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Home Travel The 14 best things to do in Colombia

The 14 best things to do in Colombia

With a sturdy peace deal in place and an ever-growing variety of worldwide guests, Colombia has seen a complete transformation in current years.

Hemmed in by the Caribbean and Pacific coastlines in the north and west and the Amazon rainforest in the south, Colombia comprises a few of South America’s most spellbinding surroundings and thrilling adventures. Wildlife-rich jungle, startlingly rugged high-altitude mountain paths and thriving coral reefs flush with tropical fish may be skilled all on one (formidable) journey. In the meantime, away from the wilds, trendy cities brim with music, tradition and welcoming folks. 

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For the curious, open-minded traveler, it’s tough not to fall in love with this nation – and even tougher to go away. Whether or not you’re in search of tradition, journey, historical past or showstopping nature, listed below are the highest things to do in Colombia. 

1. Raft the Rio Pato with ex-FARC guerillas

Splashing down via the Class III and IV rapids of the Río Pato in the Caquetá Division is an exhilarating expertise. And the thrill solely grows when you understand your guides are a mixture of ex-FARC guerillas and civilians, who use rafting as a way to problem views a couple of area of Colombia that was too harmful to go to through the many years of battle. 

Tucked deep into the tropical forests in southeast Colombia, the hillside village of Miravalle is residence to native tour operator Caguán Expeditions, which leads rafting journeys down what’s thought-about one of many nation’s best stretches of river for whitewater rafting. A community-operated museum affords particulars of the day-to-day experiences of FARC rebels earlier than the historic peace accords agreed with the Colombian authorities in 2016 befell, and offers you an perception into the lives of these being reintegrated again into Colombian life after many years of armed battle.  

A staircase deep in the jungle, part of the ruins of Ciudad Perdida (Lost City), Colombia
Reaching Ciudad Perdida takes a grueling trek via the jungle, however these dazzling ruins are well worth the effort © dunn4040 / Shutterstock

2. Tramp via the jungle to Ciudad Perdida, Colombia’s Machu Picchu

Ever dreamed of being an explorer? Mountain climbing via lush tropical vegetation for 3 days earlier than you even catch a glimpse of Colombia’s deservedly named Ciudad Perdida (Misplaced Metropolis) is a chance to expertise the exact same thrill.  

The muddy, ascending trails and humid temperatures of the jungle imply it’s a problem to get right here, however you’ll really feel all of the sweat was price it (the tears, too!). A really magnificent pre-Columbian metropolis, Ciudad Perdida was constructed atop a ridge in the northern stretches of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta by the Tayrona folks greater than 1000 years in the past. At present, the location stays all however devoid of tourists. 

It’s no marvel: it’s a tricky five-day round-trip hike to attain the location and one of the adventurous things to do in Colombia. Alongside the way in which, refreshing swimming holes and putting jungle surroundings guarantee your efforts are absolutely rewarded.  

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3. Be taught to salsa in dance-capital Cali 

Staking its declare because the world capital of salsa, party-loving Cali is a riot of music and dancing, regardless of the time of day or evening. Embrace the fluidity of your hips as you embark on a short however overwhelming love affair with Colombia’s favourite dance step, whether or not you head to a dance college or flow and rhythms at one of many metropolis’s famed salsotecas, similar to La Topa Tolondra or the native favourite El Rincón de Heberth. 

If visiting throughout September, don’t miss the Competition Mundial de Salsa, the place a raucous seven days sees greater than 5000 dancers from around the globe descend on the town in a fiercely contested competitors to establish the world’s best salsa dancer. 

A woman sitting on dock, seen from behind, at Crab Cay (Cayo Cangrejo), Providence Island (Isla de Providencia), Colombia
On attractive Providencia in the Caribbean Sea, you’ll be able to admire the Sea of Seven Colours for hours © Larissa Chilanti / Shutterstock

4. Snorkel in the coral reef surrounding Providencia 

Colombia’s Caribbean shoreline appears like paradise – and that description applies much more to emerald-green Providencia, a mellow tropical island that spans simply 17 km sq (6.6 sq miles) and lies round 800 km (497 miles) north of mainland Colombia. 

Mendacity off the island’s northeast coast, the McBean Lagoon Nationwide Pure Park is characterised by waters tinted with a wonderful patchwork of colours. It’s been dubbed the “Sea of Seven Colours,” a phenomenon brought on by the third-longest barrier reef system on the planet mendacity beneath the floor. Explosions of tropical fish, manta rays and even sea turtles are ever-present in these waters, that are crystal clear and bathtub heat, making this one of many best locations in Colombia for snorkeling.  

