggest museum in Cartagena. It tells the story of Cartagena’s naval history from colonization to the present times.
El Museo Naval is located in a colonial building in the city’s heart.
Note that there is not much English info at the museum, so unless you speak Spanish, it is probably best to get an English tour guide.
21# The House of Memory Museum in Medellín
Medellín went through rough times in the late 80s and early 90s when drug cartels dominated the scene. This museum shows the brutal reality Colombia had back in those days.
Created in 2006 as part of the Victims Assistance Program, its objective is to understand and resolve the armed conflict in Colombia.
El Museo de la Memoria has a symbolic and physical place that reflects the history of the armed conflict in Antioquia and Colombia in general.
👉 Decide which Colombian cities you would like to visit.
Best outdoor activities to do in Colombia
Yes, it is fun to visit Colombia’s big cities. But this is not where you will be able to appreciate the richness of its biodiversity.
Here are the best things to do in Colombia for those who love nature.
22# Rafting in San Gil, Tobia or Medellín
Colombia has a great topography diversity. Due to this, there are several mighty rivers throughout the country where travelers can practice rafting.
People from all over the world come to San Gil, 6h up north of Bogota.
In Medellin, a two or three-day trip to Rio Verde is worth it. The river runs through untouched nature with class IV rapids.
In just under 4h from Bogotá, you can head to Tobia, where several agencies offer exciting rafting plans for the weekend.
- Book the best outdoor experiences nearby Medellín.
23# Best places to paraglide in Colombia
There are several places in Colombia to do paragliding. Although each has its unique views, some are a must-go if this type of sport suits you.
You can see great views from the Chicamocha Canyon when paragliding from San Gil. This is the most visited place for this purpose.
If you want to see Medellín from the sky, San Felix is just under 1 hour from Medellin.
In the heart of the coffee zone, there is a paragliding center in Buenavista, located at 1h15 from Salento.
Jerico is also an excellent place to practice this sport. It is located southwest of Antioquia, and the views are outstanding.
24# Rock climbing in Suesca
In just under two hours from Bogota going up north, you can find Suesca. Located in Cundinamarca, rock climbing started here back in the 1930s.
With over 400 routes, there are plenty of these for pretty much any climbing level.
If you are in for a unique place to stay, then La Casa en el Arbol features fantastic mountain views and balconies to set your breakfast and start your day surrounded by nature.
25# Tubing in Palomino or San Cipriano
Located an hour and a half from Santa Marta, you’ll find Palomino. The river which bears the town’s name is one of the best for tubing. You go down the river where you can see all kinds of wildlife.
The tubing experience finishes where the river meets the ocean. This is an excellent spot to chill out.
San Cipriano is a natural reserve located between Cali and Buenaventura in the Valle del Cauca’s department. Thanks to government protection, this area is very well preserved as it is illegal to hunt, farm, fish, or do anything that can damage the environment.
You will go through the fantastic jungle where you can see waterfalls and crystal-clear rivers.
You will need a dry bag to carry your personal belongings for this activity.
26# Canyoning in Cali or San Carlos
This type of sport involves hiking, swimming, jumping, and sliding through canyons.
There are several places you can go when in Cali. Many rivers surround the city. I especially recommend the ones near Pance.
Another famous spot isSan Carlos (4h away from Medellín). This small town offers unique canyoning experiences, like La Chorrera and Chispero.
Remember to bring something to drink, sunblock, two sets of clothing for wet and dry, and shoes that can get wet.
27# Scuba Diving in San Andres and Providencia
The island of San Andres is located up north in the Caribbean sea. There are several spots to dive around the island, each with its unique sights.
Most of these dives aren’t deep and with excellent underwater visibility. This will allow you to admire the colorful reefs easily.
Moreover, the water’s temperature is between 26-28°C/79-82°F
On the other hand, Providencia has several depths for diving, anywhere from 30ft to 130ft.
These two places offer excellent diving conditions all year round. Still, try to avoid going there during holidays such as Semana Santa or the first weeks of January. It can get very crowded.
Biodegradable sunblock is recommended as regular ones will bleach the corals.
28# Whale watching on the Pacific Coast
This is one of the great things to see when visiting Colombia if you are in for nature. Whales are seen in the Pacific ocean from July to October.
You can get several different tours to do this activity. The cheapest one leaves from Buenaventura on small embarkation. Other good spots to go are Bahia Solano or Guachalito.
Whales usually go out when the sun and the sea are calm. So best to go early in the day or late in the evening.
