Epic hikes, historic websites, sun-kissed seashores and extra of the most effective issues to do in Colombia

With a sturdy peace deal in place and an ever-growing variety of worldwide guests, Colombia has seen a complete transformation in recent times.

Hemmed in by the Caribbean and Pacific coastlines within the north and west and the Amazon rainforest within the south, Colombia comprises a few of South America’s most spellbinding surroundings and thrilling adventures. Wildlife-rich jungle, startlingly rugged high-altitude mountain paths and thriving coral reefs flush with tropical fish could be skilled all on one (formidable) journey. In the meantime, away from the wilds, fashionable cities brim with music, tradition and welcoming individuals. 

For the curious, open-minded traveler, it’s troublesome to not fall in love with this nation – and even more durable to go away. Whether or not you’re searching for tradition, journey, historical past or showstopping nature, listed below are the highest issues to do in Colombia. 

Raft the Rio Pato with ex-FARC guerillas

Splashing down by means of the Class III and IV rapids of the Río Pato within the Caquetá Division is an exhilarating expertise. And the joy solely grows when you notice your guides are a mixture of ex-FARC guerillas and civilians, who use rafting as a way to problem views a few area of Colombia that was too harmful to go to in the course of the many years of battle. 

Tucked deep into the tropical forests in southeast Colombia, the hillside village of Miravalle is dwelling to native tour operator Caguán Expeditions, which leads rafting journeys down what’s thought of one of many nation’s most interesting stretches of river for whitewater rafting. A community-operated museum gives particulars of the day-to-day experiences of FARC rebels earlier than the historic peace accords agreed with the Colombian authorities in 2016 befell, and offers you an perception into the lives of these being reintegrated again into Colombian life after many years of armed battle.  

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Reaching Ciudad Perdida takes a grueling trek by means of the jungle, however these dazzling ruins are well worth the effort © dunn4040 / Shutterstock

Tramp by means of the jungle to Ciudad Perdida, Colombia’s Machu Picchu

Ever dreamed of being an explorer? Mountaineering by means of lush tropical vegetation for 3 days earlier than you even catch a glimpse of Colombia’s deservedly named Ciudad Perdida (Misplaced Metropolis) is a chance to expertise the exact same thrill.  

The muddy, ascending trails and humid temperatures of the jungle imply it’s a problem to get right here, however you’ll really feel all of the sweat was value it (the tears, too!). A really magnificent pre-Columbian metropolis, Ciudad Perdida was constructed atop a ridge within the northern stretches of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta by the Tayrona individuals greater than 1000 years in the past. At the moment, the location stays all however devoid of tourists. 

It’s no surprise: it’s a troublesome five-day round-trip hike to succeed in the location, and probably the most adventurous issues to do in Colombia. Alongside the way in which, refreshing swimming holes and putting jungle surroundings guarantee your efforts are absolutely rewarded.  

Be taught to salsa in dance-capital Cali 

Staking its declare because the world capital of salsa, party-loving Cali is a riot of music and dancing, regardless of the time of day or evening. Embrace the fluidity of your hips as you embark on a quick however overwhelming love affair with Colombia’s favourite dance step, whether or not you head to a dance faculty or float and rhythms at one of many metropolis’s famed salsotecas, akin to La Topa Tolondra or the native favourite El Rincón de Heberth. 

If visiting throughout September, don’t miss the Competition Mundial de Salsa, the place a raucous seven days sees greater than 5000 dancers from world wide descend on the town in a fiercely contested competitors to determine the world’s biggest salsa dancer. 

A woman sitting on dock, seen from behind, at Crab Cay (Cayo Cangrejo), Providence Island (Isla de Providencia), Colombia
On attractive Providencia within the Caribbean Sea, you may admire the Sea of Seven Colours for hours © Larissa Chilanti / Shutterstock

Snorkel within the coral reef surrounding Providencia 

Colombia’s Caribbean shoreline seems like paradise – and that description applies much more to emerald-green Providencia, a mellow tropical island that spans simply 17 km sq (6.6 sq miles) and lies round 800 km (497 miles) north of mainland Colombia. 

Mendacity off the northeast coast of the island, the McBean Lagoon Nationwide Pure Park is characterised by waters tinted with an excellent patchwork of colours. It’s been dubbed the “Sea of Seven Colours,” a phenomenon brought on by the third-longest barrier reef system on the planet mendacity beneath the floor. Explosions of tropical fish, manta rays and even sea turtles are ever-present in these waters, that are crystal clear and bathtub heat, making this top-of-the-line locations in Colombia for snorkeling.  

