Colombia has a staggering amount of variety in a relatively small area; from the rainforests on the Pacific Coast to the lush coffee country, snow-capped volcanoes and mountains in the Andes down to the plains – Los Llanos and the Amazon rainforest and Caribbean Coast. While there are plenty of activities to check off one’s bucket list, such as sipping espresso in the Colombian Coffee Region, there are also a handful of under-explored gems such as enjoying thermal baths in Paipa. For our favorite things to do in Colombia, keep on reading.
Take a Walking Tour of Cartagena
The Spanish colonial city, Cartagena, was once one of the most prominent cities on the continent. With its essential location along the Caribbean Sea, boasting natural serene beauty, and an impenetrable fortress, the old city was a strategic center for the Empire. Today, the historic center clings to its roots, with quant colonial homes and European-inspired cathedrals situated in the various neighborhoods. A stroll through Cartagena’s beautiful cobblestone streets is like journeying into the past.
Snorkel at Islas del Rosario
The Rosario Islands are one of Colombia’s most famous attractions and it’s easy to understand why. Impressively preserved and protected, the park is popular for its thriving coral reefs and marine life. Here, nature is undisturbed, making for some of the world’s most impressive snorkeling opportunities. Also, the crystal-blue waters and palm-shaded beaches of the archipelago are easily accessible, located just an hour outside of Cartagena.
Sip Espresso in Colombia’s Coffee Region
Besides its abundance of natural beauty and hiking opportunities, the Triángulo del Café (Coffee Triangle) is every coffee lover’s dream. Tucked away in the lush slopes of the Northern Andes rests Colombia’s largest coffee producing towns. The high altitude, volcanic soil, and sub-tropical climate of the region have positioned Colombia as one of the leading producers in the world for coffee. Visitors will sample these flavorful beans while learning about the traditional cultivation processes.
Stay in a Private Bungalow at Tayrona National Park
With access to both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, as well as the Caribbean Sea, one of Colombia’s top things to do involves enjoying the country’s magnificent coastline. What better way to enjoy the water views than to visit Tayrona National Park? Tayrona National Park is nestled in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta and extends outward to the beautifully blue Caribbean sea. The area is famous for its palm-shaded coves and colorful lagoons. While here, stay in one of the park’s private bungalows and admire the region’s natural beauty.
Trek to the Lost City
Tucked away in the lush Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta mountains is one of Colombia’s most prominent sites, the Lost City. Created approximately 700 years ago by the ancient Tairona civilization, the Lost City features circular plazas, ancient homes, foundations, and roads that were once busy with the Tairona inhabitants. With no accessibility by vehicle or train, the wonder is truly an archaeological secret. Adventurers must make the two to three-day trek up to the ancient site, camping out in hammocks along the way. Nothing is more rewarding than enjoying the quiet city at your journey’s end, appreciating the scope of history all around as you walk the streets of the ancients.
Climb to the Top of El Peñón de Guatapé
El Peñón de Guatapé is an impressively tall peak outside of Medellin. Standing at approximately 500 feet tall and weighing over 10 million tons, the peak towers over the surrounding landscape of Guatape. Today, El Peñón de Guatapé is a popular viewpoint. Climbing the hundreds of steps nestled against the rock, visitors at the top will enjoy uninterrupted views over the picturesque lakes and island neighborhoods of Guatapé. The scenery is out of this world, and a must on a trip to Colombia.
Learn to Dance Salsa in Cali
Colombia is considered the Salsa capital of the world, and there is no destination better to experience the alluring dance than in the city of Cali. As Colombia’s third-largest city, Cali has long been a hub for the world’s trendiest displays of art, with dancing, in particular, winning the hearts of locals. Inspired by the various dances of the world, Cali had its take on the traditional salsa creating the salsa caleño. Today, whether dancing or not, visitors and locals alike surround themselves with salsa music. Enjoy witnessing couples perform the fast-paced dance on street corners or in buzzing venues. Or learn the famed dance yourself among the world’s best salsa dancers.
The Tallest Palm Trees in the World
In the Valle de Cocora (Cocora Valley), near Salento, Colombia, stand the tallest palm trees in the world. A visit here can include horseback riding, sampling gorgeous coffee, and of course a walk amongst the towering palm trees. While the green valleys are absolutely breathtaking, your focus might be hard to waver when standing under the impressive height of the surrounding trees.
