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What to do in Colombia ?

Summary

Among essential and confidential places :

Today I am taking you to Colombia, an exciting and diverse destination. Whatever you like, you will find a wide variety of activities to do in this South American country. To help you choose, I have prepared a list of the best things to do during your trip to Colombia. Follow the guide!

Things to do in Colombia : The Cocora Valley

KHY125 Wax palm trees of Cocora Valley, Colombia

While hiking

The Cocora Valley is located in the coffee region, near the city of Salento. This natural area is known for being home to the wax palm, Colombia’s national tree. The wax palms, which can reach up to 60 meters in height, are impressive and add a surreal dimension to the landscape. You will be able to appreciate all the peculiarities of this tree and many other surprising plant species during an excursion through the Cocora Valley. To get the most out of Colombia’s nature, I recommend hiring the services of a local naturalist and a French-speaking guide.

Things to do in Colombia : Tayrona National Park

Sleeping in the middle of nature

Tayrona is one of the most beautiful national parks in Colombia. Every year, travelers flock there to enjoy the beauty of the place. This park lends itself perfectly for long walks through the dense vegetation. The ideal is to spend a day and a night there to have the opportunity to sleep in this little corner of paradise. I guarantee that waking up in such a place will leave you with wonderful memories of your trip to Colombia. There are different itineraries, of which you can see more information in the article dedicated to Tayrona.

Things to do in Colombia : Visiting Cartagena

Plaza de los coches
Plaza de los Coches, Cartagena de Indias, Colombia

The beautiful port city

Cartagena is undoubtedly the city that you must visit on your trip to Colombia. Founded in 1533 by a Spanish conquistador, it has long been one of the most important colonial ports. Since then, Cartagena has preserved its architectural and cultural heritage. A visit to the old walled city, classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is enough to see for yourself. You will see the Castillo San Felipe de Barajas, a Spanish fortress built in 1536, perfectly preserved for its time. My advice is to go at the end of the day to admire a beautiful sunset.

Things to do in Colombia : Visit Bogota

City of bogota
Los Martires neighborhood in Bogota, Colombia

The capital of Colombia

Tourists in a hurry to get to the Caribbean beaches or the green valleys tend not to take time to visit the Colombian capital. However, Bogota has a very rich historical and cultural heritage. You can visit many museums, stroll through the historic center, admire the colonial buildings and discover local products in the Paloquemao market. When you go there you will understand, I invite you not to miss the visit to the city of Bogota.

Things to do in Colombia : Visiting Popayán

Popayan in Colombia

The white city of Colombia

Popayán is located in the Cauca region and is 1,737 meters above sea level. This charming city has all the colonial characteristics. During the visit, you will discover the architecture of the buildings, the whitewashed facades, the cobblestone streets and picturesque squares. Popayán has many beautiful churches. The city is also known for the quality of its gastronomy. Between walks and tastings, Popayán is an ideal place to spend some time.

Things to do in Colombia : The dunes of Taroa

In the desert of La Guajira

Located in Punta Gallinas, the Taroa Dunes are the northernmost natural site in Colombia and South America. Here you can climb the dunes and reach the top to enjoy a breathtaking view of the Caribbean Sea. The golden sand that rushes into the sea offers a magnificent spectacle, an ideal setting for beautiful photos. The Taroa dunes are also a perfect place to admire one of the most beautiful sunsets in Colombia.

Things to do in Colombia : Visiting Medellin

Safe and secure

For many, Medellín rhymes with Pablo Escobar and narcoterrorism. The city lived through a very dark period that left its mark. But today, Medellín has changed a lot. The various development plans have transformed the city and given it a good reputation. During your stay, you will be able to discover numerous cultural sites, pleasant neighborhoods and beautiful monuments. Medellín is not a tourist destination, so take the opportunity to immerse yourself in local life.

Things to do in Colombia : Palenque

Palenque and the history of African slaves

The history of San Basilio de Palenque is not common. Founded by a group of African slaves led by Benkos Biohó in the 17th century, it is considered the first free city in America. A true masterpiece of the oral and intangible heritage of humanity according to UNESCO, San Basilio de Palenque and its inhabitants have preserved a cultural heritage unique in the world. During your stay, you can discover the traditional music and dances, meet the famous Palenqueras and taste the delicious local cuisine.

