Known for its world-famous Arabica coffee, Colombia is a place of passion, rich culture, and prosperous natural landscapes. The entertainment in Colombia is buzzing with life, where salsa dancing is celebrated as a part of its culture, and the nightlife is boisterous until the early morning.
As one of the biggest producers of coffee on the planet, Colombia is praised for its high-quality coffee. Its ideal regions, such as the Zona Cafetera or “Coffee Triangle”, are praised as the ideal environment for growing and harvesting coffee beans. It is home to famous cities such as Medellin, the City of Eternal Spring, and The Lost City, one of the oldest archaeological ruins discovered in the Americas.
Colombia features a biodiverse location with sections of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Maria Mountains, the Amazon Rainforest, and the Andes Mountains included within its territory.
Its landscapes are breathtakingly scenic, rich with life and impactful vistas. And these best places to visit in Colombia are the perfect way to experience the best of Colombia for an extraordinary trip to this wealthy and beautiful land!
Map of Places to Visit in Colombia
In this post, we'll cover:
14. Villa de Leyva
Villa de Leyva may be a small town less than a four-hour drive from Bogota, but its Plaza Mayor is one of the biggest town squares in South America. At one time people were executed on this immense square, which is now used as a gathering place for celebrations and festivals, such as the onion beauty pageant.
Its architecture reflects Spanish and Moorish influences; indeed, Villa de Leyva reminded us of Andalucía because of the white buildings with wooden trim and balconies. Museums honor famous people who fought for Colombian independence. The first distillery in the region is located here.
In central Columbia, in the Department of Antioquia, is the picturesque resort town of Guatape. Famous for its vibrant colored walls, referred to as “zocalos”, Guatape has another iconic feature – the El Peñón de Guatape or “The Rock of Guatape”.
In South America, The Rock of Guatape is the second largest monolithic rock, with Sugarloaf Mountain in Rio, Brazil, beating it for first place. As a result, this natural formation has become one of the top activities for visitors to Guatape.
Visitors to the town can reach the top of the rock’s summit by taking the path of stairs winding to the top. And from the summit of The Rock of Guatape are breathtaking panoramic views of the area, including the Cauca River and the Guatapé Reservoir.
Walk the cobblestoned pathway of Calle del Recuerdo, one of the most colorful streets in Guatape. Then, grab a seat to listen to live music in the bright square of the Plaza del Zocalo. This plaza features an amphitheater-like outdoor sitting area for people to sit and savor the music as performers show off their talents.
12. Rosario Islands
A collection of 27 islands, the Rosario Islands are about an hour’s trip by boat from Cartagena, a port city on the Caribbean coast. The Rosario Islands are located within the San Bernardo Corals National Natural Park to protect its abundant biodiversity and coral reefs.
The Rosario Islands are a must-visit tropical paradise with stunningly clear waters and sugar-white sand.
While on the islands, dine at one of the restaurants to savor freshly caught lobster, shellfish, and other locally-caught seafood. Order a cocktail and lay on one of the hammocks to relish the rejuvenating ambiance of the salty breeze and awe-inspiring scenery. For adventure, go kayaking through the mangroves, snorkeling at the coral reefs, or fishing for a big catch.
One of the most unique activities at the Rosario Islands is the bioluminescent plankton. There are evening tours that take visitors to the islands through the waters to witness the natural wonder of the bioluminescent plankton as they light up the waters.
11. Ciudad Perdida
Nestled in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, Ciudad Perdida, translated to “lost city,” is an archaeological site of an ancient city estimated to be founded in 800 CE. It was established around 650 years before Machu Picchu.
After the Spanish arrived in the area, the city was abandoned in the 16th century. The jungle swallowed it, keeping it hidden until 1972 when treasure looters rediscovered the city. It is considered one of the most significant discoveries in modern-day times.
In the present day, Ciudad Perdida is inaccessible by road. Instead, people travel worldwide to hike to the lost city on educational guided tours. The hike takes about four days, traveling up steep hills, narrow stone steps, and across the Buritaca River. The hike is completely rewarding to reach Ciudad Perdida, where trekkers can picture how indigenous communities once thrived in the area in ancient times.
