If you want help with planning your trip to Colombia. We can assist you in choosing the best places to visit in Colombia. Whether you’re interested in coffee farms, beautiful beaches, or vibrant cities. Here are the some top destinations in Colombia!
Before we begin exploring this guide to Colombia, there’s something important we need to address right from the start.
Creating a list of the top places to visit in any country can be a bit silly. In the realm of opinions, the notion of “best” proves entirely subjective, weaving a tapestry of perspectives unique to each individual. What I consider as the “best places to visit in Colombia” may not align with your preferences.
If you’ve begun planning your trip to Colombia, you might have noticed that there are so many wonderful places to consider adding to your itinerary.
Colombia is a really diverse country in South America with beautiful cities, amazing beaches, and lots of jungles. But, unless you have a lot of time, it can be hard to see and do everything there is to do in the country.
So, to assist you in planning your trip, I’ll share my list of the absolute best places to visit in Colombia. Keep in mind that my list might not perfectly align with yours, but hopefully, it can give you some ideas of the places you might want to explore while visiting Colombia.
Here are some best places to visit in Colombia
If I had to choose one place as my absolute favorite and the best place to visit in Colombia, it would be Cartagena.
The city might not be everyone’s favorite. The beaches are not very impressive. The weather is extremely hot and humid, and there are always people on the street trying to sell you things.
However, the city is filled with a rich history to explore.
The old wall surrounding the city. The stories of pirate attacks, and the fortress overlooking the historic center make you feel like you’re stepping into the past. Additionally, Cartagena has some of the most impressive Spanish-style buildings from a long time ago, not just in Colombia. But in all of South America.
Apart from its rich history. Cartagena is one of my top cities in Colombia for its exciting nightlife, festivals that happen all year round, and fantastic restaurants. It’s also considered one of the safest cities in Colombia for travelers. Especially if you stay in the historic center or the Bocagrande neighborhood.
2. Rosario Islands
Moving further along the coast, another best places to visit in Colombia is the Rosario Islands (Islas del Rosario).
These islands are located about an hour away from Cartagena and are part of a national park. They offer a breathtaking Caribbean island experience that you won’t find in Cartagena.
The islands used to be private properties before becoming part of a national park, which means there are small houses and hotels available. The beaches here may not be as stunning as those on the nearby Isla Baru, but they are also less crowded. If you enjoy snorkeling or diving, you can also indulge in those activities on these islands.
From my personal experience, I suggest considering an overnight stay on the islands. Although the options are limited, there are a few hostels available. During your visit, you’ll have the opportunity to witness the magical glow of bioluminescent phytoplankton in the lagoon, or you can opt for a guided tour of the mangroves.
3. Volcan de Lodo El Totumo
To be honest, when you first see the Volcan de Lodo El Totumo (also known as the Mud Volcano). It might seem like a place created just for tourists. However, before you make a quick judgment and dismiss this seemingly quirky tour. Allow me the opportunity to elucidate the compelling reasons for affording it a chance.
You won’t find anything quite as strange as the sensation of floating in a seemingly never-ending mud volcano, and that’s exactly why it’s one of the best places to visit in Colombia, according to me. Seriously. Imagine being surrounded by other people covered in mud, locals offering mud massages, and struggling to keep your balance in the muddy pit. I guarantee that by the time you leave, you’ll be laughing and having a great time.
That being said, there are a few ways to avoid feeling like you’re stuck in an annoying tourist trap.
Firstly, it’s important to acknowledge that tipping is customary at the mud volcano. For the locals, this is how they make a living. Whether it’s the child taking care of your belongings or the lady assisting you in washing off the mud, everyone will anticipate receiving a tip.
Secondly, if you’re traveling with a big group, it’s worth considering booking your own taxi instead of joining a tour. By arranging private transportation, you can plan your visit to the mud volcano to avoid the busy times when tour buses arrive. It’s best to aim for early morning or late afternoon to minimize the crowd.
4. Tayrona National Park
If you want to find the most amazing beaches to visit in Colombia. Make your way to Tayrona National Park, which is close to Santa Marta.
A lot of people believe that Cabo San Juan de Guia beach is the most stunning beach in Colombia. Besides its gorgeous beaches, the park is also filled with vibrant jungles and clear Caribbean waters.
What makes Tayrona unique and why it is considered one of the best places to visit in Colombia is also the reason why many travelers choose to skip it. The park has a maximum capacity for the number of people allowed in each day and an entrance fee that is relatively high.
Sometimes, the park is closed for a month or even longer, as requested by the local indigenous groups. This break helps prevent and repair the harm caused by excessive tourism.
If you’re planning to visit Tayrona, I suggest staying overnight. Your choices for accommodation are mainly hammocks or camping in tents. However, if you have some extra money to spare, there are also a few cabins available for a higher price.
Many years ago, when I first went to Palomino, Colombia, I would have highly recommended it even more than Tayrona National Park. That’s how much I adored the never-ending white-sand beaches and the laid-back atmosphere of this small town.
However, back in the day, Palomino was only just beginning to gain popularity among backpackers traveling through Colombia.