Things to do in Colombia : Providencia y San Andrés

The paradise archipelago

Do you need to rest and escape? Then follow me to Providencia and San Andres, one of the most beautiful archipelagos in the Caribbean. Before choosing your destination, you should know that the two main islands are very different. Touristy and busy, San Andres is perfect for families and groups of friends. Travelers seeking peace and quiet will prefer the tranquility and exoticism of paradisiacal Providencia. As you can see, the archipelago of San Andres and Providencia is a coastal destination that suits everyone.

Things to do in Colombia : Visit Cali

Capital of salsa.

Santiago de Cali, or Cali, is one of the most beautiful colonial cities in Colombia. Its colonial architecture, cultural heritage and historical monuments are attracting more and more tourists from all over the world. In Cali, frenetic dance steps animate the streets and public squares. It must be said that everyone here eats, drinks, sleeps and breathes salsa. During your stay in Cali, let yourself be tempted by an introductory course to this traditional Colombian dance.

Things to do in Colombia : Visit Guatapé

Guatapé colombia
Piedra Guatapé, Colombia

Visit Guatapé and its hundreds of islets.

Guatapé is the king town when it comes to colored baseboards. The facades are eccentric. Each façade has plinths, these are traditional bas-reliefs composed of simple shapes or complex patterns and a myriad of colors. Behind its coloring book areas, Guatapé is also a quiet and peaceful town. I recommend spending two days here to have time to climb to the top of the Piedra del Peñol, a lookout point that offers a view of the hundreds of islets surrounding the dam.

Things to do in Colombia : The Famous Lost City

With an incredible walk

The Lost City is literally lost in the middle of the jungle, in the Sierra Mountains. It was founded by the Tayronas in 850. To reach the fascinating vestiges of this ancient city, I advise you to take the 4-day hike proposed by local agencies. This activity is reserved for adventurers who are not afraid to walk in the mud, cross rivers and sleep under the stars. The hike to the Lost City is one of the best activities to do in Colombia.

Things to do in Colombia : Talking to the locals

Very welcoming people

If you ask a traveler what he remembers from his last trip to Colombia, he will most likely answer: “the locals! Colombians are, in general, very friendly to foreigners. If the purpose of your trip is to interact with the locals, you will be delighted as soon as you arrive in Bogota. Interested and interesting, Colombians love to ask questions and answer yours. They are a source of information about the country, local life, religion, customs and traditions. Do not hesitate to visit them to learn more about Colombia.

Things to do in Colombia : Island Getaway

In the Caribbean Sea

What would a vacation be without a break on an island paradise? Long stretches of white sand and turquoise water await you in the Colombian islands of the Caribbean Sea. From Cartagena, you can easily reach islands that are very popular with tourists and locals. If you are looking for a more authentic place, I advise you to spend a few days on the island of Providence. This postcard paradise destination is far from the tourist crowds.

Things to do in Colombia : Colombian Sauce

Let yourself be carried away by the music.

Colombia is a very musical country. In the city, in the countryside, in the mountains or by the sea, you cannot escape the rhythms of Afro-Caribbean drums or the melodies of cumbia. And after listening to the music and watching the locals dance, you’ll definitely want to start dancing. In that case, I recommend you spend a few hours in Cali. This Colombian city holds the title of salsa capital of the world. Here you will see professional salsa dancers whose performance is very impressive. You will also be able to take your first dance steps and set the dance floor on fire.

Things to do in Colombia : Discovering a coffee plantation

The most famous in the world

The faithful coffee that wakes us up every morning and gives us energy to start the day undoubtedly comes from Colombia. The South American country is known for being one of the best coffee producers in the world. During your trip, I recommend you to visit the region called “The Coffee Triangle”, located between Quindio, Caldas and Risaralda. This is where coffee lovers gather to visit the plantations and learn about the elaboration process. During your visit, you will also have the opportunity to taste different coffees. After this enriching visit, you will never look at a cup of coffee the same way again.

Things to do in Colombia : Paragliding

In the Chicamocha Canyon

The Chicamocha Canyon is one of the largest canyons in the world. This exceptional natural landscape is perfectly suited for paragliding. This leisure activity, accessible to all, is ideal for discovering the Chicamocha Canyon. If you have never flown paragliding before, this is definitely the best place to start. Local agencies will prepare your first flight and make you feel safe. All you have to do is let yourself be guided, fly and soar like a bird over the Chicamocha Canyon.

