12 Cool Places to Visit in Colombia

There are many reasons to visit Colombia. This South American country is home to bustling cities, stunning nature reserves, and rich cultural heritage. Whether you’re looking for an urban adventure or a chance to get away from it all, Colombia has something for everyone. In this blog post, we will take a look at 12 of the best places to visit in Colombia.

Barrio Del Candelaria | 12 Best Places to Visit in Colombia | Outside Suburbia
La Candelaria (Barrio Del Candelaria), Bogota’s Old Town

12 Best Places to Visit in Colombia
(must-visit places in Colombia)

City Life

Cartagena, Tops our list of Colombia places to visit

The port city of Cartagena was founded in 1533. It is known for its vibrant architecture and culture, which has earned it a spot on UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites.

Cartagena is a city on the Caribbean coast. People like it because it has a unique feel and it is easy to get to different beaches, islands, and jungles.

The city is divided into three neighborhoods: Getsemani, San Sebastian, and Santa Catalina. In the third, you’ll find the iconic cathedral, Catedral de Santa Catalina de Alejandría and many of the most recognizable streets and buildings. There’s also San Diego, traditionally home to Cartagena’s merchants.

Some things you should do in Cartagena are climbing the Castillo fortress for a view, roam the Plaza Santo Domingo, and shop for souvenirs at Las Bovedas covered market. If you get overwhelmed by the UNESCO Walled City, take a break by going to one of the nearby beaches or chartering a boat

Catedral de Santa Catalina de Alejandría, Cartagena, Colombia
Catedral de Santa Catalina de Alejandría, Cartagena

Bogota

Bogota is the largest city in Colombia and the nation’s capital. It’s a must-see city on any trip to Colombia. The Spaniards founded what would become the city in 1538. It is a breathtaking city that is home to more than 11 million people.

If you want to see the best view of the colonial old town, the business district, and the outskirts that stretch far into the horizon, you can take the cable car up to Monserrate which is 10,340 feet up.

The old town, Barrio Del Candelaria, is home to many stunning historic buildings. Here you will find all the quaint colonial buildings and, also a vibrant graffiti scene. The heart of the city is the Plaza Bolivar, where musicians regularly perform and other events take place.

Busy and bustling Bogota

Cali

Cali is most famous for being the home of the Cali Cartel. However, many travelers skip over this Colombian city without knowing that it is also famous for something else.

Cali is considered the world capital of salsa dancing. If you’re interested in learning how to salsa dance, I recommend spending some time there and visiting some of the local spots.

Cali is home to the world salsa championships. Kids as young as four and five years old compete in individual or group events. The championships last for several days over different venues. It’s a great way to see Cali from a local perspective.

Medellín (Not so popular places to visit in Colombia)

Medellin is probably the most infamous city in entire South America! This city once made famous by Pablo Escobar has been slowly transforming, and coming out of its shadow.

District 13 (Comuna 13), Medellín
District 13 (Comuna 13), Medellín

One particular area of Medellín, a neighborhood called Comuna 13, also known as San Javier, was once labeled the most dangerous community due to its astronomical homicide rates. Right below it, on the northeast edges of Medellín in Colombia used to be the fortress of the cocaine king.

Illegal activities remained rampant even after his death in 1993, as other drug cartels sought control of the area. The neighborhood was controlled by groups loyal to Pablo Escobar.

Graffiti signifying the white rags raised during Operation Orión
Graffiti signifying the white rags raised during Operation Orión (by Dorene Wharton from Travel Life Experiences)

These days the area is safe to visit and you can even take a tour of Comuna 13 to understand the impact of the drug cartel and how far they have come along. Many famous street artists, musicians, and community leaders have helped the kids with more productive and creative ways to channel self-expression through art instead of gangs and violence.

Street Art in Medellín, Colombia
Street Art in Medellín, Colombia

See: More Grafitti and Street Art from South America

Enjoy nature

Leticia (Gateway to the Amazon Rainforest)

Leticia is the capital of the Colombian Amazon. The only way to get there is by flying.

When you visit Leticia, you will first notice the chaotic traffic and shabby streets. But don’t worry, before night falls you will be amazed by how close to nature you are. You will see many birds that are hard to spot. Plus, every night at Santander Park, you can see the arrival of scores of parakeets who come here to roost.

A one-hour boat trip away from the crowds is a virgin rainforest. You can go on jungle hikes and night safaris to see the animals that live in the Amazon, from sloths to alligators and many types of birds.