Nowadays, although I still believe Palomino is a wonderful destination to explore, the reasons for recommending it have changed.
Nowadays, you can’t really skip Tayrona because Palomino Beach has transformed from a tranquil spot into more of a party hotspot.
This relaxed and easygoing town is a perfect haven for backpackers, offering plenty of hostels to choose from, delicious yet inexpensive food, and affordable day tours, including surf lessons.
6. La Guajira
If you’re looking to experience something completely unique along the Caribbean coast of Colombia. I recommend exploring La Guajira.
Situated to the east of Santa Marta, this part of Colombia called La Guajira is famous for its deserts and sand dunes. It gives you a completely different experience compared to the vibrant, green jungles of Tayrona.
In La Guajira, there are numerous activities and attractions that make it one of my best places to visit in Colombia.
Kitesurfing is a highly popular activity in La Guajira, and it’s an excellent place to give it a try, especially for beginners. Additionally, La Guajira is well-known for bird-watching, attracting many enthusiasts. The sand dunes and beaches offer plenty of fun as well, whether you enjoy riding dune-buggies or simply relaxing and sunbathing.
In this region of Colombia, you’ll find one of the larger indigenous groups in the country called the Wayuu. They are the talented artisans behind those vibrant and colorful bags you often see being sold all over Colombia. By purchasing a bag here in La Guajira, you directly support the local Wayuu community. It’s a great way to contribute and help the local people, rather than buying a bag in Bogota or Medellin.
Just a heads up, if you happen to venture this far off the usual path in Colombia, be ready for no WiFi and definitely no hot showers.
Let’s shift our focus from the coast and talk about some cities in Colombia. Bogotá, the capital, is one of the top places I recommend visiting, and not just because you might arrive or depart from there by airplane.
Bogotá is a busy and exciting city in Colombia. It has awesome nightclubs, tasty restaurants, and interesting museums. You’ll also find the historic area called La Candelaria, which is the lively center of the city.
A lot of people who live in Colombia have different opinions about the best places to visit in Colombia. While many locals may say Cartagena is great and Bogotá is not. When it comes to living in Colombia, it’s actually the opposite.
Bogota is the best place to be.
If you love art, you should definitely check out the Botero Museum. And if you’re a food lover, Bogotá is the place to be! It has three of the top restaurants in Latin America, and one of them even made it to the World’s Best Restaurant list.
Looking for an amazing party experience? Bogotá has some really awesome nightclubs, which are among the top ones in South America. Theatron nightclub even holds the title of being the best LGBTQ club in all of Latin America.
If you’re planning to visit Bogotá during your trip to Colombia, the best time would be on the weekend. On Saturday, you can explore some museums in La Candelaria and have a delicious dinner at a great restaurant. Afterward, you can head out to one of the city’s nightclubs for a fun night out.
8. Villa de Leyva
If you’re looking for a peaceful getaway from Bogotá, I highly recommend visiting Villa de Leyva. It’s a small town and one of the best places to visit in Colombia.
Villa de Leyva is a few hours away from Bogotá, so it’s not really suitable for a day trip. However, it’s at just the right distance for a weekend getaway.
The town of Villa de Leyva is absolutely beautiful! It has lovely white buildings, a huge central square, and charming cobblestone streets. You’ll also find plenty of great restaurants, art galleries, and local stores selling handmade crafts.
Villa de Leyva is a fantastic choice for a calm and relaxing weekend getaway. However, if you happen to visit during one of the town’s numerous yearly festivals, you’ll experience a completely different atmosphere. These festivals bring a lively and vibrant vibe to the town, with exciting events, celebrations, and lots of fun activities for everyone to enjoy. It’s a great opportunity to immerse yourself in the local culture and have a memorable time.
Picture this – thousands of people gathering along the cobblestone streets to celebrate the New Year, flying kites during the annual kite festival in August, or holding candles during the Festival de Luces in December. It’s a sight to behold and truly magical!
Another city in Colombia that you should definitely visit is Medellín. It has so much to offer, starting with its consistently amazing weather. Moreover, the people you’ll meet there are some of the friendliest you’ll encounter in Colombia.
Medellín is famous for being a top spot for digital nomads in South America. It’s one of the best places to visit in Colombia. If you want to spend a few weeks working or studying. You’ll find many affordable options for vacation rentals, hostels, and coworking spaces in the city.
In addition, Medellín has many excellent Spanish schools and salsa schools of high quality.
But what I love most about Medellín is how convenient it is to explore the nearby small towns. You can easily go on a day trip to Guatapé and climb the famous El Peñol rock. Another option is Cocorná, a charming little town known for offering some of the best paragliding experiences in Colombia.
If you prefer to stay within the city, I recommend taking a tour of La Comuna 13. This neighborhood in Medellín used to be controlled by criminal groups, but now it’s famous for its amazing street art. It’s a fascinating place to explore!
Unless you’re only staying in Colombia for a week or less, it would be a shame to miss out on the coffee region. Even though I don’t drink coffee myself, I strongly recommend visiting this area. It’s considered a must-see and an essential part of the Colombian experience.
