There are so many incredible places to visit in Colombia!
If you’re going to be visiting anytime soon, here’s a list of the must-do’s when you visit Colombia!
Related Read: Undiscovered EcoTourism Destinations in Colombia
Top Places to Visit in Colombia
1. Cabo de la Vela
Welcome to the “Wild West” of Colombia. Home of the Wayuu people, Cabo de la Vela is truly a unique and wonderful place to visit. This is where the desert meets the sea. Spend your days hiking to wild and unique beaches. Spend your evenings lounging under the star filled skies in a chinchorro (a large, comfortable hammock with a built in cover, made by local Wayuu women). Eat fresh, daily caught lobster and fish. Greet the goats, iguanas, lizards and crabs as you explore the beaches “Ojo de Agua,” “Pilon de Azucar” and rocky cliffs overlooking the expansive Caribbean Ocean at the northern edge of the South American continent.
Cabo de la Vela is one of those places to visit in Colombia that is well worth the journey.
2. Bahia Aguacate
Literally “Avocado Bay” this gem of a destination is truly where the jungle meets the sea. Set amidst palm trees and lush tropical forest, Bahia Aguacate offers amazing ocean views with craggy rock outcroppings against a backdrop of dazzling blue waters and bluer skies. Bahia Aguacate is a breathtaking hour walk from Capurgana, a small fishing village that boasts of a hopping nightlife on the weekends.
A short boat ride away from Capurgana is La Miel, the first successful European settlement on the mainland of the Americas, 1510. From there, take a 30 minute hike across to border back into Colombia, to the picturesque beach town of Sapzurro. This corner of the continent is reachable only by plane or speedboat, so this spot has retained its rugged beauty.
If you are looking to feel the sun, swim in crystal blue waters, and hear only the sounds of the waves and the ocean breeze, Bahia Aguacate is the destination for you!
3. Mesa de Los Santos
Located in the State or “Departamento” of Santander, about an hour south of Bucaramanga, Mesa de los Santos, “The Plateau of the Saints,” was once home to the Guane and is rich in history, culture and beauty. The Mesa butts up against the Chicamocha Canyon, the largest canyon in Colombia.
Hiking along the Mesa is like a journey back in time. Pre-Colombian petroglyphs, caves for spelunking and amazing views. One can almost imagine how it would feel to live here among the multicolored sand and rocks, stunning blue skies and yawning canyons as the Guane once did. Rock climb at perhaps one of the world’s best sites – La Mojarra – enjoy the sweetest pineapple you’ve ever had or just experience some of the most amazing topography in Colombia.
Whatever you brings you to Colombia, you must visit Mesa de Los Santos!
Another one of the great places to visit in Colombia with a beach.
Palomino is a deserted beach, the deltas of two large and beautiful rivers surging with wildlife, a one of a kind mountain range, reflecting the morning sun. In Palomino, you will find all of this and more! A sleepy town northeast of Santa Marta, is where you can go for peace and relaxation.
Plan a day trip to hike part way up the Sierra Nevada and float down the lazy Palomino River always to the Caribbean Ocean. Stay at one of the all inclusive beachfront lodgings and enjoy nighttime walks along the beach where the sand “sparkles” with static electricity at every step! Or just enjoy solitude and sunshine on the beach.
If you are looking to “get away from it all” Palomino is the perfect place in Colombia to refresh your body and soul!
Barichara is by far one of the most charming small towns or “pueblos” in Colombia. Located in the Santander region, Barichara’s white washed buildings with traditional rock “zocalos”, or baseboards, steps one back in time.
Men in traditional garb linger on park benches while children wander home from school, savoring afternoon ice cream. Barichara, originally named “Barachalá” by the native Guane, meaning “a good place to rest” – an appropriate description of this lovely town. Don’t miss the “Camino Real Guane,” a path from Barichara to the very small pueblo of Guane.
In this case, the journey is the destination, as the views are incredible and the stone pathway is filled with age old fossils. Barichara is also home to the “Hormigas Culonas” or Big Booty Ants, a delicacy of the region. These ants are farmed locally and are eaten pan fried, as snacks, on steak, in a delicious sauce or just about any way. If you are looking to experience a small, colonial Colombian pueblo with lots of character, don’t miss Barichara!
