Discovering the Most Popular Places to Visit in Colombia

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Colombia is a well-known tourist destination in South America, especially due to its versatile topography. It has got the dense forest of the Amazon, exquisite Caribbean beaches, and the mighty Andes mountains. This versatility of landscapes, besides excellent nightlife and beach sides, attracts an array of tourists every year. Moreover, the country is well-connected by an excellent public transport system, which can be of great help for tourists commuting across their favourite destinations.

Without much ado, let's take a look at the most famous places to visit in Colombia.

Top-Rated Attractions to Visit in Colombia

Let’s start with a quick look at some of the best places to visit in Colombia -

Best Places to Visit in Summer Best Places to Visit in Winter Best Places to Visit with Family
Medellin Cartagena Cartagena
Bogota San Gil Cali
Guatape Cali Guatape
Tayrona National Park Santa Marta Santa Marta

1. Medellin

Medellin, located in Aburrá Valley, has enough attractions and things to do to keep you busy for weeks at a time, including microbreweries, museums, walking tours, big parks, street art, culinary tours, markets, and amazing nightlife. Among the most famous places to visit in Colombia, this city is popularly known as the Capital of Tango and 'the city of eternal spring.'

Some of the picturesque destinations in the city are -

  • Plaza Botero - This place is primarily famous for bronze sculptures made by the famous Colombian artist Fernando Botero. Entirely wheelchair accessible, Plaza Botero has incredible sculptures of Adam and Eve, Caballo, and more, which (as per a popular myth) are believed to bring good luck on being rubbed.
  • Comuna 13 - The streets of this place vent out like mazes and are popular for their murals, graffiti, street food, and the historic transformation to a modern city with easily accessible transport for tourists. A city walk along the corners of this city with a local guide can make you truly feel the social transformation of this place.
  • Medellin Metrocable - You can take a trip on the city's extensive network of aerial gondolas, the Metrocable, for some of the most breathtaking views of Medellin and its natural surroundings. Cable cars make for an integral part of this city's public transportation system, although many tourists mistakenly view them as tourist attractions. Santo Domingo and Parque Arvi are two of the most well-liked destinations to reach on Metrocable. While the latter has lovely nature paths and hikes for you to enjoy, the former provides an intriguing glimpse into local life and offers you incredible views of this city.
  • Parque Arvi - This place is ideal for tourists who want to escape the hubbub of the city and rest amidst nature. You can go for a hike where you can enjoy the rich diversity of flora and fauna that Colombia offers.

2. Bogota

Bogota, the capital city of Colombia situated at an altitude of around 8,660 feet above sea level, is also one of the highest capital cities in the world. Due to a plethora of universities and libraries present in Bogota, it is also called the 'Athens of America.'

Here are some destinations and natural attractions to explore when considering the best places to visit in Bogota, Colombia -

  • Gold Museum - The Gold Museum or Museo de Oro is packed with outstanding works of art and education that exhibit this nation's rich history, culture, and legacy. It houses one of the most significant and impressive collections of pre-Columbian gold artefacts in this world and is located right in the city's centre.
  • Plaza de Bolívar - Bogota's main plaza, Plaza de Bolivar is in the heart of Bogota and is well-known for its sculptures of Simón Bolivar. Among the top places to visit in Colombia Bogota, it is a great location to unwind and explore the numerous shops and bustling atmosphere on both sides. An open-air memorial, the Bolivar artwork was made by Italians. On the northern side of the plaza, there is a contemporary structure called the Palace of Justice. You can also find street musicians performing here.
  • Salt Cathedral - The Salt Cathedral is a marvellous piece of engineering. It is situated in the small town of Zipaquirá, which takes about an hour or so to go from the capital city. This place has a unique past - in the 1930s, the miners carved out a place inside a salt mine where they used to pray before starting the day's work. This was turned into a much bigger structure in the 1950s. Though this structure was closed for 5 years over safety issues, it is now open in full glory, and people in thousands visit there every Sunday to attend the mass.
  • Mount Monserrate - This place offers a bird's eye view of the entire city and is among the best places to visit in Colombia for awesome views. You have two options to go there - either on foot by hiking or by cable car. If you take a cable car at sunset, you can watch the entire city bathed in the last rays of the sun. You can also enjoy the sun setting on the entire city and have food watching the sea of glittering artificial lights slowly glowing as the sun makes way for dusk.
  • La Candelaria - The ancient La Candelaria district in the city's centre is a combination of pastel-coloured homes and eye-catching graffiti. You can get lost in the narrow, cobblestone alleyways to discover plazas, the Botero Museum, and a vibrant craft beer scene at night among other well-known attractions. This place has a remarkable past as well, with Bogota being founded in 1538 in this place only. You can go on a walking tour and explore more of its history on foot!