One of Colombia’s most impressive colonial cities, Popayan, is situated in the Pubenza Valley in southwestern Colombia. Famous for its Holy Week celebrations, Popayan is a spiritual city full of vibrancy and history.
Termed La Ciudad Blanca, “the White City”, Popayan for the eye-catching white facades of its many historic colonial buildings. In 1537, the city was founded by Sebastian de Belalcazar, a Spanish conquistador and explorer. As one of the oldest cities in South America, a visit to Popayan is a trip back in time thanks to the city’s dedication to preserving the historic city.
The Puente del Humilladero is one such gem. The bridge was built in 1873 and extends over the Molino River. Underneath the bridge is a park that attracts locals and tourists alike to find some peace and refreshment in the beautiful outdoors of Popayan.
The Iglesia de Ermita is the city’s oldest church, built in 1546, while the Iglesia de San Francisco lays claim to being the most beautiful. Another is the Cathedral Basilica of Our Lady of The Assumption, a majestic cathedral paired with the equally eye-catching Torre del Reloj, the clock tower.
The bustling city of Leticia welcomes people from across the globe looking to experience its rich culture and experiences in the great outdoors of the prosperous Amazon rainforest.
The nearby Mundo Amazonico is a relatively small nature reserve with a diverse array of flora species endemic to the Amazon. The reserve also hosts a tea house, an aquarium for an up-close look at Amazonia fish, and accessible jungle trails to see local wildlife.
Less than an hour’s trip by boat from Leticia is Monkey Island, called Isla de los Micos. The river island is home to a natural reserve with species such as the squirrel monkey that have made the island home. A shorter boat trip from Leticia, less than twenty minutes away, is the Victoria Regia Natural Reserve which features the giant floating lilies known as the Victoria Amazonica.
8. San Andres & Providencia
San Andrés and Providencia Archipelago are two island groups that are located closer to Nicaragua than Colombia in the Caribbean. San Andres is the largest island, and also the capital. Providence Island was initially settled by English Puritans who used slave labor on their plantations and took up privateering.
White sand beaches and palm trees are San Andres’ best features. The Caribbean is colored seven shades of blue and is rich marine life, making it a great place to snorkel and dive. Accommodations aren’t as luxurious as other Caribbean islands, and visitors travel around the island on old school buses.
7. San Agustin
San Agustin is a laidback little town surrounded by awesome landscapes and the remains of a forgotten civilization. One of the most intriguing ancient sites in Colombia, the archeological park of San Agustin is home to more than 500 monoliths, statues, petroglyphs and sarcophagi.
Most of the stone carvings at San Agustin were created between 100 A.D. and 1200 A.D. They include representations of human figures, smiling and sneering monsters as well as animals such as snakes, birds and jaguars. The pre-Incan culture that built the stone carvings is surrounded by mystery.
No one knows their actual name. Most of what is known about this society comes from the interpretation of the carved statues and other ruins.
Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, Medellín was considered one of the most dangerous cities in the world, home to Colombia’s infamous cocaine cartel. But when drug lord Pablo Escobar was snuffed out in 1993, Medellín began to bury its troubled past and rebounded tremendously.
These days, the increasing number of tourist who come here find an inviting, modern city with one of the country’s best climates. Located in the Andes in the narrow Aburra Valley, the city sports temperatures averaging 24°C/72°F throughout the year, making any time a good time to visit.
The city has fine dining selections for a romantic evening out, world-famous coffee to savor, and trendy bars to socialize with locals and fellow tourists.
Relish in the mountain backdrop views on the Medellin metro cable that travels up to Parque Arvi, an ecological nature reserve. Visiting Parque Arvi is one of the most popular things to do in Medellin. The green oasis is thriving with numerous plant species, hiking trails, and guided nature tours to learn about the species that live within the park.
Head to Plaza Botero, one of the key areas of Medellin. The plaza is decorated with paintings and sculptures by iconic Colombian artist Fernando Botero. Be sure to pay a visit to Comuna 13, a neighborhood that transformed itself from crime-ridden to a thriving artistic hub. You’ll marvel at the colorful murals gracing the walls, reflecting the resilience and warmth of the community.