5. Be part of the social gathering on the Carnaval de Barranquilla

Colombia’s most enthusiastic road social gathering may be discovered in the pulsating streets of Barranquilla through the metropolis’s annual Carnaval celebrations. Kicking off formally on the 4 days earlier than Ash Wednesday each February or March (though smaller verbenas – pre-Carnaval public events – start some 10 days beforehand), these celebrations supply an enthusiastic show of pageantry, comprising 4 packed days of floats, magnificence queens, African and Indigenous beats and – in true Colombian style – loads of dancing. 

The Carnaval de Barranquilla is so integral to the identification of the town that the occasion was declared an Intangible Cultural Heritage by Unesco in 2008. It ranks among the many continent’s liveliest carnival celebrations, up there with Rio de Janeiro’s festivities and people held in Oruro in Bolivia. Throw your self into the dancing, and it’s possible you’ll even wind up becoming a member of an area dance troupe on their float, which may properly find yourself being one of many craziest things you do in Colombia – and one of the memorable things you’ll do, ever. 

6. Uncover Cartagena’s Indigenous heritage

The picturesque walled metropolis of Cartagena appears like a film set, with its historic plazas, majestic church buildings and restored mansions which have been transformed into swank boutique motels and eating places serving Caribbean-infused seafood dishes. 

However past Cartagena’s colonial opulence – constructed off the again of the commerce of enslaved folks and Spanish plunder, it’s essential to bear in mind – the town has a complete totally different aspect, one vacationers hardly ever see. On the Museo del Oro Zenú, you’ll see shows of gold artifacts from the Indigenous individuals who had been the unique inhabitants of the Cartagena area. At present, weavers from this group proceed to produce the normal Colombian sombrero vueltiao hat, which may be purchased at market stalls across the metropolis. 

To fulfill group representatives in individual and be taught in regards to the challenges they face as a tradition in trendy Colombia, participate in a community-led metropolis tour.  

A woman looks at the camera on a walk through Monrovia Garden, Medellín, Antioquia, Colombia, South America
A strolling tour via the Monrovia neighborhood of Medellín offers you insights into the town’s transformation © Alexandre Laprise / Shutterstock

7. Find out about Medellín’s extraordinary transformation 

Whether or not it’s Netflix’s Narcos or reviews from the ’90s which have coloured your perceptions, put together to be astounded by the truth of recent Medellín. Having shed the cloak of drug-incited battle, Medellín is a metropolis reworked, with such trendy neighborhoods as Poblado and Laureles showcasing upmarket eating places and vibrant nightlife – proof {that a} leopard can change its spots.

To get underneath the pores and skin of the town’s city regeneration and checkered previous, take a tips-based strolling tour with Actual Metropolis Excursions, whose native Paisa guides have lived via the metamorphosis and may speak with authority in regards to the metropolis’s rebirth. Their tour of the previous garbage dump–turned–thriving neighborhood of Moravia is equally enlightening.  

8. {Photograph} Colombia’s nationwide plant in the Valle de Cocora

Positioned in the decrease reaches of Parque Nacional Pure Los Nevados, one of many best nationwide parks to go to in Colombia, the Valle de Cocora is one in every of Colombia’s most fantastical locations. It preserves among the last snow-topped tropical mountains on Earth, and it’s residence to the nation’s curiously formed Quindío wax palms, which may attain the peak of a six-story constructing and tower over this lush valley. 

Take a Willy Jeep (an expertise in itself) from close by Salento into the valley, from the place a 15km (9-mile) hike heads up into the hillside for spectacular views of the palms, picturesquely surrounded by emerald hills blanketed with cloud forest. 

A man takes photos of works of art by Fernando Botero at the Museo Botero, Bogotá, Colombia, South American
The signature plump figures by Fernando Botero may be seen in Bogotá’s Museo Botero © posztos / Shutterstock

9. Discover Bogotá’s artwork and museum scene

Bogotá is a metropolis whose preliminary impressions belie what lies beneath the floor. Whereas its gridlocked streets, typically slick with rain, may take a while to traverse, the capital of Colombia is a cosmopolitan metropolis filled with dynamic nightlife and a wealthy vary of cultural choices. 

A staple of the town’s cultural scene, the Museo del Oro shows a thousands-strong array of pre-Hispanic gold artifacts to gawk at. Equally essential in the canon of Colombian cultural historical past is the Museo Botero, a museum devoted to Colombia’s most well-known artist, recognized worldwide for his humorously engorged figures. 