These places have warm and humid weather, so dress accordingly for better comfort.
Wear light clothes, a hat, and good shoes. Sunscreen and mosquito repellent are also recommended.
Also, bring binoculars beside your cameras for better views. Remember that the boat should stay at least 200m from the whales as this can scare them off.
Always try to book a tour with a known agency, so you make sure the environment is protected and preserved.
29# Bird watching in Colombia
Colombia has one of the most bird diversity in the world. With almost 2000 different species, it holds more than half of the bird diversity in South America and 20% overall globally, so if birdwatching is your thing, then this is the right place for you.
Although Colombia does not have seasons, they still have a rainy season from April-May and October-November, so try to avoid these dates as it can be more challenging to observe birds.
There are several places around Colombia where you can go to see birds. Up north in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta is one of the best destinations as the biodiversity in this place is fantastic thanks to the protection of the Tayrona National park.
Just under two hours from Medellin, Rio Claro is another famous spot for bird watching.
In Manizales, the Rio Blanco natural reserve has over 350 species of birds.
Cali has over 550 different bird species. This is more than 25% of the total bird variety in
Colombia, so this is a must-go. You can find several places in and around the city where they have all sorts of tours for every person.
The Amazon holds an outstanding 674 different bird species. The Amacayacu National Park is probably the best for this activity, although getting there is more complicated than the places mentioned above.
30# Surfing in El Valle or Costeño Beach
Although Colombia is not very known for its surfing, there are several spots where you can do it.
El Valle, a small village located on the pacific coast, is an excellent place if you are an intermediate or experienced level surfer. Some accommodations in this area can arrange for surfing classes — the most famous one being the Humpback turtle hostel.
The best season is from May to November.
Costeño Beach, located on the Caribbean Coast, is probably the most famous spot for surfing in Colombia. I recommend staying in The Costeno Beach Hostel.
30# Horseback riding in Colombia
Los llanos Orientales in Colombia is where the Llaneros or herders use horseback riding to move between farms, herding cattle, etc. Casanare and Meta departments are your best bet to live the whole llanero lifestyle.
Staying in one of the hatos or haciendas is now possible. Several agencies give the option for 1 up to 7 days to get the real experience. They can even pick you up at the airport to go directly to the all-inclusive farm.
There are other places like Medellin or the Coffee zone where you can find unique spots full of nature to explore
Bring a hat, long sleeves, pants, and insect repellent when horseback riding.
31# Visit the Valle del Cocora near Salento
This place is located in the heart of the coffee zone between Armenia and Pereira. You get to Salento, and from there, a jeep takes you to the Cocora valley. Don’t forget to stop at Acaime Natural Reserve to see the hummingbirds during your hike.
One of the main attractions is the national tree of Colombia. These wax palm trees are the tallest in the world and can get as high as 200ft.
It has one of the most famous hiking trails in Colombia, and you’ll need between 4-6 hours depending on how fast you can go, and you don’t need a guide to do it!
32# Which waterfalls to chase in Colombia
Thanks to its location and topography, Colombia has some of the most beautiful waterfalls in the world.
When in Medellín head to Jardín to visit la Cueva del Esplendor. It takes about an hour to get to the entrance, where they will welcome you with very traditional things to eat, such as patacones or agua panela.
Fin del Mundo in Putumayo is located in the amazon jungle not far from Mocoa. This is a great place to connect with nature. Putumayo is also famous for the indigenous tribes that reside there where Yagé is practiced.
About an hour from Bogotá in Choachí, Cundinamarca you can find La Chorrera. This place has two waterfalls having the famous monkey cave in the latter one.
Up north from the capital in Florián, you can see the windows of Tisquizoque. This emblematic place is a cave in the middle of the mountain with three cascades more than 1000ft tall; very impressive.
33# Hiking in the Nevados
Los Nevados National Park hosts 3 of the 6 former glaciers in Colombia. These are the Nevado del Ruiz, Nevado de Santa Isabel and Nevado del Tolima.
There are several ways to get to the park. Tours usually leave from Manizales, Pereira, Salento, or Ibagué.
You’ll be able to hike from one day to a whole week through multiple ecosystems such as cloud forests, humid páramos, and moonlike glaciers.
Although guides are not mandatory, I recommend you get one as it is easy to get lost.
Best to go in the dry season (Dec-Feb) as the trails can get muddy during the rainy season.