Be part of the social gathering on the Carnival de Barranquilla

Colombia’s most enthusiastic avenue social gathering could be discovered within the pulsating streets of Barranquilla in the course of the metropolis’s annual Carnival celebrations. Kicking off formally on the 4 days earlier than Ash Wednesday each February or March (though smaller verbenas – pre-Carnival public events – start some 10 days beforehand), these celebrations provide an enthusiastic show of pageantry, comprising 4 packed days of carnival floats, magnificence queens, African and Indigenous beats and – in true Colombian trend – loads of dancing. 

The Carnaval de Barranquilla so integral to the identification of the town that the occasion was declared an Intangible Cultural Heritage by Unesco in 2008. It ranks among the many continent’s liveliest carnival celebrations, up there with Rio de Janeiro’s festivities and people held in Oruro in Bolivia. Throw your self into the dancing and it’s possible you’ll even wind up becoming a member of a neighborhood dance troupe on their float, which might nicely find yourself being one of many craziest stuff you do in Colombia – and probably the most memorable stuff you’ll do, ever. 

Uncover Cartagena’s Indigenous heritage

The picturesque walled metropolis of Cartagena seems like a film set, with its historic plazas, majestic church buildings and restored mansions which were transformed into swank boutique resorts and eating places serving up Caribbean-infused seafood dishes. 

However past Cartagena’s colonial opulence – constructed off the again of the slave commerce and Spanish plunder, it’s necessary to contemplate – the town has an entire completely different facet, one vacationers not often see. On the Museo del Oro Zenú, you’ll see shows of gold artifacts from the Indigenous individuals who had been the unique inhabitants of the Cartagena area. At the moment, weavers from this group proceed to provide the normal Colombian sombrero vueltiao hat, which could be purchased at market stalls across the metropolis. 

To satisfy group representatives in individual and be taught concerning the challenges they face as a tradition in fashionable Colombia, participate in a community-led city tour.  

A woman looks at the camera on a walk through Monrovia Garden, Medellín, Antioquia, Colombia, South America
A strolling tour by means of the Monrovia neighborhood of Medellín gives you insights into the town’s transformation © Alexandre Laprise / Shutterstock

Study Medellín’s extraordinary transformation 

Whether or not it’s Netflix’s Narcos or reviews from the ’90s which have coloured your perceptions, put together to be astounded by the fact of recent Medellín. Having shed the cloak of drug-incited battle, Medellín is a metropolis remodeled, with such fashionable neighborhoods as Poblado and Laureles showcasing upmarket eating places and vibrant nightlife – proof {that a} leopard can change its spots.

To get beneath the pores and skin of the town’s city regeneration and checkered previous, take a tips-based strolling tour with Actual Metropolis Excursions, whose native Paisa guides have lived by means of the metamorphosis and might speak with authority concerning the metropolis’s rebirth. Their tour of the previous garbage dump–turned–thriving neighborhood of Moravia is equally enlightening.  

{Photograph} Colombia’s nationwide plant within the Valle de Cocora

Positioned within the decrease reaches of Parque Nacional Pure Los Nevados, top-of-the-line nationwide parks to go to in Colombia, the Valle de Cocora is certainly one of Colombia’s most fantastical locations. It preserves a few of the remaining snow-topped tropical mountains on Earth, and it’s dwelling to the nation’s curiously formed Quindío wax palms, which may attain the peak of a six-story constructing and which tower over this lush valley. 

Take a Willy Jeep (an expertise in itself) from close by Salento into the valley, from the place a 15km (9-mile) hike heads up into the hillside for spectacular views of the palms, picturesquely surrounded by emerald hills blanketed with cloud forest. 

A man takes photos of works of art by Fernando Botero at the Museo Botero, Bogotá, Colombia, South American
The signature plump figures by Fernando Botero could be seen in Bogotá’s Museo Botero © posztos / Shutterstock

Discover Bogotá’s artwork and museum scene

Bogotá is a metropolis whose preliminary impressions belie what lies beneath the floor. Whereas its gridlocked streets, typically slick with rain, may take a while to traverse, the capital of Colombia is a cosmopolitan metropolis filled with dynamic nightlife and a wealthy vary of cultural choices. 

A staple of the town’s cultural scene, the Museo del Oro shows a thousands-strong array of pre-Hispanic gold artifacts to gawk at. Equally essential within the canon of Colombian cultural historical past is the Museo Botero, a museum devoted to Colombia’s most well-known artist, recognized world wide for his humorously engorged figures. 

