Where are the most famous Colombia landmarks? Should you add them to your itinerary?
This is what you will discover in this article.
I am not necessarily for the idea of seeing the most famous places and monuments in a country. There are often too many people, and the photos on Instagram (+ filters) turn them into overrated sites.
However, I must admit that some places are just too beautiful to ignore.
I’ve been exploring Colombia since 2015, and here’s a list of places for you to keep in mind.
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Famous Colombia Landmarks: Landscape
The following are some of the most breathtaking natural wonders in Colombia.
26# The Massive Piedra del Peñol
This gigantic, 200-meter tall rock (also known as an inselberg) is located on one of the edges of the Guatapé reservoir in Antioquia. If you want to see the beautiful landscape from atop, you must climb the 740 steps to reach the summit and the best viewpoints.
The monolith was first climbed by one of the landowners in 1954, and since then, it has turned into a travel destination for thousands of tourists per month. It’s located 80 km west of Medellín, a trip that takes almost two hours.
From the top, you can see the different branches and islands of the reservoir, boats, a bridge afar, houses, and beautiful shades of green and blue. Did you know that the estimated weight of the rock is 66 million tons?
25# The tallest palm tree of Valle del Cocora
The Cocora Valley has it all: great weather all year long, stunning landscapes, and the wax palm trees, the tallest in the world.
You can walk around this valley, but bear in mind that the hike takes between 5 and 6 hours, so make sure you pack some water and snacks or plan to have a picnic.
This Colombia landmark is located near the small town of Salento, Quindío, from where you can take a ride in one of the famous Jeeps from the 1950s. You may spend the night at a hotel or camp in the open. It’s a very safe place, full of friendly and helpful people.
24# The Tatacoa desert and its starry night
This almost barren, massive extension of land in the south of Colombia is one of the most famous tourist attractions in the country.
The two-colored landscape (red and gray) lets you walk for hours before reaching a swimming pool in the middle of the desert, which turns into a well-deserved reward after bearing scorching temperatures of up to 42 degrees Celsius.
There is also an observatory run by Universidad Nacional, from where for a small fee, you can gaze at the stars at night. There are plenty of accommodation options, from luxury hotels to camping areas, without losing the feeling of being in the middle of nowhere.
The easiest way to explore the Tatacoa desert is to go on a tuk-tuk from Villavieja.
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23# The vast Páramo de Sumapaz
This Colombia landmark is the biggest paramo worldwide, rising to 4,275 masl. One of the most iconic plant species is the frailejon, a protected plant that grows up to 8 meters tall (only a few centimeters per year).
Sumapaz covers an area of more than 300,000 hectares and is a perfect place for hikes and walks. The natural park, created in 1977, is part of the district of Bogota. Entry is free of charge.
Once you get there, you should visit Laguna del Alar, a small lagoon surrounded by frailejones. You should avoid going to the lake’s edge for two reasons: first, to protect the fragile lake’s ecosystem, and second, to avoid ending up in a swamp and getting your feet wet. There are also some ancient ruins of a former prison built under the presidency of Gustavo Rojas Pinilla in the 1950s.
22# Los Nevados Glaciers, soon disappeared
El Ruiz, Santa Isabel, and Tolima, these three peaks, are part of Los Nevados National Park. Going to the glaciers offers all kinds of weather and landscapes before you reach the snow.
Depending on the time of the year, you may see the snow starting at 4,500 masl. Sadly, the permanent snow is bound to disappear due to global warming.
However, going there lets you see and walk through rainforests and paramos. There are several accommodation options, mainly camping and shelters. And there’s always the possibility of a plunge in the nearby natural thermal pools.
Even if the entry into the park with a guide is not mandatory, I advise you to go with one not to get lost (very few indications).
👉 Discover more incredible Colombia National Parks
21# Caño Cristales, a rainbow river
The most beautiful river in the world will take your breath away when you see the multiple colors it features: hues of red, green, orange, yellow, and pink adorn this natural wonder. This is because a special kind of aquatic plant grows on the riverbed between June and November.
This natural park is located in Sierra de la Macarena, a mountain that rises independently from the Andes range. To go there, you must hire a tour and arrive by plane.
This is one of Colombia’s most well taken-care-of places, for visitors must follow the rules to avoid damaging the ecosystem: from the ban on plastics and insect repellants to eating your meals on banana tree leaves are part of the established norms. You cannot swim or go everywhere you want in Caño Cristales, but you can take plunges in several nearby cascades instead.
This rainbow river is one of the most spectacular landmarks in Colombia.
20# La Chorrera waterfall, the tallest one!
