For all it’s infamous recent history, 21st Century Colombia is one of South America’s most absorbing and interesting travel destinations. Visit Colombia today and your time could be spent scuba diving in crystalline seas, staying in exclusive beach resorts, visiting rural coffee plantations, or getting to grips with the intoxicating cities of Medellin and Bogota – and that’s just the start. 

There are forests, hills and coastline to explore in Colombia, plus cultural hot spots, history and museums across the country that make every visit different from the next. So, to get your ideas going, we’ve looked at some of our top places to visit in Colombia ready to help you plan that perfect South American trip.

Amazing destinations to visit in Colombia: 

  1. Bogota
  2. Tayrona & Santa Marta
  3. Cartagena
  4. Coffee Region
  5. Medellin
  6. San Andrés

BOGOTA

Colombia’s bustling capital, Bogota, has something for all the senses and makes for a great start to any trip. Too often tourists will simply fly in and out of Bogota, but there is so much more to enjoy about this vibrant city. 

To get a taste of Colombia’s colorful history, Bogota’s Gold Museum is a dazzling place to start, before a tour around the UNESCO-World Heritage Site of La Candelaria. Here you can witness pretty colonial buildings and modern graffiti murals all in the same place. In fact, following the incredible graffiti murals around the city is a great way to explore, while seeing some local artwork at the same time.

Bogota is surrounded by hills and mountains, so an ascent up Cerro de Monserrate for elevated views of the city is an absolute must. You can take in a show, try out one of the many delectable restaurants around town, and admire over 130,000 plant species in the Jardín Botánico de Bogotá while in the city. 

What’s more, there are some fantastic day trips and 2-day tours to enjoy while here – none more so than the quaint colonial town of Zipaquirá, and the famous underground Salt Cathedral nearby. This spectacular site can be found 200 meters underground in the tunnels of an old salt mine, and makes for an enchanting excursion on your way to Zipaquirá itself. 

 

TAYRONA

And, for anyone keen on history and adventure, a trek to the wonderfully preserve ancient ruins of Pueblito, deep in the forest, makes for a magical addition to any tour.

Tayrona National Park in northern Colombia is just beautiful. A rugged, coastal national park of windswept bays, lush forests and wildlife, the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta Mountain Range, and even ancient ruins to discover amongst the jungle.

Tayrona is often seen as a beach destination and rightly so. The resort town of Santa Marta has some good hotels and is a handy spot for travel connections. There are some fantastic eco lodges to stay in here and the wild coastline is gorgeous. However, some beaches in Tayrona are not suitable for swimming due to the currents so always do your research in advance. 

There is a laidback beach town vibe along the coastline of Tayrona, yet more treasures lie within the deep green forests and hills that cushion the bays. The Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta Mountains are the highest coastal mountain range in the world, and the surrounding foothills and forests are home to all kinds of wildlife like monkeys, iguanas, bird species and even caiman in the wetlands. 

And, for anyone keen on history and adventure, a trek to the wonderfully preserve ancient ruins of Pueblito, deep in the forest, makes for a magical addition to any tour.

CARTAGENA

Some say that the Old Town in Cartagena is the best example of colonial architecture in South America. It’s hard to disagree. This is still a living and breathing part of Colombia and, as pretty and colorful as every street is with their brightly painted houses and hanging baskets, it’s not a show just for tourists. 

Cartagena Old Town is undoubtedly the main attraction, especially wandering around the historical districts of El Centro, San Diego, and the many churches, monasteries, and palaces found around each central plaza. 

Elsewhere you can visit the grizzly Palacio de la Inquisición, where the brutal Spanish Inquisition was carried out locally in the 17th century, or the impressive San Felipe de Barajas Castle which is nearly 700 years old. 

Being coastal, Cartagena is also great for boat trips, scuba diving and a trip to the tropical Rosario Islands and their pristine beaches. Bliss.

THE COFFEE REGION

Staying in the west, Colombia’s Coffee Region is as scenic as it is culturally significant. A sprawling landscape of verdant hills, palm trees and mile upon mile of coffee plantations in the Paisa Region of Colombia, this area offers a complete change of pace from the busy cities and coastal resorts.

While here, you can stay on working plantations and get a first-hand experience of rural life in the Colombian countryside in places like the Valle Cocora, and Filandia, as well as nature in the Los Nevados National Park, Los Arrieros Park, or the thermal pools and waterfalls of Santa Rosa de Cabal for a real treat.

Larger towns in Colombia’s Coffee Region include Salento, Manizales, and Pereira, though it’s all about the plantations themselves and a farming way of life when visiting this part of the country.

MEDELLIN 

Of course, you can’t visit Medellin without acknowledging the city’s checkered past. The former home and stronghold of Pablo Escobar and his violent gangs, Medellin was once synonymous with organized crime and violence. 

Today, Medellin is better known as an artistic place of interesting urban areas, great nightlife and green spaces. El Castillo Museo y Jardines is well worth a visit while in Medellin, so too the Museo de Antioquia, Botanical Gardens and Plaza Minorista Market for all kinds of fresh produce – local style. 

There’s plenty of restaurants and both dance classes and performances to enjoy across Medellin, as well as day trips like the unmissable Guatapé – a colorful town known for outdoor sports and the fantastic views from El Peñón de Guatapé Mountain, which you can scale via a huge staircase!

SAN ANDRES 

The coral island of San Andres, near Nicaragua, hosts some idyllic hotels and gorgeous sandy beaches, Caribbean culture and the lip-smacking cuisine that goes with it. San Andres is, in fact, 500miles from the coast of Colombia so you’ll need to get a flight to the island. Though once here, you’ll be treated to bright blue seas, watersports aplenty, snorkeling and scuba diving during your stay. 

For less active types, or if a trip to San Andres comes at the end of a busy Colombia tour, you’ll find plenty of places for pure rest and relaxation, sunbathing and long lunches while here, too.

No matter what your interests or group size, speak to the South America travel specialists at info@atelier.travel and they will craft your dream tailormade tour.

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