For a style of extra modern creations, head to the fashionable La Balsa gallery, or take a graffiti strolling tour with Bogotá Graffiti Tour, which makes use of proceeds from tips-based excursions to put money into group initiatives across the nation.  

Keep on a espresso finca and pattern Colombia’s tastiest export 

World-class espresso is certainly one of Colombia’s most necessary exports, and occasional addicts will discover their home-away-from-home in one of many espresso fincas situated within the lush hills within the Zona Cafetera.

Established fincas such because the fourth-generation Hacienda Venecia close to Manizales permit you to be taught concerning the manufacturing of the bean and check out “cupping,” the act of tasting the flavors of freshly made espresso. However beware: you may battle to take pleasure in a cup elsewhere after attempting a few of the world’s most interesting espresso beans at their supply.

Take a highway journey to La Guajira, South America’s northern tip

After the luxurious plantations of the espresso area, La Guajira is an assault on the senses. This arid desert peninsula that spears out into the Caribbean Sea on the very tip of the South American continent is dwelling to a few of the nation’s most dramatic terrain. 

The primary points of interest embrace the fantastic ocher sand dunes of Punta Gallinas and Cabo de la Vela, which has best situations for windsurfing and kitesurfing. Though unbiased journey is feasible, it’s best to prepare a tour from the regional capital, Riohacha.

One of the impoverished components of Colombia, this area is dwelling to the semi-nomadic, Indigenous Wayúu, a individuals famend for his or her weaving and whose methods of life and entry to water are threatened by Latin America’s greatest open mine. Guarantee your cash goes into native fingers by buying native handicrafts and utilizing sustainable operators akin to Pura Guajira Travel, who make use of Wayúu guides. 

A pre-Columbian stone figure of a flute-playing person at Parque Arqueológico San Agustín, Colombia
Researchers don’t but know a lot concerning the pre-Columbian tradition that produced the intriguing and mysterious figures at Parque Arqueológico San Agustín © Jess Kraft / Shutterstock

Discover South America’s largest focus of non secular figures 

Whereas Chile’s Rapa Nui (Easter Island) is thought internationally for its monolithic statues, Parque Arqueológico San Agustín in southwestern Colombia lays declare to the biggest clutch of pre-Columbian sculptures in South America. Archeologists nonetheless don’t know a lot concerning the tradition courting again to between 5 and 400 CE that carved hulking our bodies and fanged, animalistic faces from volcanic tuff. Positioned across the park, these figures mark the tombs of the tradition’s useless. Residence to greater than 50 burial websites, the archeological park is an enthralling (if mysterious) perception right into a tradition for whom loss of life was merely a transition into one other life and the place funeral rites had been a major ritual. 

One other website believed to have been constructed by the identical tradition is Tierradentro, additionally value visiting in case you’re within the space. This huge necropolis is believed to have been constructed between 600 and 900 CE and comprises 162 monumental burial chambers whose partitions are adorned with remarkably well-preserved and very advanced geometric designs.

Sleep in a country thatch roof cabin in Parque Nacional Pure Tayrona 

Wish to relax and luxuriate in Colombia’s wealth of attractive seashores? For sunseekers, swimmers and snorkelers alike, Parque Nacional Pure Tayrona on the nation’s Caribbean coast is an actual paradise, the place white-sand seashores are lapped by crystalline waters and enclosed by tropical jungle full of monkeys, toucans and wild cats. 

Greater than 30 spectacular seashores are situated inside this park, though with deceptively sturdy currents posing a danger to life, simply six are protected for swimming. For a soothing couple of days, hire a hammock or a country thatch roof cabin proper by the seashore at Cabo San Juan or Cañaveral, from the place you may wander to your seashore of selection for a day of absorbing the sunshine. 

Stargaze within the Mars-like Tatacoa Desert

With its Mars-like undulations of purple clay, the purple Tatacoa Desert seems to be prefer it might have been transposed from Chile’s Atacama. It’s truly a dry tropical forest, however what it does share in widespread with its Chilean neighbor is its world renown as a spot for crystal-clear evening skies, making it excellent for stargazing. 

The world’s heat, dry local weather is the important thing to the terribly visibility. For a stargazing tour, go to the Observatorio Astronómico de la Tatacoa in Villavieja, a middle constructed by a Colombian astronomer that comprises probably the most telescopes within the space, because of donations from scientists world wide. The enthusiastic proprietor can introduce you to as much as 88 official constellations on the clearest of nights.

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