This beautiful waterfall is located very near Bogotá, on the way to the town of Choachí, east of Bogotá. It’s less than two hours away.
The waterfall is almost 600 meters tall, and it’s surrounded by thick vegetation. It’s the tallest in Colombia and the 60 tallest in the world. Sometimes, in the dry season between November and January, the water dries, so it’s best to visit after February. Also, avoid going there on weekends (too many people).
In the nearby waterfall of El Chiflón, there is a restaurant where you can eat typical Colombian dishes at very affordable prices. There is a feeling that this place is warmer than Bogota, although it sits at a similar altitude, just 200 meters lower than the capital city.
19# Cabo San Juan, Tayrona national park’s famous beach
Cabo San Juan is a peaceful, paradise-like place where you can swim in its beautiful blue and tranquil waters. The spot is part of the Tayrona National Park, located north of Castilletes (a 2h30 walk from the main entrance).
If you walk from Castilletes, there’s a well-marked trail where you can enjoy the thick tropical rainforest. Some local indigenous people by the path sell coconut water and handicrafts.
Cabo San Juan has a viewpoint from where you can take pictures or take a nap on a hammock and where you can even spend the night. There is a camping area with a restaurant, also. Once you pay the nearly 55 – 65,000 COP to enter the park (for foreigners), you can stay there as long as you want and move freely on its vast territory and its numerous beaches.
18# The mighty Amazon river
The south of Colombia has a significant share of the Amazon jungle and its massive river. You can visit the area any time of the year but, depending on the month, you’ll find two different landscapes: the high water and low water ones.
In September, when rainfall is scarce, you can see the river banks and even walk in the jungle, accompanied by a guide at all times, and you can see monkeys and macaws in the trees.
In contrast, in May, when the rainy season is in full display, the river level raises 10 meters and floods the whole area, which changes the kind of activities you can do, such as kayaking and fishing. Only 15 minutes from Leticia (the largest city in the Colombian Amazon), there is a viewpoint of the river and the jungle in the Brazilian town of Tabatinga.
👉 During our stay in this so particular universe, we had the chance to spend 4 days in Axel’s wonderful ecolodge.
17# The Mysterious Chiribiquete park
This is Colombia’s largest natural park, established in 1989, with an area of 43,000 square kilometers. It’s located in the south of Colombia, between the departments of Caqueta and Guaviare. It covers part of the Amazon and part of the Llanos (the eastern plains).
The park’s landmark is the mountains that rise in the middle of the plains, known as inselbergs. These massive rocks feature drawings from ancient indigenous tribes considered a “library of knowledge” of the peoples that used to inhabit this almost unspoiled land. It looks a bit like the famous Mount Roraima mountain in Venezuela.
Unfortunately, it’s only possible to see this park from above, on a plane, because visiting the area is prohibited.
16# Cerros de Mavecure
Los Cerros de Mavicure, or Mavecure, consists of three gigantic rocks located southwest of Colombia, 50 km south of Inírida, the capital of the Vaupes Department. This is one of the furthest areas from civilization in the country’s far east.
The three rocks are known by the names of Pajarito (little bird, at 712 masl), Mono (monkey, at 480 masl)), and Mavicuri (170 masl).
The rocks are surrounded by extensive plains and mighty rivers, which are the only way to get to the rocks. This makes the spot one of the most extraordinary places to visit. There are 4-day tours available from Bogota that cost about 2 million COP per person (500 dollars), including flight tickets.
15# The Coffee triangle and its hilly and green landscapes
The Colombian Coffee Culture Landscape was declared World Heritage by UNESCO in 2011.
The area covers 47 towns in the departments of Risaralda, Quindio, Caldas, and north of Valle del Cauca, on the west range of the Andes mountains. The landscape is characterized by its unique variety of green hues, rivers, waterfalls, great temperature, frequent rains, and of course, huge coffee plantations.
No matter where you go in the area, there’s always the chance to learn about the coffee culture and taste different varieties of one of the best coffees in the world. People in this area are especially friendly and selfless.
👉 Learn everything you need about the Zona Cafetera.
14# The deep Cañon de Chicamocha
The Chicamocha Canyon is the second largest canyon in the world, after The Yarlung Zangbo Grand Canyon in China. It is 2,000 meters deep and 230 kilometers long.
It sits in the department of Santander, center-north of Colombia, one hour south of the city of Bucaramanga, and about 7 hours north of Bogota (by car). The canyon features breathtaking landscapes and a variety of extreme sports, such as cave exploring, rafting and paragliding.
There are some colonial towns in the area that are worth seeing. The food is excellent and is abundantly served. Baked and roasted lamb are the specialties of the region, accompanied by manioc, that are watered down with guarapo, a fermented drink made of brown sugar and pineapple peel.