3. Guatape

Guatape, known for its picturesque colourful buildings, is another one in the list of famous places to visit in Colombia. The local houses are decorated with zocalos-murals of animals, village life, and important events. Among the best places to visit in Colombia for couples.

Guatape is worth exploring for the following -

  • El Penol - This is a monolithic rock structure and the centre of attraction in Guatape. As per the locals, the view from the top of this structure is one of the best in the world. You can check whether you agree with this by going up some 700 stairs to reach the top of the structure.
  • Paragliding - As we have seen in the list so far, Colombia has plenty of sites at high altitudes that you can check out for their great views. Nothing compares to the view from the top, though, for which you can reserve an hour’s paragliding with professional guides to take in miles and miles of gently undulating green hills, woodland, and, of course, the lake. Upstream of where you land, on the Guatapé River, you can cool off with an afternoon swim before heading back to town.
  • Calle del Recuerdo - Among the most famous places to visit in Colombia for its streets, it is made even more endearing by its vividly coloured buildings, hand-painted zócalos with sunflowers and doves, as well as more intricate murals that illuminate the town's history. If you are into photography, you can grab your camera and have a packed field day here at one of the most picturesque locations on your trip across Colombia. After that, you can relax with a coffee in the plaza and unwind.
  • Plaza del Zocalo - The Plaza del Zocalo is among the best places to visit in Colombia if you want a vibrant site with live music. It has an outdoor seating area in the style of an amphitheatre where you can simply chill and jam to the live music.

4. Tayrona National Park

Next to Santa Marta on the Caribbean Coast is one of the best places to visit in Colombia. There is only one major hiking trail in the park, and it can be reached from two points, the more well-liked of which is the El Zaino entrance. Most of Tayrona National Park's beaches are accessible from this end of the path. You can stroll around and observe various types of monkeys and other animals in the park.

  • Playa Cristal - There is no admission fee to visit this exquisite place if you are travelling by boat, although a fee would have to be paid at the park entrance if you are travelling by land. This white-sand place is ideal for relaxing after taking a hike throughout the jungle trek, although you can swim around and even go snorkelling here. 
  • Cabo San Juan - On the Caribbean Coast of Northern Colombia is the Cabo San Juan Beach, which is situated near other well-known beaches like Playa La Piscina, Playa Nudista, and more. This beach is perfect for spending a night, where you can rent a hammock or tent and enjoy the view of the place.
  • Nine Piedras - This is a trail mixed with dense forest and rocks near the sea coast. Commonly referred to as the ‘Nine Stone Trail’, there are nine big stones to see on this trail which signifies the nine concentric worlds of the Kogi universe.
  • La Piscina - This is one of the few beaches in the national park which is suitable for swimming. The sea is peaceful here and is ideal for both swimming and unwinding after the treks.

5. Cartagena

The charming city, situated along the Caribbean Sea, was first established in 1533 and quickly became a major port for the exploration of the Americas and the transfer of silver to Spain. Numerous powerful fortresses as well as churches, convents, and cloisters like La Catedral and Iglesia de Santo Domingo, were built to defend the important coastal settlement in the colonial period.

The Old Town of Cartagena is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Moreover, this city is one of the best places to visit in Colombia for foodies. You can enjoy some delectable regional cuisine and live music in the Getsemani area of town in addition to admiring the architectural treasures and soaking up the laid-back ambience in this historic neighbourhood.

Discussed below are some of the best places to visit in Cartagena -

  • Museo Naval del Caribe - This is a Naval Museum that showcases all the history of naval battles that the country has undergone during its colonial ages. Opened to the public in 1992, this place has several artefacts related to ships. Although the text is all in Spanish here, you can easily get a guide and explore the history of the region. 
  • Castillo de San Felipe - The Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas, among the largest fortresses constructed by the Spaniards in any of their colonies, still commands a significant portion of Cartagena's urban landscape. Although the initial building was fairly compact, construction on the 40-metre-tall San Lázaro hill started in 1657. This strong bastion was built on the entire hill in 1762 as a result of an intensive expansion project. It’s worth noting that the tunnels inside the fort are built in such a way that the slightest sound gets echoed throughout the walls of the fort.
  • Rosario Islands - 30 stunning Caribbean islands off the coast of Cartagena form the Rosario Islands, making for one of the most famous places to visit in Colombia. These islands have some of the most pleasant beaches in Colombia. It is the perfect place to relax after an activity-packed day of wandering across the cityscape of Cartagena. Isla Grande and Isla Baru are among the most famous sites in the Rosario Islands.
  • Getsemani - Getsemani Cartagena is well-renowned for its extensive collection of original street art. You can wander around Getsemani and discover what's around each corner - there are various pit stops for entertainment, shopping, bars, restaurants, and plenty of other attractions that make it one of the best places to visit in Colombia if you are looking to explore the streets. A wonderful place to start is the outdoor art gallery on Calle de la Sierpe (Street of the Snake), which has a picture of a half-serpent, half-sorceress that refers to a local myth.

