Colombia has emerged as a top tourist destination in recent years, offering travelers a combination of natural beauty, cultural richness, and vibrant cities. This South American country boasts stunning landscapes, ranging from the breathtaking Caribbean coastlines and tropical rainforests to the snow-capped peaks of the Andes Mountains. With a rich history influenced by a mix of indigenous cultures, Spanish colonialism, and Afro-Caribbean heritage, Colombia offers a unique blend of traditions and cuisines.
Discover the beauty of Colombia’s tourist attractions and make the most of your travel experience with our essential guide. From the charming old town of Cartagena to the bustling streets of Medellin and the salsa-filled nights of Cali, there is something for everyone in this vibrant country.
Whether you’re seeking adventure, relaxation, or a cultural experience, Colombia has it all. In this blog, we will take you on a virtual tour of the 20 must-visit tourist attractions in Colombia, showcasing the best of what this diverse country has to offer.
20. Discovering the Historic Charm of Cartagena’s Old Town
With its cobblestone streets and colorful colonial buildings, Cartagena’s Old Town is a UNESCO World Heritage site, boasting historic charm and architectural beauty. As you wander through the narrow alleys and charming plazas, you’ll encounter the city’s rich history and vibrant culture.
The area is also home to impressive churches, such as the iconic San Pedro Claver Church, and fascinating museums like the Palace of the Inquisition. Don’t miss the opportunity to explore this enchanting part of Cartagena, where every corner has a story to tell.
19. Adventuring in Tayrona National Park
Hidden along Colombia’s Caribbean coast, Tayrona National Park is a paradise for nature enthusiasts. Its diverse landscapes encompass lush rainforests, golden beaches, and sparkling Caribbean waters.
Adventuring in Tayrona National Park offers opportunities for trekking, wildlife spotting, and unwinding in stunning surroundings. From the ancient ruins of Pueblito to the serene beauty of Cabo San Juan, every corner beckons exploration.
Immerse yourself in the rich biodiversity of this national park as you embark on an unforgettable journey through its natural wonders.
18. Unraveling the Mysteries of Ciudad Perdida (Lost City)
Hidden deep within the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, Ciudad Perdida, or the Lost City, is an ancient city that predates Machu Picchu by over 650 years. Accessible only by hiking through the jungle and crossing rivers, this archeological wonder offers an unparalleled experience.
The site consists of terraces carved into the mountainside, indicating a sophisticated urban center. Visitors can embark on guided tours, unraveling the mysteries of this ancient civilization while immersing themselves in the stunning natural environment. For adventure seekers, a trek to Ciudad Perdida is an absolute must.
17. Finding Peace in the Coffee Plantations of Salento
Nestled in the heart of Colombia’s coffee region, Salento offers a serene escape into the lush greenery of coffee plantations. The tranquil ambiance of this town makes it a perfect retreat for those seeking peace and natural beauty.
Visitors can take guided tours of the plantations, learning about the coffee-making process while surrounded by breathtaking scenery. Walking through the fields and witnessing the intricate process of coffee production provides a sense of calm and appreciation for this renowned Colombian export.
16. Witnessing the Colorful Explosion of Carnaval de Barranquilla
Carnaval de Barranquilla, held on Colombia’s Caribbean coast, is a vibrant explosion of color and culture. This four-day extravaganza showcases lively parades, traditional dances, and stunning costumes, offering a captivating glimpse into Colombia’s rich heritage.
The event features various musical styles, including cumbia and vallenato, creating an electrifying atmosphere. Visitors can immerse themselves in the infectious energy of the carnival, making it a truly unforgettable experience. With its pulsating rhythms and exuberant displays, Carnaval de Barranquilla is a testament to the country’s joie de vivre.
15. Ascending the Steps of El Peñón de Guatapé
El Peñón de Guatapé, located near Medellin, offers a breathtaking view of the surrounding landscape with its 740-step staircase. This monolithic formation, rising over 650 feet, is a geological marvel and a popular destination for rock climbing enthusiasts.
Visitors can marvel at the stunning vista from the top, dotted with interconnected waterways, islands, and peninsulas. The nearby town of Guatapé is adorned with vibrant frescoes, adding to the area’s charm and cultural appeal.
14. Exploring the Unique Ecosystem of Caño Cristales
Exploring the unique ecosystem of Caño Cristales is an unparalleled experience. This “River of Five Colors” is a biological wonder, boasting vibrant aquatic plants and algae that create a mesmerizing display of reds, blues, yellows, and greens.
Located in the Serrania de la Macarena National Park, this natural wonder is a testament to Colombia’s astonishing biodiversity. The best time to visit is from June to November when the river is open to the public, offering a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to witness nature’s breathtaking artistry.
13. Immersing in the Cultural Richness of Medellin
Immerse yourself in the cultural richness of Medellin, Colombia’s second-largest city. Known for its transformation from a notorious past to a vibrant present, Medellin offers a plethora of cultural experiences.