34# Hike to the Lost City from Santa Marta
This is the most famous multi-day trek in Colombia. It takes you on a 28-mile round trip through the Sierra Nevada Mountains. The remains of terraces from an ancient city can be seen during the trip.
The trail usually takes 4 days to complete. Several tours offer their all-inclusive service for your convenience.
All tours are very well organized, and they can easily be done by just about anyone in good health.
35# Hiking in La Sierra Nevada del Cocuy
You can set base at the nearest town Cocuy for multi-day hikes, some 400km northwest of Bogotá.
A guide is mandatory to enter the park, and you must register before entering. You’ll also have to pay for rescue assistance.
The park opens its doors at 5 am, and everyone must have left by 9 am. You must turn around no later than 1 pm as the park closes at 6 pm and everyone must have left by that time.
There are three famous hikes here, laguna grande de la sierra (22km), pulpito del diablo (22km), and ritacuba (13.7km).
It is impossible to camp in the park, so it is better to book accommodation in advance.
36# Exploring Tayrona National Park
This is the most famous national park in Colombia, located in the Sierra Nevada, 1-h drive from Santa Marta. The park lies along Colombia’s Caribbean coast, which allows you to alternate hiking in the jungle and sunbathing on heavenly beaches. You will not need a guide for this park.
It is best to avoid going there during holidays and weekends as it can get very crowded. The park is closed 3 times a year in the first two weeks of February and June and the last two weeks of October.
A good itinerary would be to use the Calabazo entrance and stay one night in Playa Brava, another night in Cabo San Juan and then go out on the El Zaino entrance.
Best Things to do in Colombia: Food, Drinks, and Fun
After all these activities in nature, you will be exhausted. You deserve a reward. Here is a list of delicious and fun things to do in Colombia.
37# Drinking aguardiente
This is the most famous alcoholic drink in Colombia.
Each department makes its own Aguardiente. They sell almost all kinds in regular supermarkets and bars.
The most popular is aguardiente Antioqueño.
It has an aniseed flavor; some are stronger than others, and it is better to drink it cold. In some places in Colombia, they add some lemon to it.
38# Cocktails on Cartagena rooftops
There are several rooftop bars and restaurants around the old city to catch the sunset in the best climate and feel the breeze on your face.
All rooftops will have a great view of the city or the sea depending on which one you choose.
We suggest visiting the Movich hotel rooftop, The Town House, or El Mirador Gastro Bar.
39# Eat massive local dishes
Colombia is a great place to immerse yourself in the gastronomy each region offers. If you are in Bogotá, you will be able to find a restaurant that will serve dishes from all over Colombia.
You can get a great bandeja paisa when in Medellín or Manizales. This is one if not the most famous dish you can try in Colombia. You must be hungry to be able to finish as in some places. It can be quite significant. Rice and ground beef with chorizo, fried pork skin, sweet platano, eggs, avocado, and arepa make this dish such a unique taste experience.
Bogotá’s traditional dish is a soup called Ajiaco. It is a chicken soup with two kinds of potatoes, one to make the soup thick and the other one to have the pieces in the soup. It is served with milk cream and capers.
Coconut rice with grilled fish is a must-try in Cartagena or the Caribbean coast. This recipe is passed on through generations. This rice is highly nutritious, thanks to the benefits of the coconut.
Also, on the coast, you can find the sancocho de gallina. This is another soup with meat, vegetables, corn, broth, and local herbs. It is served with rice and avocado.
40# Taste unusual stuff
Las hormigas culonas (big ass ants) are located in Santander. These are taken when they fly and toasted on a mud pan until ready. Add some salt, and enjoy.
Hot chocolate with cheese is very popular, especially in cold villages like the ones around Bogotá.
La chicha is a fermented alcoholic drink usually made out of corn. It is also known as the beer from the Andes region.
41# Find your favorite tropical fruit
There are plenty of fruits to choose from when going around Colombia. With over 300 different kinds, you will undoubtedly be able to find something for your taste.
Some of these fruits have great virtues. Mango, papaya, orange, and peach all have vitamins A and C, which help the immune system. The avocado is one of the most nutritious fruits with more than 25 of the most needed nutrients.
If you want to boost your performance in bed, borojó is said to have this quality.
Although not scientifically proven, the guanabana is supposed to have cancer-fighting properties.
There are several delicious fruits, such as the chirimoya or the anona. The gulupa is the sweet version of the passion fruit.
Although sellers can turn most of these fruits into juice, try the lulo and the blackberry ones, they are simply delicious.