Colombians take a lot of pride in their coffee, and the Coffee Triangle is a place you shouldn’t miss. It can be difficult to choose just one spot to visit in this coffee region. But for most travelers, Salento is likely the top choice.
The town of Salento is small, charming, and full of vibrant colors. However, I must warn you that it can get quite chilly there, especially when compared to the warmer cities in the lower parts of the coffee triangle, like Armenia.
In Salento, you’ll find plenty of hostels and some fancy hotels to choose from. I suggest you don’t leave without trying a trout dish at a local restaurant. The trout from this region of Colombia is incredibly tasty, and almost every eatery in town serves a fantastic meal featuring it.
11. The Cocora Valley
Beyond Salento, the Corcora Valley is the main reason why I consider this area one of the best places to visit in Colombia. This valley is where you’ll find the world’s tallest palm trees, and I guarantee you’ll be amazed by their enormous size. It’s truly a breathtaking sight!
The Valley is personally one of the best hiking spots for me in Colombia, and even in all of South America. There are different hiking options available, ranging from short and hour-long hikes to full-day treks. If you’re not keen on hiking, you can also enjoy horseback riding tours as an alternative.
Here’s an extra treat: there are many amazing coffee farms nearby where you can spend the night, learn about the coffee-making process, and simply unwind. It’s a wonderful opportunity to experience and enjoy the tranquil atmosphere of these farms.
If you’re interested in visiting the Amazon jungle, Leticia is the top choice for you in Colombia.
Since Leticia is located right on the border, you can conveniently explore parts of the Amazon jungle in Brazil and Peru through day trips from there. It’s a great opportunity to experience the wonders of the Amazon from multiple perspectives.
The city of Leticia itself doesn’t have much to boast about. There are a couple of nice restaurants and a good market. However, from Leticia, you can easily book both day trips and overnight tours into the jungle. It’s the perfect starting point to embark on exciting adventures and explore the wilderness of the Amazon.
There are several popular trip options to choose from when visiting Leticia. These include visiting local villages, going piranha fishing, making a stop at “Monkey Island,” and going on treks through the jungle. These activities provide exciting opportunities to immerse yourself in the natural beauty and unique experiences of the Amazon region.
If you’re incredibly fortunate, you might have the opportunity to see the famous Amazon Pink River Dolphins! It’s a special and rare sighting that adds to the wonder of exploring the Amazon.
13. San Gil
For those who love adventure sports, San Gil is a place you must visit. It’s known as the adventure sports capital of Colombia, and for good reason. You can find a wide range of thrilling activities here, including white water rafting, paragliding, and bungee jumping. It’s an adrenaline lover’s paradise!
The town itself is situated in a stunning part of Colombia, surrounded by lush forests. The nearby canyons and rivers offer plenty of opportunities for adventure sports. You can easily book tours and excursions for adventure sports from various companies in town. It’s a convenient and accessible way to enjoy the thrilling activities available in the area.
14. Caño Cristales
Reaching Caño Cristales can be a bit challenging as the river is located in a remote area. There are also certain rules and limitations on when and how you can visit. However, if you plan your visit carefully, it’s an opportunity to witness one of Colombia’s most remarkable natural wonders. It’s definitely worth the effort to experience the beauty of Caño Cristales.
Caño Cristales river, also known as the Liquid Rainbow, is famous for its stunning array of colors. You’ll find shades of red, blue, yellow, green, and many more. Surprisingly, these colors are created by aquatic plants that blossom and create vibrant displays. It’s a truly mesmerizing sight!
The ideal time to plan your visit is right after the rainy season ends.
15. Ciudad Perdida
One of the best places to visit in Colombia is Ciudad Perdida, a renowned archaeological site situated in the mountains near Santa Marta. To reach this ancient city, you’ll need to embark on a multi-day hike, typically lasting 4-6 days. Numerous companies provide guided treks to this fascinating destination, and you can easily book tours both in Santa Marta and Palomino.
Get ready for extremely hot and humid weather, an abundance of bugs, and plenty of muddy terrain! If you can handle all these challenges, your efforts will be rewarded with the opportunity to explore an almost deserted archaeological treasure.
The Ciudad Perdida, also known as the Lost City, is believed to have been constructed around 800CE. This means that the site is more than 600 years older than Machu Picchu, another famous archaeological site.
Come Find Your Own Best Places to visit in Colombia!
So that’s my list of what I think are some of the best places to visit in Colombia. It’s not a complete list, and I may have missed some equally great places.
The truth is, even if you lived here for ten years, you would only explore a small portion of this incredible country. The number of places I still want to visit far outweighs the ones I have already seen. Colombia is filled with endless wonders waiting to be discovered.
I haven’t had the chance to visit the Pacific Coast of Colombia yet, where people speak highly of the incredible whale watching experiences. Although I have been to the Amazon, there is still so much left to explore. My short visit to Cali didn’t allow me enough time to fully explore the city or even take a salsa lesson, which I would love to do in the future.
This list I’ve shared is simply a starting point to help you plan your visit. If you truly want to discover the best places to visit in Colombia, the ultimate way is to come and explore the country yourself. The firsthand experience of exploring Colombia will lead you to the most amazing destinations and create unforgettable memories.