Things to do in Colombia : Eat bandeja paisa

A huge plate of food

In Colombia, locals love to eat meat and, above all, to share a bandeja paisa. This typical dish is more like a huge platter of food for 4 people. It contains different types of meat, such as sausage, ground beef and pork belly. You will also find fried eggs, rice, avocado and red beans. All this is accompanied by arepas, small breads made of ground corn. As you can see, the bandeja paisa is reserved for food lovers and gourmets in need of protein.

Things to do in Colombia : Play Colombian tejo (shuffleboard)

An explosive bowling game!

Tejo is a traditional Colombian sport whose origins date back to pre-Columbian times. In practice, this game is very similar to French petanque. The player must throw a lead disc over a mound of clay containing small powder fuses. If the disc hits the fuse and explodes the powder, the player scores points. Shuffleboard is a very popular and festive game. Shuffleboard halls can be found in every town, big or small, so be sure to stop by and play shuffleboard.

Things to do in Colombia : Colombian Street Art

In Bogota and Medellin

Street art is a very present urban art in Colombia. Each mural is unique and you will see different types of creations. Graffiti can represent landscapes, faces or political scenes referring to current events. To discover the best of street art, I advise you to go to the capital. The streets of Bogota surrounding the city center are full of graffiti, each one more impressive than the other. You can also choose to take a guided tour of Medellín with a local guide.

Things to do in Colombia : Notre-Dame de Las Lajas

Located on the border with Ecuador, 7 km from Ipiales, the sanctuary of Nuestra Señora de Las Lajas is located at 2,888 meters above an enormous canyon. Since the 18th century, this place of worship has been considered an important place of pilgrimage. To reach the sanctuary, you have to climb 270 steps. Once at the top, you will discover a magnificent neo-gothic church built over a river. The sanctuary of Nuestra Señora de las Lajas is so beautiful that it was declared the second wonder of Colombia in 2007.

Things to do in Colombia : Villa de Leyva

See fossils

In Colombia it is possible to see dinosaur fossils. To do so, you just have to go to Villa de Leyva, a beautiful colonial town that I recommend you to visit. From Bogotá, Villa de Leyva can be easily reached on a day trip. Among the various fossils, you will be able to see the skeleton of a Kronosaurus, a 10-meter long marine dinosaur. This million-year-old giant was discovered in 1977 by a local farmer.

Things to do in Colombia : The Church of Monserrate

The heights of Bogota

Mount Monserrate reaches an altitude of 3,152 meters and dominates the Colombian capital. The summit offers a breathtaking view. You will also find a church built in the 17th century, as well as stores and some cafes. From Bogotá, the summit can be reached by different routes. The more sporty will opt for hiking or horseback riding, while others will prefer to take the funicular. From the top of Monserrate, you will quickly understand why Bogotá is called a sprawling city. To end the day admiring the beauty of the city, I advise you to stay until the sun sets in the capital city.

Things to do in Colombia : El Camino Real

Between Barichara and Guane

Barichara and Guane are two small and picturesque towns. They are linked by a marked trail called: El Camino Real. Suitable for all physical conditions, this hike requires 2 hours of walking. You will have plenty of time to discover the landscape, meet the locals or exchange with other travelers. El Camino Real is not just any road. It is a national monument, and was part of a vast network of roads in central-eastern Colombia that led to Cartagena and Venezuela. The Camino Real is a very pleasant way to discover authentic Colombian villages.

Things to do in Colombia : Celebrate Carnival

In the city of Barranquilla

Carnival is a popular festival all over the world. In Colombia, it begins in February and lasts four days. Carnival is especially festive in the city of Barranquilla. During this festive period, all stores are closed and the streets become pedestrianized. Neighbors are fully involved and participate in the animation of the city. Day and night, colorful processions, folkloric dances and traditional music take place to the delight of all the inhabitants. If you are lucky enough to be in Colombia during this period, don’t miss the Barranquilla Carnival!

Things to do in Colombia : Caving

In the Vaca Cave

The Cave of the Cow, also known as the “Cave of the Vache” in French, is a real playground for caving enthusiasts. They are very similar to the cenote found in Mexico. Located in San Gil, the Cueva de la Vaca is subway and partially submerged in water. You will see many rock formations such as stalagmites and stalactites, but also bats that have made this cave their home. To practice caving in the Cueva de la Vaca, you must be accompanied by a local guide who will ensure your safety and provide you with the necessary equipment for this activity.

