Where to go in Colombia: Travel Highlights

Make sure not to miss these great places during your visit
Where to go in Colombia: Travel Highlights

Colombia is home to a wealth of world-class attractions, spectacular landscapes, tourist sites, and beautiful natural surroundings. Whether visiting just for a short break, or on a more extended trip, the country has more than enough to keep you entertained throughout your time there.

The Caribbean Coast

Colombia’s Caribbean coast boasts some of the country’s most attractive tourist destinations. The region variously offers visitors idyllic white sand beaches, upmarket food, shopping and accommodation options, as well as smaller Caribbean getaways tucked away within dense jungle terrain.

The Caribbean region comprises some 50,000 square miles of jungle, mountain and desert terrain, periodically punctuated by glorious white sand beaches. Culturally, this part of the country is famous for its laid-back attitude, no doubt in part due to the humid climate, and for their love of celebration, festivals and rumba.

For those seeking to experience Colombia in style, Cartagena is an excellent place to start

The most established center for tourism is in and around the historic walled city of Cartagena. With its attractive architecture and colonial-era buildings, cobbled streets, high quality dining establishments, and its proximity to several beaches, it is easy to understand why the city has become the country’s primary tourist destination. For those seeking to experience Colombia in style, Cartagena is an excellent place to start.

Yet this part of Colombia has much to offer beyond this city. To the east of Cartagena lies the small coastal of city of Santa Marta, an ideal site from which to explore the multitude of nearby attractions. Popular trips from Santa Marta include the five-day jungle trek to the Ciudad Perdida (Lost City) or to the small beach destination of Taganga, a haven for backpackers and party-goers.

The natural reserve of Tayrona consists of a series of white sand beaches, hidden among dense jungle

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Moving further along the coast, but still within a few hours’ bus journey of Santa Marta, is the idyllic Tayrona National Park. This large natural reserve consists of a series of white sand beaches, hidden among dense jungle. As a national park, the amount of building development in the area has been greatly limited, leaving the area largely unspoiled. That said, accommodations spots range from luxury eco hotels with dramatic views of the beaches and jungle, to the more budget option of beach-mounted hammocks.

On the other side of the coast, located near the border with Panama, are the slightly less easily accessible destinations of Capurgana and Sapzurro. These attractions are generally for the more intrepid traveller, due to the comparative difficulty of access. Yet those who make it this far will be rewarded with impressive diving and snorkeling, delicious fresh seafood and deserted white sand beaches.

Further north, located deep in the Caribbean Sea, are the holiday resort islands of San Andres and Providencia. These destinations, situated closer to Nicaragua than they are to the Colombian mainland, represent a stark contrast to the rest of the country. Here, the music, food and language all differ from that found elsewhere. Visitors to Providencia, in particular, will be able to enjoy the laid back atmosphere and relaxed environment for which Caribbean islands are famous internationally.

Mountain Cities

Moving down from the coast, the landscape changes dramatically from flat, arid terrain to the more mountainous topography evident in much of Colombia’s interior. Lodged within indentations in the rugged landscape are cities such as Bogota and Medellin, which house extensive cultural attractions, as well as excellent nightlife and diverse dining options. Nestled within the mountains surrounding these two cities are also a host of natural attractions which are worthy of a visit. Adventure travelers will be particularly keen to visit Rio Claro to explore the nearby caves and take a refreshing dip in the river’s pristine waters.

Bogota and Medellin are home to extensive cultural attractions, excellent nightlife and dining options

The town of Guatape, located a couple of hours outside Medellin, is a great spot for climbing, kayaking and enjoying panoramic views of the lake-strewn landscape. Slightly further outside the city is Colombia’s immense coffee region, which provides scenic landscapes and a large number of tours and attractions. One of the most popular activities here are guided tours of coffee plantations, which trace the whole coffee making process from plant to cup.

Lowland and Jungle

Continuing down through the country, and into the heat of the Cauca valley, is the city of Cali. Colombia’s third largest city is known as the world capital of salsa dancing and is a great place to experience the country’s party spirit at its best. To the west of the city is the smaller city of Buenaventura; a jumping off point from which more intrepid travelers can explore the rugged Pacific side beaches in the near vicinity.

The Amazon region boasts exotic wildlife species including river dolphins and anaconda snakes

Moving further down, and into the extreme south of Colombia, is the Amazonian region. Natural attractions are the primary draw here, as the area is home to exotic wildlife species including Amazon River dolphins and anaconda snakes. The city of Leticia serves as an excellent basis from which to explore the region, and also serves as the connecting point between Colombia and its southern neighbors, Brazil and Peru.

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