5. Zona Cafetera
Travelers who love their java will definitely want to visit Zona Cafetera (Eje Cafetero) where almost half of Colombia’s coffee crop is grown on the slopes of the Andes. Referred to as the “Coffee Triangle”, Zona Cafetera is situated between Bogota, Medellin, and Cali. It is here where the most prosperous coffee plantations can be discovered.
The coffee farms welcome curious coffee lovers wishing to peek into how these exceptional coffee beans are grown before people worldwide serve the coffee piping hot into a cup.
Hiking is another popular activity in the Zona Cafetera, specifically the Cocora Valley Trail. The endangered Quindio wax palm, the tallest palm tree in the world endemic to the area, can be seen on this route. There’s also the town of Jardin, nestled in the center of the Zona Cafetera. This quaint little town’s cobblestoned streets feature a welcoming atmosphere, brightly-colored buildings, and cafes serving local delicacies.
4. San Gil
Situated in the Department of Santander in Eastern Andino, San Gil is notorious for being the adventure sports capital of Colombia.
Founded in 1689, the town displays cobblestone streets, historic structures, defining architecture, and rich culture in one magnetic place. It has become a popular travel destination amongst backpackers, though it is not a crowded tourist spot. Nevertheless, San Gil offers plenty of activity and adventure for an unrivaled memorable trip!
Bungee jumping is one of the most popular activities in San Gil, which is well-known for its affordable pricing. Another hot activity in San Gil is whitewater rafting, which has one of the world’s rarest opportunities to raft Class 5 rapids. There’s also swimming at the two best swimming spots, Pescaderito and Pozo Azul. Closer to town, Pozo Azul is only two miles from San Gil and has a gentle current perfect for relaxing in the waters.
One of the tallest waterfalls in Colombia is only a thirty-minute drive from San Gil. The Juan Curi Waterfall, near the town of Palenque, is surrounded by rich greenery and makes for a rewarding hike!
Sometimes referred to as “the Athens of South America”, Bogota was first settled by indigenous peoples, though the founding date is generally set at 1538 by a Spanish explorer. Today, the city is one of the largest cities in South America and Colombia’s capital.
Once considered a place to avoid, Bogota has cleaned up its act and is fast becoming one of the best places to visit in Colombia. Located at 2,640 meters (8,660 feet) in the Andes, Bogota has numerous attractions to entice visitors, including a planetarium, gold museum, botanical gardens, cultural events and a thriving nightlife.
The city’s historic district can be found at La Candelaria, a pleasant quarter of cafés, churches and museums. Take a cable car or hike up to the striking Monserrate Sanctuary. At 3,152 meters (10,341 feet) above sea level, this magical site offers you an unparalleled view of the entire city. Catch your breath, snap some pictures, and enjoy some local snacks at the top.
2. Tayrona National Park
Tayrona National Park is a must-see place for travelers who enjoy nature and exploring old ruins. Located on the north Colombia coast, the park offers a variety of ecosystems, from swamps to scrublands to cloud forests.
For many travelers, the park’s biggest attraction is its beaches, set in deep bays and shaded with coconut palms. In fact, Tayrona beaches are among Colombia’s most beautiful. The park is also popular with birdwatchers who come to see the Andean condor, a threatened species.
The park takes its name from the Tayronas, a native people, who left their mark on a number of archaeological sites, including Pueblito Chairama. Tayrona is a good place to snorkel, hike and see wild animals, including lizards and monkeys, in their native habitat.
Cartagena is the bustling city where Kathleen Turner’s character Joan Wilder begins her Colombian adventures in Romancing the Stone. Hopefully, travelers will get their visits off to better starts, though the city is just as busy as when it was one of the key Caribbean ports from the 16th to 18th centuries.
Fought over by various countries, Cartagena was one of the most heavily fortified cities in South America; these fortifications can still be seen today.
As you stroll through the maze-like, cobblestoned streets of Cartagena’s Walled City, you will be transported back to a bygone era when pirates roamed the seas and noble Spaniards called the shots. Under the shade of balconies overflowing with bougainvillea, you’ll encounter street vendors offering everything from handmade jewelry to refreshing cups of raspados – a delicious Colombian shaved ice treat.
See also: Where to Stay in Cartagena
The area of Bocagrande, a long strip of hotel towers and condos fronting onto the beach, is also very popular with tourists.