Explore the city’s thriving art scene with street art tours in the once-infamous Comuna 13 neighborhood, visit the Antioquia Museum to view works by renowned artist Fernando Botero, and indulge in the local culinary delights at bustling markets. Don’t miss the annual Flower Festival, a vibrant celebration of Medellin’s culture and heritage.
12. Venturing into the Depths of Salt Cathedral of Zipaquira
Venturing into the depths of the Salt Cathedral of Zipaquira offers a surreal experience blending spirituality and architecture. This underground marvel, located near Bogota, showcases stunning salt-carved sculptures and a unique ambiance.
Visitors can explore the illuminated tunnels, learn about the salt mining process, and admire the large crucifix. The cathedral’s design and cultural significance make it a must-visit attraction, reflecting Colombia’s diverse and rich heritage.
11. Experiencing the Exhilarating Salsa Scene in Cali
In Cali, the salsa capital of the world, experiencing the exhilarating salsa scene is a must. The city pulsates with the infectious rhythms of salsa music and vibrant dance performances.
Visitors can immerse themselves in the local culture by taking salsa lessons or simply by enjoying the electrifying atmosphere in the city’s salsa clubs and bars. The annual Festival Mundial de Salsa in Cali is a major highlight, attracting salsa enthusiasts from around the globe. Don’t miss the opportunity to sway to the enchanting beats in this salsa mecca.
10. Valle de Cocora
9. Gold Museum
8. Piedra Del Penol
Standing at 7,005 feet above sea level, Piedra del Peñol offers breathtaking panoramic views of the surrounding landscape, including the interconnected waterways and lush green islands. This monolithic formation is a popular rock climbing destination, attracting adventure enthusiasts and nature lovers.
Visitors can ascend the 740 steps to reach the top and marvel at the stunning vista, making it a must-visit attraction for anyone exploring Colombia’s natural wonders.
7. Tatacoa Desert
Tatacoa Desert, located in the Huila region, is a mesmerizing natural wonder often referred to as a biogeographical xerophytic dry tropical forest. Despite its name, it’s not a desert but a dry tropical forest.
The landscape is a mix of red and grey with unique rock formations. Stargazing is a popular activity here due to the remote location, unpolluted skies, and excellent visibility. Visitors can also explore the Cuzco and Los Hoyos deserts, home to diverse flora and fauna.
6. Castillo San Felipe de Barajas
Strategically located in Cartagena, the Castillo San Felipe de Barajas is an impressive fortress offering a glimpse into Colombia’s rich history. This UNESCO World Heritage site is an architectural marvel, designed to protect the city from invasions.
Visitors can explore the labyrinthine tunnels, strategically positioned sentry points, and imposing walls while enjoying panoramic views of the city and the Caribbean Sea. It’s a must-visit attraction for history enthusiasts and those seeking breathtaking views of Cartagena.
5. Botero Museum
4. Laguna de Guatavita
Steeped in legend and allure, Laguna de Guatavita is a place of great historical and cultural significance. Believed to have inspired the El Dorado legend, this stunning lake is nestled amid the picturesque Andean mountains.
Visitors can immerse themselves in the mesmerizing beauty of the natural environment and its rich heritage through guided tours and boat trips. The serene setting and mystical aura make it a must-visit for those seeking to connect with Colombia’s ancient past and the captivating wonders of its natural landscape.
Monserrate, a mountain that rises 3,152 meters above sea level, offers panoramic views of Bogotá. A funicular or cable car ride takes visitors to the top, where a church, various restaurants, and souvenir shops await.
It’s a popular spot for both religious pilgrimages and tourists seeking breathtaking vistas of Colombia’s largest city.
Monserrate also provides access to hiking trails for those wanting to explore the natural environment surrounding Bogotá. The mountain is a must-visit for anyone looking to experience the high elevation and stunning views of the capital city.
2. Cartagena’s Old Town
Nestled on Colombia’s Caribbean coast, Cartagena’s Old Town is a colorful and vibrant colonial city boasting cobblestone streets, bougainvillea-draped balconies, and centuries-old churches.
This UNESCO World Heritage site offers a myriad of attractions, including the imposing Castillo San Felipe de Barajas, boutique shops, and lively plazas.
Visitors can immerse themselves in the rich history and culture, savor local cuisine at quaint cafes, or simply meander through the charming alleys adorned with beautiful architecture and street art. Cartagena’s Old Town is an enchanting blend of old-world charm and modern allure.
1. Plaza de Bolívar
Frequently Asked Questions
Is Colombia Safe for Tourists?
Colombia has made significant strides in improving safety for tourists. While certain areas require caution, major tourist destinations are generally safe. By staying informed, being vigilant, and following local advice, visitors can have a rewarding and secure experience exploring the beauty of Colombia.
What Currency is Used in Colombia?
The official currency of Colombia is the Colombian Peso (COP). When visiting tourist attractions in Colombia, it’s essential to have local currency for convenience. ATMs are widely available, but it’s advisable to exchange currency at banks or official exchange offices for better rates.
