In recent years Colombia has become one of the hottest new destinations in Latin America and with very good reasons. Its people are incredibly welcoming, it has everything from the Amazon rainforest to the rugged wild coast that overlooks the warm waters of the Caribbean Sea, beautiful colonial cities, some of the world’s best cafes and a whole series of fascinating colonial and archaeological treasures to explore.
Colombia is a tempting mix of old and new: fascinating urban centers and cobblestone streets left behind by Spanish colonial times, intertwined with a thriving cultural scene and a warm and spicy nightlife that extends into the early hours of the morning. Whether you want to feel the Caribbean sand between your toes on the beaches of the Tayrona National Park, climb through the highest waterfalls in Colombia to San Gil, or take a partner and dance to the rhythm of rhythms influenced by Afro. Colombia is calling as the best kept secret in South America.
A unique biological wonder, Caño Cristales has been called the “river of the five colors”, “the river that escaped from paradise” and “the most beautiful river in the world”.
For most of the year, Caño Cristales is indistinguishable from any other river: a bed of rocks covered with opaque green mosses are visible under a fresh and clear current.
However, for a short period of time each year, the river blossoms into a vibrant explosion of colors. During the short interval between the wet and dry seasons, when the water level is right, a unique species of plant that runs along the bottom of the river called Macarenia clavigera becomes bright red. It is offset by patches of yellow and green sand, blue water and a thousand shades in the middle.
This happens only for a short period between the seasons. During the rainy season in Colombia, the water flows too fast and deep, obscuring the bottom of the river and denying Macarenia clavigera the sun that must turn red. During the dry season, there is not enough water to support the dazzling array of life in the river. But for some weeks from September to November, the river turns into a true living rainbow.
Caño Cristales is located in an isolated and isolated area, not easily accessible from the road. Adventurous tourists can now fly to the nearby town of La Macarena. From there it is a short trip to “Serrania de la Macarena”, the national park where Caño Cristales is located.
Swimming is allowed only in designated areas. Swimmers should not wear sunscreen so as not to destroy the fragile ecosystem.
Trekking in the lost city
La Ciudad de Perdida (the lost city) lies deep in the jungle of the Sierra mountains. The point of the 4-day trek is to reach the fascinating hidden ruins built in 850 AD from the Tayrona people. The 4-day trip is epic. Get ready to sleep on the bunk beds, go trekking in the mud and cross the rivers. This is an adventure you will never forget.
Windows of Tisquizoque
At this waterfall, a river explodes from the mouth of a cave high up on a mountain. Water rushes towards the ground in a burst of bubbles and fog in a majestic and powerful spectacle.
Visiting this amazing place feels like entering a Jurassic Park movie. This hidden jewel of Colombia is located in the eastern Andes and has remained largely outside the typical tourist trail. Strangely, someone has erected a giant Godzilla-like creature to protect the entrance, adding an artistic human touch to this otherwise natural wonder.
The cave, which takes its proper name, acts like a window. Those who make the uphill hike to explore inland are rewarded with spectacular views of the countryside. The cave also acts as a window on the geological past of the area, allowing visitors to witness the power of a river determined to overcome any obstacle that may hinder it.
The river that forms the waterfall winds through a deep canyon that eventually stops. A combination of erosion and underlying geology has allowed the river to dig through the mountain wall, forming a cave that extends for about 650 feet. The river then flows out of the cave opening, causing a three-tiered waterfall that roars loudly as the water falls into the air.
The place name comes from the chief (cacique) who ruled this land when the Spanish invaded. Legend has it that he jumped to death after challenging the Spaniards, who tried to enslave his people.
Visit A Coffee Plantation
Colombia is famous for its coffee. Although in the past the country – which is the world’s third largest coffee producer – exported all the good things, Colombians have recently started to keep the best for themselves.
There is no better way to trace the legacy of Colombian coffee than to visit a plantation. Travelers can take a ride in a traditional “Willy” car, an American car used in World War II that is now loved by Colombians to transport things around.
From Salento, a small town deep in the coffee triangle of the country, five kilometers of dusty tracks head towards Finca El Ocaso, where coffee experts will accompany visitors through the process from seed grinding to coffee, culminating in a lesson on how to make the perfect cup of coffee.