Things to do in Colombia : Diving

Around the Colombian islands

Colombian waters hide an abundance of aquatic life. The discovery of the underwater world is possible thanks to scuba diving. Divers will have the difficult task of choosing. You can go to the island of San Andres or the island of Providencia to discover the magnificent coral reef. The most experienced divers will be able to access the surroundings of Taganga Island. All these islands and many others are surrounded by corals, wrecks, and of course, beautiful colorful fish. On Gorgona Island you can see groupers, sea turtles and even whale sharks.

Things to do in Colombia : Taste the aguardiente (brandy)

Colombia’s national drink

In the Caribbean, rum is the alcohol of reference. But in the rest of Colombia, it is the aguardiente that gets the applause. This very popular liqueur has a pronounced aniseed flavor, a bit like the Ricard or Pastis 51 that we know well in France. Only aguardiente has a much higher alcohol content (between 24% and 29%) and is much cheaper, which could explain its popularity among locals. However, I invite you to try this traditional alcohol the local way, without adding water.

Things to do in Colombia : Rafting

In the rivers of San Gil

San Gil is the tourist capital of Santander. There you can practice numerous leisure activities such as paragliding, hiking and rafting. This natural site is home to numerous waterfalls and canyons that add a little adrenaline to your trip to Colombia. Depending on your desire and physical condition, you can descend one of the three rivers: the calm Fonce River, the impressive Chicamocha River or the sporty Suarez River. San Gil is a natural leisure base adapted to everyone. It is a place to spend a pleasant day with the family.

Things to do in Colombia : Meet the arhuacos

In the Sierra Nevada

The Arhuacos are one of the four indigenous peoples living in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta. Highly committed to the struggle for the recognition of indigenous rights, this community is the most famous in Colombia. The Arhuacos have preserved a traditional way of life inherited from their ancestors the Tayronas. For a few days, they will welcome you in their village, and they will transmit you their tradition, their knowledge of medicinal plants, and their vision of the cosmos, which I find very interesting.

Things to do in Colombia : Meet the Wayuus

In the peninsula of La Guajira

The Wayuus are one of the largest indigenous communities in South America. They are known for having resisted Spanish colonization. Today, they open the doors of their rancherías, their villages made of mud and cactus wood. During your stay in northern Colombia, you will have the privilege of spending a few days in his company. This total immersion will allow you to observe their fishing technique, cook a typical dish and learn a lot about their traditions and beliefs.

Things to do in Colombia : Explore La Guajira

A desert of golden sand

La Guajira is a peninsula located in northern Colombia. This arid desert dotted with cacti and bordered by the Caribbean Sea makes for an amazing natural landscape. I advise you to dedicate a few days of your trip to explore La Guajira. This unique place in the world is full of activities, things to do and sights to discover. From net fishing with a local, to hiking in Bahia Hondita, to stargazing. There is so much to do!


Things to do in Colombia : Exploring the Coffee Triangle

The Coffee Axis

It is difficult to plan a trip to Colombia without including a stay in the Eje Cafetero. Located in the western part of the country and on the high Andean plateaus, this coffee-growing zone is composed of large green valleys, endless coffee plantations and charming colonial towns. During your stay in this UNESCO heritage site, you will have the opportunity to discover the secrets of the manufacture of the black gold, coffee. The coffee that you probably consume at home, without really knowing how it got into your cup.

Things to do in Colombia : Visit a cocoa farm

With local farmers

Colombia has long been a territory of illicit crops such as marijuana and coca leaf. With the prohibition of these products and thanks to the government program, drugs have given way to cocoa. During your visit to a traditional farm, you will learn that grain has been cultivated by indigenous communities for thousands of years. The farmers have preserved this ancestral knowledge and now share it with travelers who are curious to learn more about cocoa production.

Things to do in Colombia : Humpback whale watching

On the Pacific coast

Humpback whales love the calm of the Colombian bays. They come to take refuge from predators to give birth to their young. This natural event takes place between June and October. If you are in Colombia during this period, I advise you not to miss this unforgettable encounter with these magnificent creatures. In Nuquí, Choco, Utria or Gorgona Island, you will find agencies committed to responsible tourism that offer travelers the opportunity to observe humpback whales without the risk of disturbing them.

Things to do in Colombia : Palomino River

On board a buoy

Palomino is located on the La Guajira peninsula in northern Colombia. This small fishing village has become popular among travelers who love water sports. Many of them come here to try an amazing recreational activity: Floating down the Palomino River on a buoy. Don’t be fooled by appearances, it is not boring at all, on the contrary, you will be carried away by the current of the river, and you will have all the pleasure of observing the wildlife present on the banks of the Palomino River.