Do I Need a Visa to Visit Colombia?
Yes, travelers from many countries can visit Colombia visa-free for up to 90 days. However, it’s important to check the specific visa requirements based on your nationality and the purpose of your visit. Ensure your passport has at least six months’ validity.
Best Time to Visit Colombia
High Season (December – March), when the weather is pleasant, and there are various events and festivals across the country. Shoulder Season (April – June, September – November) offers fewer crowds and lower prices with still favorable weather.
Low Season (July – August) is characterized by occasional rain but can be a good time to explore Colombia’s attractions without the tourist influx. Consider visiting according to your preferences and activities, keeping in mind the diverse climate throughout the regions.
High Season (December – March)
December to March is the high tourist season in Colombia, making it the perfect time to visit popular areas like Tayrona National Park and Cartagena’s Old Town. The weather is generally dry and sunny, ideal for exploring the Caribbean coast and indulging in outdoor activities.
Be prepared for larger crowds and higher prices during this period. It’s advisable to book accommodations and tours in advance to ensure availability. This peak season offers a vibrant atmosphere and an opportunity to fully experience Colombia’s beauty.
Shoulder Season (April – June, September – November)
The shoulder seasons in Colombia, from April to June and September to November, offer the perfect balance of favorable weather and fewer crowds.
During these times, visitors can explore the country’s diverse attractions, from the Caribbean coast to the Andean highlands, without the high influx of tourists experienced during the peak season.
The pleasant climate and decreased likelihood of rainfall make it an ideal period for outdoor activities such as hiking in Tayrona National Park or exploring the historic streets of Cartagena’s Old Town.
Low Season (July – August)
Visiting Colombia during the low season, from July to August, offers a unique experience with fewer crowds and lower prices. Although it’s the rainy season, particularly in the Andean region, coastal areas like Cartagena still enjoy pleasant weather.
This time is ideal for exploring the lush green landscapes and indulging in water-based activities on the Caribbean coast. While some attractions may have reduced hours, it’s a great opportunity to immerse yourself in the local culture and enjoy the tranquility of off-peak travel.
What to Pack for a Trip to Colombia
When preparing for a trip to Colombia, it’s essential to pack for diverse experiences. Light and breathable clothing is perfect for the warm Caribbean coast, while layers are ideal for the high-elevation areas. Comfortable walking shoes are a must for exploring cities and natural landscapes.
Don’t forget sunscreen, insect repellent, and any essential medication. A reusable water bottle can help you stay hydrated, and a small backpack is convenient for day trips. Lastly, consider packing a Spanish phrasebook to enhance your travel experience.
Clothes and Footwear
When packing for a trip to Colombia, it’s important to consider the diverse climate and terrain. Colombia’s climate varies greatly based on altitude, so packing layers is crucial.
For clothing, lightweight, breathable fabrics are ideal for warm, coastal areas, while warmer clothes are needed for higher elevations.
Comfortable, sturdy walking shoes are a must for exploring the cities and natural attractions. Additionally, packing a pair of water-resistant shoes for activities like hiking in Tayrona National Park or visiting Ciudad Perdida is advisable.
When planning a trip to Colombia, it’s essential to pack some specific equipment to ensure a smooth and enjoyable experience.
Be sure to bring a good-quality daypack for your daily adventures, a reliable and comfortable pair of walking shoes suitable for various terrains, a durable water bottle to stay hydrated, and a compact travel first aid kit for any unforeseen situations.
Additionally, consider bringing a portable charger for your electronic devices, a quick-dry travel towel, and a universal adapter for your electrical needs. These essentials will help you make the most of your exploration in Colombia.
Health and Hygiene Essentials
When traveling to Colombia, it is important to pack essential health and hygiene items for a comfortable trip. Basic necessities such as sunscreen, insect repellent, and hand sanitizer are crucial. Additionally, it’s advisable to carry any prescribed medications and a basic first aid kit.
Due to the different environments and water sources, it’s recommended to bring water purification tablets and rehydration salts. Insect repellent is essential, especially when visiting tropical areas.
Colombia is a country filled with breathtaking landscapes, vibrant culture, and rich history. Whether you are exploring the colorful streets of Cartagena’s Old Town or hiking through the unique ecosystem of Caño Cristales, Colombia offers something for every traveler. With its diverse attractions and friendly locals, it’s no wonder that Colombia has become a popular tourist destination.
When planning your trip to Colombia, consider the best time to visit based on the seasons and pack accordingly. Don’t forget to bring comfortable clothes and footwear, essential equipment, and health and hygiene essentials to ensure a smooth and enjoyable trip.
If you have any questions or want to share your own experiences traveling in Colombia, feel free to comment below. We would love to hear from you and help you make the most of your trip to this incredible country.
Ferona Jose is a passionate travel writer and blogger at Travelistia. She has traveled throughout Europe, Asia and the Americas. Her writing focuses on cheap travel destinations, travel experiences, cultural insights, and travel hacks.