Don’t forget to buy a bag to take home.
Take an excursion to the Paramo National Park of Chingaza
A trip to Chingaza National Park is an opportunity to discover the rare Paramo ecosystem and some of the resilient wildlife species that inhabit this beautiful but inhospitable environment. Just two hours drive from Bogota and spread over an altitude of 3,400–3,800 meters (12,467 feet) leaving you a little out of breath, you’ll find climatic conditions ranging from freezing rain to sun often burning on the same day. Wear layers of waterproof clothing that you can peel off if necessary.
You will encounter the fragile, odd-looking frailejón, the iconic paramo plant, and if you venture deep enough into the park, you might even catch a glimpse of the extremely shy Andean bear.
Explore the country’s rainforest
If you’ve ever dreamed of sleeping in a child’s tree house, the Chicaque Natural Park could only be a dream come true. Chicaque is located in the rainforest ecosystem just an hour from Bogota and is home to over 300 different species of birds, including hummingbirds and toucans.
Visitors interested in staying in the park during the night can book a night in one of the two ecolodges of the park’s tree house, which both offer great views of the reserve. The Big Oak Nest is the simplest of the two accommodations, allowing up to six people to spend the night in sleeping bags on the 25 meter high platform. The Tanager’s nest offers more comfort in the form of a cabin and terrace built around a walnut tree eight meters above the ground. It contains a double and a single bed and has a toilet inside the cabin.
Take an excursion to the Cocora Valley
Surrounding the city of Salento in the Quíndio coffee department, you will find the picturesque Valle de Cocora. This area is special because here grows the national tree of Colombia (Wax Palm). Doting the landscape are these cartoon-like trees, 60 meters high. A five-hour hike through the rainforest is one of the best things to do in Colombia as a whole, and particularly in Salento.
Explore the old city of Cartagena
The Caribbean port city of Cartagena is a melting pot of colors, culture and flavor. The walled city (known locally as San Diego) is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the brightly colored colonial buildings adorned with exotic flowers seem to have come out of a painting.
The best way to experience the old city of Cartagena is to take a walking tour and continue exploring for yourself later. Cartagena has something for everyone. There is a wide range of fashionistas boutiques, art lovers will love the Museum of Modern Art and gourmets will be spoiled by the wide range of gastronomic offers. For some fantastic views and a cold beer at the end of the day, head to the Café del Mar on the city walls at sunset, the views more than make up for the price of the
Blue anoles of the island of Gorgona
On the island of Gorgona, about 20 miles west of mainland Colombia, you can find all sorts of unique wildlife thanks to its isolation from the mainland for thousands of years. None of these interesting creatures, however, stands out as much as the blue anole (Anolis gorgonae), the only pure blue reptile in the world. Found only on this small Colombian island.
Little is known about this unique and surprising species of anole. Despite multiple scientific excursions to learn more about the nature of the distinctive lizard, the elusive behavior of the blue anole has made it difficult for scientists to properly study the population and their number. It is known that anole is highly threatened due to habitat loss and the introduction of other fauna on the island.
The blue anole saw the greatest threat to its conservation during the 1950s, when a penal colony was built on Gorgona to house some of Colombia’s most dangerous criminals. Despite the closure of the prison in 1984 (and the subsequent designation of the island as a natural national park), the blue anole population has yet to recover. Recently, introduced species such as the Western basilisks have preyed on the blue anole, further threatening the species. There are now plans to place the rare reptile in a captive breeding program to safeguard its existence for future generations.
The only pure blue lizard in the world lives exclusively on this secluded tropical island.
Guatavita Lake “The Eldorado”
Lake Guatavita, also known as Laguna de Guatavita, is a beautiful nature reserve located just two hours from Bogotá. After climbing 150 steps up to its crater-like edge, travelers can immerse themselves in view of the lush surrounding Cundinamarca countryside and the almost perfect circular lagoon below. The verdant lake was also once a sacred ritual place of the Muisca civilization (the indigenous peoples originating from central Colombia), which eventually led to the myth of El Dorado.
Go whale watching on the Pacific coast
Humpback whales migrate from the Antarctic to the warm waters of the Pacific region of Colombia every year between July and September to breed. Bahia Solano and El Valle in the Chocó department are excellent options for whale watching and there are various hotels and eco-lodges, such as The Humpback Turtle, which offer whale watching tours.