For a style of extra modern creations, head to the trendy La Balsa gallery, or take a graffiti strolling tour with Bogotá Graffiti Tour, which makes use of proceeds from tips-based excursions to make investments in group tasks across the nation.  

10. Keep on a espresso finca and pattern Colombia’s tastiest export 

World-class espresso is one in every of Colombia’s most essential exports, and low addicts will discover their home-away-from-home in one of many espresso fincas positioned in the luxurious hills in the Zona Cafetera.

Established fincas such because the fourth-generation Hacienda Venecia close to Manizales permit you to be taught in regards to the manufacturing of the bean and check out “cupping,” the act of tasting the flavors of freshly made espresso. However beware: you may battle to get pleasure from a cup elsewhere after making an attempt among the world’s best espresso beans at their supply.

11. Take a street journey to La Guajira, South America’s northern tip

After the luxurious plantations of the espresso area, La Guajira is an assault on the senses. This arid desert peninsula that spears out into the Caribbean Sea on the very tip of the South American continent is residence to among the nation’s most dramatic terrain. 

The major points of interest embody the fantastic ocher sand dunes of Punta Gallinas and Cabo de la Vela, which has ideally suited situations for windsurfing and kitesurfing. Though impartial journey is feasible, it’s best to arrange a tour from the regional capital, Riohacha.

One of the vital impoverished elements of Colombia, this area is residence to the semi-nomadic, Indigenous Wayúu, a folks famend for his or her weaving and whose methods of life and entry to water are threatened by Latin America’s greatest open mine. Guarantee your cash goes into native fingers by buying native handicrafts and utilizing sustainable operators similar to Pura Guajira Journey, who make use of Wayúu guides. 

A pre-Columbian stone figure of a flute-playing person at Parque Arqueológico San Agustín, Colombia
Researchers don’t but know a lot in regards to the pre-Columbian tradition that produced the intriguing and mysterious figures at Parque Arqueológico San Agustín © Jess Kraft / Shutterstock

12. Discover South America’s largest focus of spiritual figures 

Whereas Chile’s Rapa Nui (Easter Island) is understood internationally for its monolithic statues, Parque Arqueológico San Agustín in southwestern Colombia lays declare to the biggest clutch of pre-Columbian sculptures in South America. Archeologists nonetheless don’t know a lot in regards to the tradition relationship again to between 5 and 400 CE that carved hulking our bodies and fanged, animalistic faces from volcanic tuff. Positioned across the park, these figures mark the tombs of the tradition’s useless. Dwelling to greater than 50 burial websites, the archeological park is an enthralling (if mysterious) perception right into a tradition for whom demise was merely a transition into one other life and the place funeral rites had been a big ritual. 

One other web site believed to have been constructed by the identical tradition is Tierradentro, additionally price visiting should you’re in the world. This huge necropolis is believed to have been constructed between 600 and 900 CE and comprises 162 monumental burial chambers whose partitions are adorned with remarkably well-preserved and intensely complicated geometric designs.

13. Sleep in a country thatch roof cabin in Parque Nacional Pure Tayrona 

Need to relax and luxuriate in Colombia’s wealth of attractive seashores? For sunseekers, swimmers and snorkelers alike, Parque Nacional Pure Tayrona on the nation’s Caribbean coast is an actual paradise, the place white-sand seashores are lapped by crystalline waters and enclosed by tropical jungle stuffed with monkeys, toucans and wild cats. 

Greater than 30 spectacular seashores are positioned inside this park, though with deceptively sturdy currents posing a danger to life, simply six are secure for swimming. For a soothing couple of days, lease a hammock or a country thatch roof cabin proper by the seashore at Cabo San Juan or Cañaveral, from the place you’ll be able to wander to your seashore of alternative for a day of absorbing the sunshine. 

14. Stargaze in the Mars-like Tatacoa Desert

With its Mars-like undulations of purple clay, the purple Tatacoa Desert seems to be prefer it may have been transposed from Chile’s Atacama. It’s really a dry tropical forest, however what it does share in widespread with its Chilean neighbor is its world renown as a spot for crystal-clear evening skies, making it good for stargazing. 

The space’s heat, dry local weather is the important thing to the extraordinary visibility. For a stargazing tour, go to the Observatorio Astronómico de la Tatacoa in Villavieja, a middle constructed by a Colombian astronomer that comprises probably the most telescopes in the world, thanks to donations from scientists around the globe. The enthusiastic proprietor can introduce you to up to 88 official constellations on the clearest of nights.


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