Discover the best places to visit in Colombia, from lush jungles to beautiful beaches 🤩 Find your perfect destination for an unforgettable trip
As one of the most biodiverse countries on the planet, Colombia is a captivating destination blessed with stunning natural beauty and vibrant culture. From the colonial charm of Cartagena to adventures in the Amazon jungle, Colombia offers an array of magnificent places to explore. Read on to discover the best places to visit for an epic trip to Colombia.
Cartagena: Prettiest Place in Colombia
The jewel of Colombia’s Caribbean coast, Cartagena enchants visitors with its exceptionally preserved colonial architecture spanning charming plazas, ornate churches, and grand mansions of the Spanish elite from centuries past. Having withstood numerous pirate sieges in the 16th century, large swaths of Cartagena’s colonial structures still stand strong, having been painstakingly restored in shades of coral, yellow and teal.
A wander through the labyrinthine streets of the Old Town instantly transports travelers back in time to the era of Spanish rule. Must-sees in Cartagena include strolling past the bright bougainvillea framing the balconies along Plaza de la Aduana and admiring the imposing Santa Catalina Fortress. Foodies will delight at Cartagena’s bounty of fresh seafood eateries boasting decadent ceviche and hearty stews like sancocho.
As Colombia’s most visited city, couples on honeymoon, family travelers and solo backpackers alike all find appeal in Cartagena’s irresistible charisma. Accommodation runs the gamut from quaint boutique B&Bs to expansive luxury resorts right on the white sand beaches lining the edges of the walled old city. With flight prices remaining reasonable year-round, Cartagena shines at the very top of any Colombia itinerary.
Medellín: City With A Toughest Reputation in South America
Once troubled by its negative reputation, the city of Medellín has blossomed over the last two decades into a sophisticated metropolis renowned for forward-looking urbanism. With its vistas of lush surrounding hillsides, temperate year-round climate and blossoming arts scene, many deem Medellín the most “livable” of Colombian cities. While Medellín does have its share of slums on the outskirts, the most visited central neighborhoods exude an artsy allure interwoven with the warmth of paisa culture: locals who are reputed to be among Colombia’s friendliest.
Top attractions in Medellín include riding the Metrocable gondola high up the verdant mountain slopes, people watching amid vibrant street art in the El Poblado neighborhood, touring acclaimed modern buildings like the Parque Biblioteca España library, and visiting the compelling Museo Casa de la Memoria to contemplate Medellín’s dark history while gaining insight into its extraordinary rebirth. As Colombia’s second most populous city, Medellín offers visitors boundless cuisine and nightlife options from hipper-than-thou speakeasies to traditional discotecas pumping out salsa and reggaeton.
There’s more than enough to keep a traveler occupied for weeks discovering Medellín’s neighborhoods, but the city also makes an ideal base to explore charming small colonial towns on day trips: Jardín, Santa Fe de Antioquia or Guatapé for starters. With its forward-looking optimism and indulgent array of urban attractions, Medellín secures a spot near the top for those deciding where to visit in Colombia.
Columbian Metropolia: City of Bogotá
As Colombia’s cosmopolitan capital situated high in the emerald green mountains of the Andean cordillera, Bogotá dazzles visitors with its cultural dynamism channeled through world-class museums, progressive architecture and vibrant street art. Beyond the excellent dining and nightlife typical of a capital city, Bogotá contains understated natural beauty with charming cobblestoned historic neighborhoods rising to meet forested hilltops always in sight.
Can’t miss attractions include Bogotá’s standout Gold Museum showcasing the intricate craftsmanship of pre-Columbian metallurgy while the adjacent Botero museum celebrates Colombia’s most iconic visual artist: known for his whimsical depictions of pleasantly plump human forms. Further up the slopes, the graffiti-bedecked neighborhood of Candelaría invites long lazy rambles between street art murals, indie boutiques and cafés serving strong Colombian coffee against the backdrop of Cerro de Monserrate mountain.
Breathtaking Views of Salento
Nestled amid the undulating green peaks and valleys of Colombia’s coffee growing region, the pastel-hued village of Salento provides visitors with proximity to some of Colombia’s most spectacular landscapes. Just five miles from Salento lies the iconic Valle de Cocora, where hikers traverse misty forests dotted with wax palms: soaring 60-meter palms crowned with erupting bouquets of fronds.