And don’t get me started on the spectacular views there are all along, or you’ll never finish reading this article 😉
TPMT Tip: Go to Mesa de los Santos.
13# Providencia and the sea of seven colors
Providencia is a Colombian Caribbean island that belongs to the San Andres archipelago. Even though the island was hit by hurricane Iota two years ago, it’s a perfect place for relaxing, scuba diving, and driving around in a golf cart.
Providencia is a quieter and unspoiled place than neighboring San Andres, so staying there for a few days can replenish your energy and soothe your body and soul, thanks to its cool, never-worry Rastafari culture. They speak English, Spanish, and a sort of Papiamento, their own language.
The Caribbean sea showcases seven beautiful colors that range from yellowish tones to an assortment of green and blue. After the hurricane, many houses were destroyed, so if you visit, you may see that there is still a lot of rebuilding. Santa Catalina is a smaller island nearby that you shouldn’t miss too.
👉 Learn about the best Colombia islands.
12# The beautiful Guachalito beach
One of the most visited beaches in Choco Department, west of Colombia and one of the rainiest in the world, is Guachalito. This lovely spot is located in the Gulf of Tribugá. You have to first land in Nuquí (from Medellín) and then jump on a speedboat for 40 minutes.
This is one of the most breathtaking and relatively unknown places on Colombia’s Pacific coast. You find waterfalls, thick rainforests, and beautiful mountains that act as backdrops for the whole landscape.
Sand on the Pacific coast beaches tends to feature dark colors, and Guachalito is no exception. It’s also a strategic place for whale watching from July to October and for a romantic trip with your partner.
👉 During our 1-month trip along the pacific coast we had the chance to visit the fantastic Gonzalo’s ecolodge.
Famous Colombia Landmarks: Archeological
Colombia is more than landscape and nature. It is also a paradise for archeologists. Rock paintings and millenary statues tell a lot about the origins of the Colombian people.
11# Cerro Azul, beautiful rock paintings
Located in the Guaviare Department, Cerro Azul is known for its recently discovered (between 2014 and 2015) rock art paintings of hunters, animals, and erotic scenes of the indigenous people who lived there for about 12,500 years ago.
Even though there is scientific proof that these peoples live there all that long ago, the making of the paintings poses an enigma, for it’s unlikely they have survived intact all those years.
Archeologists still work in the area by analyzing the soil at different depths to reconstruct the habits and conditions of the ancient inhabitants.
👉 We had the chance to explore San José del Guaviare
10# Ciudad Perdida (Lost City)
Some foreign visitors to Ciudad Perdida, in the north of Colombia, find it more breathtaking than the ruins of Peruvian Machu Picchu. This is probably because getting to Ciudad Perdida takes at least two and a half days on foot (two more days going down).
The legend says that Ciudad Perdida used to be inhabited by the Tayrona indigenous people, whose rests or cemeteries were never found. The terraces literally sit in the middle of the jungle.
You will experience walking in the jungles and crossing clean, crystal-clear rivers. Finally, you have to climb the last 1,200 steps, made by the Tayronas, that takes you straight to Ciudad Perdida.
👉 You can’t do this 4-day trek on your own. I went with Fanny’s agency from Santa Marta.
9# San Agustin Archaeological Park
The village of San Agustin is known for its gigantic collection of stone statues. It was founded in 1935 and declared World Heritage by UNESCO in 1995. It’s located in the Huila Department, in the south of Colombia.
San Agustin is said to be among the largest necropolis in the world and the biggest complex of its kind. It features at least 500 megalithic monuments from pre-Columbian America (3300 BC) represented in the shape of tigers, monkeys, eagles, frogs, owls, snakes, and lizards. Statues such as the ‘Double Me’ stand out. The place is located in the upper valley of the Magdalena River.
The study of San Agustín is of paramount importance to understand the development of political organizations not only in Colombia but in the whole of South America. To get there, you can land in Pitalito, then take a 1-h jeep.
Famous Colombia Landmarks: Architecture
Colombia exhibits a variety of architectural trends, but its landmarks fall into the Spanish heritage realm that stayed after de colony.
👉 Discover our favorite Colombian cities.
8# Monserrate and its views over Bogotá
Monserrate is one of the mountains that stand by downtown Bogota. This mountain is 3,172 meters tall and makes the ideal viewpoint to see at least 80 % of the city.
On its top, you can find the Nuestra Señora de Monserrate church, a pilgrimage place built-in 1620 where locals and visitors go up seven days a week, either up its 3-kilometer-long trail or by cable car.