Furthermore, the nearby Utria National Park is a portrait of beauty and biodiversity, with great opportunities for hiking, kayaking and birdwatching. The easiest way to reach this remote coastal region is to fly with Satena airlines from Medellin.
Walled city of Cartagena
Cartagena is a city located on the Caribbean coast of Colombia. At the end of the 16th century the city built a wall to protect its inhabitants from being robbed by pirates. The wall still stands today and has become a spectacle of the city and its colorful architecture. The Cartagena wall is complemented by its forts, built to protect against the French and British invasion. Today you can walk along the wall, around the forts and admire the only Spanish colonial buildings in the city.
Built for the first time in 1816 by miners working inside the salt mine as a praying area, the Salt Cathedral developed dramatically into a major tourist attraction on the outskirts of Bogotá. Located in Zipaquirá, 52 km from the capital of Colombia, Bogotá. The Salt Cathedral is composed of a series of attractions including a cathedral with 3000 seats, the seven stations of the cross, a climbing wall, a 3D cinema, a museum, an art gallery and a cafeteria.
Guatapé is a city of bright colors preserved over time, with its brightly colored buildings kept in perfect condition. Guatapé is located near El Peñól de Guatapé, a 198 foot high rock that comes out of the surrounding plain. The rock is open to the public and has an extensive network of stairs, which allows visitors to climb to the top and take a look at the view that locals call “the best view in the world”, which overlooks a vast network of gloriously , rivers and lakes of unique colors, supported by mountains. Located about 51 miles (83 kilometers) from Medellín, it is the perfect day trip from the city.
Trek in the Lost City
No longer “lost” as the name suggests, Ciudad Perdida is the most significant pre-Columbian archaeological site in Colombia, located deep in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta National Park. The site consists of 216 circular and quadrangular stone terraces and tiled streets and was founded by the Tairona natives around 800 AD.
The four-day trek to the Lost City is a rewarding experience for backpackers with strong levels of fitness and endurance, or there are five or six day treks for those who prefer to go at a slower pace.
Discover Paradise at the Tayrona National Park
Where lush jungle and mountains meet the Caribbean Sea, Parque Tayrona is one of Colombia’s natural treasures. Surprising as the photos, a camera fails to capture the true beauty of this place. There are regular buses to Tayrona from Santa Marta, the nearest city. These leave travelers at the entrance to the park, about an hour walk through the jungle or a cheap van ride from the beaches.
The jungle trails are well signposted and is a beautiful excursion to the beaches. The park only allows a limited number of visitors each day, so get there early and avoid going to a national holiday (of which Colombia has many). And, don’t forget the bug spray.
Ride the Metrocable in Medellin
With an average temperature throughout the year of 23 C (73 F), Medellin is also known as the “city of eternal spring”. Its warm climate, the fun atmosphere of the city and the spectacular surroundings have made Medellin popular with tourists and expatriates. Once you’ve seen the fantastic exhibits at the Antioquia Museum and visited the beautiful
Botanical Gardens, go to the Metrocable at Acevedo metro station and get ready for some stunning panoramic views of the city.
Take the cable car to the Santo Domingo neighborhood to enjoy the view, then head up again and continue to the enchanting Arvi Park. Enjoy the fresh air and walk in the woods before returning to the trendy El Poblado district to party all night.
Where to stay in Colombia
Hotel La Artilleria
This hotel is centrally located in Cartagena de Indias. It has incredibly spacious and simple white rooms and even has a rooftop pool and terrace. Get the most out of the fabulous location to explore every inch of this historic city. Very good value for money with very friendly staff.
Click Hotel Clack
A fashionable hotel in pain with an enviable central location. The rooms boast spectacular views from floor to ceiling windows and the design is chic but light. With a trendy cocktail bar and a splendid restaurant, this property is a step above the other uniform hotels in the city.
Countries to visit in South America
Complete travel information and travel inspiration
- Visit Argentina
- Visit Bolivia
- Visit Brazil
- Visit Chile
- Visit Colombia
- Visit Peru
- Visit Uruguay
- Visit Venezuela (Angel Falls, highest waterfall in the world)