6. San Gil

San Gil is a large metropolis with a small-town feel. This region is known as the "capital of the outdoors" of the country and is one of the best places to visit in Colombia for fans of extreme sports (no wonder its tagline - "La Tierra de Aventura" or The Land of Adventure!). While white-water rafting is the activity that the region is best known for, you can also try paragliding, caving, rappelling, and trekking here.

San Gil is home to Parque El Gallineral, a stunning nature reserve on the banks of the Rio Fonce, and a town square with a 300-year history. For adventure lovers, San Gil is certainly one of Colombia's best places to visit.

You can check out the following places here -

  • Cascadas de Juan Curi - It is a 180 m spectacular waterfall that forms a pool. Adventure seekers can rappel, while others can choose to relax by sitting on one of the rocks and enjoying a nice bath at the pool created at the waterfall's base.
  • Chicamocha National Park - This place has the second-largest canyon in the world. You can enjoy the canyon horizontally while paragliding over it and enjoying the breathtaking views that the landscape has to offer. You can also choose to enjoy it vertically by riding a zip line that takes you to the depths of the canyon. This place also offers fun activities for children.
  • Parque el Gallineral - It is a 4-hectare park located on a triangle-shaped island wedged between the Quebrada Curit and Ro Fonce arms. Barbas de Viejo (old man's beard), which are long, silvery moss tendrils that hang from the branches of many of the 1900 trees create translucent curtains of vegetation and filtered sunlight.
  • Rio Suarez - This river offers white-water rafting for adventure seekers. The rapids formed in this river are of class 4 or 5, which, in plain words, can make for a thrilling rafting experience. 

7. Cali

Cali, the third largest Colombian city, is also known as the 'Salsa Capital of the World'. Almost everywhere you visit in Cali, you will find rhythmic music with a group of dancers performing salsa, making it irresistible to just sit idle without swaying your feet to the beat of the local music.

The city hosts a lot of salsa clubs where you can just dance your nights away. Note that there is also a famous festival called Festival Mundial de Salsa, where numerous dancers and musicians perform live.

Here are some places that are worth a visit -

  • Popayan - The City of Popayan is situated in Colombia's southwest part. Due to its buildings’ chalk-white hue, it is also occasionally referred to as the ‘White City’. It has a thriving nightlife as well as the renowned Maundy Thursday Procession. You can climb El Morro de Tulcan, a viewpoint over the city that formerly held an Indian pyramid built in the 1500s, if you're searching for more daring pursuits. It's also a beautiful location to watch the sunset and is conveniently located for the same.
  • Iglesia de la Merced - This is Cali's oldest church, having been established in 1545. With a long, narrow nave and simple wood and stucco structure, it is a charming whitewashed edifice in a Spanish colonial style. Virgen de las Mercedes, the city's patron saint, lies atop a richly gilded baroque high altar inside.
  • Museo Arqueológico la Merced - This fascinating museum, which is housed in an 18th-century extension to La Merced, has a collection of pre-Columbian pottery that was left behind by important societies from central and southern Colombia, including Tierradentro, Tolima, and San Agustin. While exploring this place, you can also find Quimbaya bowls with elaborate paintings and Tumaco sculptures here.
  • Zoológico de Cali - One of the best zoos in Colombia, it has numerous indigenous species like mariposario (butterfly enclosure), oso hormigueros (anteaters), monkeys, chi guiros (capybaras), and so forth. This place also has an aquarium that contains a variety of Amazonian species.

8. Santa Marta

Located on the coast of the Caribbean Sea in northern Colombia, it is reportedly the oldest surviving city from the first Spanish settlement in Colombia. Santa Marta has evolved as a premier beach destination of the country, which adds to its appeal as one of the best places to visit in Colombia. Scuba diving and delicious seafood are some of the major highlights of this city.

The best places to visit in Santa Marta are discussed below:

  • The Lost City (Ciudad Perdida) - This hidden gem was built by Tayrona Indians between the 8th and 14th centuries and is one of the largest pre-Colombian settlements. It is a 44 km trek along rough and rugged mountainous and forest terrain. Its topography is an undulating one covered with a wide variety of flora and fauna.
  • Aracataca - This town is among the famous places to visit in Colombia for students of literature as the birthplace of Gabriel Garcia Marquez. You must visit Casa Museo (Museum House), the home where the Nobel Prize-winning Garcia Marquez was brought up. You can find various letters, mementoes, and photographs of the author that have been preserved.
  • Museo del Oro Tairona - Functioning as a Customs House in Spanish colonial times, you can visit this place to check out various artefacts related to Tayrona people.
  • Taganga - A fishing city with an old-school charm, this village city has a coastline on one side and cactus-covered mountain terrain on the other side. You can visit several cafes and restaurants to taste local delicacies after scuba diving and even interact with locals.

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