Beyond Cocora, Salento offers easy access to tours of the numerous local coffee fincas: organic plantations scattered over the hillsides producing some of the best beans on the market. Here visitors can glean the Painstaking process of selective harvesting and artisanal roasting that brings Colombian coffee’s revered reputation.
Back in bright and cheery Salento itself, visitors find respite at the abundance of multi-colored cafés serving up fresh brewed cups with views over the terracotta roofs toward the looming gray-green mountains. Accommodation runs from budget friendly hostels to stunning hacienda-style lodges on lush plots just outside town. With temperate weather nearly year-round, Salento makes for an ideal base to access stunning natural beauty that has made Coffee Country one of Colombia’s most beloved regions.
Leticia – Place By The River
As Colombia’s slice of the expansive Amazon basin, visiting Leticia provides travelers with a chance to glimpse immense biodiversity amid intact tracts of lush jungle. Located where Colombia bumps borders with Brazil and Peru, Leticia offers easy access to river cruises, jungle treks with local guides, wildlife viewing platforms and visits to remote indigenous villages
Perched at the convergence of the Amazon and Yavarí rivers, Leticia makes accessing river transport feasible for multi day excursions deep into forest reserves where lucky visitors may catch glimpses of monkeys, sloths, river dolphins, toucans and anacondas. While basic, Leticia contains all necessary tourist infrastructure in the form of hotels, tour agencies and restaurants serving up tasty Amazonian river fish.
With its scope as a modest but bustling outpost, visiting Leticia suits adventurous travelers keen on an Amazon immersion without contending with the urban expanse of Manaus, Brazil just downriver. Travelers with ample time can continue journeys between Peru and Brazil from this unique tri-border town where Colombian hospitality infuses all interactions.
Tayrona National Park
Stretching along the northern coast east of Santa Marta, Tayrona National Park protects a dazzling array of landscapes from sandy coves lapped by crystalline waters to soaring jungle foothills of the Sierra Nevada. This protected expanse with its iconic views looking down over perfect beaches framed by palm trees offers both excellent eco tourist infrastructure and opportunities to lose oneself down empty stretches of sand.
While the beaches at the end nearest the road often swarm with weekend warriors from nearby cities, intrepid trekkers willing to hike in a few miles gain access to serene sites outfitted with hammocks and rustic restaurant huts. Snorkelers can spot stunning coral formations in sheltered bays like La Piscina while history buffs will appreciate a short trek to Pueblito Chairama – the remains of a lost city from the ancient Tayrona culture predating Spanish arrival.
With protected status for flora and fauna, Tayrona offers exceptional glimpses of local wildlife including everything from vibrant toucans to inquisitive capuchin monkeys accustomed to human visitors bearing snacks. Whether you seek relaxation, culture or adventure, Tayrona’s diverse landscapes check all the boxes for an engaging escape near the top of any Colombia travel list.
Legal Time Traveling with Mompox
Transporting visitors back through centuries of history to colonial era grandeur: such is the magic of Mompox. With its iconic setting on an island in Colombia’s great Magdalena River framed by flooded wetlands, Mompox both literally and metaphorically constitutes a place set apart from modern times.
Having once flourished economically but long-since bypassed as a bustling port, Mompox today stands virtually frozen in time, with minimal renovations to its historic structures. Here travelers wander cobbled lanes and marvel at Baroque churches, colonial mansions and humble adobe dwellings little changed since founding centuries ago.
With few attractions beyond atmospheric ambling through sleepy streets, visiting Mompox mainly suits those travelers with ample wanderlust able to appreciate a living museum city lost to time. Whether channeling scenes depicted in Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s novels or merely seeking to glimpse histories past, Mompox proffers poetic escape to eras of yore for visitors willing to venture off Colombia’s beaten track.
Cali: Colombia’s Salsa Capital
Known as the salsa capital of the world, Cali buzzes with infectious musical energy. From the historic neighborhoods of San Antonio and Santa Rosa to the bustling zona rosa, visitors will find no shortage of dance schools and nightclubs to experience authentic Colombian salsa. Even those with two left feet can join in the fun – just be prepared to dance the night away.