42# Play tejo in Cundinamarca or Boyacá
Tejo is a well-known sport in Colombia. It consists of a Tejo or metal disc that you throw into a wooden box filled with clay and small explosive targets that you need to hit and explode.
This sport is mostly practiced in Boyacá and Cundinamarca, although you can find it in other parts of Colombia.
Most of the time, players like to drink beer and Aguardiente while playing.
43#Go to a football game in Bogotá or Medellin
Football is the most important sport played in Colombia. There are several teams from all over the country.
You can catch a game in El Campín in Bogotá or in the Atanasio Girardot in Medellín.
Getting tickets is relatively easy, and you will enjoy the passion the Colombians have for this sport.
Be prepared to party after the game, especially if you happen to be there during finals or any major game.
44# Enjoy the Colombian nightlife
There are several places in each city where you can have fun. Major cities will be your best choice if this is what you are looking for.
In Bogotá La Zona Rosa is the most famous one. Packed with restaurants, bars, and nightclubs, there will be something for every taste. It is located north of the city, and it is a very safe place to walk and see the city’s nightlife.
Chapinero and downtown Bogotá also have several places to go, from the underground party found in small places to the likes of Theatron, which has 5 floors and 13 different rooms with different themes and music each.
In Medellín, most of the action will be in El Poblado — although there are other parts of the city where you can have a great time.
45# Carnival of Barranquilla
Colombia has many carnivals, most of which go from the last two weeks of December up until the end of March. The Barranquilla one is the most famous in the world. It usually happens in the last week of March.
This carnival lasts for 4 days, with parades going around every day showing the history and cultural aspects of the city. You need to get tickets for this.
You will also find fiestas improvised in the streets by the locals and concerts organized by the city.
You must book your hotels and accommodations in advance as hotels will be 100% complete once it starts.
46# Black and White festival in Pasto
You should not miss this festival if you head down south to Nariño at the beginning of the year. It goes from the last couple of days of December and lasts until the first week of January.
This is the most symbolic festival in Colombia, and it reflects the region’s cultural traditions. People from all over the world come to see this.
It was declared a Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO in 2009.
47# Attend a music festival in Bogotá
There are lots of music festivals in Colombia, especially in Bogotá.
Parque Simon Bolivar is the most famous place for these festivals in the capital.
Depending on the time of the year, you might be able to catch one of the following: Rock al Parque, which is the biggest one, lasts 3 days. There is also Jazz al Parque, hip hop al Parque, and salsa al Parque.
48# Feria de las flores in Medellín
If you happen to be in Medellín in August, you must go to this festival. During 10 days, many events will be present in the city.
It represents Antioquia’s cultural heritage and values. Thousands of people come from all over the world to see the Silleteros, which carry beautiful handmade flower arrangements on their backs. These can weigh up to 70 kilos.
This is the most important cultural event in the city.
49# Stay on beautiful islands
Colombia has excellent Caribbean islands, and you can access most of them from Cartagena.
San Andres and the Rosario Islands are the most popular, although they can get quite busy during holidays. If you like something more relaxed and less crowded, Isla Fuerte would be your best choice.
- Our list of the best Colombian islands.
50# Rent a boat for the day in Cartagena
When in Cartagena for short periods, you can always rent a boat to see the islands.
Bring your crew, cold beers, and music to discover the best spots of Isla Grande and Isla Barú. With paradise beaches and crystal clear waters, the experience can only be a success.
All the local captains will make sure to show you the best spots.
There is always a place to party on any of these islands.
51# Sunbath on the beach
With coasts on both the Atlantic and the Pacific, Colombia will indeed have the perfect beach for you to relax on.
The best-secluded beaches are located in the pacific as there are almost no tourists and endless black-sand beaches.
If you go to the Caribbean coast, avoid the big cities and prefer staying in Sapzurro, Rincón del Mar, or the area after Tayrona Park.
- Our list of the best beaches in Colombia.
52# Relax in a cool beach town
Big cities usually host thousands of tourists, especially during holidays, so that it can get quite noisy. Also, the beaches in these cities are not the best, and it is hard to get a relaxed flip-flop atmosphere.
Palomino in La Guajira is a famous tourist spot, with tasty restaurants but not the best beach.
Capurganá and Sapzurro, located in Chocó, are very isolated towns situated in the middle of the Darien Gap. Peace and tranquility are what you get in these towns.
One of the least explored departments in Colombia is Sucre. Rincón del Mar is a famous small town where you can find yellow sand beaches that stretch for miles on each side.
