Once a dangerous country that was largely cut off from tourism, today Colombia is an increasingly popular destination. With a rich history and culture, and an incredibly diverse landscape that spans snow-capped peaks, lush jungles and rainforest, vast deserts, and tropical beaches, there’s so much to do and see in the Gateway to South America. Here are the seven best things to see in Colombia.

Vibrant cities

Bogotá, Cartagena, and Medellin are all large cities, but they are also vibrant, unique, and well worth visiting. The largest city in Colombia and its capital, Bogotá is a heady mix of urban cool, colonial charm, excellent museums, and a lively culinary scene. Considered the crown jewel of the Caribbean coast, the port city of Cartagena is full of history and culture. A visit to its renowned colonial Old Town is a must and a step back in time, while upscale Bocagrande offers a chic beach destination. Situated in the Aburrá valley, Medellin has shed its crime-ridden image to become an innovative and modern city with lush eco parks, hillside settlements, and a vibrant nightlife scene. You can visit these cities with our 8 Day Classic Colombia package.

Colorful colonial towns

Colombia is filled with colorful colonial towns (or pueblos), many dating from the 16th century, with plenty of charm and well-preserved architecture. No visit to the country would be complete without a visit to some of these historic sites. Barichara, with its red tiled roofs and cobblestone streets, is considered the country’s prettiest. Guatapé is considered its most colorful, with buildings painted in vibrant and dazzling shades, while Popoyán is known as the ‘White City’ (Ciudad Blanca) for its chalk white buildings. Villa de Leyva’s massive Plaza Mayor is one of the largest town squares in South America and a sight to behold, while sleepy Santa Cruz de Mompox is famous for its well-preserved buildings and pretty riverside views.

National parks and nature reserves

Colombia is home to nearly 60 natural national parks and nature reserves, covering everything from the tropics to the mountains and everything in between. Tayrona is one of the country’s most popular parks, and it’s easy to see why. Where the mountains and jungle meets the sea, the park offers beautiful beaches, jungles, cloud forests, and incredible biodiversity. For snow-capped mountains, head to El Cocuy or Los Nevados, which is also home to the active Volcano Ruiz, or explore the glacial lakes of Chingaza. Don’t miss Sierra de la Macarena and the rainbow colored rivers of Caño Cristales, lush waterfalls, and lovely swimming holes. See wildlife among the green grassland of El Tuparro or explore the flooded tropical rainforest of Amacayacu.

Coffee farms and towering palm trees

Colombia is one of the top coffee growing regions in the world, with the majority of the production centered in the Coffee Region (Eje Cafetero or Zona Cafetera). Many of the coffee farms (or fincas) are open to visitors, and offer tastings and insights into the coffee growing process. Salento is one of the oldest towns in the area, and a popular base for exploring the region. It’s also close to the Cocora Valley (Valle Cocora), home to the wax palm—the tallest palms in the world and Colombia’s national tree, they can grow to nearly 200 feet tall! Other area highlights include charming Filandia, known for its handicraft, and the hot springs of Termales San Vicente and Termales Santa Rosa.

Scenic beaches and tropical islands

With two coastlines, along the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, there’s no shortage of beaches in Colombia. Enjoy some of the country’s prettiest beaches in Tayrona National Park and nearby Playas de Palomino. Cartagena offers easy access to several beaches, including Playa Blanca, Manzanillo del Mar, and La Boquilla. Located off the coast of Cartagena, the Roasario Islands are a group of 30 islands, offering secluded beaches, and an incredible underwater ecosystem that’s protected as a national park. For a truly idyllic experience, head to one of the islands of San Andrés archipelago, near the coast of Nicaragua: Providencia, San Andrés, and Santa Catalina, with gorgeous gold and white sand beaches, clear waters, and a laid-back vibe.

Lost cities and ancient ruins

Hidden deep in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta mountains, the Lost City (Ciudad Perdida) was only discovered in the 1970s. Established in the 8th century, the former Tayrona capital features 169 carved terraces, making it one of the largest pre-Colombian settlements ever discovered and much older than Machu Picchu. In southwest Colombia, the small mountain town of San Agustín is home to more than 500 statues, monoliths, and burial mounds created by a mysterious culture between the first and 12th centuries. Meanwhile, more than 100 unusual and elaborate underground tombs have been found in and around Tierradentro. Unique in the Americas, they were left by an unknown culture.

Remote dunes and deserts

The remote desert peninsula of Guajira is the northernmost point in Colombia, and all of South America. Home of the indigenous Wayuu tribe, it’s a stark and surreal landscape where a massive dessert meets towering sand dunes and the glistening ocean. Colombia’s kite-surfing capital, Cabo de la Vela, can also be found here. For a truly surreal landscape, head to the Tatacoa Desert (Desierto de Tatacoa). Filled with dramatic red and gray sculpted canyons and surrounded by mountains, the sky here is incredibly clear, making it a great spot for stargazing, and an ideal location of an observatory.

Posted by Gate 1 Travel

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