The wax palms in Valle de Cocora, Colombia
The wax palms in Valle de Cocora

Valle de Cocora

High in the Colombian Andes, you’ll find the Valle de Cocora, a valley that’s home to the world’s tallest palm trees. These towering wax palms grow as tall as 200 feet. Unfortunately these trees are threatened by habitat loss, overharvesting, and disease. In an attempt to save the tree, the government declared it the official tree of Colombia and turned the valley into a wildlife sanctuary.

The best way to reach Cocora valley which is part of Los Nevados National Natural Park is by Jeep from Salento, the closest town to the valley. Arriving at the valley is easy but seeing the wax palm trees themselves requires a short trek. 

Salento is one of the most beautiful places in Colombia, a town located in the Coffee Zone (more about that below). The houses here have colorful wood roofs and doors while the walls are whitewashed.

Costeño Beach

If you’re looking for a beautiful and remote beach in Colombia, Costeño Beach is a great option. This beach is only home to a few hotels and hostels, so you’ll have plenty of quiet. There are no towns or shops, just palm trees, and white sand.

If you’re looking for a beautiful, unspoiled beach that’s not too far from Santa Marta, Costeño Beach is a great option. You can enjoy a surf lesson, go horse riding, or have a relaxing massage. However, it is important to note that the beach can be quite rough and is not suitable for swimming.

San Andres Island (Best sunsets in Colombia)

San Andres is a beautiful island that is part of Colombia. Even though it is close to other countries, like Nicaragua and Panama, it is part of the country and it can only be reached by air.

San Andres is a great place for scuba diving because the coral and marine life are very well preserved. People say that it is one of the best places in the world to dive.

If you’re not interested in diving, the sandy beaches are still world-famous. You can access them by driving around the island on the 16 mile-long ring road.

Top beaches in Colombia
Beaches at Tayrona National Park

Tayrona National Park

Tayrona National Park is a beautiful place to visit in Colombia. It is located on the Caribbean coast near the city of Santa Marta.

There is one main hiking trail in the park. It can be accessed from two locations. One easy way to get the trail is through the El Zaino entrance. The other end of the trail visits many of the beaches within the park.

The national park is located on the coast, so the beaches here are very pretty. Some of the most popular beaches to visit are Cabo San Juan and La Piscina, add them to your list of Colombia best places to visit.

Other sights to enjoy in Colombia

Concordia coffee plantation (near Medellin)

Concordia is a region in Colombia that is known for its coffee production. The area around Medellin and Concordia is filled with plantations, most of which are owned by smallholder farmers. The farmers sell their beans to local co-ops, such as Andes and you can visit the Andes warehouse just outside of Jardin (another lovely place to visit in Colombia, a colonial town which means garden in Spanish).

If you want to visit farms and do a coffee tasting, it is worth it to join a tour to Concordia from Medellin. The town is about two hours away by car, so it is possible to visit as a day trip.

Visit a coffee plantation near Medellin Colombia | 12 Best things to do in Colombia | Outside Suburbia
Visit a coffee plantation in Colombia

FOR COFFEE LOVERS: If you are a coffee aficionado, then you have heard of Zona Cafetera, a region that is famous for producing the majority of Colombian coffee, often considered the best in the world. The Colombian Coffee Triangle which is also known as the Coffee Zone or Coffee Belt consists of three Colombian departments: Caldas, Risaralda and Quindio. These cities are served by regional airports, with regular flights from the major Colombian cities.

Ciudad Perdida (The Lost City)

You can reach Colombia’s Lost City in a round trip of about 4 days. The ancient archaeological site was built by the native Tayrona in the 9th century. It was largely unknown until about 50 years ago.

A small portion of the ancient city has been uncovered and is open to visitors. The journey to get there is long and difficult, so be prepared for a multi-day hike. You will also need relevant permits to visit the area.

Las Lajas Sanctuary (Colombia’s most spectacular church)

The Las Lajas Sanctuary is a beautiful basilica church located in the south of Colombia, close to the border with Ecuador. There’s an impressive bridge that crosses the Guaitara River and the Gothic architecture of the church is impressive as it rises from the canyon.

Even though it is an important place for Colombian worshipers, the church remains a hidden gem that most foreign travelers are not aware of. Las Lajas attracts many religious believers each year who come from all over the country to pray to the Virgin Mary for a miracle.

Las Lajas Sanctuary
Las Lajas Sanctuary

12 Best Places to visit in Colombia | Outside Suburbia

From colorful pueblos, bustling cities, stunning nature reserves, and idyllic beaches, Colombia has it all. Hope this post inspired you to plan your Colombia trip and gave you some ideas for some of the best places to go in Colombia.

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