53# Swim in hot springs
Colombia is home to some of the best hot spring waters in the world. There are several places you can go for this purpose around the country.
Near Pereira you can find Santa Rosa de Cabal.
This is a small town located in the heart of the cordillera and is one of the main spots people choose when looking for hot springs.
In Manizales, Termales del Otoño is a great place, especially if you are on a romantic adventure. The small huts with their own private hot spring water jacuzzi will undoubtedly get the best out of this experience for you.
Near the Nevado Natural Park, Termales del Ruiz is a small hotel packed with all the amenities you may need.
54# Stay in Glamping
It is a comfortable and romantic way to camp without all the uncomfortable aspects. It’s a mix between a hotel and a tent where you can enjoy nature with all the facilities.
- Our list of the best glamping in Colombia.
55# Enjoy luxurious hotels
There are plenty of extraordinary hotels in Colombia. From 5-star hotels to small boutique hotels, I’m sure you’ll find what you need.
Stay in Bogotá in Hotel Casa medina. Located right in the friendly Quinta Camacho district, you’ll be close to the best restaurants and bars in the city.
If you want to go for beautiful colonial houses, pick Cartagena. Casa San Agustín Hotel is a combination of 3 perfectly preserved houses in the heart of the historic walled city.
Hotel Las Islas in Islas Barú is also a good option if you want to be close to white-sand beaches and turquoise waters.
- Our list of the best hotels in Colombia.
Best things to do in Colombia: Enjoy the view
With its mountainous landscape, there are many extraordinary views. You just have to open your eyes while hiking 😀
For travelers who do not like mountains, I still have a solution.
Here are two easy things to do in Colombia.
56# Climb to Montserrate in Bogotá
If you want to see a great view of Bogotá, then Monserrate is your best bet.
Located up high in a mountain, you can ride the cable car to get to the top or, if you prefer, take the 1600 stairs that lead to it. Ideal to come and see the sunset from this place. There is also a restaurant where you can have dinner or simply chill with a beer and enjoy the view.
57# Get to the top of the piedra del Peñol
Piedra del Peñol in Guatape near Medellin is one of the hot tourist spots in Antioquia.
Located 2 hours from the city, you can climb this monolith rock with 700+ stairs to get to the top.
Avoid weekends and the high season as it can get very crowded -or go up early.
Best things to do in Colombia: Churches and archeological sites
Colombia does not have as many archaeological sites as Peru or Mexico. But some places are worth visiting.
58# Go to see Santuario Las Lajas
If you happen to be in Ipiales, Las Lajas Sanctuary is one of the most visited in Colombia. It dates back to 1750 when the virgin appeared to an indigenous child.
Weather can be pretty cold, averaging 12 grades centigrade, so make sure you come prepared with warm clothes, a jacket, gloves, scarf, and a good pair of shoes to make your experience more pleasant.
Tourists like to stay until 6 pm to catch the lights and the beautiful surroundings of this place.
59# Visit the Salt Cathedral in Zipaquirá
On a day trip from Bogotá, going up north to Cundinamarca, you can find the Salt Cathedral of Zipaquirá. Some of the cavities of this (very) old salt mine have been transformed to look like the inside of a church. For more than 3 years, the architect Garavito worked with many artisans and sculptors to recreate biblical scenes (including the Way of the Cross).
There are audio guides in many languages.
60# Get to see Tierradentro’s hypogeum
When visiting Cauca, Tierradentro is one of the ancient Pre-Columbian cultures in Colombia. It is said that the civilization that lived here was different from the one present in San Agustin.
On-site, you can visit these underground tombs. Some of them are well-preserved, and you can observe the various patterns painted on the rocks.
There has been little research on this archaeological site, and many explanations are missing.
61# Go to The San Agustin Archeological Park
The village of San Agustin, located 6 hours from Popayán in the south of Colombia, is famous for its vast collection of stone statues. It was declared a world heritage site by UNESCO in 1995.
This town and its surroundings are considered one of the largest necropolises in the world. These statues hold mysteries that have not been solved as of today.
Hundreds of statues are scattered in different archeological sites.
Bottom line: Best things to do in Colombia
The country has much more to offer than the sad cliché about cocaine and Pablo Escobar. Between the friendliness of its people and its incredible landscapes, you will find many things to do in Colombia.
Most travelers are content to stay in large cities such as Medellín or Cartagena. With our list, you will be able to get off the beaten track and live an unforgettable adventure.