On the summit, you can enjoy several famous fine restaurants, among which is San Isidro, which serves typical Colombian dishes. You’ll find places to take a break and have something to drink or eat on the path, and you may also buy handicrafts.
7# Castillo San Felipe de Barajas
This Spanish-style castle is one of the landmarks of Cartagena and has lived for about 500 years. This is despite having been invaded by pirates and being a place where battles took place.
This national monument was declared World Heritage by UNESCO in 1984. Nowadays, visitors can walk around the castle, see its 68 cannons and walk through the tunnels. One nice thing to do in some of the tunnels is whispering something and having a friend hear at the other end of the hall. This was a characteristic of its architecture as a means of quiet communication between soldiers.
We recommend standing on the highest part of the castle to enjoy a magnificent view of the walled city.
6# The romantic Cartagena historic center
Cartagena’s walled city is a must-see if you visit the capital of the Bolivar Department. After Bogota, Cartagena is the second most widely visited Colombian city.
Its republican and colonial architecture with flowery balconies and lovely facades, separated by narrow and colorful streets, make this part of the city the ideal place for a romantic walk after dinner. There are many fancy restaurants in the area. Don’t leave your camera or cell phone behind since this is a paradise for photography.
The center of Cartagena consists of 2 districts: El Centro and San Diego. Some recommended places to visit are Plaza de Los Coches, Plaza de La Aduana, Plaza de Santo Domingo, Plaza de Bolivar, and Plaza San Diego.
5# The salt cathedral of Zipaquirá
The cathedral, built in an old salt mine and located a few kilometers north of Bogota, is considered one of the most remarkable achievements of Colombian architects. The cathedral represents the cultural, environmental, and religious heritage of Colombians.
The monument was built in the 1950s, and it underwent total remodeling between 1991 and 1995. Bogota-born architect Roswell Garavito Pearl led the project.
Inside the cathedral, you will find a rich artistic collection of sculptures made of salt and marble. Its lighting effects are also worth mentioning since they provide this unique gem with a somewhat spiritual atmosphere that attracts thousands of tourists every year.
4# The majestic Las Lajas Sanctuary
This beautiful Catholic church is an architectural masterpiece that stands between two mountains. It’s used as a pilgrimage and touristic place. It is located 7 kilometers away from the town of Ipiales, Nariño Department, in the very south of Colombia, and just 10 kilometers from the Ecuadorian border.
The best time of the day to appreciate the grandness of the building is after 6 p.m. to see the colourful lights that highlight its magnificence.
The sanctuary is located at 2,900 masl, so that the temperature can go as low as 8 degrees Celsius in the afternoons or evenings. So bring a coat with you if you want to stay late.
3# Comuna 13 and its street art
This neighborhood in Medellín is considered the place where infamous drug lord Pablo Escobar used to recruit his hitmen. In the 1980s, the place was the epicenter of violence and drug dealing in the capital of Antioquia.
After all the community’s efforts, nowadays, the district is full of murals, graffiti, and walkways that tell you the notable history of tragedy and resilience of its dwellers.
2# La Candelaria, Bogotá’s historic center
La Candelaria is the old town of Bogota, where the capitol and the Primada Cathedral are located. Most of the houses and buildings from the colonial era remain in this area. You can also find famous museums such as the Gold Museum, the Botero Museum, and the Luis Angel Arango Library.
There is a place known as Chorro de Quevedo, where the city was presumably founded on August 6, 1538. In this little plaza, you find nice and cozy restaurants and bars. There is a narrow street called Calle del Embudo, that connects Chorro de Quevedo and Plaza de la Concordia. It is known for selling chicha, the drink made of fermented maize that the Musica indigenous people used to drink.
La Candelaria is a place to walk and enjoy, for it’s full of churches, places of interest, and a variety of architectural styles.
1# Santa Cruz de Mompox
This secluded little town in the Bolivar Department stands next to the mighty Magdalena River. The colonial town seems to have stopped in time. It conserves its architecture in almost the same shape as in 1537 when it was founded.
The town was declared World Heritage by UNESCO in 1995 and has served as the location for movies such as ‘Chronicle of a Death Foretold,’ based on the novel by Nobel prize winner Gabriel García Márquez.
In colonial times, Mompox was a place where Spaniards brought gold from Cartagena and hid it from the eyes of hungry pirates. For this reason, many goldsmiths and silversmiths settled in the town.
Bottom line: Famous Colombia Landmarks
Between its landscapes, its archaeological sites, and its monuments, there is plenty to enjoy in Colombia. Most of these Colombian landmarks are prized by tourists, and I recommend you to go there during the week.
So, do you know which ones you’ll pick?
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)