La Guajira: Where Desert Meets Caribbean
In Colombia’s northernmost region of La Guajira, the arid desert landscape meets the crystal blue Caribbean sea. The indigenous Wayuu people have lived here for centuries, traversing the arid La Guajira desert and fishing the bountiful waters. Top attractions include Cabo de la Vela with its iconic stone monolith “la piedra” and the pristine beach at Punta Gallinas – considered one of the most beautiful in Colombia.
Providencia: A Caribbean Gem
The remote island of Providencia lies closer to Nicaragua than the Colombian mainland, yet remains a Colombian Caribbean gem. With fewer visitors than neighboring San Andres, Providencia charms with quiet beaches, unspoiled coral reefs and a unique English Creole culture. Hikers relish the panoramic views from “The Peak” in the island’s mountainous interior. With a pace of life as slow as the island breeze, Providencia soothes body and soul.
Jungle Adventure at Ciudad Perdida
Deep in the jungle-clad Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta mountains hides Ciudad Perdida – an ancient city predating the Inca rediscovered only in the 1970s. The challenging multi-day trek transports adventurers to this archaeological wonder through rivers, waterfalls and cloud forest. Intrepid hikers reach the mystical stone terraces, plazas and circular platforms of the Lost City, once home to the Tayrona people until abandoned in the 16th century. For an epic jungle adventure, Ciudad Perdida’s spectacular setting and ancient aura can’t be beat.
Caño Cristales: Colombia’s Liquid Rainbow
In the remote Serranía de la Macarena region, Caño Cristales delights as Colombia’s most colorful river. Due to a unique riverweed, Caño Cristales turns vibrant red, yellow, blue, orange and green between July to November, earning it the nickname “liquid rainbow”. Local tour operators lead 4 day adventures from the town of La Macarena into this national park to experience Caño Cristales’ dazzling display amid waterfalls, jungle treks and stays in indigenous villages.
Nuquí: Untouched Pacific Coast
Overshadowed by Colombia’s popular Caribbean coast, the remote Pacific town of Nuquí rewards intrepid travelers with untouched natural beauty. Along the humid coastal jungles, waterfalls and beaches, you may spot humpback whales breaching just offshore or hummingbirds fluttering by. With limited development, Nuquí offers exceptionally pristine beaches and epic outdoor adventures minus the crowds. Prepare to be awestruck by the biodiversity abounding above and below the water’s surface.
Hacienda Nápoles: Pablo Escobar’s Former Estate
About 110 miles from Medellín lies a unique attraction: the former luxury estate of infamous drug lord Pablo Escobar. Though Escobar’s mansion no longer stands, Hacienda Nápoles has been transformed into a surprising amusement park. Beyond the water slides and hotels, a small museum grapples with Escobar’s legacy. More eccentric sights include Escobar’s classic car collection, life-sized dinosaur replicas and a 40-strong hippo herd – originally four pets that bred after his death. Controversial yet intriguing, Hacienda Nápoles makes for an only-in-Colombia day trip.
With dazzling biodiversity from expansive Amazon rainforests to soaring Andean peaks, coupled with vibrant cities full of culture and history, Colombia entices travelers seeking adventure, natural wonders, and lively urban energy. From untouched tropical coastlines in Nuquí to colorful colonial architecture in Cartagena, intrepid backpackers, culture enthusiasts and nature lovers alike will discover immersive experiences fitting their interests. Even haunting reminders of Colombia’s past conflict and drug trade era in places like Medellín and Pablo Escobar’s estate provide thoughtful contrasts highlighting the country’s extraordinary transformation.
Yet for all its diversity spanning two coasts, Colombia retains an underlying spirit of joie de vivre continually re-emerging since the difficult days of old. Whether joining locals salsa dancing long into the night, sharing stories over strong coffee in winding cobblestone streets, or gazing out in awe at caño cristales’ rainbow hued waterfalls, visitors cannot help but be captivated by Colombia’s innate magic. With so many superlative destinations covered in this article, travelers nearly need several trips to Colombia to experience it all. After even one visit, though, Colombia’s vibrant culture and stunning landscapes beckon to return again soon to continue the adventure.