Things to do in Colombia : Visiting a village

Visiting a village and its colorful streets

Spanish colonization has left its mark on the Colombian people. Most of them have taken care to preserve the typical architecture of the period. The charming facades and colorful houses are a pleasant backdrop for a stroll and a photo session as a souvenir of your stay. If you like architecture and want to immerse yourself in local life, I invite you to take the time to stroll through the most beautiful villages in the country.

Things to do in Colombia : Guatavita Lagoon

The myth of El Dorado

The Guatavita lagoon is located 60 km north of Bogota. According to legend, this lagoon was sacred to pre-Columbian civilizations. The indigenous tribes gathered there to pay homage to the gods. During the ceremony, the chief of the tribe, covered in gold dust, bathed in the lagoon while the other members of the community poured all kinds of gold objects into the lagoon. The history of these ceremonies has strongly influenced the creation of the myth of El Dorado. In vain, the Spanish conquistadors undertook great efforts to recover the gold that fell to the bottom of the Guatavita lagoon. So watch where you put your feet, you might fall on some pebbles!

Things to do in Colombia : Explore Caño Cristales

The most beautiful river in the world

You read it perfectly: The most beautiful river in the world is in Colombia! This natural jewel located in the Macarena National Park is a must-see during your stay. Like me, you won’t believe your eyes: the water is literally multicolored! The five colors appear thanks to an algae present at the bottom of the river. To see Caño Cristales in all its splendor, you should plan your trip between June and November, when the place is open, and even better on a sunny day so that the colors are much more vivid.

Things to do in Colombia : Visit Mongui

An authentic village

Mongui is undoubtedly the most beautiful town in the department of Boyacá. In the past, Mongui was the territory of the Muiscas, a pre-Columbian civilization that worked with metals and precious stones. Surrounded by mountains, the village is isolated and difficult to access, but the magic of the place makes you forget the long road to get there. Its cobblestone streets, its colorful facades, its yellow ochre church, are sublime. From Mongui, you can climb the Páramo de Oceta, whose summit offers a fantastic view of the surrounding area.

Things to do in Colombia : Howler Monkeys

Howler monkeys in their natural environment

Howler monkeys get their name because they are considered the loudest animals on the planet. Their screams can be heard for almost 2 miles around. It is a shy species, their sound can be heard but not seen. These primates are difficult to observe, so I advise you to use the services of a local guide. He will help you distinguish the different types of howls and explain their meaning. To observe howler monkeys, I advise you to plan your excursion to the Bremen Nature Reserve near Finland.

Things to do in Colombia : La Tatacoa Desert

The view on sharp rocks in sunset light in Tatacoa desert, Colombia

The Colombian Colorado

Located in central Colombia, the Tatacoa Desert is a dry tropical forest that extends for almost 330 km2. With erosion, the red soils formed small canyons, reminiscent of Colorado. In some places, the paths are labyrinthine and you quickly lose your sense of direction. In the Tatacoa Desert, temperatures can reach 50 degrees, so remember to bring enough water before your trip.

Things to do in Colombia : Discovering a trapiche

In the Coffee Triangle

The Coffee Triangle is a region where cocoa, coffee, wax palm and sugar cane are grown. During his stay in the Andean highlands, I encourage him to visit a sugar mill, a place where sugar cane is processed. In these mills, you will learn all about sugar extraction. The people in charge of the trapiche will also teach you how to prepare panela, a typical Colombian product made from sugar cane. The visit will end sweetly with a tasting.

Things to do in Colombia : Discover the Amazonas

The world’s largest tropical rainforest

Do I need to introduce you to the Amazon, the immense rainforest crossed by the Amazon River? Like everyone else, you will have heard of it. And like many travelers, you will be tempted to spend a few days in the middle of this wild environment. The Colombian Amazon region opens its doors for you to discover the wild fauna and flora, as well as the many indigenous communities that live along the riverbanks.

Things to do in Colombia : Fishing in La Boquilla

Fishing in La Boquilla with a villager

La Boquilla is a town located north of Cartagena. Its inhabitants live mainly from fishing, which they practice according to an ancestral technique: the casting of the net! If, like me, you are curious, let yourself be tempted to take an initiation. On board a traditional boat, a local fisherman will take you to the center of the majestic mangrove forest. Then you can try to catch your first fish. Personally, I haven’t had much luck, but I’m sure you’ll manage to catch a fish that you can cook yourself with the advice of your guide.

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