Massive Flower Art in Medellin
Every year, there is a huge flower festival in Medellin Colombia that takes place in August. This festival is a huge social event for the city and includes massive flower displays, a horse parade, live music, and of course, food. This is quite the spectacle to witness as the flower arrangements are large in size and extremely colorful.
Tequendama Falls is a remarkable waterfall located just 20 miles outside of Bogota. Centered in the Andean Cordillera mountain regions, the Magdalena River feeds into the Bogota River on a grand scale. Shrouded in mist and surrounded by lush, forested cliffs, the waterfall cascades over 500 feet into the canyon.
Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas
Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas is regarded as the Spanish Empire’s most impressive fortress built within the colonies. Construction began in the 16th century on the original fortress, located on San Lázaro Hill in Cartagena. Originally only encompassing the hill peak, over the centuries the mighty structure has been expanded to envelop the entirety of the hill. Take a step back in time to when European forces manned this impenetrable fortress from pirates with a tour of Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas.
Las Lajas Sanctuary
Las Lajas Sanctuary is an impressive cathedral and popular pilgrimage site in Colombia. Built inside the canyon of the Guáitara River, the grand cathedral dips down the cliffs, with a bridge connecting the two sides. Just as impressive as the building’s exterior is its history. For centuries Las Lajas Sanctuary has been a pilgrimage site. Allegedly, a mother and her daughter were stranded in the canyon after a heavy storm. Fearing their death, they were saved by the image of the Virgin Mary, which appeared along the natural stone walls.
Museo Nacional de Colombia
Museo Nacional de Colombia is the largest and most important museum in all of Colombia. Located in downtown Bogota, the museum dates back to the 19th century, where it has been educating visitors and locals alike on the history of Colombia and Latin America. Featuring beautiful artwork, archeological finds, historical artifacts, and interchanging exhibits, the museum is a must for learning the culture and complicated past of Colombia.
A true spectacle for the eyes is Colombia’s Gold Museum. Blending rich, expertly crafted artwork and fascinating history, this museum displays over 50,000 gold works from Colombia’s pre-Hispanic cultures. From sculptures, ceremonial devices and jewelry, the museum has an impressive array of artifacts that help paint a picture of the lives of these ancient indigenous groups.
Festivals & Events
- Medellin Flower Festival
- Barranquilla Festival
Food & Drink in Colombia
Thank goodness Colombia has a variety of food and drink because Colombians love to eat! Breakfast is mandatory and can consist of tamales or arepas. When it comes to the main meal of the day, local dishes can include Ajiaco (creamy potato soup with chicken), Frijolada (red bean soup), fried fish, ceviche, or another traditional cuisine. It’s no surprise that when it comes to drinking, Colombians love coffee. However, they also enjoy a refreshing local beer.
Is Colombia Safe?
Yes, it is safe to travel to Colombia. Colombia’s unpleasant past is very much in the past. With the exception of a few remote corners of the country which tourists would not visit, Colombia is as safe as anywhere else in South America. Basic precautions to avoid petty crime are advisable as in many parts of the world.
Best Time to Visit Colombia
If we were to choose the best time to visit Colombia, we’d go for February or July. However, there isn’t a straightforward answer to the question when is the best time to go to Colombia. There are no distinct seasons though some months are drier than others. In general, you can’t go far wrong, but December to March and June to August are some of the driest months. If you don’t like the weather in one part of Colombia, a couple of hours away you’ll likely find a climate you do like!
What is Colombia Known for?
Coffee, coffee, coffee! Colombia is quite famous for its delicious coffee and the beautiful region in which the beans grow. In addition to coffee, Colombia is also famous for its sprawling coastline, gorgeous emeralds, emerging art scene, and its food.
Thinking About Visiting Colombia?
Contact a Colombia Travel Expert
We Love to Talk About Vacation Ideas!
Thinking of traveling to South America? We take your South American travel dream and make it a reality. Every fully custom South America trip is planned by your own expert personal Travel Consultant.
Popular Colombia Tours
Colombia Train Tour Bogota to Zipaquira
3 Days / 2 Nights From 375
For railfan enthusiasts traveling in Colombia, the tourist train aboard a diesel locomotive from Bogotá to Zipaquirá mak...