6. Cartagena de Indias
Located on the Caribbean Colombian coast and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Cartagena de Indias, Cartagena for short, is most famous for its preserved downtown, the “ciudad amurallada” or walled city. With horse drawn carriages, colonial architecture, international cuisine and boutique hotels, Cartagena attracts tourists from all over the world.
Historically, Cartagena was the most important Spanish port in South America where all the gold was stored and later shipped to Spain. This lent to the fortification of the city, preventing invasion from English and French official and non-official attacks. Today, the city walls welcome countless national and international tourists making it the most popular tourist destination in Colombia. If you want unsurpassed history, a caribbean feel and a conglomeration of tastes, Cartagena travel delivers!
7. Coffee Triangle
Usually when one thinks of Colombia, two words come to mind: Coffee and that other “C” word.
The best coffee in the world is grown, handpicked, washed, roasted and packaged here in everything from giant, mass production operations to small, family owned farms. The coffee triangle or “Eje Cafetero” is a large area covering the middle of Colombia. Here the Andes Mountains provide the best topography for growing the many varieties of Arabica coffee. Enjoy a cultural coffee tour or take a tour through a large direct exporting operation, both providing a different look at the business of coffee.
Countless, centenarian Haciendas dot the country side and the hills are lush with coffee, guayacan, mandarin and plantain trees. Starting from the northern most point of Manizales, down to Pereira and then swinging to the east to Armenia, the region hosts many localized customs, traditions and peoples.
Calling all coffee lovers! The coffee triangle is waiting for you! Don’t let it wait long!
8. Valle de Cocora
Wax Palm trees, check. Breathtaking views, check. Tourist trap, double check.
To be fair, Valle de Cocora doesn’t have to be tourist trap but it’s definitely a must places to visit in Colombia. This is why it attracts large flocks of national and international tourists all wanting to see the Colombian national tree and tallest palm trees in the world.
The best time to visit Salento, the jump off point to the valley, is during the week. However, if you’re a professional people watcher or enjoy shopping for handicraft souvenirs in very boutique type shops, Sunday is the day to show up.
The valley is best hiked and one should start early enough to not miss the return Jeeps to town. Head north once you’re at the top and come down the Valle de las Palmas or Valley of the Palms. As the name implies, this is where the majority of the wax palms will be found. The trek down is magnificent with breathtaking views of the entire valley, best to be done as the sun is close to setting. The wax palms shimmer and rustle in the wind. A river runs through the valley and adds a refreshing coldness in the heat of the valley.
Truly a unique place with an even more unique flora.
9. Santiago de Cali
Dubbed the Salsa Capital of the World, Santiago de Cali, Cali for short, is the third largest urban center in Colombia and sits snuggly in the Valle del Cauca, the largest valley in Colombia.
The Feria de Cali, held the last week of each year, is the main tourist attraction for the city with salsa concerts and “rumba” or partying being its main focus. Bull fights, parades and other shows round out the festivities. The nightlife in Cali is world famous and the main reason to come.
If you’re a salsa aficionado, interested in taking lessons from world champions or hanging out in a legendary salsa club, Cali is your go to destination. Every day of the week offers a club or two or more with booming sound systems playing Salsa, Reggeaton, Merengue and even Champeta.
Cali is also a great jump off point to visit Lago Calima, the top kite and windsurfing destination in Colombia and other points South, such as Popayan, San Augustin and Pasto.
With a tropical daytime heat and a cool nightly breeze, it’s a partier’s paradise.
10. Termales Santa Rosa del Cabal
Colombia’s unique geography gifts it with many thermal springs and this one is above and beyond the best places to visit in Colombia for a thermal spring experience. Termales Santa Rosa del Cabal are actually two sites: one more private with a hotel, and another one that is for day users.
Both source all of their water from thermal springs up high in the mountains where the water temperature is at a scorching 190 F/88 C degrees. The hot cascade then merges with an ice cold waterfall, and is then routed to the baths. At the hotel site, there are private baths that accommodate up to four people, and an outdoor shower for those staying in the original part of the hotel.
The hottest section of the main pool is adjacent to the waterfall at 100 F/37 C degrees. Pools further from the waterfall are progressively cooler. Next to the “coolest” pool is an ice cold waterfall, a lovely place to cool off and increase circulation after languishing in the warmth of the thermals.
With a full service food section, plenty of space to move around, and numerous pools of healing thermal water, Termales Santa Rosa del Cabal is a perfect way to add relaxation to your Colombia trip.