Best Things to do in Colombia
Colombia is really something special, home to the emerald green landscapes of mountain-top Minca, the moon-like desert of Tatacoa, and the bright lights and unstoppable hum of Medellin and Bogota. Between the metropolis and remote landscapes are tonnes of other incredible places to see–all compiled into this complete travel guide. Enjoy all the top things to do in fantastic Colombia!
1. Hiking in Tayrona National Park
Who knew Colombian beaches could be this good? Dropped in Tayrona National Park for the first time, you could be forgiven for thinking you were on a Caribbean island. Huge boulders stick out of the sky-blue ocean, bordered by white sandy beaches and green forest.
This heavenly slice of nature is located on Colombia’s Caribbean coastline and is the perfect place to disconnect and unwind on your Colombia itinerary.
Hike through the forest, following the well-mapped walking routes. As you go, cross through dense jungle, over meandering streams, and spot fascinating wildlife as you go. Once you reach the beaches, take a refreshing dip and get ready for a night of stargazing ahead.
It’s possible to rent hammocks in Tayrona and enjoy a night out in the fresh air (no need to book ahead). It’s a unique experience you’ll never forget! See all accommodation in Tayrona National Park.
2. Cartagena Old Town (Must do in Colombia)
Discover the beauty of Cartagena Old Town, where colorful houses sit under vibrant flags blowing in the breeze. The atmosphere here is wonderful; watch the street artists or buy fruit from the traditional vendors in their brightly colored clothing.
Best of all, you can climb on top of the walls and sit and enjoy fantastic views of the city. Tourists and locals alike come here to enjoy a beer or picnic on the walls, watching the sun go down with the glistening skyscrapers in the distance.
3. Cocora Valley (Top thing to do in Colombia)
Home to the tallest palm trees in the world, Cocora Valley is an absolute top thing to do in Colombia! This painting-like landscape allows visitors to hike beautiful trails, ride on horseback through open valleys, or go off-road by jeep under the towering palms.
Start in the neighboring town of Salento and hop in a Willy (an old-fashioned jeep) that will take you to the valley. From here, you can choose to do the short or long hike, both of which take you among the 60-meter-high palm trees and the mist from the cloud forest. You also have the option to visit the Acaime Hummingbird sanctuary for a small extra fee. Here are all your hotel options in Cocora Valley.
Welcome to remarkable Guatape, one of the best day trips from Medellin and a top thing to do in luscious Colombia. This colorful village is worth visiting in itself, but its true claim to fame is the mammoth rock that sits just outside the village, towering over the surrounding lakes.
The 65 million-year-old rock, named ‘Piedra del Penol’, is actually climbable and has 675 steps to take you to the top.
The story goes that in the 1950s, a group of friends dared to climb to the top using only wooden planks. They succeeded and set about building a zig-zagging staircase so that other people could also reach the top and see the magnificent panoramic vistas. It reminded us of Lion Rock in Sri Lanka!
One of Colombia’s most unexpected landscapes is the extraordinary Tatacoa desert, a moon-like landscape of red and grey desert dotted with cacti. Follow the trail through the Red Desert, taking photos of the intricate, wavey soil formations and watching out for the exciting wildlife (look out for scorpions and snakes!).
Tip: Because of Tatacoa’s remote location, there is no light pollution making it the perfect place for stargazing. Take a visit to the observation tower in the area and use one of the giant telescopes. When the conditions are right, you can see the galaxy with the naked eye.
6. Colorful Salento Village
On the edge of the stunning Cocora Valley, discover the colorful highland town of Salento. The town is a popular stop off on a Colombia itinerary, and for good reason; the rainbow village has cute shops and beautiful viewpoints and is at the center of Colombia’s coffee region.
Aside from visiting the one-of-a-kind Cocora Valley, there are plenty of other things to do in this cute village. For example, chocolate making and coffee tasting or playing a game of Tejo (a traditional Colombian game) with the warm and friendly locals.
Although Salento is a little off the beaten path, it’s well worth a visit and a top thing to do in Colombia! See all your accommodation options in Salento.
7. La Candelaria, Bogota
Bogota is the capital city of Colombia and is known for its bright lights and skyscrapers. However, dig a little deeper, and you can discover charming districts home to colorful street art and cute houses. La Candeleria is one of them and the most famous for street art in Bogota.
It’s become a hub for artists who want to express themselves creatively and send political messages through art. There are plenty of street art tours you can join that will take you among the streets. The guide will also teach you about the murals, the history of street art, and a little about the artists themselves.
Because the neighborhood is so artistic and trendy, it has drawn people to open cool cafes, restaurants, bars, and shops. Because of this, there’s plenty to do in this district. The area is also home to one of the most famous squares in the city: Plaza Bolivar.
The plaza was named after the icon of independence Simon Bolivar. You’ll find many regal buildings surrounding the square, and it’s a great place to hang out in the evening. See all hotels in Bogota.
Many hotels and hostels have swimming pools, great places to practice yoga and meditation, and even giant hammocks to sit in and look out over the treetops. See all hotels in Minca.
Between 2002-2008, the government waged war on the area promising rewards to those who killed guerillas themselves. Placing this power in the hands of the people was exceptionally dangerous, and many innocent people were killed, and their bodies dressed up as guerillas. In fact, over 400 people are buried in a mass grave in the area.
Despite this horrible history, the area has come back stronger, with the community uniting for a better future for its people, encouraging creativity through the form of street art, music, and dance.
We recommend doing this fantastic tour with Zippy Tours, run by people from the area who’ll teach you everything you need to know. The tours are free, but please leave a good tip for the guide and a donation that will go back into the community.
Life slows down here, as you relax on swinging hammocks under the palms, stop to smell the beautiful flowers and gorgeous mango trees. In the morning, you’ll hear only the sound of crashing waves and parrots flying through the trees, the perfect preface to your tropical fruit breakfast.
In town, you’ll find lots of lovely artisanal shops and delicious restaurants where you can hang out and watch the world go by. Alternatively, for more action, go surfing, waterfall hopping, or even experience tubing down the wide-open river in Palomino. There’s something for everyone in this fun Colombian town. See all hotels in Palomino.